CMYK FRIDAY www.thestatesman.com 19 MARCH 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 ‘TIME FOR INDIA AND PAKISTAN TO BURY PAST’ THE DARKER SIDES OF DEMOCRACY P7 WEATHER Partly cloudy sky. Maximum and minimum temperature most likely to be around 36 °C and 24 °C respectively. ‘FOREIGN GARBAGE DEEMED BETTER THAN NATIVE TALENT’ FIRST SIGNS OF CHURN IN CONGRESS? P9 P6 P12 35K new cases, India Khela Hobe vs Khela Shesh: Didi, Modi war back in danger zone of words at rival rallies RAINFALL: Nil RELATIVE HUMIDITY Spurt in Maharashtra drives up daily numbers, highest 1-day jump in 100 days Max. 92% STATESMAN NEWS SERVICE TEMPERATURE Min. 18% Max: 36.6°C (2) Min: 23.4°C (N) SUN RISES SUN SETS 05:43 hrs 17:47 hrs MOON RISES MOON SETS 08:38 hrs 21:59 hrs Next moon quarter on 21 March THUMBNAILS Ex-Union Minister Vijay Goel leads a cycle rally to demand resignation of Delhi CM Kejriwal on the issue of Delhi being the most polluted city. In the Capital on Thursday. SUBRATA DUTTA EU drug regulator backs AstraZeneca vaccine: The European Union's drug regulatory agency said Thursday that the AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine is not linked to an overall increase in the risk of blood clots and that the benefits of use outweigh the risks, paving the way for European countries to resume administering the shots. Several European countries had suspended the use of the vaccine over the past week following reports of rare types of blood clots occurring in a small number of the millions of people who had received the shot across the continent. US Defence Secretary begins India visit today: US Defence Secretary Lloyd J Austin is scheduled to arrive in New Delhi late Friday afternoon as part of his first overseas trip that also took him to Japan and South Korea. Ways to further strengthen India-US ties, boosting cooperation in Indo-Pacific and Afghan peace process are expected to be the key focus in talks between Defence Minister Rajnath Singh and Austin. NEW DELHI, 18 MARCH riven by a spurt in new coronavirus cases in a few states, particularly Maharashtra, India logged 35,871 fresh Covid19 cases in a 24-hour period as of Thursday morning, the highest single-day jump in over 100 days. Registering an increase for the eighth consecutive day, the active caseload reached 2,52,364, a jump of 17,958 cases from the previous day, according to Union Health Ministry data updated at 8 a.m. on Thursday. The country’s total tally of infections has gone up to 1,14,74,605. The cases increased by 6,968 from the previous day, the data showed. With the death of 172 people in the last 24 hours, the Covid19 toll has reached 1,59,216. Of the 35,871 new cases reported as of Thursday morning, Maharashtra accounted for as many as 16,620 cases, and according to data provided by the state health department on Thursday evening, the state logged 25,833 fresh cases of Covid over the last 24 hours, the highest since the outbreak of the pandemic last year, effectively making it the epicentre of the second wave of the pandemic. Nagpur city on the second consecutive day recorded highest number of new Covid-19 cases at 2,926, followed by 2,877 in Mumbai and 2,791 in Pune city. In addition to Maharashtra, Punjab, Karnata- D 1,14,74,605 2,52,364 35,871 ka, Gujarat and Tamil Nadu continue to report a surge in new Covid-19 cases. 79.54 per cent of the new cases are from these five states. A rising trend is also seen in the states of Madhya Pradesh, Delhi and Haryana. Punjab, confronting a spurt in new cases, today announced a two-hour extension in the MOSCOW, 18 MARCH Russian President Vladimir Putin said Thursday that US President Joe Biden's remarks about him reflect the USA’s own past and current problems. Biden was asked in an interview whether he thought Russian President Vladimir Putin is a killer and said I do. Russia on Wednesday announced it’s recalling its ambassador in Washington for consultations. Asked about Biden’s remarks during a video call with residents of Crimea marking the anniversary of its 2014 annexation from Ukraine, Putin charged that they reflect the United States’ own troubled past. The Russian leader pointed at America’s past his- America has past history of slaughtering Native Americans and slavery. The painful legacy has weighed on the United States. Otherwise where would the Black Lives Matter movement come from VLADIMIR PUTIN RUSSIAN PRESIDENT tory of slaughtering Native Americans and slavery, arguing that the painful legacy has weighed on the United States. Otherwise where would the Black Lives Matter movement come from, he said. He added that Russia would still cooperate with the United States. Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov deplored what he called very bad remarks by the U.S. president that made it 17,741 1,59,216 UNION HEALTH MINISTRY FIGURES AS OF 8.00 A.M. THURSDAY 18 MARCH 2021 India expected to record largest increase in child and maternal deaths in South Asia in 2020: UN UNITED NATIONS, 18 MARCH India is projected to register the greatest increase in the number of deaths among children under 5 in South Asia in 2020 as well as the highest number of maternal deaths as the Covid-19 pandemic disrupts the country’s health services, a UN report has said. The report also noted that India could spend nearly $10 billion on Covid19 testing and healthcare utilisation by September 2021, the biggest share of the overall costs in the Putin shows the mirror to US, retorts to Biden’s ‘killer’ remark ASSOCIATED PRESS night curfew in the state’s nine worst-hit districts. Bengal:Bengal appears to be seeing a gradual rise in the number of new Covid cases. On Thursday, the state recorded 323 fresh Covid cases along with 2 deaths. The state’s total Covid case count is 5,79,479 . Kolkata recorded 99 cases and 2 deaths. clear that he doesn’t want to normalize relations. We will proceed accordingly, Peskov said, noting that “there was nothing like that in history. He wouldn’t answer if Russia could go as far as to rupture diplomatic ties with the US. Konstantin Kosachev, a deputy speaker of the Russian parliament’s upper house, said Biden’s boorish statement marks a watershed. Such assessments are inadmissible for a statesman of his rank, he said. They inevitably lead to a sharp exacerbation of our bilateral ties. The exchange comes on the heels of a declassified report from the US national intelligence director’s office that finds Putin authorised influence operations to help Trump in last presidential election. region. The report Direct and indirect effects of the Covid-19 pandemic and response in South Asia by UNICEF, WHO and the United Nations Population Fund, said that as of February 2021, South Asia reported more than 12 million Covid-19 cases, with the vast majority being in India, which has reported over 10.9 million cases. The report focuses on six most populous South Asian countries~ Afghan-istan, Bangladesh, India, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka and provides a grim assessment of the pandemic’s impact on the child and maternal health, economy, jobs and education in these countries. The report said based on the results of an epidemiological model, and a potential status quo in infection control and prevention measures, an additional half a million deaths due to Covid-19 are possible in South Asia between October 2020 and September 2021. This is the number of individuals expected to die of Covid-19, and who likely would not have died in the absence of pandemic. PM Narendra Modi during a rally organised by BJP in Purulia. (right) Bengal CM Mamata Banerjee addresses a rally in West Medinipur, on Thursday. AMJAD KAJI/ AGENCIES STATESMAN NEWS SERVICE PURULIA/ GARBETA(WB), 18 MARCH Eight days before the first phase of assembly polls in the state, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Thursday attacked West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee for pursuing “appeasement and vote bank politics” which were responsible for infiltration. Addressing an election rally in the Jangalmahal region of the state, he alleged the ruling TMC never considered Dalits, backwards and Adivasis its own, and these sections were the worst victims of cut money culture and “Tolabaji” (extortion) by the state’s ruling party. He said on 2 May, the day the votes for assembly elections will be counted, Banerjee’s “khela” (game) will be “shesh” (over) and development will start. Most of the voters of Jungle Mahal are tribals and the Prime Minister tried to woo them. A separate Ministry of tribal development has been formed during Atalji’s tenure and his government has made a separate budget for the tribal development, he added. Attacking the Trinamul Congress supremo on the issues of Pulwama blast and Batla House encounter, Modi said that she has been doing vote bank politics since the past ten years. People of Bengal are fed up with her minority appeasement, he added. Referring to a slew of Central schemes which the TMC government is yet to implement, Modi said,”We believe in Direct Benefit Transfer (DBT) while TMC believes in Transfer My Commission.” While admitting that the relief doled out after Cyclone Amphan by her government might have missed out “one or two” beneficiaries, chief minister Mamata Banerjee said BJP leaders were nowhere to be seen during the crisis. Addressing a rally in West Midnapore, the TMC supremo claimed BJP leaders “arrive here in choppers RS passes Bill to raise FDI in insurance STATESMAN NEWS SERVICE NEW DELHI, 18 MARCH The Insurance (Amendment) Bill, 2021 which seeks to raise the limit of foreign direct investment (FDI) in the insurance sector from 49 per cent to 74 per cent, was today passed by the Rajya Sabha after a walk-out by the Opposition. Demanding the Bill’s reference to a Standing Committee or a Select Committee for a deeper scrutiny, and enlisting of views of all stakeholders, the Opposition led by the Congress forced several adjournments before the Bill was discussed. Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, replying to the discussion, allayed members’ fears and said FDI was needed as the sector suffered from liquidity stress and its growth was restrained. The Bill will raise the foreign investment limit in the insurance sector to 74 per cent. Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman said while control may go to foreign companies, the majority of directors and key management persons will be resident Indians who will be covered by the law of the land She said FDI was meant to supplement the country’s financial resources, and would provide the funds needed by the companies to grow and provide better penetration of services across the country. The laws of the land were mature enough to control all operations, she said. She assured the House that citizens interests would be fully protected under the new FDI regime, and 50 per cent of the companies’ directors would be independent directors, and a specified percentage of the profits would stay in India as reserves. The Modi government was committed to social justice and the reservation policy would continue. She said the government was only taking the reforms process forward. Ms Sitharaman said the law itself had provided safeguards under which the FDI limit was being relaxed. She said funds of the insured persons would not be taken out of the country. Rejecting the charge of not consulting the stakeholders, the minister said 60 insurers, besides several industry leaders, were consulted. She said insurance was a highly regulated sector, and there should not be any worries about it. Ms Sitharaman said ever since the opening of the sector to private sector, the number of private companies had grown whereas the number of public sector companies had remained virtually stagnant. Since 2015, FDI totalling Rs 26,000 crores had come to India. The number of re-insurance companies too was going up in the private sector. The government life and non-life insurance companies had 1.65 lakh employees and 15.45 lakh agents. The private companies on the other hand had 2.67 lakh employees and their agents were more than 21 lakh. Those engaged in the private sector were also Indians, she said. Toll booths to go, says Gadkari; unveils vehicle scrapping policy STATESMAN NEWS SERVICE NEW DELHI, 18 MARCH India will do away with toll booths and implement GPSbased toll collection within one year, said road transport and highways minister Nitin Gadkari in the Lok Sabha today. The minister also unveiled the government’s vehicle scrapping policy, proposed in the Union Budget, in a suo moto statement made in both Houses of Parliament, under which about 5 per cent rebate on new cars would be offered to buyers on scrapping of old vehicles. Mr Gadkari, speaking in the Lower House during Question Hour, said 93 per cent of vehicles pay toll using FASTag, but the remaining 7 per cent have still not adopted it despite pay- ing a double toll. “I want to assure the House that within one year all physical toll booths in the country will be removed. It means that toll collection will happen via GPS. The money will be collected based on GPS imaging (on vehicles),” he said. Explaining further, the minister said he has instructed police inquiry for those vehicles which do not pay toll using FASTag. “There are cases of toll theft and GST evasion cases if FASTag are not fitted in vehicles,” he said. FASTag, which facilitates electronic payment of fee at toll plazas, was introduced in 2016. From 16 February, vehicles without FASTag are required to pay double toll fees at electronic toll plazas across the country. “Making the tags compulsory would also help in ensuring that vehicles pass seamlessly through the toll plazas, as the fee payment would be done electronically,” said Mr Gadkari. Briefing the House about the vehicle scrapping policy, he said it provides for fitness test after 20 years for personal vehicles while commercial ones would require it after the completion of 15 years. If found unfit or in case of a failure to renew registration certificates, such vehicles would be de-registered. “The scheme shall provide strong incentives to owners of old vehicles to scrap old and unfit vehicles through registered scrapping centres, which shall provide the owners with a scrapping certifi- ELECTRONIC TOLL COLLECTION VEHICLE SCRAPPING POLICY Within one year all physical toll booths in the country will be removed. Toll collection will happen via GPS. The money will be collected based on GPS imaging (on vehicles) Police inquiry for those vehicles which do not pay toll using FASTag FASTag, which facilitates electronic payment of fee at toll plazas, was introduced in 2016. From 16 February, vehicles without FASTag are required to pay double toll fees cate,” Mr Gadkari said. The incentives provided under the scheme say a scrap value to be given for the old vehicle will be four to six per cent of the ex-showroom price of a new vehicle. The state governments may be advised to offer road-tax rebate of up to 25 per cent for personal vehicles and up to 15 per cent for commercial vehicles. Fitness test after 20 years for personal vehicles while commercial ones would require it after the completion of 15 years 5 per cent rebate on new cars would be offered to buyers on scrapping of old vehicles. Vehicle manufacturers will be advised for providing a discount of five per cent on purchase of new vehicle against the scrapping certificate. In addition, the registration fees may also be waived for purchase of new vehicle against the scrapping certificate. As a disincentive measure, increased fees for fitness certificate and fitness test CMYK India has 51 lakh Light Motor Vehicles which are older than 20 years and 34 lakh Light Motor Vehicles which are older than 15 years. Older vehicles pollute the environment 10 to 12 times more than fit vehicles may be applicable for vehicles 15 years onward from the date of initial registration. India has 51 lakh Light Motor Vehicles which are older than 20 years and 34 lakh Light Motor Vehicles which are older than 15 years. Older vehicles pollute the environment 10 to 12 times more than fit vehicles and pose a risk to road safety, the minister said. The objectives of the policy are to reduce of old and defective vehicles, achieve reduction in vehicular air pollutants to fulfil India’s climate commitments, improve road and vehicular safety. The ecosystem is expected to attract additional investments of around Rs. 10,000 crore and 35,000 job opportunities. The Ministry shall in the next few weeks publish draft notifications for comments. The Ministry will promote setting up of Registered Vehicle Scrapping Facility (RVSF) across India. In the Rajya Sabha, several MPs complained the Vehicle Scrapping Policy offered meagre concessions to vehicle owners, and urged the minister to keep the interests of the middle classes in mind. and planes from outside with bagful of cash to lure voters and loot votes” just ahead of elections. Asserting the TMC will never allow the NPR exercise in Bengal, she alleged, “The BJP will omit names of voters if they are not found at home during the visit of enumerators. But we would not allow them to update the register here.” BJP candidate list: The BJP today announced its candidates for the last four phases of the Bengal elections amidst confusion and agitation over selection of candidates. The list includes Tanushree Dutta, Mukul Roy, Rahul Sinha, Jagannath Sarkar, Sanmoy Bandhopadhyay, Jitendra Tiwari, Agnimitra Paul, Rudranil, Parno Mitra, Sabyasachi Dutta, Raju Banerjee. The list also included the name of Shikha Mitra Choudhwari, widow of late Congress leader Somen Mitra, who however said she wasn’t even consulted about being fielded as a candidate. See Page 3 Govt pitches for All-India Judicial Service The service will give an opportunity for induction of suitably qualified fresh legal talent selected through a proper all-India merit selection system as well as address the issue of social inclusion RAVI SHANKAR PRASAD UNION LAW MINISTER NEW DELHI, 18 MARCH A “properly framed” All India Judicial Service (AIJS) on the lines of other all-India services such as IAS and IPS is important to strengthen the overall justice delivery system, Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad told Rajya Sabha on Thursday. The service will give an opportunity for induction of suitably qualified fresh legal talent selected through a proper allIndia merit selection system as well as address the issue of social inclusion by enabling suitable representation to marginalised and deprived sections of the society, he said. A comprehensive proposal was formulated for the constitution of AIJS and the same was approved by a Committee of Secretaries in November, 2012. The proposal was included as an agenda item in the conference of chief ministers and Chief Justices of the High Courts held in April, 2013, he noted. He said it was decided that the issue needs further deliberation. The views of state governments and the high courts were sought. “There was divergence of opinion among the state governments and among the high courts and some wanted changes in the proposal formulated by the Central government,” he observed. The proposal thereon was included in the agenda for the Chief Justices conference held in April 2015, he recalled. However, no progress was made, he said.PTI
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