Gadkari sets target to complete Zojila tunnel project before 2024 LS polls - The Daily Guardian
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Gadkari sets target to complete Zojila tunnel project before 2024 LS polls



Union Minister of Road Transport and Highways Nitin Gadkari on Tuesday said that India is likely to get “World’s Highest and Asia’s longest” bi-directional all-weather Zojila tunnel ahead of the 2024 Lok Sabha elections.

The construction of the 13.5-km long Zojila tunnel which connects Sonamarg in Jammu and Kashmir to Minamarg in Ladakh is scheduled to be completed by September 2026. However, after inspecting the ongoing construction work of the project, Gadkari on Tuesday gave a new target to the Megha Engineering and Infrastructure Ltd (MEIL), which bagged the project in October 2020, to complete the project by December 2023, three years earlier than its original deadline of September 2026.

The minister said, “The completion of the project on paper is September 2026 but I have given them a target to complete the project by December 2023. It will create a new world record if we achieve the target three years before its scheduled time.”

Gadkari also requested the firm constructing the project to complete its work by December 2023, saying “all clearance and everything is there now and there is no problem from the state government and forest clearance.”

“We will provide all support and I will personally monitor things. If you (MEIL) face any problem, they can come to meet me… We have to complete this project before 2024 as there is a (Lok Sabha) election at that time,” Gadkari said.

“It (Zojila tunnel) is the World’s highest tunnel. The height of the tunnel from the surface is 11,575 feet. The length of the tunnel is 14.5 km. The length of the approach road is 18.47 km and the work in this project is also going on. The total combined length of both the Zojila tunnel and the approach road is 32.62 km,” he added.

“The total cost of the project including land acquisition would be around Rs 6,800 crores. We saved around Rs 4,000 crore to Rs 5,000 crore in this project as the final tender received by the Ministry of approximately was Rs 11,000 crore,” said Gadkari.

Noting that the government is working on six important projects in Jammu and Kashmir, Gadkari further said, “We are constructing a 32-km tunnel in Jammu and Kashmir as well as 20 km tunnel in Ladakh and Leh that include Zojila.”

Zojila tunnel is quite significant in nature and will help to keep Ladakh connected for the whole year with the rest of the country. The tunnel will also boost the tourism sector of both Ladakh and Jammu and Kashmir and keep the hassle-free movement of the armed forces during any weather conditions.

Located on the Srinagar-Leh National Highway, the Zojila tunnel is envisaged to provide all-weather connectivity to Union Territory (UT) of Ladakh to Srinagar in Jammu and Kashmir.

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Global Hunger Report lowers India’s rank, Centre calls it ‘shocking’

The ranking was done based on a four-question opinion poll conducted by Gallup, said the government.



The Centre on Friday slammed the Global Hunger Report 2021 by saying that it was “shocking” the report has lowered India’s rank and noted that the publishing agencies have not done “due diligence”.

The Ministry of Women and Child Development, in a statement, said that the report has lowered India’s rank on the basis of FAO estimate on the proportion of undernourished population, which is “found to be devoid of ground reality and facts and suffers from serious methodological issues”.

According to the report, India’s rank has dropped to the 101st among 116 countries. India was ranked 94th out of 107 countries in 2020.

The ministry said the report, prepared jointly by Irish aid agency, Concern Worldwide and German organisation, Welt Hunger Hilfe, “completely disregards” the government’s massive effort to ensure the food security of the entire population during the Covid-19 period. It also said that the methodology used by FAO “is unscientific”.

“It is shocking to find that the Global Hunger Report 2021 has lowered the rank of India on the basis of FAO estimate on the proportion of the undernourished population, which is found to be devoid of ground reality and facts and suffers from serious methodological issues,” it said.

“The methodology used by FAO is unscientific. They have based their assessment on the results of a ‘four-question’ opinion poll, which was conducted telephonically by Gallup. The scientific measurement of undernourishment would require measurement of weight and height, whereas the methodology involved here is based on Gallup poll based on pure telephonic estimate of the population,” it added.

The WCD ministry said verifiable data is available on the government’s massive effort to ensure food security during Covid-19.

“The report completely disregards the Government’s massive effort to ensure food security of the entire population during the Covid period, verifiable data on which are available. The opinion poll does not have a single question on whether the respondent received any food support from the Government or other sources. The representativeness of even this opinion poll is doubtful for India and other countries,” the ministry said.

“It is noted with surprise, from the FAO report ‘The State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World 2021’, that other four countries of this region—Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Nepal and Sri Lanka, have not been affected at all by Covid-19 pandemic induced loss of job/business and reduction in income levels, rather they have been able to improve their position on the indicator ‘proportion of undernourished population’ by 4.3 per cent, 3.3 per cent, 1.3 per cent and 0.8 per cent points respectively during the period 2018-20 over 2017-19,” it added.

The ministry said the Global Hunger Report 2021 and FAO report on “The State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World 2021” have “completely ignored” several facts available in the public domain.

It said that as part of the economic response to Covid-19, the government has implemented additional nation-wide schemes such as Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Anna Yojna (PMGKAY) and Atma Nirbhar Bharat Scheme (ANBS).

Under PMGKAY, Government of India has made an allocation of food grains at 5 kg per person per month free of cost for around 80 crore (800 million) beneficiaries of 36 states/UTs covered under National Food Security Act (Antyodaya Anna Yojana and Priority Households) including those covered under Direct Benefit Transfer for the period April to November 2020 and again for the period of May to November 2021.

“Last year, 3.22 crore (32.2 million) metric tons of foodgrains and during the current year, about 3.28 crore (32.8 million) metric tons of foodgrains have been allocated free of cost under PMGKAY scheme to approximately 80 crore (800 million) NFSA beneficiaries.”

The ministry said in addition to food grains, one kg pulses have been provided per household per month for the period April to November 2020 free of cost to all beneficiaries under NFSA covering 19.4 crore (194 million) households.

The allocation of free food grains, pulses/whole chana under PMGKAY and ANBS was in addition to normal allocation done under the NFSA

The ministry also listed other steps taken by the government to provide relief to the people during Covid-19 including a hike in MNREGA wages, front-loading payment of instalments, increase in the limit of collateral-free lending and measures to prevent disruption in the employment of the wage-earners below Rs 15,000 per month in organized sector businesses having less than 100 workers.

The ministry said according to the report, India’s position on the first indicator, child mortality, has improved in 2021 compared with 2020 and its position on two indicators—child wasting and child stunting—has remained unchanged in 2021 compared with 2020

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The body of a man, with hands and legs chopped off, was found hanging on a police barricade at the farmers’ protest site near the Singhu border in the early hours of Friday. The man was identified as Lakhbir Singh, a resident of village Cheema Khurd in Tarn Taran district of Punjab. Nihang Saravjit Singh, a man belonging to the Nihang order, surrendered to the police on Friday evening claiming that he had committed the murder. He has been arrested and will be produced in court on Saturday.

The deceased, about 35-36 years old, used to work as a labourer, did not have any criminal records or affiliations with any political party, said Deputy Superintendent of Police (DSP) Hansraj.

“At about 5 am today, Kundli police station received information about a body of a man hanged near a stage where the farmers have been protesting at the Singhu border,” the DSP told reporters here today. “A police inspector reached the site with a team and found that the man’s body only had his undergarment on and his hands and legs were chopped off. He was hanged to a police barricade… The probe is on,” he added.

Lakhbir Singh, a Dalit, was a labourer and is survived by his wife and three daughters, the eldest of whom is 12 years old.

There were unconfirmed reports that the man was mutilated and killed for allegedly desecrating the Guru Granth Sahib, the Sikh holy book. His body was then strung up on the police barricade.

Addressing a press conference at the Singhu border, Samyukta Kisan Morcha senior leader, Jagjit Singh Dallewal said, “When we reached the spot some people were saying that the deceased man, before dying, admitted he was sent by someone and given Rs 30,000. I don’t have the video proof of it. Government should probe this matter thoroughly.” Terming the incident a “conspiracy”, the SKM alleged that an attempt was being made to give communal colour to the morcha.

The umbrella body of farmers’ unions further condemned the killing, and stated that they were against “sacrilege of any religious text and symbol.”

He said, “Samyukt Kisan Morcha” condemns the gruesome killing of Lakhbir Singh. “We want to make it clear that both the parties to this incident, the Nihang group and the deceased, have no relation with SKM. The Morcha is against sacrilege of any religious text, symbol.”

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Prime Minister Narendra Modi said that the seven defence companies launched on Friday would create new opportunities for the youth and for micro, small and medium enterprises. The country has already placed orders worth Rs 65,000 crore for these new companies, said the Prime Minister.

“New opportunities are being created for the youth through the new defence companies. And in the name of the supply chain, new opportunities would also be created for MSMEs,” said PM Modi at the launch of the defence companies on the DRDO campus here.

“Some time ago, the Ministry of Defence had released a list of more than 100 such tactical equipment which will no longer be imported from outside. The country has already placed orders worth Rs 65,000 crores for these new companies. This shows the country’s faith in our defence industry,” he added.

Under the “Atmanirbhar” campaign, the country’s goal is to make India the world’s biggest military power on its own, and to achieve the development of the modern military industry in India, stated the Prime Minister.

“In the last seven years, the country has worked to take forward this resolve with the mantra of Make in India,” said PM Modi.

“The world saw the strength of India’s Ordnance Factory at the time of World War I. We used to have better resources, world-class skills. After independence, we needed to upgrade these factories, adopt new technology, but it was not given much attention,” PM Modi said.

The decision to revamp 41 ordnance factories and the launch of seven new companies is a part of this journey of the country. This decision was pending for the last 15-20 years.

“I am confident that all these seven companies will become a major base of India’s military power in the coming times,” said PM Modi.

According to a release by the Prime Minister’s Office, the Government has decided to convert the Ordnance Factory Board from a government department to seven 100% government-owned corporate entities, as a measure to improve self-reliance in the defence preparedness of the country.

This move will bring about enhanced functional autonomy, efficiency and will unleash new growth potential and innovation, it said in a statement.

The seven new defence companies that have been incorporated are Munitions India Limited (MIL); Armoured Vehicles Nigam Limited (AVANI); Advanced Weapons and Equipment India Limited (AWE India); Troop Comforts Limited (TCL); Yantra India Limited (YIL); India Optel Limited (IOL); and Gliders India Limited (GIL). ANI

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Mohan Bhagwat also spoke on the security issues facing the country, misgovernance in the administration of temples and unregulated content on OTT platforms.



‘Severe demographic imbalances” in the country, challenges from the troika of Turkey-China- Pakistan, misgovernance in the administration of temples, unregulated content on OTT platforms, patting the government for the steps that it has taken to revive the economy post Covid-19 and use of uncontrolled currency like Bitcoin were the central theme of the keenly followed annual Dussehra address by RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat.

The speech of the RSS chief is followed by the national and international audiences as it is during this speech that the RSS’ views, the ideological guardian of the BJP, are made public. Apart from senior RSS and BJP leaders, Friday’s address was also attended by Kobbi Shoshani, Consulate General of Israel, Mumbai.

Bhagwat reiterated the 2015 resolution, which talked about the rising population of minorities. The written text of Bhagwat’s speech, released by the RSS, citing the 2011 census states that the “population of religions of Bharatiya origin which was 88 per cent has come down to 83.8 per cent while the Muslim population which was 9.8 percent has increased to 14.23 percent during the period 1951-2011.”

Bhagwat, while expressing “deep concern” over the demographic imbalances urged the government to reformulate the demographic imbalances in the country.

“The rate of growth of the Muslim population has been very high than national average in the border districts of border states of the country like Assam, West Bengal and Bihar, clearly indicating the unabated infiltration from Bangladesh. The report of the Upamanyu Hazarika Commission appointed by Hon’ble Supreme Court and several judicial pronouncements from time to time have also corroborated these facts. It is also a fact that the infiltrators are usurping the rights of citizens of these states and are becoming a heavy burden on the already scant resources apart from creating socio-cultural, political and economic tensions.”

“The religious imbalance of population in the northeastern states has assumed serious proportions. In Arunachal Pradesh, the people of religions of Bharatiya origin were 99.21% in 1951. It came down to 81.3% in 2001 and to 67% in 2011. In just one decade the Christian population of Arunachal Pradesh has grown by almost 13 percentage points. Similarly, in the population of Manipur, the share of religions of Bharatiya origin which was more than 80% in 1951 has come down to 50% in 2011. These examples and pointers of unnatural growth of the Christian population in many districts of the nation indicate an organized and targeted religious conversion activity by some vested interest groups”, he said.

Political observers believe that the topic of population control, which has been hugely controversial, will become a major issue in the upcoming Uttar Pradesh elections where the BJP under Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath is seeking to return to power.

In what is being seen as a message to the Home and Defence Ministries, Bhagwat said that the country’s military preparedness should be sound and internal security must be secured.

“Another situation, which was not entirely surprising, but occurred before the expectation, is the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan. Their predisposition—passionate fanaticism, tyranny and terrorism in the name of Islam—is sufficient to make everyone apprehensive of the Taliban. But now China, Pakistan and Turkey have coalesced in an unholy coalition with the Taliban. Since Abdali, our north-western borders are once again a matter of serious concern. Taliban has time and again alternated between Kashmir and peace talks simultaneously. This is an indicator that we cannot retire in complacency. Our military preparedness on the borders needs to be alert and sound on all ends and at all times. In such a situation, the internal security and stability of the country must be secured by the government and the society with caution and vigilance.”

An entire section of the speech was dedicated by the RSS chief to the issue of temple mismanagement in the country, which shows the seriousness with which the RSS is taking the matter. Bhagwat said that “It is also necessary and reasonable that the operating rights of Hindu temples be handed over to the Hindu devotees and the wealth of the Hindu temples is utilised for the worship of the deities and the welfare of the Hindu community only.”

Bhagwat also shared his worries over the absence of a “prudence and regulatory” framework to control the OTT platforms. This is likely to increase the severity of government control over what OTT platforms show in India.

“At present unregulated broadcasts of varied material on OTT platforms are open for everyone’s indiscriminate consumption. In the backdrop of the pandemic online education was to be introduced. School-going children are hooked on mobile phones as a rule. In absence of prudence and a regulatory framework, it will become difficult to predict in which way and to what extent will this emerging phenomenon of contact with fair and unfair means sweep our society. However, to what extent anti-national forces wish to use these means is well-known. Therefore, the government must make efforts to regulate these affairs in no time”, Bhagwat said while adding that “clandestine, uncontrolled currency like Bitcoin has the potential to destabilise the economy of all countries and pose serious challenges.” These observations may put a stop to any move by the RBI to make crypto currency legal in India in the coming months.

The RSS chief also said that post Covid-19, the Indian economy was bouncing back. “There is growing confidence that if the government succeeds in ensuring the participation of all the stakeholders then the country will sail through the difficulties smoothly,” he stated.

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Enforcement Directorate (ED) on Thursday provisionally attached assets worth Rs 146.67 crore of Future Metals Pvt Ltd and Future Exim India Pvt Ltd in a bank fraud case. According to ED, the total attachment in the case has reached Rs.185.67 crore. “ED has provisional attached assets worth Rs.146.67 Crore of M/s. Future Metals Pvt. Ltd. and M/s. Future Exim India Pvt. Ltd. under the provisions of the PMLA, 2002 in a Bank Fraud Case. Total attachment in this case has reached to Rs.185.67 Crore.”

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NEW DELHI: The final approval for Bharat Biotech’s Covaxin for children aged 2-18 years is under experts’ opinion and evaluation, stated government sources on Thursday. Sources said after evaluation of the data, the final approval will be given by the Drug Controller General of India (DCGI). Bharat Biotech in an official statement had said they are waiting for further approvals from drug regulators. This is one of the first worldwide approval for Covid-19 vaccines for the age group of beneficiaries.

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