Karnataka Chief Minister B.S. Yediyurappa on Friday deferred at the last minute a proposal to recommend the inclusion of the Veerashaiva-Lingayat community under the OBC list following the lack of consensus in his cabinet and the intervention of the BJP central leadership, sources said.
The subject was listed in Friday›s cabinet meeting but was not taken up as several ministers, citing similar demands from sub castes belonging to other communities that have been left out of the Centre›s OBC (other backward classes) list, exerted pressure on the Chief Minister, warning about its political ramifications and highlighting the need to study the issue further.
«On the Veerashaiva-Lingayat issue, for various reasons, I will take a decision once I go to Delhi and come back after consulting them (BJP high command). It won›t be decided today. It is also the opinion of my cabinet colleagues,» Yediyurappa told reporters before heading into the cabinet meeting. «It is a very special decision. After discussing with the high command, we will go ahead,” he said.
However, according to party sources, a top central BJP leader called him to ask him to defer a decision on the subject, noting that it›s an important issue and its implications have not been discussed in the party forum yet.
In a departure from usual practice, Yediyurappa, as per his scheduled programme release on Thursday evening, was slated to address a press conference after the cabinet meeting on the Veerashaiva-Lingayat issue, which is a task generally done by the Law Minister.
The Chief Minister›s move on the recommendation is being seen in some political circles as his attempt to flex his muscles and send a message to the central leadership, which had not given green signal to carry out a cabinet expansion/reshuffle exercise.
During his conversation with the top BJP leader who had called him, Yediyurappa is said to have communicated that the delay in clearance on the cabinet exercise despite his visit to Delhi is being seen as undermining him and his position, responding to which, the former has reportedly said that the nod will be given soon, sources said.
Regarding the much-awaited expansion or reshuffle of his cabinet, Yediyurappa told reporters that he had spoken to Union Home Minister Amit Shah in this regard, and the central leadership will convey their decision soon, and the exercise may take place in two to three days.
The decision to recommend the inclusion of the community as OBC under the central list is also being seen by many within BJP circles as a move by Yediyurappa to further consolidate his position as the leader of the Veerashaiva-Lingayats, amid speculation that the party›s central leadership is weighing the option of replacing him considering his age (77 years).
Considered as BJP›s core vote bank in Karnataka, the Veerashaiva-Lingayat community, to which Yediyurappa also belongs, is estimated to form about 16 per cent of the state›s population.
Meanwhile, briefing reporters about the cabinet decisions, Law and Parliamentary Affairs Minister J.C. Madhuswamy said, as sub castes under several other communities have been left out from the OBC list—like the Kunchatigas-Vokkaligas—it has been decided to consider sending a comprehensive recommendation to the Centre about the communities that need to be included in the days to come, and defer from the subject today.
«We have also deferred the subject as we are asking for an anthropologist report, certification of the backwardness and its nature. Once we compile all that is needed to convince of their backwardness, we will go ahead,” he said and rejected suggestions that the subject was mentioned hastily in the cabinet agenda only to send a signal to the high command and Yediyurappa›s detractors. Madhuswamy also clarified further, saying, «This proposed recommendation has nothing to do with the state government›s reservation, it is only for reservation in central government services and educational institutions.”
The minister said that the contention of the Veerashaiva-Lingayats is that, at present, only 16 sub-castes of Veerashaiva-Lingayats are considered as OBC in the central list, which is wrong. «The community should not be seen in parts by breaking it,» he said.
The inclusion of Veerashaiva-Lingayats under the central OBC list has been the longstanding demand of the community, and the All India Veerashaiva Mahasabha has been pressing for this since 1994.
At present, in Karnataka, Veerashaiva-Lingayats and their subgroups are considered a backward class and come under Category 3B with a five per cent reservation. Their inclusion in the central OBC list will mean a 27 per cent reservation in central government services and educational institutions under the Centre.
This move has come days after the Yediyurappa government announced the establishment of the Veerashaiva-Lingayat Development Corporation and allocated Rs 500 crores to it. This decision too fuelled speculations linked to the rumours about the CM›s possible replacement.
The previous Congress government led by Siddaramaiah had made a move to accord «religious minority» status to Veerashaiva-Lingayats ahead of the 2018 assembly polls, amid resentment from within over projecting the two communities are the same.
The Veerashaiva-Lingayat community owes its allegiance to the 12th century “social reform movement” initiated by Basaveshwara and has a substantial population in Karnataka, especially in the northern parts of the state. The politically influential community is considered to have a significant presence in about 140 out of the total 224 assembly constituencies in the state, and are decisive in about 90 seats, according to political observers.
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ARMY TO UNVEIL NEW DIGITAL COMBAT DRESS
The Indian Army would unveil its new digital pattern combat dress in January next year during the Army Day celebrations. “A digital pattern uniform would be unveiled during the Army Day celebrations where it would be worn by one of the contingents,” Army officials said. The Army Day parade would also see contingents wearing different combat uniforms worn by the force in the past, they said.
The decision to bring out the new combat dress for the force was taken at the recently held Army Commanders’ Conference, the officials said. These camouflage uniforms would be totally different from the existing dress and the shirts would not be required to be tucked in by troops. The new camouflage dress would include a mix of colours including earthen and olive.
‘24 nations affected by Omicron variant’
As the new strain of Covid-19 Omicron has reached several countries, World Health Organization (WHO) chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus on Wednesday said there is a “toxic mix” of low vaccine coverage and very low testing—a recipe for breeding and amplifying variants.
“WHO continues to call on all countries to optimize public health and social measures and ensure that high risk and vulnerable individuals in all countries are fully vaccinated,” Tedros said at a press briefing. Tedros suggested against blanked ban on travel and said the variant can be kept in check by mandatory quarantine of international travellers.
On Thursday, the Omicron variant was reported to have reached 24 countries, including Saudi Arabia. The Saudi Press Agency said the citizen carrying the variant came from a North African country.
Amid the scare, the government made RT-PCR mandatory at Delhi airport, for all flyers coming from abroad.
Tedros said: “We are learning more all the time about omicron but there is still more to learn about its effect on transmission, severity of disease and the effectiveness of tests therapeutics and vaccines.” Tedros was keen to call on all countries to rational proportional risk reduction measures in keeping with international health regulations, this includes measures to delay or reduce the spread.
“Several WHO advisory groups have met over the last couple of days to evaluate the emerging evidence, and prioritise the studies needed to answer these questions,” he added. Amid the new variant, many countries have imposed ban on travel since the new strain was discovered at the end of last week.
‘MODI GOVT WORKS IN COOPERATIVE FEDERALISM SPIRIT’
Union Jal Shakti Minister Gajendra Singh Shekhawat on Thursday asserted in the Rajya Sabha that the ‘Dam Safety Bill-2019’ will not encroach on the powers of the states, stating that “we (Prime Minister Narendra Modi-led government) work in cooperative federalism”. Addressing the Upper House in his concluding statement for the passage of the Bill, Shekhawat said: “The Centre hasn’t any intention of taking over the power of the States as well as encroaching any of their rights.”
The Union Minister mentioned the point as it was the major concern of various Opposition parties. Shekhawat said 90 per cent of India’s dams are built on inter-state rivers. He explained that when water is released by a state then the states downstream are affected due to this. “There have been several efforts undertaken to ensure a national body on dams has been constituted since the last 40 years. The Centre is trying to ensure that the body is constituted to ensure dam safety,” Shekhawat said.
The Bill proposes the constitution of the National Committee on Dam Safety and the National Dam Safety Authority. The National Committee on Dam Safety will form policies and recommend regulations to the National Dam Safety Authority.
The National Dam Safety Authority implements the policies advised to it. It will also constitute two state bodies—State Committee on Dam Safety and State Dam Safety Authority—if the legislation is passed. The state committees’ functions are restricted at the state level and are akin to those of national committees. The Centre, can, however, amend the functions of these state committees through a notification, if and when it deems necessary.
The provisions of the Bill are proposed to be applied to all specified dams in the country which have a height of more than 15 metres, or between 10 metres to 15 metres. The Lok Sabha had passed the Bill on August 2, 2019. Mentioning that 22 MPs took part in the debate on the Bill, Shekhawat said: “The people of the country have been waiting for the Bill for the last 40 years as it ensures the security of those residing in downstream states, and that the move is to create an environment of security by Prime Minister Narendra Modi-led government.” Rejecting claims of Opposition leaders that states were not approached before the Bill was moved, the Minister said that a Bill linked to dam safety was circulated to States in 2002 based on 1982 recommendations but only Bihar showed its positive approach then. The Minister made it clear that the Centre neither has any intention to encroach the powers of state on the ownership of dams, its water, electricity or operation, it only made an amendment to give power to the Centre to keep a tab on the safety procedures.
Kashmir sees highest-ever tourist footfall in 7 years
A total of 127,605 tourists visited Kashmir in November this year, which is more than all the figures in the month in the past seven years, according to the Jammu and Kashmir government officials. The officials are planning to organise various festivals for the winter season in the Union Territory.
According to the official, 6,327 tourists had visited Kashmir in November 2020 which is way lower than the current figure of nearly 127,000. Director, Tourism Kashmir, Dr G.N. Itoo said, “On the direction of the LG, we conducted some of the iconic festivals like houseboat festival, the Sufi festival in which the national level celebrities had participated and also literary festival because of which a buzz was created at the national as well as the international level. So the tourists from all over the world preferred visiting Kashmir. Almost 1,27,000 tourists have visited in November and almost 93,000 tourists have visited in October. It is the first time in the past 7 years, that tourists in such large number have turned up in October and November.”
Itoo further said that this is the result of a vigorous campaign including the roadshows in the country to promote tourism in Kashmir along with other measures to attract the tourists after the second wave of Covid-19. “The department has started a vigorous promotional campaign after the first wave of Covid-19. We have conducted almost 21 roadshows within the country. When the second wave hit the country, we vaccinated all the members of the tour and travel fraternity as a confidence-building measure,” he said.
PARAM BIR SINGH SUSPENDED WITH IMMEDIATE EFFECT
The government of Maharashtra on Thursday placed former Mumbai Police Commissioner Param Bir Singh under suspension with immediate effect until further orders, said the State Home Department on Thursday.
During this period Singh shall be paid subsistence allowance, dearness allowance and other allowances as admissible under Rule 4 of All India Services (Discipline and Appeal) Rules, 1969, on the production of certificate that he is not engaged in any other employment, said the Maharashtra government. The headquarter of Singh, during this period, shall be the office of the Director-General of Police, Maharashtra State, Mumbai and he shall not leave the said headquarter without obtaining the permission of the Director-General of Police, Maharashtra State, added the government.
INDIA FORESEES ‘VERY INTENSIVE’ ENGAGEMENT DURING PUTIN’S VISIT
Ahead of the Russian President Vladimir Putin’s visit next week, the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) on Thursday said that India foresees a “very intensive” engagement culminating with the Summit. Putin will arrive in New Delhi on 6 December for the annual India-Russia summit. This will be the first in-person meeting of the Russian President and Prime Minister Narendra Modi after their meeting on the sidelines of the BRICS summit in Brasilia in November 2019. “The visit of Russian President Vladimir Putin will take place on 6th December. He will be here for the 21st India-Russia Annual Summit. There will be a series of meetings. We foresee a very intensive engagement during the day and culminating with the Summit,” Ministry of External Affairs spokesperson Arindam Bagchi said during a weekly media briefing.
“Day will begin with Defence Minster and Russian counterpart co-chairing intergovernmental commission. External Affairs Minister will have a bilateral meeting with their Russian counterpart. It’ll be followed by an inaugural meeting of the newly instituted 2+2 dialogue mechanism at the level of Foreign & Defence Ministers,” he said.
Bagchi said that the 21st India-Russia Annual Summit will be held in the afternoon, and India looks forward to welcoming President Putin to New Delhi for this Summit. “A joint statement is proposed to be issued at the end of the Summit,” he added.
During the summit, the leaders will review the state and prospects of bilateral relations between the two nations and will discuss ways to further strengthen the strategic partnership between the two countries. The last India-Russia annual summit took place in 2019 during the visit of Prime Minister Modi to Vladivostok city in Russia. The annual summit could not take place in 2020 due to the Covid-19 pandemic situation.
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