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A day after Mamata Banerjee, Smriti Irani drives scooty during Bengal roadshow

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Union Minister Smriti Irani on Friday rode a scooter during a roadshow of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in West Bengal’s Panchpota, just a day after Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee took to the road on an electric scooter.

Dressed in a black saree and doning a black helmet, the Union minister participated in the a bike rally in Baruipur-Sonarpur area in the South 24 Parganas district attended by scores of BJP workers amid chants of ‘Jai Shree Ram’ and ‘Khela Hobe’ (the game will be played). Irani along with Union Minister Rajnath Singh are campaigning for the BJP in the poll-bound state currently being ruled by the Trinamool Congress (TMC).

BJP workers carrying party flags also showered flower petals on her as she drove past a large crowd. The Minister was also seen stopping for a while to wave at the crowd.

On Thursday, Mamata Banerjee rode an e-scooter to travel to and fro from her residence in Kalighat to state secretariat ‘Nabanna’ in Howrah as a mark of protest against the fuel price hike. While she rode pillion to the secretariat sitting behind state minister Firhad Hakim in the morning, she took to the driver’s seat during her return commute to Kalighat in the evening.

In the run up to the Assembly elections which will be held in eight phases starting 27 March, the TMC and the BJP have begun campaigning.

The Election Commission on Friday announced that West Bengal will witness eight-phased Assembly polls beginning 27 March. The counting of votes will take place on 2 May.

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ALWAYS TRY TO TAKE UP RELATABLE PROJECTS: VARUN SHARMA

In an exclusive conversation with NewsX, actor Varun Sharma spilled the beans about his new show ‘Chutzpah’, his working style, and much more.

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Varun Sharma will be seen in a new show ‘Chutzpah’. Talking about it, he said, “Internet is now embedded in our blood and system. It is impossible to live without it. The show talks about three to four different stories. The madness, chaos, craziness, relatability, and the reality of the digital world, is what ‘Chutzpah’ has to offer. I am playing Vikas, who is in love with Shikha. The show talks about how they are in a long-distance relationship due to certain situations, and how things change. The feelings and the rush of emotions are the same but because of not being physically there for each other, they are rather connected virtually and the story progresses further.”

Commenting on the comfort level of again working with people he has earlier worked with, Varun expressed, “It felt like a homecoming as it is the same people. Immediately after ‘Ruhi’, this is coming out. Dinesh Vijan had produced ‘Ruhi’ and it was created by Mrighdeep Singh Lamba. Once you work with friends and the people that you are close with, a lot of things become easier. In that sense it was a blessing to be working with them. The interesting fact is Manjot and I did not shoot together. We were working on different stories but we used to keep chatting about how is it going.”

Speaking about the relatability factor of ‘Chutzpah’, he said, “It is very relatable. Two years back, no one thought that everything will go digital. For example, we never thought of doing virtual interviews sitting in our houses. But things have changed. There is a lot of reality in the show which is relatable. Whether it is ‘Fukrey’, ‘Fukrey Returns’, ‘Dilwale’, ‘Chhichhore’, I have always tried to do, relatable projects. People comment that ‘Oh, even I do this, or my friend does this or this guy is the Chucha or the Sexa of our group.’ Playing a relatable character is something I always crave to do when I want to be a part of a project. That is also the same thought I had in mind when it came to ‘Chutzpah’. The show is out and people will witness how relatable the character is and they would want to talk about it.” Varun added, “This show is also going to be an eye-opener for so many relationships, which are long-distance right now. Couples will think, ‘Why are we talking like this? It is not because I don’t love you but because I am not physically there with you for the longest time.’ That’s why the conversations and the interactions are getting shorter. The camaraderie is getting affected. It is not because the love is fading away but the physical presence is not there. If people realise that it may save certain relationships. There are so many relationships around me that have been called off because of the pandemic and two people not being together.”

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Love thy nature to lessen pandemic anxiety

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The young but fragile Himalaya is blessed with rich biodiversity. Its valuable resources have traditionally served as the foundation for the economic and cultural life of a vast and vibrant population. 

A few attitudinal differences and climate change developments coupled with variation in soil conservation create striking changes in the terrain having fabulous flora and fauna. Such unique biodiversity not only encompasses ecological, scientific or economic values but it is also a capital of inheritance, passed down over generations, stressing the need for sustainable development.

BIOTIC INTERFERENCE 

Developments of past and present indicate extremes of biotic interference. Making wise use of biodiversity inheritance should not be tutored. It has to be felt, imbibed and carried forward when one is confronted with the tentacles of Covid auntie and whims and fancies of the Covid uncle. Without entering into the realm of discussion about the origin of the virus, one should believe that SARS-CoV-2 is an offshoot of the prevailing environment. An environment throttled by one and all.

FAUNA NEEDS FRESH LOOK

Coming to judicious utilisation rather than exploitation of floral and faunal wealth, there may be a need for a fresh approach. Not only do farming communities near forests have to be sensitised to extract forest and non-forest timber products properly but they also have to be briefed to leave enough scope for growth and sustenance of grass, shrubs, water bodies etc, vital for the life of animals such as lions, elephants, tigers, and deer etc. While saying so, one is not aiming to touch upon the crucial food chain, rather the purpose is to prick our mind specifically about the plight of gentle elephants, who, being vegetarian, show full loyalty towards their masters.

Of 27,000 Asian Elephants in India, 21% reside in Assam. Due to the loss of forest habitat, they are increasingly coming face to face with humans. Every year, around 100 of them, unfortunately, get killed. They are also misused in the Tourism industry. The Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972 bans the sale of captive and unregistered elephants.

The mere fact that they live, eat and move in groups or clusters, goes on to show their strong family instincts, something reflected glaringly in:

A) Episode of 18 elephants in Nagaon, Assam in May 2021 crushed by lightning

B) Freak, directionless walk of over 500 km by 15 elephants in Kunming area of Yunan province of China in June 2021.

SYMPATHY IS NECESSARY

Despite the inherent friendly attitude of the elephants and many other animals often the reports of entry into the human habitations hit the headlines. There has to be some reason for such an entry. What they get in return is hectic, irrational, and merciless action. The facial expression of the fauna in such a situation shows their state of helplessness. The onlookers, nevertheless, get sarcastic pleasure in having an exciting glimpse. Whether it is a case of entry by the loveable monkeys, leopards, tigers or the elephants into towns of different states, these should not be considered as an intrusion by the animals.

ASSERTION OF RIGHTS

 It is felt that such behaviour has to be viewed as a valiant act of assertion of rights by certain species to counter the actual intrusion into their bonafide habitat by shrewd human beings. There should be no justification to suppress or subjugate the innocent animals either by mechanical or muscle power.

Will our Forest Service friends wake up and take requisite action especially during the current wave of Covid-19 pandemic, when almost two dozen ‘positive’ tigers and a couple of similarly infected lions have already left the world? Lingering threat to pets and domestic animals who soothes our feelings when we are tired, and exhausted, also fill the atmosphere, time and again.

 Having stated so, I may humbly submit: “When the animal instinct among the humans crosses conceivable limits, the actual and bonafide sons and daughters of mother earth are left with no alternative but to react vehemently or justifiably.”

UNHEALTHY TUSSLE

It is not only the competition or tussle factor for habitat between the animals and human beings but it is a question of displaying adequate love and care for the natural endowments, indiscriminately gifted by the Almighty.

SAVIOUR DUTY

It may not be out of context to remind ourselves about the basic Hindu philosophy of emphasising reverence to the flora and fauna right from childhood. For generations, plants, such as peepal, banyan, tulsi, banana, mango etc. and the animals namely, cow, bull, lion, tiger, elephant, monkey, rat, cobra snakes etc. were being worshipped. Also, the morning ritual of offering water to Sun God, tulsi plant and peepal tree not only has given the requisite faith and confidence to the worshippers but it can also teach us again the forgotten lesson to do everything possible to Preserve flora and fauna.

To sum up, if we are mandated to avoid Social Interaction due to coronavirus and the more lethal third wave, how can we afford to undermine similar ‘social’ instincts among the animals?

Their state of hunger and helpless facial expressions during the last two rounds of lockdowns, calls for improving our overall attitude towards them. The timely food intake and sound health of fauna not only can improve their internal social behaviour but may also ensure a refined attitude towards their human handlers, caretakers or masters.

Even if we get rid of Covidity clinically, the love and affection displayed by the pets may prove much more valuable if not decisive in reducing our anxiety and depression. It may ultimately facilitate satisfactory healing of the community.

The writer is former Chief Secretary, the Government of Sikkim. The views expressed are personal.

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BE THE VOICE OF THE VOICELESS

Article 51-A (g) says that citizens must be compassionate towards all living creatures. Also, there are several wildlife protection Acts. Yet, we have betrayed our moral failure towards voiceless animals.

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India, being the land of sages, has always believed in ahimsa and equality for all living beings. The Constitution of India itself lays down in Article 51-A (g) that Indian citizens must be compassionate towards all living creatures. In the furtherance of it, the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (PCA) Act, 1960 was enacted along with Wildlife (Protection) (WP) Act. However, in the past few years, we, as humans, have betrayed our moral failure towards voiceless animals. The testament to this is the growing reports of animals being subjected to sexual abuse, being burnt alive, acid and pebble attacks, thrown off from the rooftop, lit crackers on their tails, and even cutting them down in marble cutter, the list is endless and horrendous. How have we stooped down so low that we are finding our entertainment in torturing voiceless beings? 

PREVENTION OF ANIMAL CRUELTY

The Constitution imposes a fundamental duty on us to safeguard the wildlife and have compassion for all living creatures as a result of which the PCA Act was laid down as a measure to give rights of freedom and living to animals. The act was made in 1960 shows how little has been done since then. Unfortunately, in our country, the discussion related to animal rights revolves around political arcades, primarily cow slaughter or beef ban and protection for endangered species. Many animal lovers have been helping by rescuing and providing shelter homes, medication, and food to the tiny beings but for a collective measure, a well-executed law has to be made to safeguard the interest of animals.  

The PCA Act in Section 11 defines cruelty and lists a series of offences and prescribes punishment for the same. However, the act lacks basic connotation with today’s time and needs strict amendments. Disturbingly, the punishment for treating animals cruelly is punishable with a fine of Rs 10 that may extend to Rs 50 on first conviction. On subsequent conviction within three years of a previous offence, it is punishable with a fine of Rs 25 that may extend to Rs 100 or imprisonment of three months or with both. Performing operations like Phooka or any other operations to improve lactation which is injurious to the health of the animal is punishable with a fine of Rs 1,000 or imprisonment up to two years or both and experimentation on animals is punishable with a fine up to Rs 200.

The WP Act too provides lists of species of both flora and fauna which need to the protected from increasing commercialisation of animal goods in form of trading of endangered species, uses of their skin for beauty products, selling off their horns in the black market and further being used in medical by-products. The law brings all these malpractices under its supervision. The act also controls the hunting of wild animals, protection of national parks and sanctuaries, restrict the illegal trade of wild animals, and articles. Section 39 specifies that any wild hunted animal found, killed, fed, alive, or dead shall be the property of the state government. Likewise, Section 9 of the act prohibits the hunting of wild birds.

JUDICIAL APPROACH

Our legislative provisions and judicial pronouncements make an effective case for animal rights. But since no rights and laws can be absolute, regulation of animal rights is a must. Therefore, time and again judicial pronouncements have become voices of the animals and their rights.

In 2014, Supreme Court’s landmark judgment in decisions banning the bull-taming festival ‘Jallikattu’ can be described as a watershed moment in terms of animal rights. It not only recognised that animals have a constitutional right to life under Article 21 of the Constitution as well as the right to dignity and fair treatment.

In a landmark judgement of Punjab and Haryana High Court, it was observed that “entire animal kingdom including avian and aquatic are declared as legal entities having a distinct persona with corresponding rights, duties and liabilities of a living person”, touching the matter of animal rights in the purview of Fundamental Rights.

The latest judgment by Delhi High Court states that stray dogs have the right to food and citizens have the right to feed them. The Court observed that “we have to show compassion towards all living creatures. Animals may be mute but we as a society have to speak on their behalf. No pain or agony should be caused to the animals. Cruelty to animals causes psychological pain to them. Animals breathe like us and have emotions. The animals require food, water, shelter, normal behaviour, medical care, self-determination.”

In 2006, the Bombay High Court passed an important ruling, wherein any film meant for public viewing in which animal is used or filmed, has to obtain a certificate from the Animal Welfare Board of India. It safeguards animals from being exploited or ill-treated during filmmaking.

In 2014, Supreme Court banned the illegal transport of cattle to Nepal for the Gadhimai festival that played a crucial role in bringing down the number of animals sacrificed that year.

VIABLE ALTERNATIVES 

The Central government has already initiated the process of amendment of the PCA Act and other viable alternatives are being made for safeguarding the interest of animals at large. Some of the observations are as under:

In the present scenario of Covid-19, when every country is researching making successful medication and vaccines to end this pandemic, millions of mice, cats, dogs, rabbits etc are the ones on whom the trial is being done. This kind of horrible environment exposes animal cruelty. Through the Drugs and Cosmetics Rules (Second Amendment) 2014, animal testing for cosmetic products was prohibited all over India. But this subject needs more attention in today’s time. The present legislation in India needs to be modified by making more stringent laws.

Over the years illegal trafficking and poaching of animals across the borders have led to overexploitation of certain species to the point that their survival has become difficult and caused further cruelty to them. Wildlife resources must be managed sustainably and conserved by the law. For which the Indian Penal Code, 1860, under sections 428 and 429 constitutes that killing, poaching or torturing animals is a cognisable offence and is required immediate FIR and rigorous imprisonment which may extend to up to five years or fine or both.  

There should be finer and stricter rules implemented for the transportation of livestock in India. The amended motor vehicle rule is one such step in this direction which provides that vehicles without special licenses for such transportation should not be ply on roads and a healthy and safe environment should be provided to these animals. The excessive overloading of animals, permanent partition for transportation of individual animals, health checks up can be some of the additions. 

Shelter homes are the need of the hour. An animal that has been mistreated needs support and sometimes immediate for which there should be shelter homes with viable facilities. There should be proper checks and regulations with timely inspection of these shelter homes.

There should be 24/7 medical centres for animals, especially domesticated pets.

The PETA India suggested some regulations mandating the use of anaesthetics before castration and replacement of cruel practices. 

The PCA Act needs refined and stern punishment. The drafted bill has increased the fine three times the cost of animals or Rs 75,000 with the imprisonment of three years that may extend to five or both, has been proposed. 

Steps should be taken for the protection of ‘’dignity of the creature’’ like the law laid down in Switzerland which deemed activities degrading to the dignity of animals forbidden by law.

In many cases reported in India, the barking of dogs has been a cause of beating them and often owners try to stop dogs from barking. This should be considered illegal and pet owners should learn how to take care of their pets.

Registration of pets has become a mandate across the country. This is a huge step for making society pet friendly. Effective implementation of registration should be done and non–compliance to register should be met with dire consequences. People too should be responsible and help the government in this.

As per WP Act, there are some wild and endangered animals not just lions and tigers but a lot of exotic animals are banned to pet or keep domesticated. The reason for this is that these animals enjoy their natural habitats and can’t survive or properly nurture at our homes. We should not play down with the rule of the land and also report such incidents to the authorities at the earliest. 

The issue of animal rights revolves around the question of whether animals should be given the same protections as humans. They should be treated with the utmost respect, care, and love. Animals should not be considered helpless and voiceless beings. In a society, where we all talk about how to be civilised, we buffoon the idea that animals are meant to be caged. There are a lot of things we can do to protect animals. You don’t have to own a pet to help in the cause. Let’s all be the voice they wish they had, and make the choice they wish they could. Stop animal cruelty.

The writer is an Advocate at Punjab and Haryana High Court, Chandigarh. The views expressed are personal.

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CM supports Anil Vij after he accuses officials of obstructing dept works

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Haryana Home Minister Anil Vij, who also holds the portfolio of Education Ministry, seems to be in an angry mood. Vij has stated that he has come to know that some officers are obstructing his departmental works to please Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar. CM Khattar has spoken in favour of Vij. He said, “As if I and CM are against each other. They are very badly mistaken for me. Me and the Chief Minister are good friends. Officers playing this dirty game will have to suffer heavily for this.” Before this, Vij had been engaged in a long drawl tussle with the CM Khattar, DGP Manoj Yadava along with some other officials about many issues.

The information issued officially by Vij indicated that few of the officials of the state continue to annoy him which made him utter the above. Thus, he directed the officials not to be negligent about departmental projects and in case they are found doing so, undoubtedly would be subject to stern action.

It is learnt that Vij and home secretary Rajiv Arora are eyeball to eyeball following a recent incident which is being considered the reason for his anger. It is pertinent to mention Arora was reported giving a statement in media about the Corona Task Force without putting the same in Vij’s notice which led to annoying him. Following the same, when Vij was asked about the issue and in reaction, he said that time he is unable to say anything about the task force as the matter is not in his notice. Thus the whole matter resulted in a clash between these both

Regarding the issue, CM Khattar has taken Vij’s side and openly stated that a stern action would be taken against those officials who are obstructing the works of the department. Therefore, the problems of such officials seem to be increasing. When asked about this, CM Khattar said that does not want to say anything more than what he has already said.

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REQUEST CAPT AMARINDER URGES PM TO REOPEN KARTARPUR CORRIDOR

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CHANDIGARH: Punjab Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh on Wednesday urged Prime Minister Narendra Modi to reopen the Kartarpur Corridor, in view of the improvement in the Covid situation, to facilitate people to visit the historic shrine in Pakistan.

In a letter to the Prime Minister, Captain Amarinder said that his government would be happy to work in conjunction with the Government of India to ensure adherence to proper Covid-19 protocols including testing and vaccination of pilgrims using the Kartarpur Corridor. He hoped for a positive consideration by the Prime Minister in this regard.

The Chief Minister pointed out that the movement of devotees to Kartarpur through the Corridor was suspended in March 2020 due to the Covid outbreak. “The Covid-19 situation in Punjab has shown signs of significant improvement in the past month and I am happy to share that yesterday, no Covid-19 related death was reported, after almost an year,” Captain Amarinder wrote. He said that in the changed scenario, the people have again evinced their desire to have darshan at Gurudwara Darbar Sahib in Kartarpur.

The Chief Minister further said that “we have been fortunate that the Kartarpur Corridor was opened on the auspicious occasion of the 550th Prakash Purab of Sri Guru Nanak Dev Ji in November 2019.” He added, “It helped fulfil the long-standing demand of “khulle darshan deedar” of the historic Gurudwara Darbar Sahib at Kartarpur, located just across the international border in Pakistan.” 

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SEBI slaps fine on Raj Kundra-Shilpa Shetty company

Preeti Sompura

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SEBI slapped a monetary penalty on Viaan Industries Ltd, Shilpa Shetty Kundra and Ripu Sudan Kundra who is also known as Raj Kundra’s compamy, for disclosure lapses and consequent violation of insider trading norms.

According to a SEBI order, a total fine of Rs 3 lakh has been imposed on them to be paid jointly and severally. Shilpa and Raj are the promoters of Viaan Industries. The order follows a probe conducted between September 2013 to December 2015 to ascertain a violation of prohibition of insider trading norms by the entities.

In October 2015, Viaan Industries made a preferential allotment of Rs 5 lakh equity shares to four persons and 1,28,800 lakh shares each, amounting to Rs 2.57 crore each, were allotted to Raj and Shilpa in the allotment.

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