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Tuesday,25-January-2022

National News

No blame game, let’s sit together over pollution: Arvind Kejriwal

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As air pollution touched the “unbreathable” level of 1,000, with a thick blanket of smog enveloping the national capital, Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal said that he has no intention of indulging in blame game or politics over the crisis, and the Center and state governments should sit down together to resolve the issue.

With social media raging over the thick smog, the Aam Aadmi Party leader posted a short video on Twitter on Sunday in which he blamed stubble burning in the neighbouring states for the high level of air pollution in Delhi.

Kejriwal said the pollution levels had risen only in the past 20 days due to stubble burning.

Showing pictures of a clear Delhi sky, he said from February this year to October 10, the pollution levels in Delhi were fine, the air quality was good and the stars were visible in the night sky.

“What happened in these past 20 days that has caused the pollution to shoot up like this? It is not as if Delhiites have bought a crore of cars, or that 10 lakh industries have been set up. It is stubble burning that has made the air so polluted,” Kejriwal said in the 8.39 minute video.

He said the high pollution levels in the past few years were brought down due to collective efforts, such as banning diesel generators and making trucks use the peripheral roads instead of going through Delhi.

He said thanks to “24×7” electricity and the banning of diesel generators, which numbered six lakh, the air has become clearer. His government has also planted more trees in a 600 acre area, increased the forest cover, while the Central government has moved to force trucks to use the peripheral roads at night instead of belching their smoke in the capital.

“All the industries that used pollution-causing fuel have been forced to switch to non-polluting fuel.

“We have done so much to reduce pollution, so why should we have to put up with this? We are not indulging in blame game. The health of our children, our families concerns us. Why should we indulge in blame game,” the Chief Minister asked.

He said the main issue here is to stop stubble burning in the neighbouring states.

“Let us all get together to stop this. All the governments should sit together and find a way out,” he said.

Kejriwal said that in Punjab and Haryana, there were 27 lakh farmers, and in the past few years, 65,000 machines have been distributed to tackle the stubble.

“How many years will it take for the machines to reach 27 lakh farmers? We cannot afford to sit quietly till then,” he said.

Referring to the ‘odd-even’ traffic rationing scheme kicking off from Monday, he said that it will applicable from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.

“I will also follow the odd-even rule, so will my ministerial and other colleagues. Please go with your friend during the odd-even period,” he said.

The Chief Minister also said that his government is sending masks for school children to wear, as he prayed for the good health of the capital’s denizens.

National News

War of Words: Dhankhar slams Bengal Speaker; latter hits back

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 The ongoing row between West Bengal Governor Jagdeep Dhankhar and Assembly Speaker Biman Banerjee reached an unceremonious low on Tuesday when the former hammered Banerjee, alleging that the “Speaker has not only broken all the constitutional norms and protocols, but has also forgotten how to speak”.

“The Speaker thinks he has the licence to speak anything about the Governor. Has he become a law unto himself? I will not tolerate such indiscretion. The Speaker should not henceforth blackout the address of the Governor. If he does it, he will face the music,” Dhankhar said.

The Governor was referring to two previous incidents when his speech was ‘blacked out’ in the Assembly.

Dhankhar was speaking at the Assembly where he came to offer floral tributes to B.R. Ambedkar on the occasion of National Voters’ Day on Tuesday.

“The Speaker cannot be allowed to be a law unto himself. He thinks he is above the Governor. Who is the Constitutional head? Does he not know Article 168 — Governor is number one in the legislature, second in the House, and I hope good sense prevails,” Dhankhar said.

Banerjee, who was ‘shocked’ and ‘dismayed’ over the Governor’s behaviour in the Assembly, told the media, “The Governor said he would pay floral tributes. But he held a press conference. I was stunned that the Governor made critical statements on several issues related to the Assembly while paying tribute to Ambedkar. I think this is extremely uncourteous. This goes beyond any kind of protocol and decorum.”

Interestingly, while the ruling Trinamool Congress has claimed several times that the development of the state has been delayed because the Governor refused to sign many files, Dhankhar openly said that there is no file pending with the Raj Bhawan.

“No file is pending with me. I have raised questions (and sent back files to the state government). There has been no response from the government. Unless they respond to my questions, they will have a tough time. Before invoking my powers, I would want every answer well in advance,” Dhankhar said.

When asked about it, the Speaker said, “We have written several letters on this issue and every word of the letters is true. He wants specific words to be included in the Bills without which he would not sign them. He is just delaying the Bills. He is not the only Governor. We have worked with several Governors but there has been no resistance. We had cordial relations and no Governor had made such statements. I do not understand who the Governor is representing.”

Dhankhar didn’t even spare the ruling party and its Chief Minister, Mamata Banerjee.

Hitting out at Banerjee and the bureaucracy, the Governor said, “For the last two years, the Chief Minister has not replied to any information sought. The bureaucracy has to be held accountable. The bureaucracy is politically committed. Are they to follow the diktat of an individual?”

Speaking on the National Voters’ Day, the Governor said, “The voters should have the right to exercise the franchise freely and fearlessly, but unfortunately enough that is not the case in West Bengal. Here people don’t have the freedom to exercise their franchise freely.”

“We have seen post-poll violence of unprecedented level, those who dared to vote according to their own volition had to pay the price with their life,” Dhankhar alleged.

Maintaining that a fact-finding committee appointed by the Chairman of the National Human Rights Commission, following order from the Calcutta High Court, had observed that rule of the ruler and not the law prevails in the state, the Governor said, “This is an understatement; West Bengal’s situation is so horrible and frightening that there is horror about the ruler here.”

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National News

HC stays arrest of Akali leader Majithia in drugs case for 3 days

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In a reprieve to senior Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) senior leader Bikram Singh Majithia from arrest in a drugs-related case, the Punjab and Haryana High Court has granted protection against the arrest for three days.

Majithia, the brother-n-law of SAD chief Sukhbir Badal, is in fray for the February 20 assembly polls from Majitha, near Amritsar.

With this, he can approach the Supreme Court for challenging the high court order dismissing his anticipatory bail plea.

Justice Lisa Gill said the protection would be only for three days. She said the court did not find ground to afford one week as prayed for.

Earlier in the day, a team of Punjab Police conducted a raid at the residence of Majithia in Amritsar after dismissal of interim anticipatory bail by the high court on Monday.

Majithia had moved the high court after a Mohali court dismissed his anticipatory bail petition in a case under the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (NDPS) Act registered on December 20.

In a 49-page FIR filed by the state police Crime Branch at the Mohali police station, the SAD leader has been booked under sections 25, 27A and 29 of the NDPS Act.

Majithia’s case was argued by senior counsel Mukul Rohatgi, while the Punjab government’s case was represented by former Union Minister P. Chidambaram.

“It is more than apparent that the present FIR has been registered against the petitioner keeping an eye on the forthcoming elections. The petitioner’s fundamental rights are at stake,” said the petition.

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National News

Expedite progress under ECRP-II to strengthen health infra: Mandaviya

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Union Health Minister Mansukh Mandaviya has asked the states to review and expedite implementation of activities under ECRP-II package for strengthening the health infrastructure, in a virtual meeting held with 9 states and UTs on Tuesday.

Mandaviya urged the health ministers and the state authorities to plug the existing gaps by efficiently utilizing the amount sanctioned for various infra projects.

With strengthened health infrastructure, we can meet any health emergency and public health crisis with better preparedness, said Mandaviya, while interacting with the health ministers and other state officials of – Jammu & Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh, Punjab, Chandigarh, Uttarakhand, Haryana, Delhi, Ladakh and Uttar Pradesh – virtually on Tuesday.

“In view of a substantial number of active Covid-19 cases across the country, it is important to focus on expanding the reach of tele-consultation services for providing timely quality healthcare to the beneficiaries”, Mandaviya said.

He said further that it will prove a game-changer and will be of immense value and importance for the hard-to-reach and far flung areas, and especially in the northern regions in the current winter season.

“States and UTs need to ensure that these centres work 24X7 and ensure convenience for both the common public and health experts. To ensure minimum hassle and travelling, such expert advice can be provided at the block levels, secondary or primary health centre levels tool”, he asked the states.

The states were advised to ensure regular updation of availability, occupancy and use of infrastructure like hospital beds, PSA plants, oxygen equipment. The Union Health Minister re-emphasised the need for ramping up testing. The states and UTs reporting a lower share of RT-PCR testing were requested to ramp up tests. States and UTs were also reminded to keep a close watch on the emerging clusters and hotspots and monitor the trend of hospitalised cases along with the deaths in the state.

“Vaccination remains a potent tool to fight COVID-19. Vaccinated people are less prone to severity and hospitalisation as seen in India and globally. Higher hospitalisation is being seen in unvaccinated people and hence it becomes crucial to vaccinate the unvaccinated”, Mandaviya underlined while urging to promote vaccination among 15-18 years age group and ensure full coverage in the districts that have shown a lower coverage of the first and second doses.

Union Minister of State for Health, Dr Bharati Pravin Pawar stressed on the need for vigilance and alertness during the ongoing upsurge. She urged the states and UTs to ensure availability of essential medicines for any evolving situation and ensure timely purchase orders in case of shortages.

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