THURSDAY www.thestatesman.com 01 APRIL 2021 FIND US ONLINE Scan this with your smartphone twitter.com/TheStatesmanLtd facebook.com/thestatesman1875 Pages 12 |` 5|LC KOLKATA | NEW DELHI | SILIGURI | BHUBANESWAR WEATHER Mainly clear sky. Strong dust raising winds during the day. The maximum and minimum temperatures would be around 34 and 18 degrees Celsius respectively. RAINFALL: Nil RELATIVE HUMIDITY Max: 53% All 10,620 booths where polling will be held this phase have been declared as sensitive by the Election Commission EC GEARS UP As the second phase of polling is all set to take place on Thursday covering 69 Assembly seats both in West Bengal and Assam, the Election Commission along with state administration was ensuring all arrangements in place to conduct a peaceful election. SNS & PTI NANDIGRAM, 31 MARCH Min: 19% TEMPERATURE Max: 34.6°C (+1) SUN RISES 06:10 hrs MOON RISES 22:49 hrs Bengal warms up for 2nd phase polling Min: 20.0°C (+2) SUN SETS 18:39 hrs MOON SETS 09:33 hrs THUMBNAILS Students undergo thermal screening as they arrive to attend classes on the opening day of new academic session, at a school in Jammu, on Wednesday. AGENCIES India's economy bounces back: India's economy has bounced back amazingly from the Covid-19 pandemic and nationwide lockdown over the last one year, but it is not out of the woods yet, according to the World Bank, which in its latest report has predicted that the country's real GDP growth for fiscal year 21/22 could range from 7.5 to 12.5 per cent. The Washington-based global lender said that the economy was already slowing when the Covid-19 pandemic unfolded. Interest rates on small savings slashed: The central government Wednesday cut interest rates on small savings schemes, including National Savings Certificate (NSC) and Public Provident Fund (PPF), by up to 1.1 per cent for the first quarter of 2021-22 in line with falling fixed deposit rates of banks. Interest rate on PPF has been reduced by 0.7 per cent to 6.4 per cent while NSC will now earn 0.9 per cent less at 5.9 per cent. T he stage is set for the second phase of Assembly polls in West Bengal on Thursday when more than 75 lakh voters will decide the fate of 191 candidates in 30 seats as eyes are set on the high profile Nandigram constituency where Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee is pitted against her protegeturned-adversary Suvendu Adhikari. All 10,620 booths where polling will be held this phase have been declared as sensitive by the Election Commission, which has deployed around 651 companies of Central forces to provide security, officials said. Besides, the state police will also be deployed at strategic locations during the polling which will begin at 7 a.m., they said. A total 199 companies of Central Armed Police Force will be deployed in Purba Medinipur, 210 companies in Paschim Medinipur, 170 in South 24 Parganas and 72 in Bankura, the sources said. TMC and BJP are contesting in all the 30 seats, while CPI(M) is in the fray in 15 and its alliance partners of Sanjukta Morcha, the Congress and ISF are competing in 13 and two seats respectively. Polling will take place amid strict Covid-19 guidelines in nine seats of Paschim Medinipur, eight in Bankura, four seats in South 24 Parganas and nine in Purba Medinipur, the home ground of TMC turncoat and BJP leader Suvendu Adhikari. Nandigram falls in Purba Medinipur district. Polling officials leave from a distribution centre after collecting election materials on the eve of second phase of Bengal Assembly Elections, in Bankura on Wednesday. AGENCIES The agrarian constituency which shook the foundations of the mighty Left regime over the anti-land acquisition movement in 2007, has now turned into a battleground of titans with Banerjee suddenly deciding to switch from her Bhowanipur seat to the constituency held by Adhikari, her former lieutenant who has switched loyalty to the BJP . For Adhikari it is a battle for political survival as a defeat would be a devastating blow and might also put a question mark on his political graph in his new party, the BJP Similarly, a victory . would not only establish him as one of the tallest leaders in Bengal but would also push him few miles ahead of others in the Chief Ministerial race in case the BJP is voted to power. For Banerjee, who is running for the third successive term as chief minister, a vic- tory is a must to lead the government and keep together her party, which is faced with exodus. For the Congress-LeftISF alliance candidate Minakshi Mukherjee of CPIM, the challenge is to regain her party's lost ground. While Banerjee had been camping in Nandigram for the last four days, BJP fielded its 'big guns', including Home Minister Amit Shah, Uttar Pradesh Chief MinisterYogi Adityanath and superstar Mithun Chakraborty to defend Adhikari's turf, which he had won in 2016 and take on ‘Didi’ (as Mamata is popularly called). Apart from identity politics and Bengali sub- nationalism, the demand for jobs, inclusion of Hindu backward communities in the OBC category and setting up of agro-based industry have emerged as main poll planks in the second phase of polls. Of the 30 seats which will see voting on Thursday, 23 were won byTMC in the 2016 assembly elections, five by Left Front and Congress and BJP one each. The political equation in the state had changed in 2019 when BJP made massive inroads in the tribal-dominated Janga Mahal region and Medinipur belt by sweeping all the five Lok Sabha seats. TheTMC, however, has been able to maintain its dominance in South 24 Parganas district, where there is sizeable minority population. A prominent seat going to the poll in the second phase is Sabang, whereTMC has fielded its Rajya Sabha MP Manas Bhunia. He is up againstTMC turncoat and BJP leader Amulya Maity. Bhunia, a former state Congress president, had held the seat from 1982 to 016 as Congress nominee before switching over to the TMC in Court discharges 3 cops in Ishrat Jahan case PRESS TRUST OF INDIA AHMEDABAD, 31 MARCH A special CBI court here on Wednesday discharged police officers G L Singhal, Tarun Barot and Anaju Chaudhary in the 2004 Ishrat Jahan alleged fake encounter case. Special CBI judge V R Raval allowed the discharge applications of Singhal, Barot (now retired) and Chaudhary. “The CBI has not mentioned anything specific against the sanction order (in which the Gujarat government declined sanction to prosecute the three accused) which also leads to believe the act of applicants/accused was in discharge of official duties,” the court observed. The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) on March 20 conveyed to the court that the state government had declined sanction for prosecution of the three accused. The court in its October TIMELINE Ishrat Jahan, a 19year-old woman from Mumbra near Mumbai, was killed along with Javed Shaikh alias Pranesh Pillai, Amjadali Akbarali Rana and Zeeshan Johar by Gujarat police in an 'encounter' near Ahmedabad on June 15, 2004 The police claimed the four were terrorists who were planning to assassinate the then Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi. But a high court-appointed Special Investigation Team concluded that the encounter was fake, after which the CBI registered a case against various police officials 2020 order observed that they had “acted in their official duties,” so the probe agency was required to obtain sanction for prosecution. Under section 197 of the Criminal Procedure Code, sanction is required for prosecuting government servants for anything done in the discharge of official duty. Ishrat Jahan, a 19-yearold woman from Mumbra near Mumbai, was killed along with Javed Shaikh alias Pranesh Pillai, Amjadali Akbarali Rana and Zeeshan Johar by Gujarat police in an 'encounter' near Ahmedabad on June 15, 2004. The police claimed the four were terrorists who were planning to assassinate the then Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi. However, a high courtappointed Special Investigation Team concluded that the encounter was fake, after which the CBI registered a case against various police officials. Inspector General of Police Singhal, retired police officers Barot and J G Parmar, and Chaudhary had filed applications before the court seeking dropping of proceedings for want of the requisite sanction to prosecute them. Parmar died during the course of hearing in the case. On Wednesday, the judge said when this court earlier observed that the act of the accused was while discharging official duties, nobody challenged the order. “Not only that, but the Central Government and the Government of Gujarat have also believed that the act of the applicants/accused is while discharging the duties and therefore, the government was moved for sanction and the sanction is refused also,” the court observed. There is nothing on record, even prima facie, to suggest that the victims were not terrorists and the IB inputs were not genuine, the court said in its order. The court also refused to accept the argument put forth by Special Public Prosecutor for the CBI, R C Kodekar, that the govermnent order declining sanction to prosecute the three applicants was issued without the application of mind. The CBI had named seven police officers, P P Pandey, D G Vanzara, N K Amin, Singhal, Barot, Parmar and Chaudhary, as accused in its first charge sheet filed in 2013. Dispatching of polling parties has begun as polling will take place in 30 Assembly constituencies in West Bengal and 39 in Assam with several polling teams moving ahead braving difficult terrains, blocked roads and rivers to reach specific booths. All the booths where polling will be held in the second phase put under proper security radar as most of the areas are very sensitive, and the borders of the state adjoining other states are being closely monSeptember 2016. TMC has fielded actor Sayantika Banerjee, a popular face in the Bengali silver screen, from Bankura seat against BJP's Niladri Sekhar Dana. The Sanjukta Morcha has fielded Congress candidate Radharani Banerjee. In Debra seat, two former IPS officers will cross swords. One is BJP candidate Bharati Ghosh who is contesting against TMC's Humayun Kabir. Mamata writes to Opp leaders: West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee has writtenpersonalletterstonon- itored. Vehicles entering the borders of the district and cities are being checked by security personnel in the presence of magistrates. Nearly 700 Central Armed Police Force (CAPF) companies have been almost deployed in West Bengal's Purba Medinipur, Paschim Medinipur, South 24 Parganas and Bankura districts. However, over 500 CAPFs are also being deployed in Assam to ensure a completely peaceful and fearless environment for polling. BJP leaders highlighting the “assaults” by the BJP and its government on democracy and constitutional federalism of India. Ahead of the second phase of polls in the state, Banerjee's letter, which was released by the TMC on Wednesday, seeks to drum up support from opposition leaders by stating how non-BJP states have suffered due to the saffron party led Centre's actions. Referring to the passage of the National Capital Territory of Delhi (Amendment) Bill by the two Houses of Parliament, she said that it is an “extremely grave” development. SC-appointed panel on farm laws submits report PRESS TRUST OF INDIA NEW DELHI, 31 MARCH The Supreme Court-appointed committee to study the three new controversial agricultural laws has submitted its report to the apex court on March 19 in a sealed cover, one of its members said on Wednesday. Farmers have been protesting seeking repeal of the three contentious farm laws on the borders of New Delhi for the last five months now. The Supreme Court had, on January 11, stayed the implementation of the three laws till further orders and appointed a four-member panel to resolve the impasse. The committee was given two months to study the laws and consult all stakeholders. “We submitted the report on March 19 in a sealed cover. Now, the court will decide the future course of action,” one of the members of the committee P K Mishra said. As per the panel’s official website, the panel held total 12 rounds of consultations with various stakeholders, including farmers groups, farmer producers organisations procurement agencies, professionals, academicians, private as well as state agriculture marketing boards. The panel also held nine internal meetings before finalising the report. Apart from Mishra, Shetkari Sanghatana President Anil Ghanwat and agri-economist and former Chairman of the Commission for Agricultural Costs and Prices Ashok Gulati are the other members. The fourth member Bhartiya Kisan Union President Bhupinder Singh Mann had, however, recused himself from the committee. Centre in review meet with states, UTs ahead of jabs for people above 45 PRESS TRUST OF INDIA NEW DELHI, 31 MARCH As India prepares to open up its Covid-19 vaccination drive to people above 45 from April 1, the Centre on Wednesday asked states and union territories to identify low vaccinecoverage pockets, particularly in districts reporting a surge in new infections, and take corrective action. National Health Authority (NHA) CEO and Empowered Group on Covid Vaccination chairperson Dr R S Sharma and Union Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushan chaired a high-level meeting with health secretaries, mission directors of NHM and immunisation officers of all states and UTs during the day, a statement said. The status and pace of the inoculation drive across the country were reviewed at the meeting held through videoconferencing, as were the preparations for April 2021, when vaccination would be extended to cover everybody above the age of 45, the ministry said. “A key theme underlying the meet was the identification of low vaccine coverage pockets particularly in districts showing Covid-19 surge and for taking corrective actions there,” it said in the statement. On vaccination coverage of healthcare workers (HCWs) and frontline workers (FLWs), the states and the UTs were advised to ensure that only eligible beneficiaries were reg- istered and inoculated under the respective categories. They were also advised to archive incorrect and duplicate entries on the Co-WIN platform, identify pockets of low vaccination coverage, health facility, professional association, blocks, districts for taking corrective action, and ensure saturation of vaccination of these groups on priority. States and UTs were asked to conduct regular reviews of capacity utilisation at private Covid Vaccination Centres (CVCs). They were also asked to undertake GIS analysis of CVCs to identify the need for more such facilities, and address apprehensions of private CVCs regarding vaccine supply and guidelines, the statement said. The states and UTs were also advised to ensure that there was no sedimentation of vaccine stocks at any level of storage, and that their distribution was based on consumption to avoid overstocking or under-stocking at cold chain points and CVCs. They were asked to conduct regular reviews of vaccine stocks and consumption to identify gap areas and address the same, the ministry said in its statement. The Centre also advised the states and UTs to maintain vaccine wastage at less than one per cent (current National Wastage Percentage being six per cent). India records 53,480 new cases, 354 deaths STATESMAN NEWS SERVICE NEW DELHI, 31 MARCH India recorded 53,480 new coronavirus cases in the last 24 hours taking the total tally to 1,21,49,335 on Wednesday. It was 4.8 per cent lower than that recorded on Tuesday. According to the ICMR, 24,36,72,940 samples have been tested up to March 30 with 10,22,915 samples being tested on Tuesday. India has registered a steady increase in the number of cases for 19 days in a row. The active cases have now increased to 5,52,566 comprising 4.55 per cent of the total infections, while the recovery rate has further dropped to 94.11 per cent. The death toll increased to 1,62,468 with 354 new fatalities. The number of people who have recovered from the disease surged to 1,14,34,301. Delhi adds 1,819 cases,11 deaths: Delhi today registered 1,819 coronavirus cases with a positivity rate of 2.71 percent, while 11 more people succumbed to the pathogen in the city, according to the Delhi government's latest health bulletin. The city's Covid toll mounted to 11,027 while its caseload rose to 6,62,430, the health bul(SEE P2) letin said. 1,21,49,335 5,52,566 53,480 41,280 1,62,468 UNION HEALTH MINISTRY FIGURES AS OF 8.00 A.M. WED 31 MARCH 2021 Prohibitory orders imposed in Nandigram NANDIGRAM, 31 MARCH The Election Commission on Wednesday imposed prohibitory orders under Section 144 of the CrPC in Nandigram Assembly constituency in West Bengal's Purba Medinipur district, a day ahead of the highstakes elections here, a senior official said. Besides, the EC has also started air surveillance in the area with the help of a helicopter, he said. People who are not voters of Nandigram are not being allowed to enter the constituency in view of the sensitivity, he added. “Nandigram is a sensitive constituency with high- profile candidates like Mamata Banerjee and Suvendu Adhikari. We want to ensure that the law and order situation is not compromised and people can vote freely without fear,” the official SNS said. The three-page letter has been addressed to Congress chairperson Sonia Gandhi, NCP's Sharad Pawar, DMK's MK Stalin, Samajwadi Party's AkhileshYadav, RJD'sTejashwiYadav, Shiv Sena's Uddhav Thackeray among others. Gender gap index: India slips 28 places, ranks 140 among 156 NEW DELHI, 31 MARCH India has slipped 28 places to rank 140th among 156 countries in the World Economic Forum's Global Gender Gap Report 2021, becoming the third-worst performer in South Asia. According to the report, India has closed 62.5 per cent of its gender gap till date. The country had ranked 112th among 153 countries in the Global Gender Gap Index 2020. Noting that the decline also took place on the economic participation and opportunity subindex, albeit to a lesser extent, the report said India's gender gap on this dimension widened by 3 per cent this year, leading to a 32.6 per cent gap closed till date. Most of the decline occurred on the political empowerment subindex, where India regressed 13.5 percentage points, with a significant decline in the number of women ministers (from 23.1 per cent in 2019 to 9.1 per cent in 2021). “Among the drivers of this decline is a decrease in women's labour force participation rate, which fell from 24.8 per cent to 22.3 per cent. The share of women in professional and technical roles declined further to 29.2 per cent. The share of women in senior and managerial positions also remains low: only 14.6 per cent of these positions are held by women and there are only 8.9 per cent firms with female top managers,” the report said. Further, the estimated earned income of women in India is one-fifth of men's, which puts the country among the bottom 10 globally on this PTI indicator, it said.
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