The Election Commission on Thursday came down heavily on the Trinamool Congress (TMC) for the tone and content of its Wednesday letter to the constitutional body, saying it is “full of insinuations and averments” and it “undermines the very foundation of the Constitution”.
“It is completely incorrect to suggest that the Commission has taken over the law and order machinery in the state in the name of conducting elections and appropriated the whole governance structure, etc,” said the EC.
The EC was responding to a memorandum sent to it by a TMC delegation in regards to the incident that took place in Nandigram on Wednesday wherein West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee suffered injuries.
Speaking to reports in Nandigram after the incident, Banerjee had alleged that she was “attacked” and “pushed by four-five men”. Calling it a “conspiracy” against her, the CM also claimed that the local police did not provide her any security.
The EC, in its response, said that the incident involving the West Bengal CM is “indeed an unfortunate” and “needs to be inquired into with promptitude and dispatch”. The Commission, however added, “Having said that, it is rather unfortunate that the memorandum in question (sent by TMC) is full of insinuations and averments, which in fact questions the very basis of creation and function if the Election Commission.”
“This virtually tantamounts to undermine the very foundation and fabric of the Constitution of India, the most sacrosanct document in any democratic polity,” it said, adding: “It looks undignified even to respond to the allegations of all this being done on the behest of a particular political party, etc.”
Soon after the incident on Wednesday, the Commission sought a report from West Bengal Chief Secretary Allapan Bandyopadhyay, its general observer Ajay Naik and special police observer Vivek Dubey by 5 pm on Friday.
Meanwhile, the BJP requested the EC for a high-level probe into the alleged attack on Mamata Banerjee. BJP MP Locket Chatterjee termed the alleged attack on the CM as “a matter of humanity” and requested the EC for a high-level probe into the matter, adding that BJP does not want any politics over it. “How did the incident take place under surveillance of Z+ security? We request high-level investigation. We do not want politics over this, it is a matter of humanity,” she said.
CM Mamata Banerjee was hospitalised after she was injured during her campaign in Nandigram, from where she also filed her nomination for the upcoming Assembly elections.
Doctors said, “She has suffered severe bone injuries in her left ankle and foot and mild injuries in her right shoulder, forearm and neck.” Although her condition is stated to be “stable”, the doctors are planning to conduct a series of medical tests, including a CT scan, to assess the degree of her injuries.
With the Assembly elections around the corner, Banerjee and her Trinamool Congress (TMC) have claimed a conspiracy behind the incident, while the BJP alleged that this was “tactics to gain sympathy.”
A delegation of BJP leaders on Thursday also visited the SSKM Hospital in Kolkata where the Chief Minister is undergoing treatment. However, Governor Jagdeep Dhankhar, who also visited the hospital on Wednesday night to check on her health, had to face “go-back” slogans from TMC supporters. Several other leaders like Arvind Kejriwal, Tejaswi Yadav, Akhilesh Yadav from across the country have condemned the alleged attack on CM Banerjee.
WITH AGENCY INPUTS
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Hydrogen-CNG will be used in automotive, domestic cooking applications: Pradhan
Petroleum, Natural Gas and Steel Minister Dharmendra Pradhan on Thursday said that the government is looking forward to introducing Hydrogen-CNG (H-CNG) as an intermittent technology “in a big way for both automotive and domestic cooking applications”.
In the inaugural edition of the Hydrogen Roundtable titled ‘Hydrogen Economy: New Delhi Dialogue-2021’, Pradhan said, “By establishing synergies with natural gas, hydrogen can be easily adopted in the energy mix without seeking major infrastructural overhauling. Our refineries are planning to leverage the available surplus hydrogen capacities in gray form for meeting the initial demand in mainstreaming hydrogen. One of such projects is underway at our Gujarat refinery of Indian Oil wherein the combination of hydrogen production through natural gas and its hyphenation with the carbon capture technology will result in the production of blue hydrogen.”
“Multiple buses powered by fuel cells will be covering various iconic routes. Efforts are underway to leverage the vast CNG pipeline infrastructure to reduce the transportation cost of hydrogen,” Pradhan said adding that the utility of hydrogen is not going to be limited only to the transport sector. “Role of hydrogen as a chemical is well known. We all now recognize the importance of hydrogen as an energy carrier and efforts are underway to devise ways to harness it in a reliable, cost-effective and safe manner,” he added.
The Minister said that India remains committed to environmental and climate causes with a massive thrust on deploying renewable energy and energy efficiency measures. “In the past six years, India has increased its renewable power portfolio from 32 GW to almost 100 GW. We are well on track to achieve the 450 GW target of renewable energy generating capacity by 2030,” he stated. WITH ANI INPUTS
MUMBAI HAS 90 CONTAINMENT ZONES, 995 SEALED BUILDINGS
Cases of Covid-19 are increasing at an alarming pace in Maharashtra, with the second wave having a major impact on Mumbai. The daily number of cases is way past the peak that the maximum city had experienced in August/September 2020.
To contain the spread of Covid-19, the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) has resorted to various measures, including sealing buildings and making mini-containment zones. As per current norms, if one or more Covid-19 patients are found in a building, then the entire floor is sealed. If more than five patients are found infected, the building is sealed by the municipal corporation. Mumbai police also keeps home guards outside such buildings to ensure rules are not broken.
According to the BMC, at present Mumbai has 90 containment zones in slums and “chawls” (old multi-storeyed row tenements), while 995 buildings have been sealed.
However, if the building is small, the municipal corporation has no problem in sealing the entire building. But when there are many buildings or wings in the complex, it becomes a problem for other residents.
To avoid any inconvenience to other residents, the municipal corporation has adopted a policy of sealing the floors or the entire wing of the building, instead of completely sealing the building. Besides, the authority to seal the building has been given to local authorities.
The city’s Covid-19 recovery rate stood at 81 per cent, while the case growth rate was 1.71 per cent.
Historical monuments, museums closed till 15 May amid Covid surge
All monuments, sites, and museums under the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) will be closed till 15 May or until further orders in light of the ongoing second wave of the Covid-19 pandemic.
“Due to the prevailing Covid-19 situation, it has been decided to close all the Centrally Protect monuments/sites and museums under the Archaeological Survey of India with immediate effect and till May 15, 2021, or until further orders,” the order read. Minister of State for Culture and Tourism Prahlad Singh Patel also tweeted the order, saying, “Given the current outbreak of the corona epidemic, @MinOfCultureGoI (Ministry of Culture), @ASIGoI (Archaeological Survey of India) has decided to close all the monuments protected by it till the 15th of May.”
Similar measures were taken in March last year when the pandemic broke out. In December 2020, the ASI removed the cap on the number of visitors to its protected monuments as cases started to reduce. India on Wednesday achieved a grim milestone by recording over two lakh cases. The country is currently the second worst-hit country in the world in terms of coronavirus cases, with the United States being the worst affected.
VACCINATION DRIVE SOUGHT FOR COVID-HIT MEDIA PERSONNEL
In the past three days, 5 media persons have died in Maharashtra battling coronavirus.
On Thursday, Prakash Jadhav, a journalist by profession, died by committing suicide reportedly after failing to acquire Remdesivir injection. Jadhav, who lived in the Sushil Nagar area of Solapur city, was only 35 years of age; he ended his life by cutting his wrist at his residence. On Wednesday, there were four media professionals from Nashik who lost their lives battling against Covid-19–Vinod Shadrul, Sandip Rokde and Asif Tamboli were from the local media, while Shyam Mule was a newspaper distributor.
With media professionals severely hit by Covid-19, Prafful Sarda, an officer on special duty to the Minister of State (R), Government of Maharashtra, and chairman MWAC Dr Raghunath Kuchik, who is also deputy leader of Shiv Sena, wrote to Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray, Maharashtra Health Minister Rajesh Tope And Union Health Minister Dr Harshvardhan and his team and to Balram Bhargav ICMR, Director General.
Terming media personnel as frontline workers and corona warriors working relentlessly in these challenging, difficult and testing times, Prafful Sarda demanded special vaccination drive for media personnel. “The nation is observing a second wave of Covid-19. Amidst this deadly scare, one unlooked genre is that of journalists and our media personnel who since day one of this pandemic are out working hard, doing their job and risking their lives along with team members (photographers and videographers). During these difficult and testing times, media has played an important role of giving the public the right information since the past one year and in all events including calamity, disaster and the pandemic. While they have been doing their job religiously, many have lost their lives battling the deadly coronavirus and several others have contracted the disease and are struggling to survive. In such a challenging scenario, it’s important that these ‘Corona Warriors’ get vaccinated as soon as possible looking at death toll of these reporters, journalists, camera persons and video Journalists. For their health and safety, it’s strongly recommended that they get vaccinated. Once again, I request you to take up this issue with the authorities concerned that all media personnel, irrespective of their age group, must get vaccination on priority before things go worst,” the letter states.
The Switzerland-based media rights body Press Emblem Campaign (PEC) has noted that India is the fourth most affected country as far as mediapersons’ death on account of Covid-19 is concerned. According to Blaise Lempen, secretary-general of PEC, the global tally of casualties among media persons in the Covid-19 pandemic has reached 1,036 journalists in 73 countries till date.
“The most affected countries include Brazil (170 dead), Peru (138), Mexico (93), India (62), Italy (51), Bangladesh (47), USA (46), Ecuador (45), Colombia (40), United Kingdom (28), Dominican Republic (27), Pakistan (25), Turkey (22), Panama (16), Russia (15), Spain (15), Bolivia (14),” he said.
Mamata seeks single-day Bengal polling amid surge in coronavirus cases
West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on Thursday urged the Election Commission to conduct the remaining phases of the ongoing Assembly elections in a single phase in view of the current surge in Covid-19 cases. She said doing so would protect the state’s people from being exposed further to the virus. “Amid an ongoing pandemic, we firmly opposed @ECISVEEP’s decision to conduct WB polls in 8 phases. Now, in view of the huge surge in #COVID19 cases, I urge the ECI to consider holding the remaining phases in ONE go. This will protect the people from further exposure to #COVID19,” she tweeted.
Earlier on Thursday, the EC clarified that there were no plans to merge the rest of the phases of the West Bengal Assembly elections despite speculations. Polling for four of the eight phases is over and the fifth is scheduled for Saturday, where 319 candidates will contest for 45 constituencies across the six districts of Jalpaiguri, Kalimpong, Darjeeling, Nadia, North 24 Parganas and Purba Bardhaman.
Meanwhile, the Chief Electoral Officer (CEO) of West Bengal called for an all-party meeting, asking all political parties to adhere to Covid guidelines. “A meeting has been called by CEO West Bengal to ask all political parties to adhere to Covid-19 guidelines mandated by the Election Commission for strict compliance,” an EC official said. The meeting comes after directions issued by the Calcutta High Court. Earlier last week, the EC had written to all national and state parties asking them to follow all relevant guidelines during public meetings, rallies and other activities. The apex electoral body also took a “serious view of the laxity in maintaining norms, particularly not wearing masks by political leaders on stage.”
CITIGROUP TO EXIT INDIA, 12 OTHER RETAIL BANKING MARKETS
Citigroup Inc on Thursday announced plans to exit retail banking in 13 markets across Asia, which includes India, and Europe, the Middle East and Africa.
The statement released by the bank said that it will instead operate its consumer-banking franchise from four wealth centres in Singapore, Hong Kong, the United Arab Emirates and London.
The shift is a part of the ongoing review of the company’s strategy by CEO Jane Fraser, who took over last month. “This positions us to capture the strong growth and attractive returns the wealth-management business offers through these important hubs,” the statement quoted Fraser.
The New York-based bank will exit its consumer franchises in Australia, Bahrain, China, India, Indonesia, South Korea, Malaysia, the Philippines, Poland, Russia, Taiwan, Thailand and Vietnam.
“While the other 13 markets have excellent businesses, we don’t have the scale we need to compete,” Fraser stated. “We believe our capital, investment dollars and other resources are better deployed against higher returning opportunities in wealth management and our institutional businesses in Asia.”
However, the firm will continue to offer products in those markets to customers of its institutional clients group which comprises the private bank, cash management arm and investment banking and trading businesses.
Announcement of the exit follows the company›s reports of a record quarterly profit, augmented by the flurry of blank-check companies that it supported in taking public in the first quarter.
Citigroup has also been developing a wealth-advisory hub in Singapore on a 30,000-square-foot space, the largest of its kind for the bank, which is estimated to house more than 300 relationship managers and product specialists.
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