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Deshmukh quits, may move SC to challenge CBI probe

Move comes after HC orders a CBI probe into graft charges levelled by Param Bir Singh against Anil Deshmukh; Dilip Walse Patil is the new Maharashtra home minister.

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Maharashtra Home Minister Anil Deshmukh on Monday resigned from his post, hours after the Bombay High Court directed the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) to conduct a preliminary inquiry into the corruption allegations against Deshmukh levelled by former Mumbai police commissioner Param Bir Singh. Soon after, it emerged that the Maharashtra government and Deshmukh would request the Supreme Court to cancel the CBI probe. A division bench of Chief Justice Dipankar Datta and Justice G.S. Kulkarni heard a clutch of petitions seeking an independent probe into Singh›s allegations against Deshmukh, including Singh›s plea seeking a CBI probe into the corruption allegations against Deshmukh. The plea also alleged corruption in police transfers and postings. The Bombay High Court also asked the CBI director to conclude the inquiry within 15 days and take further action in accordance with law. Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray’s office said that Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) leader Dilip Walse Patil will replace Deshmukh. It added that Thackeray has forwarded Deshmukh’s resignation to state Governor Bhagat Singh Koshyari and also informed him about Patil taking over. Patil, a former Speaker and seven-time MLA, is one of the seniormost lawmakers in Maharashtra and had started his career as personal assistant to Sharad Pawar. Anil Deshmukh has so far denied any impropriety, and had for weeks resisted calls for his resignation, saying he had done nothing wrong. His party boss Sharad Pawar had given him a clean chit and after several meetings, Uddhav Thackeray›s Shiv Sena had also fallen in line despite visible strain in the alliance. “I don›t have the moral right to continue in office after the court order. I have decided to quit. Kindly relieve me from my post,” said the resignation letter of Deshmukh, who belongs to Pawar›s NCP, a member of the Shiv Sena-led coalition ruling Maharashtra. Deshmukh went to hand over the letter to Uddhav Thackeray after Pawar gave his green signal, NCP leader and minister Nawab Malik said. Speaking exclusively to The Sunday Guardian, Param Bir Singh’s counsel Advocate Sunny Punamiya expressed vindication and said, “The Hon’ble HC has directed preliminary inquiry by CBI in the petition filed by Advocate Patil for fair and transparent and impartial inquiry. Therefore, prayers and grievances in Parambir Singh’s petition stand vindicated in a sense because of similar if not the same allegations as Advocate Patil.” The order for CBI inquiry was specifically passed on the writ petition of Advocate Dr Jaishri Patil. The Bench

said, “We agree with Dr Patil that there can be no independent probe if it is given to police where Deshmukh is the Home Minister; thus, unbiased probe was required to unearth the truth.” Warranting the need for an independent inquiry, the Bombay High Court also observed this as an “unprecedented”, extraordinary case. Meanwhile, reacting to the verdict, Advocate Dr Jayshri Patil said, “We welcome the decision and I am ready to record my statement in front of CBI; this is cheating with the common man and if the CBI investigates properly, more names will come out.” 

The Bombay High Court while pronouncing the order said: “We do not want to get involved in the other aspects of maintainability…The GR passed by the government for high level committee leads us to believe that there is no interference required…hence the CBI need not register an FIR immediately. Interest of justice will be done if the director of CBI is allowed to conduct a preliminary inquiry. Once the preliminary inquiry is complete, director CBI be at discretion to take further course of action.” Other pertinent observations made were, “Prima facie, the issue is such that the very faith of citizens on the functioning of the police department is at stake. To instill public confidence and safeguard the Fundamental Rights of the citizens, it is necessary that an inquiry and investigation is conducted by an independent agency.”

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WHEN BUDDING STARTUPS SHARE INNOVATIVE IDEAS WITH PANELLISTS

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In an invigorating session with NewsX, Supreme Incubator, a startup venture platform founded by Disha Singla and Tanvi Singla, presented a panel discussion, ‘Demo Day by Supreme Incubator’, wherein five budding startup companies presented their ideas and vision in the presence of an exemplary panel which consisted of business and entrepreneurial stalwarts who were also esteemed investors.

Supreme Incubator aims toward helping early age startups, especially those who are beyond the metropolitan areas and helping them build strong foundations from a very early stage and accelerate their growth. They hand-picked startups from a variety of companies across the country through a six-month-long program and provided them with a structural support system involving dedicated mental support, opportunities, and infrastructure. Supreme Incubator has been serving solutions for the young startups, creating a startup ecosystem, and helping them adapt to this new normal.

A demo day is an event that culminates this cohort program where companies, which are successfully graduated, can come to this platform to pitch to this panel of investors, who are successful entrepreneurs and capital venturists in their own right, to showcase their business idea and what does their product or company represents.

The panel constituted of some of the industry leaders who have actively contributed to the startup ecosystem and helped it to be stronger than ever. The panellists included Ashwin Srivastava, an IIT Bombay Alumni, Global Investor, VC/PE FIRM Founder, Government Advisor; Ashish Taneja, Partner at growX Ventures; Sandro Stephen, Regional Head, North India Operations, and Indian Angel Network; and Kshitij Shah, Principal, 3one4 Capital. Disha and Tanvi were also present while their finalised startup teams gave presentations to potential investors.

On an introductory note, Tanvi talked about Supreme Incubator and shared her experience of working with these young startups and how incredibly talented are the teams of different startups. The five startups pitched to the investors, followed by a Q&A session from the panellists and NewsX viewers.

The startups were: 

Startup 1: Bigdipper Exploration Space Technologies – Abhinesh Srivastava, CEO

Startup 2: TalkEng – Er. Subhra Deb, Founder & CEO, Sowarjit Baidy, Co-Founder & CEO, Sushmita Bhowmik, Co-Founder & CPRO, Subhendu Datta, Co-Founder & COO, and Shantanu Modak, Co-Founder & CMO

Startup 3: SoDo – Gaurav Sood, Founder & CEO

Startup 4: Edgenus – Jalaj Garg, Founder & CEO, and Priyansh Mahajan, Co-Founder & COO

Startup 5: Hyoristic Innovations- Hari Shankar Lal, Founder & CEO

Abhinesh made the first pitch whose startup- Bigdipper Exploration Space Technologies aims toward enabling access to space resources. Talking about the idea, he underlined that their goal is to develop cutting-edge robots for lunar and deep space missions which would further enable access to space resources that will have a life-changing impact on humanity. In the presentation, Abhinesh briefly described the roadmap of the company, the opportunities that await us in space technology, and the future goals of the company. “With 2.5 crore capital, we will be able to get the product ready by the end of next year,” he said.

The second startup to make their pitch was TalkEng, which is an ed-tech startup, aiming to revolutionise the process of learning any language, especially English. The team cited some relevant data that is obstructing young people to take up jobs, particularly in the corporate sector. They talked about their innovative idea of following a scientific approach to pave the way for English learners, citing the three crucial elements which are required to learn and achieve fluency in any language, that is Listen-Observe-Speak.

The third startup that gave the presentation was SoDo, founded by Gaurav, which is an on-demand B2B and B2C Hyperlocal platform with an intent to provide on-demand assured services for IT firms and businesses. Talking about the idea behind his company, he said, “Our company will help the clients in order creation wherein we will provide them freelancers, IT firms, and find out the best service to take depending upon their requirements to get their work done smoothly.” Gaurav underlined the post-funding predictions were stated to be at about 60 lakh wherein the major chunk would go in marketing.

The fourth presentation was given by Edgenus, founded by Jalaj, which is a one-stop destination to help you take a step ahead in your artistic passion. He asserted three major problems which might stop someone to discover and pursue arts—lack of learning opportunities, community exposure, and structured guidance in the artistic arena. The company aims to address such concerns through methods that include self-assessment, goal realisation to domain understanding, skill-building by providing the users with relevant informative content, and networking opportunities with the artists across the country.

The fifth and final startup that gave the presentation was Hyoristic Innovations. Introducing his idea to the panel, Hari stated that they aim to build high-tech solutions to mitigate space debris, making it safe for space explorations. He talked about the growing threat of space debris through his visual presentation and the current problems we are facing in that area. Hari said, “We plan to capture the eighth hidden device in the de-orbit using the ADR technique and intend to fill the gap in the debris through our services. Our service area includes ADR (Active Debris Removal) and mapping.”

On a concluding note, Disha talked about the plan ahead and stated that these startups have been an active part of the cohort. She added that the major focus would be to connect them with industry experts.

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ITV NETWORK COMMITS RS 100 CR TV SPACE FOR ROTARY RAHAT’S HEALTH MISSION

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On its mission to bring an effective change in India, Rotary Rahat is all set to roll out the world’s biggest health mission from July 2021. Led by a team of committed Rotarians all across the world, the mission will cover all of India. NewsX recently organised a special public service broadcast to spread awareness about the initiative, which was joined by Shekhar Mehta, incoming Rotary International president of 2021-22, Dr Naresh Trehan, Padma Bhushan and chairman of Medanta, Vivek Tankha, Member of Parliament and Rotarian himself, and Kartikeya Sharma, founder of ITV Network. 

In his opening remarks, Mehta highlighted the commendable work done by Rotary International in the past and said, “Rotary has been involved in many things and the biggest has been polio eradication. Over the years, the medical mission has become an important part of our work. In India, we do large camps with some of the best doctors offering their services. Various health check-ups are done, including surgeries if required. Rotary has an advantage because of its entire network. We have two lakh people whose motto is to serve the people in fields such as education, health, water, and sanitation. In the last ten years, we have done 25,000 paediatric heart surgeries and we want to do 35,000 heart surgeries for children.”

Dr Trehan said, “It is a privilege to be a part of an organisation like Rotary, which treats 50,000 people for free. Tankha has been very dedicated to the Rahat mission. I feel it is a worthwhile thing to do. In the middle of the Covid-19 pandemic, which has disrupted life in many ways, where people who need care have not been able to have access due to the fear of movement. The purpose of these camps is to detect morbidity and guide those people for the future. It has become more complex as many people have had Covid-19 and have already suffered the infection and the side effects are carried on, so I think this kind of camp takes into the huge population into consideration and the fact that those who desperately need help and are somehow unable to access it. We examine, diagnose and then treat them, this is the mission of the camps that are held around the country. Medanta will be backing it and we will be backing it more vigorously.”

He emphasised the points that need to be kept in mind while organising such camps, “The main concern is the safety of the personnel and the people who come to attend the camp. In this Covid-19 era, this has created a challenge. We will have to carefully plan our camps. It is going to be more time consuming and even more difficult to get the people. They have to be screened first for what they came to the camp for. Suppose people are in a separate situation, we will have to establish separate areas so all these things will have to be planned. If we go by the estimates of our vaccination drive, the government is expanding it with time. A large number of people who come to the camp are vaccinated and have completed their two doses of vaccination, and hopefully, they will develop immunity. A lot of the population has been covered by Ayushmann and that entitles them to treatment everywhere. All the members of the providers, healthcare providers who sign up for the scheme will be able to participate. The amount of money required to accomplish the mission and our million objectives are achievable now. We need connections everywhere. The way the population is covered by the Gold Card, the Ayushmann Card, we will have to recruit diagnostics and treatment wherever they need it. There may not be facilities in Kashmir itself, which means like us, institutions that are participating will help, so every speciality will be covered. We are ready to link with NGOs that are identifying people who cannot otherwise get access to healthcare.”

When asked the motto behind these camps, Tankha said, “In 2019, we had one lakh patients but the whole administration was with us. Thousands of surgeries took place. I remember doctors performing surgeries on those tribal women who otherwise may not have got a chance to live. When you see a leader like Shekhar who is willing to take mega projects it is all the more motivational and encouraging. We have 38 districts and 38 governors, Rotarians in all parts of India and each of them wanting to work. What could be a better situation than to serve the people of India? You are reaching healthcare to the unreached. We send patients to top hospitals.” 

Narrating his experience with Rotary, Kartikeya Sharma said, “I was part of the 2019 Rahat camp and saw what was happening. It was mind-boggling and motivated us at ITV Foundation as well to collaborate and take it to the furthest. Everything about Rotary is massive and what rotary as an organisation has been doing is fantastic. Rahat is a fantastic concept and it has reached millions of people in the last decade. When we spoke about it, I wanted to be a part of this organisation with names such as Medanta and Dr Trehan associated with it and the initiatives taken by the civil society which make healthcare possibilities happen.” He further committed Rs 100 crore worth of TV space across the ITV network to promote and take the mission to the farthest parts of the country over the next year.

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MAHARASHTRA BACK TO SQUARE ONE WITH SECOND LOCKDOWN

The state government’s decision to impose another lockdown is not a wise one since the losses would outweigh the benefits. What the state needs to do instead is ramp up its health infrastructure and Covid-19 testing, while letting citizens lead normal lives.

Shweta Shalini

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Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray on Tuesday announced a lockdown for 15 days, taking the state back to square one. The state administration seems to have accepted defeat in the fight against Covid-19 and chosen the method of inaction.

Throughout the pandemic, Maharashtra has been the worst performer consistently. Now, with a disproportionately high fatality rate, the statewide implementation of Section 144, which will paralyse daily life, is another setback for its citizens. For a state which boasts of many urbanized centres, it has failed miserably in curbing the surge in infections and put pressure on its healthcare system. 

With 60,212 fresh cases, the number of active cases in Maharashtra stands at 593,042. Disturbing reports have begun to emerge from various parts of the state, from hospitals looting patients to a lack of beds resulting in deaths. The unavailability of Remdesivir has led to hoarding. Inadequate oxygen supply has been a cause of concern. People running from pillar to post to secure hospital beds, medicines and ventilator facilities has turned it into a tragedy on a mass scale. How did Maharashtra end up in such a precarious position while Delhi is holding on despite facing a surge too?

Inadequate testing and contact tracing by the government of Maharashtra, combined with a lax attitude, have led to Covid cases shooting through the roof. The Covid positivity rate has reached the dangerous threshold of 29%. Out of the 2.20 lakh tests done, approximately 63,000 have turned out to be positive cases, which indicates an appalling state of affairs. Overall, there have been 34 lakh cases out of 2.20 crore tests.

The positivity statistics in Maharashtra are way ahead of the all-India average of 5%. Meanwhile, Delhi, despite a high density of population, has a positivity rate which is not over the national average. Uttar Pradesh and Bihar are at 2% and 1%, respectively. Even a relatively urbanised and large state like Tamil Nadu has held its own with an impressive 6%.

Given the high occurrence of the infection in Maharashtra, evident from such a high positivity rate, there is an urgent need to ramp up testing. The state cannot fight Covid unless the true extent of the spread is known. Prime Minister Narendra Modi in his discussion with Chief Ministers has already sought increased testing along with widespread vaccination as a sustainable tool to fight the virus.

Maharashtra with its imposition of another lockdown is taking a step backwards. Last year’s experience has taught us that lockdowns are not a permanent or sustainable solution, but merely the postponing of the inevitable. The need of the hour for the state is to ramp up infrastructure and increasing testing, while letting normal life run as usual, until the positivity rates are in a comfortable position. This way the state may surely enter the list of badly hit Covid-infected states, but will succeed in saving lives by timely interventions.

The steep fall in the mortality rate in Maharashtra may either mean a sign of hope or be considered a result of undercounting due to a lack of reporting. Whatever the case, it is getting increasingly clearer that the economic costs of a lockdown far exceed the supposed benefits.

Unlike the previous year when the scientific community’s knowledge of the virus was limited, the world is better off today, especially with vaccines available in varying degrees of effectiveness. The original lockdown served its purpose of buying time and letting India manufacture a lot of medical items like PPE kits, which aided the fight initially and made the lockdown worthwhile. But now, we have reached a point where a lockdown will lead to diminishing returns in terms of the fight against Covid-19.

The author is a BJP spokesperson and former executive director of the Maharashtra Village Social Transformation Foundation. The views expressed are personal.

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CAPT AMARINDER SLAMS AKALI DAL AND BJP’S PROMISES OF APPOINTING DALIT LEADERS

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Trashing it as nothing but poll optics, Punjab Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh on Wednesday ridiculed the Akali and BJP promise of appointing Dalits as Deputy CM and CM respectively, if voted to power.

Given the shockingly poor track record of both parties, which did nothing for the SC community during their term in power, the Chief Minister said the SAD and the BJP had failed to ensure the welfare of the Dalits in the state for 10 years and are now resorting to political gimmickry to woo the community with an eye on the 2022 elections.

“Sukhbir Badal is now promising a Deputy Chief Minister, but has nothing to show what he or his party, in alliance with the BJP ever did for the community,” remarked the Chief Minister, terming it a political antics aimed at misleading the people with an eye on votes. It is ridiculous the way the BJP also quickly jumped on to the wagon to promise a Dalit Chief Minister if it is elected by the people of Punjab, he said, adding that given the angst against the party in the state over the farmers’ issue, even finding one winnable candidate would be a challenge for them.

On Wednesday Capt Amarinder announced that at least 30% of funds under all government schemes will be spent for the welfare of the state’s SC population along with a host of other measures for the upliftment of the Dalit community, as a mark of homage to Dr BR Ambedkar, who he said should be remembered as the first Indian who achieved so much for the Dalit Samaj. Paying floral tributes to the architect of the Indian Constitution, Dr BR Ambedkar, on his 130th birth anniversary, at a virtual state-level event, the Chief Minister also announced filling up of the SC vacancy backlog in all departments on priority, while promising to explore a post-matric overseas scholarship scheme for SC students.

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HUNDREDS OF STRANDED PEOPLE AIRLIFTED IN JAMMU, LEH

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As the Srinagar-Leh highway is closed for vehicular traffic due to the slippery conditions at and around Zojila pass, the administration had requested the government to airlift stranded people in Leh and Jammu.

Reports said that at the request of Lt Governor of UT of Ladakh, the administration arranged C130 Hercules Aircrafts to airlift passengers between Leh and Jammu and Srinagar on Wednesday. The highway between Srinagar and Leh was open earlier but was again closed on 1 January and since then it has not been opened for traffic.

Authorities told reporters on Wednesday that they airlifted 243 passengers between Leh, Jammu, Srinagar, and Kargil on Tuesday when a return flight of AN 32 from Srinagar to Kargil was cancelled due to bad weather.

Though the Beacon authorities who are responsible to keep this national highway open, after a lot of efforts opened it on 28 February but only after a few hours it was closed again due to avalanches and fresh snowfall.

Beacon officers, during the current year, tried to declare the Srinagar-Leh highway open two days earlier owing to their efforts to clear the snow as in the past it was always open for traffic on 15 April.

Meanwhile, hundreds of drivers, who are stranded along with trucks on this side of the Zojila as well as on the other side, have protested against the delay to reopen the road. There are dozens of trucks loaded with essential commodities waiting for the signal to cross the Zojila pass to reach Kargil and Leh. These truckers have alleged that the traffic authorities could allow them to cross but were delaying it resulting in a lot of losses and also made their purses empty.

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HARYANA TO SET UP ITS OWN TESTING LAB IN PGI ROHTAK

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Chandigarh : Keeping in view the spike in the Covid-19 pandemic, the Haryana government has decided to set up its own testing lab at PGI Rohtak to ensure timely reports of the disease. Presently, the state is getting its sample tested in labs situated in Delhi. It is worth mentioning that sometimes lacking lab faculty in the state leads to delay in the report which results in further spreading of infection across the state. Divulging details, Health Minister Anil Vij said that the government has come up with a plan regarding the same and is seriously concerned to set up its own lab to ensure timely reports.

Although, establishing a lab might take time. According to information made available by the concerned health officials revealed that nearly 35,000 RTPCR tests are being conducted per day on an average in Haryana and out of these, at least 2% genome frequency will be done in the lab. Besides, the government is trying its best to alert people to adopt Covid appropriate behaviour along with wearing masks which stand as the need of the hour. It is learnt that a new Covid strain is more deadly than what was reported last year. On being asked, one of the officials said that fewer patients are expected to be affected by the new strain of coronavirus but they shall be able to comment after the report comes. Conducting maximum tests will lead to a decrease in the cases. 

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