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Friday,22-January-2021

Maharashtra

Uddhav Thackeray seeks ‘national vaccine distribution policy’

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Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray on Tuesday urged the Centre to formulate a ‘national vaccine distribution policy’ to combat the Covid-19 pandemic more systematically.

He said that this could include the movement of citizens between states, determining the containment areas and other related aspects to fight the pandemic effectively.

“Today, the cases have increased in Delhi or Kerala, tomorrow it can go up in some other state. The Prime Minister or Home Minister should convene a meeting of all political parties and explain to them the gravity of the situation, plus instruct all to cooperate without resorting to politics,” Thackeray said.

As far as Maharashtra is concerned, the CM said that state government has set up a task force for the distribution of the much-awaited Covid-19 vaccine to deal with the pandemic situation.

“We have set up a task force for the vaccination programme. The state government is in regular touch with the Serum Institute of India and is keeping track of the vaccine development,” Thackeray said at a meeting of CMs of eight states with Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

He pointed out that the state government is bringing public life back to normal as per the directives of the Centre and implementing the precautionary measures.

However, Thackeray rued that some political parties are playing politics with the lives of the people, taking to the streets and attempting to violate the health rules, so they must be directed to refrain from doing so.

On the progress achieved by the state, he said that barely three months ago, the state had 24,000 patients daily which has now come down to around 5,000 a day.

“Despite the declining number of patients, we have asked the people to remain vigilant and practice all precautions like physical distancing, wearing face masks, cleanliness, etc. But if some political parties continue their politicking, then all our efforts may fail and we may invite a fresh corona wave,” Thackeray pointed out.

In this context, he said the state’s flagship initiative, “My Family, My Responsibility” campaign has worked very well, it has covered around 11.92 crore population and succeeded in reducing the infection rate, besides creating a ‘health map’ of the state.

Through the initiative, 3.50 lakh people suffering various diseases and helped to detect and treat around 51,000 Covid patients, Thackeray said.

Maharashtra

Uddhav Thackeray visits Serum Institute after fire, loss pegged at Rs 1K cr

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Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray on Friday visited the Serum Institute of India (SII) where a fire at its semi-ready Manjari complex claimed five lives while inflicting an estimated loss of Rs 1,000 cr to the global vaccine giant.

Thackeray visited the SII facility that was gutted on Thursday and also met the company Chairman Cyrus Poonawalla and his son Adar.

“We have ordered a thorough probe… There cannot be any conclusions till the full investigations are complete and the report is available. Then we will know whether it was an accident or sabotage,” he said.

The Chief Minister said that the Poonawallas have repeatedly assured that there would be no impact on the Covishield vaccine production and rollout which will continue unhindered.

Adar Poonawala said: “The fire has damaged machinery that was being installed for the RotaVirus and BCG Vaccine production here… No actual vaccines are being manufactured here. The extent of the damage is around Rs 1,000 crore.”

The massive blaze ravaged three to four floors of the upcoming facility in Manjari that was scheduled to become operational within a month or so.

The SII said there is no damage to any of the production facilities of the Covishield vaccine that is currently being manufactured at its other plant in Hinjewadi in the city.

The SII has already taken responsibility for five labourers, including 3 migrants, who were killed in the blaze by giving Rs 25 lakh, plus other benefits as per norms, to each of their kin and Thackeray said if anything more was required to be done, the government would consider it.

He was accompanied by Tourism Minister Aditya Thackeray, Legislative Council’s Deputy Chairperson Neelam Gorhe, Pune MP Girish Bapat and other top government and police officials.

The five victims included three migrants – Ramashankar Harijan and Bipin Saroj from Uttar Pradesh, Sushilkumar Pandey from Bihar and two locals from Pune – Mahendra Ingle and Pratik Pashte.

The Hadapsar police have registered an accidental death due to burning case for the five victims and the Pune Municipal Corporation, Pune Metropolitan Region Development Authority and Maharashtra Industrial Development Corporation launched simultaneous investigations into the fire.

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Crime

Woman withdraws #MeToo complaint against Maharashtra Minister

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In a surprise development a Mumbai-based woman, who had levelled sensational allegations of rape against Maharashtra Social Justice Minister Dhananjay Munde, has withdrawn her complaint, officials said here on Friday.

The woman informed the police that she was not keen in pursuing the case against the minister, without citing reasons for her abrupt move.

The police have now directed her to submit a formal notarised affidavit to the effect to enable the police complete the relevant formalities in the matter, the officials said.

After her allegations opened up a political Pandora’s Box last week, the self-styled victim had slammed what she termed efforts to malign her image and asked why “these people did not come forward before”.

While several Opposition Bharatiya Janata Party leaders clamoured for Munde’s removal from the cabinet and a thorough probe into her allegations, the Nationalist Congress Party stood behind the beleaguered minister, opting to wait for the outcome of the police investigation.

In a somersault, senior BJP women’s wing leader Chitra Wagh on Friday demanded that the police should book the woman under IPC Section 192 for making false allegations against the minister, to set an example.

BJP Mumbai Vice-President Krishna Hegde, who had lodged a complaint against the same woman last week for attempts to ‘honey-trap’ him a few years ago, said the latest developments will be a huge relief to Munde.

“This is the first #MeToo case in state politics and all must fight against such false allegations as ultimately truth will prevail,” Hegde said.

The ruling Maha Vikas Aghadi allies, Shiv Sena and Congress have not yet reacted to the development.

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Crime

Arnab Goswami violated Official Secrets Act: Maharashtra Congress

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Republic TV editor Arnab Goswami

Expressing serious concerns over the recent leaks of social media chats of two media personalities, the Maharashtra Congress on Tuesday said they compromised national security and violated the provisions of the Official Secrets Act.

In a memorandum submitted to Maharashtra Home Minister Anil Deshmukh, a Congress delegation led by spokespersons Sachin Sawant and Raju Waghmare said that the leakage of the purported social media chats conducted between Republic TV chief Arnab Goswami and ex-BARC CEO Partho Dasgupta undermined national security of the ‘highest order’.

On his part, Deshmukh assured that he would take up the matter in the state Cabinet before taking a decision. Headed by Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray, the Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) government comprises Shiv Sena, the Nationalist Congress Party and the Congress.

The developments came a day after the NCP demanded a joint parliamentary committee probe into the matter and Deshmukh said on January 18 that the government is trying to ascertain how Goswami got access to such highly classified details pertaining to national security.

Sawant and Waghmare pointed out how, in one of the chats, Goswami tells Dasgupta that he had confirmed information about India planning a cross-border strike on Pakistan in retaliation for the Pulwama terror attacks on CRPF troopers.

“Even the date and time stamps on this message show that this chat happened 3 days before the Indian Air Force conducted an air strike on Balakot in Pakistan on February 26, 2019,” the Congress memorandum said.

Both leaders informed Deshmukh how it was a matter of serious concern that Goswami was not only privy to information of the highest secrecy regarding national security operations of the armed forces but was also openly sharing it with Dasgupta, and it is not known as to how many other people he (Goswami) may have leaked these secrets to.

“Goswami’s actions are a clear violation of Section 5 of the OSA, 1923 which forbids a person with knowledge of classified national security operations from revealing them to unauthorised persons,” the two leaders said.

Besides, the OSA 1923 vests the power of investigating and prosecuting offences related to to Sec. 5 with the concerned state government, said Sawant and Waghmare.

They urged the state home minister to order a probe and register an offence if needed against Goswami for compromising national security, probe how he was privy to the information and who leaked such sensitive information to him.

Sawant and Waghmare raised another issue of Republic TV allegedly illegally using Doordarshan Prasar Bharati satellite frequency signals without paying the uplinking fees to reach millions of additional subscribers free in an illegal manner.

The matter figured in another chat of Goswami in which he is claiming that the then Information & Broadcasting Minister Rajyavardhan Rathore kept the matter pending till Republic TV escaped action from the government.

This issue, the duo demanded must be investigated along with the TRP probe of Mumbai Police in which Republic TV and certain other private television channels manipulated viewership data causing huge losses to the Indian exchequer.

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