SUNDAY www.thestatesman.com 21 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 ACID TEST FOR RAHUL IN KERALA ‘DOORSTEP RATION DELIVERY SCHEME WILL HAVE NO NAME’ P3 WEATHER Partly cloudy sky. Mist in the morning. The maximum and minimum temperatures would be around 35 and 18 degrees Celsius respectively. RAINFALL: Nil RELATIVE HUMIDITY Max: 79% TN schools to be shut from Mon E PM Narendra Modi during a rally at Kharagpur AJHARUL PATHAN (See Pg 5) on Saturday. Govt asks CJI Bobde to recommend successor: With a little over a month left before Chief Justice of India SA Bobde retires, the government has started the process of appointment of next CJI, asking the incumbent to recommend his successor, sources said on Saturday. Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad on Friday sent a letter to Justice Bobde, who is set to retire on 23 April, seeking his recommendation, the sources said. Justice NV Ramana is the senior-most judge in the top court after the CJI. India claim T20 series 3-2 with Ahmedabad win: 2 India defeated England by 36 runs in the fifth Twenty20 International to claim the series 3-2 in Ahmedabad on Saturday. Rohit Sharma's blistering 64 off just 34 balls laid the foundation for India's massive total of 224 for two. Skipper Virat Kohli contributed an unbeaten 80 while Suryakumar Yadav scored 32 off 17 balls before Chris Jordan's stunning piece of fielding resulted in his dismissal. In the England innings, India struck early, with Bhivneshwar Kumar dismissing dangerous Jason Roy for a duck, and kept consistent pressure on England, which P12 managed 188 for 8 for in their 20 overs. ight states including Maharashtra and Delhi are reporting a rising trajectory of new Covid-19 cases as India recorded one lakh infections in just three days, including the latest spike of over 40,000 cases in the biggest daily increase in nearly four months. The worst-hit state of Maharashtra recorded the highest number of new cases ~ 27,126 ~ since the outbreak of the pandemic early last year on Saturday, while Delhi reported over 800 cases for the first time this year as the positivity rate breached the 1 per cent-mark after over two months. The latest data was released Saturday evening by the respective health departments. Amidst a spurt in coronavirus cases in Mumbai, the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) has decided to carry out over 47,000 rapid antigen tests at public places every day. People will be chosen randomly for testing, and the tests will be mandatory for those selected, the BMC said in a circular, adding those who refuse to be tested would face action under the Epidemic Act, 1897. Mumbai has added more than 37,000 new cases in the span of one month. It reported the highest spike of 3,062 new Covid-19 cases on Friday. The BMC’s set target of carrying out 47,800 tests daily at places will be carried out for free, except in shopping malls, where they would be chargeable. ASHOK TUTEJA NEW DELHI, 20 MARCH CHENNAI, 20 MARCH A health worker takes nasal sample for Covid-19 test, at a Mumbai Municipal Maternity Home on Saturday. AGENCIES Lockdown in 3 MP cities every Sunday BHOPAL, 20 MARCH With cases of Covid-19 increasing rapidly across Madhya Pradesh, the state government has decided to impose total lockdown in Bhopal, Indore and Jabalpur cities on every Sunday, beginning 21 March. The decision was taken at a meeting chaired by chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan. A daily night curfew is already in force in Bhopal, Indore and Ujjain. Bhopal logged 345 positive cases, Indore 317 and Jabalpur 117 in past 24 hours. SNS The Union Health Ministry said Maharashtra, Kerala and Punjab cumulatively account for 76.22 per cent of India’s total active caseload, with the western state contributing to 62 per cent of such cases, while Kerala and Punjab account for 8.83 per cent 1,15,55,284 2,88,394 40,953 23,653 1,59,558 UNION HEALTH MINISTRY FIGURES AS OF 8.00 A.M. SATURDAY 20 MARCH 2021 and 5.36 per cent of active cases respectively. On Saturday morning, the Union Health Ministry reported 40,953 new infections in the previous 24 hours, the highest single-day rise in 111 days, taking the nationwide Covid-19 tally to 1,15,55,284. Amidst a rise in the number of new coronavirus cases and emergence of virus clusters in schools in districts like Thanjavur, the Tamil Nadu government on Saturday ordered closure of schools for classes 9, 10, 11 from 22 March until further orders. The number of daily new cases in Tamil Nadu breached the 1,000mark for the first time in 81 days yesterday. Chief secretary Rajeev Ranjan said hostels for these classes would also be closed till further orders, while announcing continuance of online classes for these students. However, classes for Class 12 would be allowed to continue taking into account that the students had to sit for board examinations. The government also announced barring the Tamil Nadu State board, 10th standard exams to be conducted by other boards would be held as SNS scheduled. Delhi spike: Delhi today reported 813 Covid cases ~ the highest in nearly 3 months ~ while 2 more people succumbed to the contagious, deadly virus, according to the latest health bulletin issued by the Delhi government's health department. (SEE P3) Sharing with New Delhi its concern over China’s aggressive behaviour against its allies and partners, the United States today affirmed its commitment to a “comprehensive forward-looking defence partnership” with India as a central pillar of its approach to the IndoPacific region. “India is an increasingly important partner in today’s rapidly shifting international dynamics. And it’s clear that the importance of this (Indo-US) partnership, and its impact to the international rulesbased order will only grow in the years ahead,” visiting US Secretary of Defence Lloyd Austin said at a joint press interaction with Defence Minister Rajnath Singh after talks between the two leaders. Without directly naming China, he said that despite today’s challenging security environment, the partnership between the USA and India, the world’s two largest democracies, remained resilient and strong. “We will seek every opportunity to build upon this major partnership,” he assured New Delhi. The two ministers had a one-on-one meeting lasting nearly half-an-hour, followed by delegationlevel talks. The Indian delegation included Chief of the Defence Staff, Gen Bipin Rawat and the three services chiefs. Among other issues, Mr Austin discussed with Singh Chinese aggressive actions in Defence Minister Rajnath Singh with US Secretary of Defence Lloyd James Austin at a Press meet at Vigyan Bhawan, in the Capital on Saturday. SUBRATA DUTTA eastern Ladakh, the ceasefire agreement with Pakistan and situation in Afghanistan. The two delegations are understood to have discussed ways to further deepen the defence and strategic partnership, keeping in mind the emerging threats, particularly in Afghanistan and the IndoPacific region. Mr Austin, who had last night met Prime Minister Narendra Modi and National Security Adviser (NSA) Ajit Doval, welcomed Mr Modi’s statement that India stood for “freedom of navigation and overflight, unimpeded lawful commerce, and adherence to international law.” Mr Modi’s statement, he said, was a resounding affirmation of the two countries’ shared vision for regional security in the Indo-Pacific region. “The breadth of collaboration between our two nations reflects the significance of our major defence partnership as we work together to address the most pressing challenges facing the IndoPacific region.” He said he had discussed with the Indian side the engagement with like-minded partners through multilateral groupings such as Quad and ASEAN as the Indo-Pacific faces acute transnational challenges. In his statement, the Indian defence minister said the discussions between the two sides focused on their wideranging defence cooperation and expanding military level engagement across services, information sharing, cooperation in emerging sectors of defence and mutual logistics support. “India is committed to further consolidate our robust defence partnership with the US. I look forward to working with you closely to make the IndiaUS relationship one of the defining partnerships of the 21st century,” he said. Singh said that the recent leaders’ summit of India, the USA, Japan and Australia under the ‘Quad’ framework emphasised their resolve to maintain a free, open and inclusive Indo-Pacific region. Cong members disavow Parl panel’s backing of farm law Maha HM asked cops to collect `100 crore per month, charges ‘scapegoat’ former CP PRESS TRUST OF INDIA PRESS TRUST OF INDIA NEW DELHI, 20 MARCH Pakistan prime minister Imran Khan on Saturday tested positive for Covid-19 and is self-isolating at home, his top aide on health said, two days after he got the first shot of a Covid vaccine. Khan, 67, was vaccinated on Thursday as part of the nationwide anti-coronavirus vaccination campaign which is underway in its first phase. Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on National Health Services, Regulations and Coordination Dr Faisal Sultan took to Twitter to confirm that Khan has contracted the coronavirus. Khan's spokesman Dr Shehbaz Gill said that the prime minister has just a slight fever and cough. Issuing a clarification on Khan’s vaccination, the Ministry of National Health Services, Regulations and Coordination said that antibodies develop two to three weeks after the second dose of the 2-dose Covid-19 vaccines. Prime Minister Imran Khan was not fully vaccinated when he contracted the virus. He only got the first dose and merely two days ago which is too soon for any vaccine to become effective. Anti-bodies develop 2-3 weeks after the second dose of Covid vaccines, PTI it said on Twitter. P12 With China on mind, 1L cases in 3 days; 8 defence states under scanner US to bolsterwith India partnership MUMBAI/KOLKATA, 20 MARCH THUMBNAILS ISLAMABAD, 20 MARCH P10 SNS & PTI Min: 16.8°C (0) SUN SETS 18:33 hrs MOON SETS 01:39 hrs Imran Khan tests positive for Covid two days after vaccine jab P7 SINDHU FALTERS AGAIN Mandatory Covid testing in Mumbai’s public places; Maha adds 27,126 in 1 day Min: 32% TEMPERATURE Max: 34.3°C (+4) SUN RISES 06:23 hrs MOON RISES 11:14 hrs BIDEN COMFORTS ASIAN AMERICANS POST ATLANTA SHOOTING Three Congress MPs Saturday dissociated themselves from the report of a parliamentary standing committee recommending implementation of the Essential Commodities (Amendment) Act, 2020, alleging the report was adopted against norms and conventions. The Act is one of the three contentious agriculture-marketing laws which have triggered protests by farmers and which the Congress wants repealed. The Congress and Trinamul Congress have accused the BJP of “flouting norms” and pushing the report in the absence of the panel’s chairman, TMC MP Sudip Bandyopadhyay, who is currently busy in connection with the Bengal assembly elections. Three Congress MPs in the panel ~ Saptagiri Sankar Ulaka, Rajmohan Unnithan and Vaithilingam Ve ~ have written to Lok Sabha Speaker Om Birla, urging him to look into the matter and allow them to record their dissent in writing. The 11th report of the Standing Committee on Food, Consumer Affairs and Public Distribution was adopted on March 18 at a meeting chaired by acting chairperson Ajay Misra Teni (BJP), and tabled in Parliament on Fri- day. It asks the government to “implement the Essential Commodities (Amendment) Act, 2020 in letter and spirit, and without let or hindrances.” “It is highly irregular that such an important Report was circulated at a very short notice, and without recording any dissenting opinion, was tabled in Parliament,” Ulaka wrote in his letter to the Lok Sabha Speaker. Trinamul Congress leader Derek O'Brien said this was a con job of the BJP. “This is the BJP cheap and dirty tricks department in action. Con job was done when Chairman of Parliament Committee was not at meeting,” he said in a tweet. MUMBAI, 20 MARCH Former Mumbai police commissioner Param Bir Singh on Saturday claimed that Maharashtra Home Minister Anil Deshmukh wanted police officers to collect at least Rs 100 crore from city bars and hotels every month, a charge which Deshmukh denied. The senior IPS officer, who was transferred to the low-key Home Guards this week following the arrest of police officer Sachin Waze in the case related to the bomb scare near Mukesh Ambani’s house Antilia, said he was made a scapegoat. Responding to the “letter scare” which came Former Mumbai police commissioner Param Bir Singh claims that Sachin Waze, who headed Mumbai police Crime Intelligence Unit, was called by Home minister Deshmukh (photo) many times in the last few months and repeatedly instructed to assist in collection of the funds from city bars and hotels days after the Antilia security scare, Deshmukh, NCP leader from Vidarbha region, said Singh was hurling false accusations “to save his skin” in the Waze case. In an eight-page letter to chief minister Uddhav Thackeray, Singh alleged that Deshmukh used to call police officers to his official residence and give them a “collection target” from bars, restaurants and other establishments. Academics’ letter of distress over Mehta’s quitting PRESS TRUST OF INDIA NEW DELHI, 20 MARCH Over 150 academicians from prestigious universities across the globe like Harvard, Yale, Columbia, London School of Economics and MIT, have written an open letter to the trustees of Ashoka University, expressing distress over political commentator Pratap Bhanu Mehta’s resignation from the varsity under “political pressure”. The university in Haryana’s Sonipat became the centre of controversy earlier this week, when Mehta, who had resigned as its vice chancellor two years back, chose to step down as professor, saying that the founders made it “abundantly clear” that his association with the institution was a “political liability”. We are distressed to learn of Pratap Bhanu Mehta’s resignation under political pressure from Ashoka University. A prominent critic of the current Indian government and defender of academic freedom, he had become a target for his writings. It seems that Ashoka's Trustees, who should have treated defending him as their institutional duty, instead all but forced his resignation 150 ACADEMICS FROM PRESTIGIOUS UNIVERSITIES ACROSS THE GLOBE IN AN OPEN LETTER TO ASHOKA UNIVERSITY TRUSTEES Arvind Subramanian, the former chief economic advisor, had also resigned from the university, two days later, in solidarity with Mehta. Former RBI governor Raghuram Rajan on Saturday took to social media to say that Mehta and Subramanian’s resignations are a “grievous blow to free speech and the founders have bartered away the varsity’s soul”. The open letter to the Ashoka University trustees stated that Mehta became a target for his writings. “We are distressed to learn of Pratap Bhanu Mehta’s resignation under political pressure from Ashoka University. A prominent critic of the current Indian govern-ment and defender of acade-mic freedom, he had become a target for his writings. It seems that Ashoka’s Trustees, who should have treated defending him as their institutional duty, instead all but forced his resignation,” the letter read. The signatories to the letter include academics from New York University, University of Oxford, Stanford University, Princeton University, Cambridge University, University of Pennsylvania and University of California, among others. “In political life, these are free argument, tolerance, and a democratic spirit of equal citizenship. In the university, they are free inquiry, candour, and a rigorous distinction between the demands of intellectual honesty and the pressure of politicians, funders, or ideological animus. These values come under assault whenever a scholar is punished for the content of public speech. “When that speech is in defense of precisely these values, the assault is especially shameful. The university must be a home for fearless inquiry and criticism. We support Pratap Bhanu Mehta in his practice of the highest values of intellectual inquiry and public life,” the letter added. Rajan wrote in a Linkedin post that Mehta is a “thorn in the side of the esta-blishment as he skewers those in government and in high offices like the Supreme Court with vivid prose and through provoking arguments”. Meanwhile, the students of Ashoka University have announced a two-day boycott of classes from Monday in protest against the resignations of faculty members Mehta and Subramanian. Singh claimed that Waze, who headed Mumbai police Crime Intelligence Unit, was called by Deshmukh many times in the last few months and repeatedly instructed to assist in collection of the funds. “In the Ambani and Hiran cases, Waze’s involvement was established and the trail was to reach Param Bir Singh. It is due to this these allegations have been leveled,” Deshmukh said. MHA hands over Hiran case to NIA NEW DELHI, 20 MARCH The National Investigation Agency has been handed over the probe into the death of Thane-based businessman Mansukh Hiran whose body was found in a creek days after a vehicle laden with explosives was parked near the Mumbai residence of industrialist Mukesh Ambani, officials said on Saturday. The Maharashtra AntiTerrorism Squad (ATS) was so far probing the case.PTI Overseas spectators barred from Tokyo Olympics 2021 ASSOCIATED PRESS TOKYO, 20 MARCH After countless unsourced news reports and rumours, it has been confirmed that spectators from abroad will be barred from the postponed Tokyo Olympics when they open in four months. The decision was announced on Saturday after an online meeting of the International Olympic Committee, the Japanese government, the Tokyo government, the International Paralympic Committee, and local organizers. Officials said the risk was too great to admit ticket holders from overseas during a pandemic. The Japanese public has also opposed fans from abroad. Several surveys have shown that up to 80% oppose holding the Olympics, and a similar percentage opposed fans from overseas attending. Japan has attributed about 8,800 deaths to Covid-19 and has controlled the virus better than most countries. In order to give clarity to ticket holders living overseas and to enable them to adjust their travel plans at this stage, the parties on the Japanese side have come to the conclusion that they will not be able to enter into Japan at the time of the Olympic and Paralympic Games, the Tokyo organizing committee said in a statement. Organisers said 600,000 tickets were sold to fans from outside Japan. They have promised refunds.
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