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Punjab CM Amarinder Singh orders strict enforcement of Covid protocols




Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh on Thursday ordered strict enforcement of Covid safety protocols to prevent any super-spread events, along with an increase in daily vaccination doses to two lakh.

He also directed to set up a special control room for effective in-person monitoring of home isolation cases.

Citing figures on mortality and positivity, the Chief Minister said that the restrictions currently in place are showing results, and they needed to be implemented strictly, particularly in Mohali and other big cities which are showing high rates of transmission and positivity.

Singh pointed out that the state’s positivity rate stands at 8.1 per cent, even though positivity in the age group of less than 40 years had come down from 54 per cent (September 2020) to 50 per cent (March 2021).

The curbs, coupled with strong efforts by all concerned, had helped reduce the percentage of mortality in the age group below 60 years from 50 per cent (September 2020) to 40 per cent (in March 2021), and should be strictly followed, he added.

However, the CM reiterated his demand that the Centre should allow vaccination for under 45 in areas with more cases, since the UK variant was infecting younger people more.

He directed Chief Secretary Vini Mahajan to pursue the matter with the central government, while medical expert K.K. Talwar stressed that patients of kidney and liver disease who are under 45 years should at least be allowed to be vaccinated.

The Chief Minister was chairing a virtual meeting with several ministers, including Health Minister Balbir Sidhu, Education Minister Vijay Inder Singla and Medical Education Minister O.P. Soni, along with senior administrative and police officials.

Making it clear that there was no scope for complacency, Singh said that the special control room with a dedicated team could utilise ANMs, ASHA workers, interns from medical colleges, to move beyond just telephonic to more in-person monitoring.

On the vaccination front, the Chief Minister directed the Health Department to further scale up vaccination efforts to vaccinate the entire eligible population within this month, along with auditing of any deaths taking place after vaccination.

“While vaccination has increased to 90,000 per day, we need to further take it up to 200,000 per day,” he said, adding that Punjab currently has 300,090 Covishield and 100,000 Covaxin vaccines in stock.

Sufficiency of doses must be ensured at all times and it must be ensured that the COWIN portal is updated so that the actual position is reflected, the Chief Minister said, adding that districts must not spread themselves too thin and execute vaccination strategies that ensure no wastage and adequate availability.

Singh also ordered immediate overtime allowance and weekly offs for all vaccinators, to reduce the burden on them.

Pointing to a Punjab Police case study, shared by DGP Dinkar Gupta, he pointed out that percentage increase in vaccination among police personnel had led to a clear downward trend and decline in active positive cases among the force.

The empirical data clearly shows a positive effect of vaccination amongst the policemen, and not only the number of active positive cases has come down, but the number of policemen requiring critical medical care has also become negligible, the DGP informed the Chief Minister, citing the study findings.

He said as against a peak of 1,700 daily cases last year, this surge had seen only 400 policemen getting infected on any given day at its peak. He also informed the meeting that after taking the second dose, there had been no death in the department due to Covid.

Noting that even though there had been a decline in CFR, almost 30 per cent deaths are taking place within two days of hospitalisation. Singh said around 84 per cent patients presented themselves at the hospital for the first time with severe symptoms, indicating delayed reporting.

Ninety per cent of the total deaths have been of persons with comorbid conditions, he observed, directing the department to ensure that those with Covid symptoms should immediately report to the nearest health facility to save precious lives.

Health Secretary Hussan Lal informed the Chief Minister that there was currently no shortage of oxygen in the state, with three oxygen plants already operational and two more in the process.

He said the department was grateful to the Rajasthan Chief Minister for providing it with 20,000 doses of Remdisivir, which have been given to both government (12,500) and well-functioning private hospitals (7,500 doses).

Punjab still has about 7,000 doses in stock, after giving around 300 to the PGI, he added.

Earlier in a presentation, the Health Secretary apprised the meeting that as against the 8.1 per cent overall positivity in Punjab, the district of Mohali was reporting 18 per cent.

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Sonia slams Congress leaders for speaking to media





 Addressing the Congress Working Committee (CWC) meeting, interim President Sonia Gandhi on Saturday slammed party leaders for speaking to the media.

In her opening remarks, she said: “I have always appreciated frankness. There is no need to speak to me through the media. So let us all have a free and honest discussion. But what should get communicated outside the four walls of this room is the collective decision of the CWC.”

Sonia Gandhi’s statement comes after after senior party leader Kapil Sibal had recently said that “there is no president in our party, so we do not know who is taking all the decisions. We know it, yet we don’t know, one of my senior colleagues perhaps has written or is about to write to the interim president to immediately convene a CWC meeting so that a dialogue can be initiated”.

In her remarks on Saturday, she also said the party is ready for the internal elections.

“The entire organisation wants a revival of the Congress. But this requires unity and keeping the party’s interests paramount. Above all, it requires self-control and discipline. I am acutely conscious of the fact that I have been interim Congress President ever since the CWC asked me to return in this capacity in 2019. We had thereafter, you may recall, finalised a roadmap for electing a regular President by June 30, 2021.”

But due to the second wave of Covid-19 pandemic in the country, this deadline was extended indefinitely by the CWC in its meeting held on May 10, she added.

“Today is the occasion for bringing clarity once and for all. A schedule for the full-fledged organisational elections is before you.”

She also praised young leaders for taking over leadership role

“In the last two years, a large number of our colleagues, particularly the younger ones have taken on leadership roles in taking party policies and programmes to the people, whether it be the agitation of farmers, provision of relief during the pandemic, highlighting issues of concern to youth and women, atrocities on Dalits, Adivasis and minorities, price rise, and the destruction of the public sector. Never have we let issues of public importance and concern go unaddressed.”

Regarding the farmers protests, the Congress interim President said: “The shocking incidents at Lakhimpur Kheri betrays the mindset of the BJP, how it perceives the Kisan Andolan, how it has been dealing with this determined struggle by Kisans to protect their lives and livelihoods.

She said that the economy continues to be a cause of great concern in spite of the government propaganda and the only answer the Centre seems to have for the country’s economic recovery is selling off national assets built with great effort over the decades.

“The public sector has had not just strategic and economic objectives, it has had social goals as well, as, for instance, empowerment of scheduled castes and scheduled tribes and development of backward areas. But all this is in jeopardy with the Modi government’s single-point agenda of ‘Becho, Becho, Becho’.”

She said that prices of essential commodities, including food and fuel continue to rise unabated.

“Could anyone in the country ever imagine that petrol prices would be over 100 Rs rupees a litre, diesel would be nearing the Rs 100 a litre mark, a gas cylinder would cost Rs 900 and cooking oil would be Rs 200 a litre. This is making life unbearable for people across the country.”

Sonia Gandhi also condemned the killings in Jammu and Kashmir and said minorities clearly have been targeted.

“This must be condemned in the strongest possible terms. We have done so and I do so again this morning. Jammu and Kashmir has been a Union Territory for two years. The entire responsibility for bringing the perpetrators of these barbaric crimes to justice is that of the Union government. Restoring social peace and harmony and confidence amongst the people in Jammu and Kashmir rests with the Modi government too.

“There has always been a broad consensus on foreign and neighbourhood policy in our country. But that consensus has been damaged because of the Prime Minister continued reluctance to take the Opposition into confidence in any meaningful manner. Foreign policy has become a diabolical instrument of electoral mobilisation and polarisation. We face serious challenges on our borders and on other fronts. The Prime Minister telling the opposition leaders last year that there had not been any occupation of our territory by China and his silence ever since is costing our nation dearly,” she added.

The Congress faces many challenges but, “if we are united, if we are disciplined and if we focus on the party’s interests alone, I am confident that we will do well”.

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Bombay HC endorses Goa govt’s decision to bar Goans from entering casinos




Bombay High Court.

Bombay High Court.

 Barring local residents from entering casinos by the Goa government is “well-founded” and not violative of Article 14 of the Indian Constitution, the Bombay High Court bench in Goa has said.

The Court was hearing a petition filed by a local lawyer, who had argued that the Goa government decision in February last year to ban domiciled Goans from entering casinos was discriminatory and violative of Constitutional provisions.

“Gambling is totally prohibited, but by way of some exceptions a certain class of places and people are exempted from such prohibition. The object of the State is naturally to prevent the person domiciled in Goa to be lured into such chance games and to suffer poverty and mental trauma for their families.

“The classification is founded with the object of preventing the spread of gambling and transforming the exception into a rule,” a High Court bench comprising Justices M.S. Sonak and M.S. Jawalkar said in the order on Thursday.

“Such classification grouping person domiciled in Goa and on the other hand tourist having a tourist permit is well-founded. The classification between tourists who come to Goa for a few days to entertain themselves and locals domiciled in Goa is based on an intelligible differentia (reasonable basis for differentiation). Section 2(7) defines tourists quite clearly and excludes persons domiciled or permanently residing in Goa,” Court also said.

The Court also said that unlike tourists, locals would have “much greater opportunities” to visit casinos and said that “there is nothing arbitrary or discriminatory in the object or the classification”.

“The petitioner does not challenge the entry of tourists in casinos but insists on permitting him to enter (casinos). Since the petitioner and the tourists belong to separate classes, no case of breach of Article 14 is made out,” the Court also said.

In his petition, advocate Shukr Usgaonkar had said that the Goa government’s decision to bar domiciled Goans from entering casinos was violative of his personal rights, because it barred him from visiting casinos.

“The impugned provisions contravene Article 14 of the Constitution of India by prohibiting access to persons, who are permanent residents of Goa.

“The distinction being made between tourists and non-tourists miserably fails the test of reasonable classification which must be fulfilled by any classification to withstand the rigors of Article 14. What is good for tourists cannot be bad for the Goans or non-tourists,” Ugaonkar had said.

Goa has five offshore casinos and around 10 onshore casinos operational in the coastal state.

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Gehlot to meet Sonia after 8 months, a day ahead of CWC




Ashok Gehlot.

 Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot is slated to meet Sonia Gandhi on Friday, eight months after he last met the interim Congress President. The meeting comes a day ahead of the Congress working Committee (CWC) meeting to be held on Saturday.

Gehlot, as per programme, will depart to Delhi on Friday afternoon to attend the Congress Working Committee (CWC) meeting scheduled on October 16. This will be his second visit to Delhi this year after his trip to the national capital on February 27.

During his visit, the long-pending issues of cabinet reshuffle, political appointments and organisational expansion may be discussed with the party high command. Sources said that these pending issues are likely to receive green signal when Gehlot meets Sonia Gandhi on Friday.

Former Rajasthan Deputy CM Sachin Pilot’s camp has been demanding a cabinet reshuffle for a long time now. Apart from this camp, even MLAs from the BSP have been raising the demand for cabinet berths and political appointments.

Maken has set deadlines for a possible cabinet expansion many times, but has been unable to meet them. Now after Gehlot’s proposed visit to Delhi, the winds of change have again gathered momentum in this desert state.

However amid the differences, Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot and former state Congress chief Sachin Pilot were seen seated together in a helicopter last week as both were headed to Vallabh Nagar and Dhariyawad constituencies where nominations were to be filed by candidates, namely, Preeti Shaktawat and Nagraaj Meena.

Gehlot shared a picture on his Twitter handle in which party General Secretary Ajay Maken, state Congress president Govind Singh Dotasara and former deputy CM Sachin Pilot along with him were seen smiling in a helicopter.

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