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Congress panel to submit report soon, Sachin may be brought to Delhi

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The three-member committee constituted by interim Congress president Sonia Gandhi last month “to oversee and follow up the smooth resolution of recent issues in Rajasthan” has completed the first round of meeting separately with Sachin Pilot and his loyalist MLAs. Soon, this committee will have meetings with Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot and Rajasthan PCC president Govind Singh Dotasra and the MLAs who stood by the government during the political crisis in Rajasthan.

 According to sources, the committee has decided to keep Sachin Pilot away from Rajasthan state politics. The high command does not want any political fight within the Congress in the state, so that BJP could again get a chance to use it for its benefit. It is for this reason that Sachin Pilot may be brought to Delhi. A couple of disgruntled MLAs may be given ministerial positions in the state and some of them may be given organisational responsibilities.

 Sachin Pilot may be given responsibility of any department in Delhi. Rahul Gandhi is yet to make some appointments in various departments of the party. One such department may be given to Sachin Pilot. There are around a dozen departments, including the All India Kisan Congress, where new faces have to be appointed. The Kisan Congress chief’s post is lying vacant after Nana Patole went back to Maharashtra where he is Speaker in the Assembly.

 In the past, Sachin Pilot, along with 19 disgruntled legislators, had turned rebels and tried to destabilise the Ashok Gehlot government with the alleged backing of the BJP. However, the rebels could not achieve the goal due to Gehlot’s political prowess. This was followed by rebels of the Congress coming back to the party fold without any condition. After this, the interim Congress president had constituted a three-member committee under the leadership of senior leader Ahmed Patel. AICC general secretary in-charge of organisation K.C. Venugopal and another general secretary Ajay Maken, who is in charge of Rajasthan, were appointed members of the committee.

 The panel was given responsibilities to find out why the situation emerged that led to destabilisation of the government in Rajasthan. The panel is also ascertaining the facts related to horse-trading charges.

 Even at the time of the Rajya Sabha elections, attempts were made to dent the votes of Congress MLAs, but Gehlot had foiled the bid that time too. He had come down heavily on the BJP. 

According to sources, the committee has held three to four rounds of meetings in which a dozen disgruntled MLAs have been called. Now, the turn is of the loyalist MLAs who will be called for the meeting. 

The final meeting of the committee will be with Gehlot and Dotasra. In the meeting, a final shape will be given to the Cabinet expansion and organisational reshuffle, which will be discussed with Rahul Gandhi who will give a green signal to it. The high command is trying to ensure that the government runs smoothly under the leadership of Gehlot in Rajasthan so that a positive atmosphere could be created for the 2023 Assembly elections. After the fall of the Congress government in MP and crisis in Rajasthan, the Congress high command does not want any scene now.

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ARMY TO UNVEIL NEW DIGITAL COMBAT DRESS

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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.

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‘24 nations affected by Omicron variant’

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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.

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‘MODI GOVT WORKS IN COOPERATIVE FEDERALISM SPIRIT’

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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.

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Kashmir sees highest-ever tourist footfall in 7 years

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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.

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PARAM BIR SINGH SUSPENDED WITH IMMEDIATE EFFECT

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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.

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INDIA FORESEES ‘VERY INTENSIVE’ ENGAGEMENT DURING PUTIN’S VISIT

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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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