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India invites U.S. to invest in energy under ‘Aatmanirbhar Bharat’ mission

Maneesh Pandeya

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As Prime Minister Narendra Modi was laying the strong pitch for “Aatmanirbhar Bharat” (self-reliant India) to the UN and gave an outline of the efforts made by India to fight the coronavirus pandemic, simultaneously around the same time on Friday evening, India and the US were finalising a comprehensive energy partnership blueprint to set the high pace of the “energy diplomacy” initiated by PM Modi and President Donald Trump last year in Houston.

On Friday evening, Union Minister of Petroleum and Natural Gas Dharmendra Pradhan and US Energy Secretary Dan Brouillette met in a virtual meet to take forward the US-India Comprehensive Global Strategic Partnership in the energy sector. Pradhan had made a strong pitch to the US to invest in the energy sector to realise the full potential of the Aatmanirbhar Bharat mission.

India’s growing tilt towards the US, while “cautiously balancing” with the traditional oil partner— Iran, is something intriguing many Washington think tanks. The big push given by PM Modi during his last Houston visit was the gamechanger and an instant boost to India-US strategic ties, say many in New Delhi.

Besides stressing heavily on enhancing energy security cooperation to modernise the power sector to conserve more and stop wastage and harness technology to innovate for surplus in energy, Brouillette-Pradhan meeting, for the first time, put focus on empowering women in the energy sector. The two leaders admitted the need for a “balanced work force and the commitment to addressing the gender diversity’’.

Detailing the cooperation outcomes, Pradhan said: “The United States and India are working to strengthen and modernize the power grid and distribution utilities for clean, affordable, and reliable energy access, improve efficiency, flexibility, and environmental performance in the power sector. It promotes inclusive and sustainable economic growth through long-term energy development, enhances energy security through oil and gas trade, and infrastructure investment. The partnership also makes India a strong energy partner of the US in the Indo-Pacific region.”

The two countries are also leading joint research and development (R&D) through the US-India Partnership to Advance Clean EnergyResearch (PACE-R) on smart grids and energy storage to increase resilience and reliability of the electric grid. Today, Secretary Brouillette briefed about continued bilateral R&D engagement on advanced civil nuclear energy technologies through the US-India Civil Nuclear Energy Working Group.

Pradhan added, “SEP teams will convene again in the near future to further develop action plans for the respective pillars of cooperation. The next Ministerial meeting will be held in 2021.”

Officials told The Daily Guardian, “Through the US-India Natural Gas Task Force, the US industry forged new commercial partnerships on innovative projects and developed a series of policy and regulatory recommendations to support the Government of India’s vision to increase the share of natural gas in India’s energy sector. The sides have also held numerous public-private dialogues to provide industry perspectives on challenges and opportunities to trade and investment across the energy sector. The efforts of cooperation and exploring opportunities of business in the energy sector has redefined the Indo-US ties, a glimpse of the strong bonds we saw as India battled China along the LAC in Galwan Valley.”

Pradhan, who had earlier chaired many meetings with the US industry leaders and with his counterpart Brouillette, said: “Apart from fostering bilateral energy trade and investments, we are seeking to align energy cooperation with energy security, expand energy and innovation linkages across our respective energy sectors, facilitate increased industry and stakeholder engagement as well as institutions of excellence from both countries.”

He said, India is satisfied “at the significant increase in bilateral energy trade in a short span of 3 years. The bilateral hydrocarbons trade alone has touched US$ 9.2 billion during 2019-20, accounting for 10% of the overall bilateral trade”. Pradhan told TDG: “We have also seen significant reduction in the trade deficit between the two countries. In fact, India is now the fourth largest export destination for US crude and 5th largest for US LNG. The trend is expected to continue with Indian companies entering into more long-term contracts going forward from this year.”

 The minister added that the country is also in “an advanced stage of discussions for storing crude oil in the US Strategic Petroleum Reserve to increase India’s strategic oil stockpile”.

To keep the US-India energy diplomacy in high spirits, NITI Aayog and USAID have also launched the India Energy Modeling Forum to enhance long-term energy development and plans and strategies through energy data management, and also various programmes to promote low carbon technologies.

Pradhan said, “We have agreed to collaborate in new areas including bio-energy, RE in agriculture and SMEs, high efficiency coal technologies with low-to-zero emissions through CCUS…We also agreed to include ‘Women in Energy’ as a crosscutting theme across the four Pillars of the SEP. This theme will encourage women’s participation in energy governance structures as well as end users as reflected in India’s Ujjawala programme.”

 Lauding PM Modi for laying the foundation of this highly productive Indo-US energy diplomacy with President Trump, Pradhan said: “In a short span of time, the Strategic Energy Partnership launched at the directive of PM Narendra Modi and President Donald Trump is emerging as mutually beneficial, and also one of the most resilient pillars on which the overall India-US Strategic Partnership rests.”

 Pradhan also invited the US companies to join the Aatmanirbhar Bharat mission, which aims to transform India into a global manufacturing hub of the 21st century, particularly in the development of energy infrastructure. “While India has the market, the US has oil and gas reserves, potential for investments and related advance technologies. Our collaboration, I am confident, will be win-win for all,” Pradhan said.

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Punjab CM declares Malerkotla state’s 23rd district, announces development projects

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Punjab Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh on Friday declared Malerkotla as the 23rd district of the state, while also announcing a slew of projects for the development of the historic city.

The Chief Minister made these announcements during the state-level celebration of Eid-ul-Fitr, held virtually in view of the pandemic. On the occasion, the Chief Minister underscored India’s secular character, which he said was manifested in the defeat of communal forces in the recent Assembly elections in Tamil Nadu and West Bengal.

Recalling the rich history of Malerkotla, the CM said its conversion into a district, which had been a long-standing demand of the local people, would ease their hardships and enable them to resolve administrative problems more seamlessly.

Initially, said the Chief Minister, the sub-divisions of Malerkotla and Ahmedgarh, as well as the sub-tehsil of Amargarh, would be included in the newly created district. The process of bringing villages under the jurisdiction of Malerkotla district would begin later, after the conclusion of the census operations, he added. The Chief Minister directed the Deputy Commissioner Sangrur to find a suitable building to immediately start the functioning of the District Administration office. The Deputy Commissioner for the newly carved out district would be appointed soon, he said.

Announcing various development projects for Malerkotla, Capt Amarinder Singh also announced the establishment of a government college for girls and a government medical college. The medical college, in the name of Nawab Sher Mohammed Khan, would be set up soon at a cost of Rs. 500 crore, and the state has allotted 25 acres of land on Raikot Road and the first instalment of Rs. 50 crore has already been sanctioned, he added. A new bus stand will also be constructed at a cost of Rs. 10 crore, he said, adding that Malerkotla will also get a ‘Mahila Thana’ which would be exclusively managed by women.

To ensure holistic urban development, the Chief Minister also announced a sum of Rs. 6 crore for the Urban Environment Improvement Program (UEIP).

Further, to promote the cultural heritage of Malerkotla, the Chief Minister said the Punjab Government has acquired the Mubarak Manzil Palace and that he has written to His Highness the Aga Khan Foundation UK to undertake its conservation and restoration. He also recounted his memories with the then Nawab of Malerkotla and spoke about the city’s significance in Sikh history.

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CHHATTISGARH TO PAY FOR EDUCATION OF CHILDREN WHO LOST PARENTS TO COVID

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Raipur : The Chhattisgarh government has decided to pay for the education of children who have lost their parents/guardians to Covid and children from families where the earning member has died of Covid.

CMO Chhattisgarh tweeted, “Chhattisgarh government will pay for the education of children who lost their parents due to #COVID19, scholarship also to be provided under state’s Mahtari Dular Scheme. State govt will also take care of the education of children whose earning member of the family has died of Covid”.

Children orphaned due to Covid will also be provided with scholarships under the state’s Mahtari Dular Scheme.

The CMO also tweeted that such children will be given preference for admission in Swami Atmanand English Medium Schools. No fee will be charged.

As per the Health and Family Welfare Ministry of Chhattisgarh, 9,121 Covid cases were recorded on Friday out of 67,738 tests conducted. With this, the total number of cases in the state are reached 8,92,331. The state also recorded 195 deaths on Friday, wherein 92 were from Covid, while 103 patients died of co-morbidities. The Ministry also reported 12,274 total recoveries, including those discharged from home quarantine, bringing the total number recoveries to 7,61,592.

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NOT FORCING USERS TO ACCEPT PRIVACY POLICY UPDATE, WHATSAPP TELLS DELHI HC

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Messaging app WhatsApp told the Delhi High Court on Friday that it is not forcing any user to accept the 2021 update in its privacy policy as it is not mandatory. It said users will have a choice to accept the new update or choose not to, and are free to delete their WhatsApp accounts any time.

Replying to a petition challenging the privacy policy of the app, WhatsApp submitted that users were not previously given the option to opt out of its privacy policies if they wanted to use the service.

The social messaging app also said that it is not under any legal obligation to provide such opt-outs to its users and added that the law permits companies to not provide their services to users who do not consent to their terms.

The company also said that such practices are commonly practiced by online platforms across the industry whenever they update their terms. The company also said that online platforms are often less transparent by simply implying consent through continued use of their service after a certain date, rather than prominently and clearly giving users control and choice, as WhatsApp did.

The company also submitted that such interference in the privacy update policy would “cripple” the internet-based applications and websites industry.

The messaging app also said that the petitioners’ allegations regarding the alleged disparity with European users are meritless. The company maintained that the 2021 update, which applies to users in India, also applies to most of WhatsApp’s users around the world, including in the US. On the different policy for WhatsApp’s users in the “European Region”, the social messaging app submitted that it is due to different rules and obligations in the European Regio

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SPECIAL PAROLE FOR CONVICTS SERVING MORE THAN 7 YEARS IMPRISONMENT IN HARYANA

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Given the Covid crisis, Haryana has announced to give parole to convicted persons who were sentenced for more than 7 years imprisonment. It was decided at a meeting of the High Powered Committee held under the Chairmanship of Justice Rajan Gupta, Judge, Punjab and Haryana High Court and Executive Chairman, Haryana State Legal Services Authority.

As informed by the Prisons Department, Haryana, a total of 21,804 (108%) prisoners are presently lodged in 19 jails of Haryana against the authorized capacity of 20,041 (100%). Since the first meeting of the High Powered Committee, held on 24 March 2020, 2,580 convicts sentenced for more than 7 years imprisonment were released on special parole. Similarly, 2,094 (656+1438) convicts/undertrials sentenced up to 7 years or facing trial for offences which stipulate maximum imprisonment up to 7 years were released on special parole/interim bail under the orders of HPC.

Subsequently, with a decrease in Covid cases, the High Powered Committee had directed the return of the convicts released on parole in cases where they were undergoing imprisonment for more than 7 years in 9 phases. Till date 2,170 convicts have surrendered in jails under 8 phases and the 9th phase consisting of 280 convicts started from 14 May, 2021.

In pursuance of directions issued by Hon’ble Supreme Court of India on 7 May 2021 in Suo Motu Writ Petition (Civil) No.1 / 2020 – In RE: Contagion of Covid-19 in Prisons, and considering the emergent situation in and around due to sudden spike in Covid, the Committee has decided to release all convicts sentenced to imprisonment for more than 7 years who were released earlier on special parole under the categories prescribed by the Committee on special parole till 31 August 2021. Special parole granted to convicts who were to surrender in the 9th phase has also been extended till 3 August 2021.

However, convicts who have failed to surrender on the date fixed or are absconding or against whom new cases were registered while on special parole are not entitled to special parole. No special parole shall be applicable to those who are not covered by the categories approved by the High Powered Committee in its previous meetings.

Competent authorities have been directed to consider the concern of inmates who may not wish for release in view of their social background and the fear of becoming Covid victims and may allow them to stay in jail after taking a written declaration from them.

The Committee has also extended the parole/interim bail of 2017 convicts/undertrials who are sentenced up to 7 years/facing trial for offences which stipulate maximum imprisonment up to 7 years till 31 August 2021. State and jail authorities have been asked to consider the cases of all such convicts/undertrials for parole/interim bail as well as any other convict/undertrial covered by the categories prescribed by the High Powered Committee.

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MAHARASHTRA GOVT TAKES U-TURN ON PR AGENCY ALLOTMENT FOR AJIT PAWAR

Urvashi Khona

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After facing backlash for the Maharashtra government’s allotment of Rs 6 crore to a private PR agency for handling Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar’s social media accounts, Pawar has cancelled the notification of the appointment. He clarified that he does not need any outside PR firm and the government department will do its work.

An order issued on Wednesday by RN Musale, under-secretary at the General Administration Department for the year 2021-22, stated that an external agency was to be appointed, with a budget of Rs 5.98 crore, for handling the social media accounts of NCP leader Ajit Pawar. As per the order, this was because the Directorate General of Information and Public Relations (DGIPR) lacks the professional and technical competence to deal with social media. The PR agency which was to be appointed in consultation with the Deputy Chief Minister, Secretariat and DGIPR was also tasked to see how messages and decisions by Ajit Pawar reaches the common man.

However after severe backlash, including from the Opposition, that crores of rupees were being spent merely for advertisements amid the Covid crisis, the Deputy CM – who also holds the finance and planning portfolio – cancelled the decision.

“There is no need to appoint an external agency to handle the social media of the Deputy Chief Minister’s Office. The order in this regard should be cancelled immediately,” read his press statement with an add-on clarification that communication with citizens and the media would be maintained only through the existing public relations system.

Meanwhile, BJP MLA Ram Kadam attacked Pawar, raising the question that if this was the amount to be spent for one minister, what it would be for the others. “People have died in the pandemic due to the negligence of the Maharashtra government. On one hand, the government is saying that they don’t have enough money to purchase vaccines and on the other hand, to pat their backs on social media a team is hired for the Deputy Chief Minister at a budget of Rs 6 crore. If this budget is for one minister, what is the budget for all the ministers?” he asked.

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PLEA TO CANCEL CBSE, ICSE CLASS XII EXAMS FILED IN SUPREME COURT

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New Delhi : A plea has been filed in the Supreme Court seeking directions to the Centre, Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) and the Council for the Indian School Certificate Examination (CISCE) to cancel the CBSE and ICSE Class XII examinations.

CBSE, through its letter dated 14 April, had cancelled the examination for class X and postponed the examination for Class XII. CISCE, through its circulars dated 16 and 19 April, had cancelled the examination for Class X and postponed the examination for Class XII for an unspecified period. The plea asked the court to set aside these notifications issued only in respect of clauses dealing with the postponement of the Class XII examination.

The petition filed by advocate Mamta Sharma asked the court to devise an objective methodology to declare the result of Class XII within a specific time frame. The plea stated that for the innocent students of Class XII, “step-motherly, arbitrary, inhuman directions” have been issued to postpone their final examination for an unspecified duration.

“In view of the unprecedented health emergency and rising numbers of the Covid-19 cases in the country, the conduct of examination, either offline or online or blended in upcoming weeks is not possible and delay in the examination will cause irreparable loss to the students as time is the essence in taking admission in higher education courses in foreign universities,” the plea said.

It added that delay in declaration of results will ultimately hamper one semester of the aspiring students as admission cannot be confirmed until the Class XII result is declared.

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