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Saturday,19-June-2021

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Harsh Vardhan assures Mamata of all help to fight Covid

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Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan on Friday assured West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee of all help to fight Covid in the state.

In a letter to Banerjee, who has just taken over for her third stint in power, he said that since the very onset of the pandemic, the Centre has been supporting each and every state across the country not just financially, but also through requisite diagnostics, therapeutics, medical devices, vaccines and other essential material and services.

Earlier, Banerjee wrote to Prime Minister Narendra Modi to issue instructions for immediate allocation of at least 550 metric tonnes of medical oxygen to the state.

Posting his four-page letter to Banerjee, Harsh Vardhan tweeted: “Diagnostics, therapeutics, medicines, oxygen,or augmenting health infra. Rest assured Mamata Didi, whatever West Bengal needs, Narendra ModiJi’s Government stands resolute to provide, in order to help it effectively fight Covid 19 pandemic.”

Referring to her letter to the Prime Minister, he said: “First of all, I would like to point out the high test positivity rates in many districts of the state, which is over 40 per cent in some districts. As you have been the Health Minister yourself, you will appreciate that this means that testing needs to be significantly ramped up. We wish the state of West Bengal is ahead of the curve when it comes to tracking infection, by testing more.”

On the need to augment the health infrastructure in the state, he suggested that West Bengal may look at various innovations being done across the country to increase availability of beds and healthcare facilities.

Listing the Centre’s support, he wrote that as on date, West Bengal has already been provided a total of 1,18,83,340 vaccine doses and further 2,00,000 doses are in the pipeline for immediate supply.

“Government of India has so far provided West Bengal with 18.38 lakh N95 masks, 4.84 lakh PPE kits, 1,245 ventilators and 43.5 lakh Hydroxychloroquine tablets for management of Covid-19 pandemic,” he noted.

On Centre’s help to meet the state’s oxygen requirement, he wrote: “As many as five Pressure Swing Adsorption (PSA) plants have been sanctioned for West Bengal, out of which two have already been installed and made functional. Similarly, 849 D-Type and 1,504 B-Type oxygen cylinders have been allocated to West Bengal. Out of this, 700 will be delivered on or before May 21. This entire support has been provided free of cost.”

“In view of the recent surge in Covid cases across the country, demand for drugs like Remdesivir and Tocilizumab has increased substantially. As many as 94,400 vials of Remdesivir have, accordingly, been allocated to West Bengal for the period April 21, 2021 to May 9, 2021. On the Tocilizumab front, the Central government is making all efforts for equitable availability across the country, based on the active case load in each state.”

The Health Minister said that apart from the delivery of these essential medical devices and drugs, West Bengal has been supported with a financial grant of Rs 295.28 crore under the Covid-19 package.

On oxygen, he said: “West Bengal has been allocated 308 MT of oxygen to meet the demand from April 25 onwards. In this regard, we had allocated the maximum possible amount to West Bengal at the time of the issue of the aforesaid order.”

He said that the Indian Council of Medical Research has facilitated setting up 74 Covid testing labs in the government sector and 54 labs in the private sector.

“I assure you that the Centre is committed to taking all required steps to help the states in their fight against Covid-19 and shall continue to hand-hold them during this challenging time of the pandemic by providing requisite resources,” he said.

National News

PM Narendra Modi condoles demise of DPIIT Secretary Guruprasad Mohapatra

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Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Saturday expressed grief over the demise of Dr Guruprasad Mohapatra, Secretary of Department for Promotion of Industry and Internal Trade (DPIIT).

Odisha-born Indian Administrative Service (IAS) officer Mohapatra succumbed to Covid-19 on Saturday. Mohapatra was undergoing treatment at a private hospital in Delhi where he took his last breath.

In a tweet, the Prime Minister said: “Saddened by the demise of Dr Guruprasad Mohapatra, DPIIT Secretary. I had worked with him extensively in Gujarat and at the Centre. He had a great understanding of administrative issues and was known for his innovative zeal. Condolences to his family and friends. Om Shanti,” the Prime Minister tweeted.

Union Minister Piyush Goyal also expressed his condolences over the demise of Mohapatra through Twitter, saying “extremely saddened to hear about the loss of Dr Guruprasad Mohapatra, Secretary DPIIT. His long-standing service and dedication to the Nation have left a lasting impact. I convey my deepest sympathies to his family and friends”.

Union Minister Dharmendra Pradhan also took to Twitter to express his deep condolence. “A pioneer, he made unparalleled contributions in reforming the urban development landscape in Gujarat, led many public enterprises with distinction and also steered the commerce & aviation sector,” Pradhan tweeted.

The 1986 batch IAS officer, Mohapatra had assumed charge as the secretary of the DPIIT in August 2019.

Before taking over as the secretary of DPIIT, he had served as the chairman of the Airports Authority of India (AAI).

Mohapatra had also served as a joint secretary in the Department of Commerce, where he worked for the promotion of special economic zones (SEZs), public procurement and project exports (financing and insurance), a statement from DPIIT had said.

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PM Narendra Modi may hold all-party meet on Jammu and Kashmir next week

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Prime Minister Narendra Modi is expected to hold an all-party meeting on Jammu and Kashmir next week, a first such move taken since the abrogation of Article 370 from the region and bifurcation of the state into two Union Territories in August 2019, sources said.

However, the schedule is not yet fixed, it is learnt that the meeting may occur any time next week.

The meeting will be held in Delhi as the central government wanted to restart the democratic process in Jammu and Kashmir which was bifurcated into two UTs — Jammu and Kashmir with an assembly and Ladakh without one.

Regional parties in Jammu and Kashmir may also agree to participate in the Delimitation Commission proceedings. The commission was set up in March 2020 to redraw the constituencies of Jammu and Kashmir before the next assembly elections are held.

However, the National Conference (NC), one of the oldest parties in Jammu and Kashmir, may not join the meeting as it is adamant on the restoration of the statehood of Jammu and Kashmir.

Public representatives may also be the part of the meeting.

The development comes following a meeting taken by Union Home Minister Amit Shah on Friday in Delhi to review ongoing welfare programs in Jammu and Kashmir in order to bring development with transparency in the region.

Jammu and Kashmir Lieutenant Governor Manoj Sinha, National Security Advisor Ajit Doval and other top officials attended Shah’s meeting on Friday.

In a statement, the home ministry said that all-around development and welfare of people of Jammu and Kashmir is the government’s top priority. Shah congratulated Sinha and his team for ensuring the Covid-19 vaccination drive has reached 76 per cent of the target in the Union Territory and 100 per cent in four districts.

The statement said Shah asked authorities to ensure the farmers in the region get the benefits of the central schemes.

Jammu and Kashmir has been without an elected government since chief minister Mehbooba Mufti lost power when the Bharatiya Janata Party withdrew support to the People’s Democratic Party-led government in June 2018.

Mufti and two other former chief ministers were among hundreds of people arrested in the run-up to the nullification of the Constitution’s Article 370 that stripped Jammu & Kashmir of its special status. A communications blackout and a lockdown were also imposed to stem protests against the move. All the restrictions have since been removed.

The first major electoral exercise –District Development Council polls — was held in the region as part of efforts to restart political activities in Jammu and Kashmir last year. All major political parties participated in the exercise. The parties have also shown willingness to engage with the Centre.

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Priyanka Gandhi Vadra spoke to Sachin Pilot: Ajay Maken

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Congress General Secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra has spoken to Sachin Pilot, party leader Ajay Maken said this on Friday dispelling rumours that ‘no leader was engaging with Pilot’.

Sources have said that party interim President Sonia Gandhi ‘is likely to intervene’ to resolve the deadlock between the Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot and Pilot.

Ajay Maken Congress General Secretary In-charge of Rajasthan said, “Priyanka Gandhiji and I have spoken to Sachin Pilotji. As he is senior leader of the party and asset, so it’s impossible if he seeks appointment he will be denied, K.C. Venugopal has also spoken to him.”

The MLAs and the Pilot camp in particular have been pressurizing the Congress leadership for cabinet expansion and appointments in board and corporations in Rajasthan. They allege all this is being stalled by the Chief Minister’s camp.

Pilot was in Delhi last week and even toured Uttarakhand to meet his supporters where he attacked the BJP.

Maken had said last week, “Vacant positions in the cabinet, boards and commissions would be filled soon and we are in talks with all.”

He said that all other pending issues will also be taken up.

When asked if senior party leader Sachin Pilot is angry, the former Union Minister said, “I am speaking to Pilotji on a regular basis. If he would have been angry, he would not be speaking to me.”

Pilot has raked up the issue of non-resolution of commitments made to him.

“It has now been 10 months. I was given to understand that there would be swift action by the committee, but now half of the term is done, and those issues haven’t been resolved. It is unfortunate that so many of the party workers who worked and gave their all for getting us the mandate are not being heard,” Pilot had said.

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