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Monday,17-January-2022

National News

Mamata Banerjee urges Narendra Modi not to introduce electricity amendment bill

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West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee has alleged that states were not consulted properly before the initiation of the Electricity (Amendment) Bill, 2020 in the Parliament and asked Prime Minister Narendra Modi to “refrain from the initiation of the legislation” because it will hamper the interest of the larger section of the society.

In a letter written to Prime Minister Modi, Banerjee said, “Power is too important a sector for such unilateral interferences, especially when ‘electricity’ as a subject is in the Concurrent List of the Constitution of India and any legislation on a subject in such a list needs serious prior consultation with the States. In the present case, there has been some tokenism of consultations, but no real exchange of views, which is antithetical to the federal structure of our polity”.

Registering her protest against the recent Central government’s move to place the much-criticized Electricity (Amendment) Bill, 2020 in the Parliament, the chief minister said, “Such a laissez faire approach would result in concentration of private profit – focussed utility players in the lucrative urban-industrial segments, while poor and rural consumers would be left to be tended by public sector DISCOMS”.

“In the name of market reforms, the State will give up its commanding height, state PSUs will become sick and ailing and yet forced to serve areas where no corporate body would focus. Allowing cherry-picking to select private entities cannot be the goal of public policies, particularly in a strategic sector like power,” she alleged.

The Electricity (Amendment) Bill 2020 seeks to propose amendments to the Electricity Act 2003. The 2003 Act governs the power sector structure and policy. It recommends the generation, distribution, transmission, trading and use of electricity. Further, it also sets rules and regulations for regulatory authorities in the state and central departments of the power sector. The first few amendments introduced to the Act were in 2014.

The 2020 amendment Bill has proposed the setting up of a National Selection Committee instead of a separate selection panel for the appointment of state electricity regulatory commissions (SERCs).

Alleging the sweeping abdication of the State’s pre-eminent role in the power sector in favour of unregulated and de-licensed private players, the chief minister wrote, “The avowed objective of the Bill is to provide plural choices to the consumers, even while actually the Bill will finally end up in profiteering by the new service providers through enhancements in tariffs and every sector of the society will suffer due to increased tariff”.

Mamata Banerjee said that the proposed Amendment strikes at the root of that federal architecture. “The reduction of the role of the state public utility bodies, the unchecked enhancement of the role of private corporate bodies, and the curtailment of the authority of the states in the power sector together imply a sinister design, whereby crony capitalism will get nourishment at the cost of the states, the public sector and the common people at large,” she wrote.

“The dilution of the role of the State Electricity Regulatory Commission and the State Distribution Companies implies a political design to demolish state bodies and domestic industries. Direct interference by the Central Government in activities involving distribution will not at all be helpful to take care of the interest of the common people and the States,” she added.

“I would like to request you to kindly refrain from the initiation of the legislation and to ensure that a broad-based and transparent dialogues on the subject is opened up at the earliest,” she said.

Maharashtra

Maha ATS lawyers to track Malegaon-2008 blast case hearing

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Alarmed by witnesses turning hostile in the Malegaon-2008 blasts case, the Maharashtra government lawyers shall now remain in the Special NIA Court where the trial is being conducted on a daily basis, Home Minister Dilip Walse-Patil said here on Saturday.

He told the media persons that the National Investigation Agency (NIA) had taken over the case (from the state ATS), but the state government is perturbed at the manner in which several critical witnesses have become hostile in the Special Court.

The significant development came two days after the ruling Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) ally Congress had raised the issue and drawn the attention of the Home Ministry and the ATS.

Congress state Working President M. Arif Naseem Khan had submitted a memorandum to the Additional Director-General of Police and ATS chief Vineet Agrawal urging necessary measures to monitor the case closely.

“We are thankful to Home Minister Walse-Patil for accepting our demand for a team to keep a track on the court proceedings. The presence of the ATS lawyers will help in a free and fair trial,” Khan said in a statement.

An ex-minister, Khan reiterated that the NIA is allegedly ‘weakening’ the Malegaon-2008 case and not pursuing it with ‘honesty and sincerity’.

In his memorandum to the ATS Chief Agrawal, Khan contended that the witnesses turning hostile are invoking the names of Bharatiya Janata Party-RSS leaders to “malign the Maharashtra government and ATS” for gaining political mileage in the upcoming Uttar Pradesh elections.

The September 29, 2008 (Malegaon 2008) bomb blast was allegedly engineered in this minority-dominated Nashik town by Hindu fundamentalists, killing 6 and injuring over 100 others, during the Ramadan month when Muslims were breaking their fast.

The Maharashtra Police and then the ATS probed the case till 2011 when it was taken over by the NIA, and the trial is going on daily before the Special NIA Court in Mumbai.

Of the 223 witnesses examined, 16 have turned hostile, claiming that the ATS tortured them to give evidence against the accused, said Khan, urging the need for the presence of the ATS in the court to protect the image of the Maharashtra government.

Among the accused in the sensational Malegaon 2008 case are BJP MP Sadhvi Pragya Singh Thakur, Swami Amritananda Dev Teerth, Dayanand Pandey, Lt. Col. Prasad S. Purohit, and others.

Khan said that the ATS was being sought to be tarnished as an ‘anti-Hindu’ agency with the witnesses, allegedly influenced by the accused, deliberately naming BJP-RSS people ahead of the Uttar Pradesh assembly polls for political gains.

“The NIA is not prosecuting all the accused with honesty and sincerity. Out of 223 witnesses who deposed so far, 16 important ones have turned hostile and over a 100 more are still left to be examined. These witnesses are crucial and need to be protected. The NIA has not challenged any orders passed in favour of the accused which shows their intentions clearly,” Khan said.

Some of the witnesses in Malegaon 2008 case even went beyond their recorded statement mentioning names like Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath, but the NIA’s Special Public Prosecutor took no objection, and another witness claimed he was tortured and threatened by the ATS to take names of Yogi and 4 RSS leaders.

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National News

Will not form alliance with SP, says ASP chief Chandrashekhar

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Chandrashekhar Azad, president of the Azad Samaj Party (ASP), has dubbed Samajwadi Party (SP) chief Akhilesh Yadav as ‘anti-Dalit’ and made it clear that he is not going to form an alliance with the SP in the upcoming assembly polls.

Chandrashekhar claimed that Akhilesh does not understand the meaning of social justice and accused the SP chief of humiliating him.

“Akhilesh has insulted Dalits. He only needs Dalit votes, not leaders. It has become clear from his behaviour that he is similar to the BJP,” Chandrashekhar said while interacting with the media in Lucknow on Saturday.

He also asserted that the BJP will not be allowed to come to power.

“I have had a lot of meetings with Akhilesh Yadav in the last 6 months and we also had many positive conversations, but in the end I felt that Akhilesh does not need Dalits. He does not want Dalit leaders in his alliance. He only wants Dalits to vote for him,” Chandrashekhar told reporters.

He said that all issues including reservation were discussed (with Akhilesh). “Akhilesh assured me he will respond by the evening (on the alliance issue). But he didn’t. Probably doesn’t want an alliance.”

“For nine years, I have been gathering the ‘Bahujan’ (Dalit) community. Our aim is to stop the BJP. An attempt was made to stop my press conference. My fight is not to become an MLA, but to get social justice,” Chandrashekhar added.

He added, “If Akhilesh comes to power, then it is necessary to discuss the situation ahead. Intellectuals have warned us of possible violence against Dalits. Akhilesh humiliated us after 40 days. He insulted the people of the ‘Bahujan’ community.”

Chandrashekhar said, “In the past, we were finalising things regarding the alliance. We were constantly talking to the SP and Akhilesh Yadav. From what we understood from his words, it is clear that he does not want Bahujans in the alliance. Several issues needed to be cleared.”

“The character of political parties changes after coming to power. Such examples have been seen in the previous government. In such a situation, we are determined to work for the protection of Dalit rights. The SP president remained silent on the issue of our rights.”

Chandrashekhar had met Akhilesh Yadav at the SP office on Friday. The meeting between the two leaders lasted for about an hour.

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National News

PM Modi pays tributes to Tamil poet, philosopher Thiruvalluvar

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Prime Minister Narendra Modi paid tributes to the Tamil poet and philosopher Thiruvalluvar on Thiruvalluvar Day, Saturday.

“On Thiruvalluvar Day, I pay tributes to the great Thiruvalluvar. His ideals are insightful and practical… they stand out for their diverse nature and intellectual depth. Sharing a video I took last year of the Thiruvalluvar Statue and Vivekananda Rock Memorial in Kanyakumari,” the Prime Minister said in a tweet.

Thiruvalluvar is regarded as a cultural icon. His most popular work is a collection of couplets on politics, ethics, economy, and love, called “Thirukkuaaa”.

To honour his contribution, Thiruvalluvar Day is observed either on January 15 or 16 as a part of the Pongal celebrations. While a lot is not known about the life of Thiruvalluvar, it is believed that he used to live in the town of Mylapore, which in today’s time is a neighbourhood in Chennai.

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