Slamming the BJP-led Central government over the raging Pegasus spying controversy, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on Wednesday said that instead of democracy, espionage is going on in the country. She issued a call to all Opposition parties of the country to form a united front to fight against the BJP to “save democracy” in India.
Chief Minister Banerjee showed her phone on the stage and said that she was forced to “plaster” the camera of her phone. She said, “Our phones have been tapped. It’s a recorder. Pegasus is dangerous and ferocious; not letting people live peacefully. Dictatorship is going on in the country. I have plastered my phone. We should also plaster this Central government; otherwise the country will be destroyed.”
The manner in which the Trinamool Congress (TMC) leader launched an attack on the Central government from the stage of Martyrs’ Day over the Pegasus issue is unprecedented. Picking up her phone, Mamata showed how she has covered the camera of her phone for fear that someone would intercept her. She claimed that she cannot talk to any anti-BJP chief minister for fear of this. Targeting the Centre, Mamata accused the government of attempts to convert the country into a surveillance state. She said, “Freedom is in danger. The BJP is responsible for this. They don’t even believe their ministers. They misuse all agencies.”
In her speech on Wednesday, Mamata spoke out against the Centre over the Pegasus scandal. “Remember, all of you and I have been tapped by Pegasus. You can also be spied upon when you are sleeping at home. What you eat can also be seen. Your brain is also being scanned,” said the TMC supremo. “The country’s democracy is in danger,” she said. “I don’t know what will happen in 2024. But we have to start preparing now, although I know we all have our phones tapped. I cannot talk to the Chief Minister of any state. Why should it be like that? ”
Chief Minister Banerjee also issued a call to all Opposition parties of the country to form a united front to fight against BJP to “save democracy” in India. “Opposition parties cannot afford to lose time and should start planning from now for the Lok Sabha polls in 2024,” she said. “Come together to form a united front. I will work together with you,” she added.
Going back to her clarion call of ‘Khela Hobe’ (Game is on), Banerjee said, “’Khela’ will happen in all states until BJP is removed from the country. We’ll celebrate ‘Khela Diwas’ on August 16. We will give footballs to poor children. Today, our freedom is at stake. BJP has endangered our liberty. They don’t trust their own ministers and misuse agencies.” Meanwhile, reacting to Mamata Banerjee’s allegations, BJP leader Shamik Bhattacharya reminded that Mukul Roy had accused the TMC of tapping phones when he went to the BJP. Bhattacharya asked: “Today he is back at the TMC. So, did Mukul lie that day?”
Speaking to reporters today, Bhattacharya said, «After joining the BJP, Mukul Roy gave an exclusive interview to a media outlet. There he showed his three phones and said, ‘I have done Singur, Nandigram, I have fought with the Left, but Buddhababu never tapped my phone.»
“Mamata Banerjee says her phone is being tapped. At one point, her right-hand man Mukul Roy, who came to our team, complained that his phone was tapped. He even went to court. This culture is not ours. TMC leaders don’t talk to anyone; they WhatsApp because they all know their phones are tapped. Mamata and her government use Pegasus software. So this false allegation on our party will not succeed in any way. Attempts are being made to discredit Modiji. They are trying to defame him politically, democratically.”
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India logs highest new Covid cases in three weeks
India reports 44,230 daily new cases in last 24 hours; Kerala remains the highest contributor with 22,064 cases. Delta variant is as contagious as chickenpox, says a study.
The Delta variant, responsible for disastrous second Covid-19 pandemic in India during the months of April and May, is said to be much more contagious and spreads as easily as chickenpox, according to an internal document from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The document, obtained by The Washington Post, described the Delta strain as “a variant so contagious that it acts almost like a different novel virus”. It said that Delta, which was first classified in India last year, leaps from target to target more swiftly than even Ebola or the common cold.
Dr Rochelle P. Walensky, the director of the CDC, noted on Tuesday that vaccinated people with so-called breakthrough infections of the Delta variant carry just as much virus in the nose and throat as unvaccinated people and may spread it just as readily, if less often.
Meanwhile, in a worrisome trend, India reported 44,230 daily new cases in the last 24 hours, highest tally in past three weeks. Kerala remained the highest contributor as the southern state saw more than 20,000 Covid cases for the fourth day in a row.
Kerala on Friday reported 20,772 new Covid cases. The state’s test positivity rate (TPR) rose to 13.61 per cent. Up to 116 people died of the disease. Its caseload touched 33,70,137 while fatalities hit 16,701, according to a government release.
Some of the worst-hit districts were Malappuram (3,670 cases), Kozhikode (2,470), Ernakulam (2,306), Thrissur (2,287), Palakkad (2,070), Kollam (1,415), Alappuzha (1,214), Kannur (1,123), Thiruvananthapuram (1,082), and Kottayam (1030), PTI reported.
About 116 people died of the disease. Its caseload touched 33,70,137 while fatalities hit 16,701, according to a government release.
Similarly, Assam reported 1,299 new positive cases, while Karnataka reported 2,052 new Covid-19 cases and 35 deaths.
Earlier, Union Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushan wrote to Kerala government on “super spreader events” observed in Kerala recently, indirectly referring to relaxations given during Bakrid festival.
Rebutting all charges of laxity, Kerala Health Minister Veena George said that seroprevalence study by ICMR shows that almost 42% of people have antibodies in them, shows that our preventive mechanism was very good.
More than 50% of the total population is still unaffected. The type of Coronavirus which is spreading in this phase is Delta virus, the infectability is more. So, naturally, we are trying our best, the Kerala Health Minister added.
As per the data of Health Ministry, India’s active caseload now stands at 4,05,155 and active cases now constitute 1.28% of the country’s total Positive Cases.
Weekly Positivity Rate is currently at 2.43% and the Daily Positivity rate stands at 2.44% today. Daily Positivity rate has remained below 5% for 53 consecutive days now, the data further read.
GOVT’S DUTY TO RUN PARLIAMENT: KHARGE ON SNOOPING UPROAR
In Parliament, the Opposition continued to put pressure on the Central government over the Pegasus report and agriculture regulations. The Rajya Sabha and Lok Sabha were compelled to adjourn due to repeated interruptions. The Opposition has been adamant in calling for a full debate on the Pegasus report and the contentious agriculture laws.
‘It is the duty of the government to run Parliament, and it is not new; under rule 267 permission was granted in 2010, 2011, and 2013 on various issues, and even under the NDA government, permission was granted in 2015 and 2016, but now what is the problem with the government that they are not willing to discuss under 267,” said Mallikarjun Kharge, the Leader of the Opposition while speaking exclusively to The Daily Guardian.
“The government should understand that we are prepared to talk any subject, whether it is a farmer’s concern or a fuel price hike, but when the unified Opposition wants to debate Pegasus, why are they avoiding it?’ Kharge added.
In the ongoing monsoon session of Parliament, which began on July 19, the Centre has scheduled at least 23 bills to be introduced in the Lok Sabha. Six legislations have already been introduced.
GOVT CALLS PEGASUS ‘NON-ISSUE’, OPPOSITION BLOCKS PARLIAMENT
Statistics compiled by PRS Legislative show that the Lok Sabha’s productivity has been 14% during the monsoon session as it passed five bills in less than an hour.
With Opposition members continuing to disrupt Parliament over the alleged Pegasus snooping issue, Union Minister Pralhad Joshi on Friday said the controversy was a “non-issue” and that the government was ready for discussion on people-related issues. Calling the Opposition behaviour “unfortunate”, the Union Parliamentary Affairs Minister urged the protesting members to allow the House to function.
For the second consecutive week, there has been a deadlock in Parliament over the Pegasus saga and the issue of new farm laws. The Opposition created a ruckus in both the houses of Parliament on Friday, due to which the proceedings of Parliament were postponed till next week.
The ongoing monsoon session saw very little business. Data compiled by PRS Legislative show the Lok Sabha’s productivity has been only 14 per cent as it passed five bills in less than an hour. During the Budget Session earlier this year, the average time spent on a bill passed by the Lok Sabha was 2.5 hour. In comparison to the Lok Sabha, the Rajya Sabha has fared slightly better and its productivity stands at 22 per cent.
Some Opposition parties, including the Congress, on Friday once again demanded a discussion on the Pegasus issue in Parliament, but the government said that Information Technology Minister Ashwini Vaishnav had given a statement in Parliament on the subject, on which Opposition parties could still seek clarification.
Pralhad Joshi said in the Lower House that it is unfortunate that the House is not allowed to function and there are many such issues which are related to the public and the government is ready to discuss them.
As the proceedings began, the leader of the Congress in the Lok Sabha, Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury, said that the Opposition has been demanding a discussion on the Pegasus case since Day 1.
He said that along with this, the House must debate farm laws and Covid. The Opposition insisted that their protests inside Parliament would continue until the government held a full discussion on the Pegasus espionage issue.
In this case, there have been allegations of spying on journalists, businessmen, politicians, etc. On the demand of the Opposition to discuss the Pegasus spying case in the House, Parliamentary Affairs Minister Pralhad Joshi said, “It is not an issue.”
Joshi said that the Opposition is not allowing the House to function for the last eight days by making excuses. He said, “We want to work on the issues related to the public which have been decided in the Business Advisory Committee. The government does not want any bill to be passed without discussion.” The Parliamentary Affairs Minister said, “There are many such issues which are related to the people and the government is ready to discuss them.”
He said that the question hour is the right of the members, there should not be a hindrance to it. The Parliamentary Affairs Minister said, “We are ready to work the way you (Lok Sabha Speaker) ask us to do.”
Pralhad Joshi said that Parliament is not being allowed to function and such conduct is unfortunate. He told reporters after the Lok Sabha was adjourned on Friday that the government had agreed that the Opposition parties could seek clarification after Vaishnav›s statement and that these parties could still do so.
Information and Broadcasting Minister Anurag Thakur told reporters that parties like Congress and Trinamool Congress are wasting the time of Parliament due to political reasons. Thakur said, “Prime Minister Narendra Modi has said that the government is ready to hold discussions on various issues. We want the Opposition to raise issues related to the people and the government will respond. But it is unfortunate that the opposition parties are creating ruckus and throwing papers at the chair and ministers.”
There was a deadlock between the ruling party and the Opposition in the Lok Sabha for the ninth day in the monsoon session on the issues of Pegasus espionage case and three central farm laws.
HARYANA GETS 100 NEW AMBULANCES, TO PURCHASE 88 MORE
CHANDIGARH: Amid the third Covid wave scare, in a bid to strengthen health services, the Haryana government got 100 new ambulances for patient transportation so that people residing in remote areas can get timely access to the hospitals. According to the available information, the department had given the nod to purchase 188 ambulances and out of which the above has been purchased. Besides, 47 mobile Mobile Medical Units will be purchased and for the same, the process has been initiated by the National Health Mission (NHM) Haryana.
Prior to this, the state health fleet owns 438 ambulances and in addition to this, would be a fruitful step as the experts continue to warn regarding the possibility of the third wave of Covid-19. It is pertinent to mention that rest of the ambulances have to be purchased under Atal Vahini Janani Sewa Scheme too and an amount for the same has been sanctioned in a departmental meeting recently.
Informing regarding the above- mentioned, Dr Sube Singh, Deputy Director, NHM, Haryana, said that ambulance services played a vital role in the battle against fatal coronavirus pandemic as these paved paths for timely treatment as well as access to health institutions across the state. To ensure the best health facilities, the department has come up with a plan to purchase new ambulances in two categories namely for patient transportation and medical mobile units.
1.30 cr saplings to be planted in J&K this year
During this year, as many as 1.30 crore saplings are proposed to be planted across the Union Territory of Jammu & Kashmir. Lieutenant Governor Manoj Sinha launched “Green J&K Drive-2021” from the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Jammu on Friday. He planted a ‘cupressus’ sapling in the IIT Campus to mark the launch of this mega plantation drive.
The Green J&K Drive initiative is in consonance with the National Forest Policy, 1988, and the JK Forest Policy, 2011.
The Lt Governor observed that the this drive aims at creating a people’s movement at a massive scale with the involvement of all stakeholders, particularly panchayats, women, students, Urban Local Bodies, institutions, NGOs, and civil society.
“We aim to bring two-third of the geographical area of J&K under the forest and tree cover. The forest and tree cover in Jammu and Kashmir is about 55%, which is substantially higher than the national average of 24.56%. It is a matter of pride for us that while the present circumstances are posing a difficult challenge to the people at many places, the government machinery and the people of Jammu and Kashmir are discharging their responsibility towards the coming generation by preserving and strengthening our natural wealth,” said Sinha.
The Lt Governor underlined the importance of taking science and ecology together on the path of development.
“It is vital to ensure a balance between development and conservation of our environment. There has never been a more urgent need to revive ecology than today,” remarked Sinha.
MY RAPE STATEMENT WAS TAKEN OUT OF CONTEXT: GOA CM PRAMOD SAWANT
After facing flak, Goa Chief Minister Dr Pramod Sawant on Friday clarified that his statement on the rape of two minors, at the beachside in the state a few days back, was taken out of context. Dr Sawant stated that he was deeply pained by the incident and would ensure that the accused got the most stringent punishment under the law.
However, the CM said that the safety of minors should be a shared responsibility. “My statement about the unfortunate incident was taken out of context. As the head of a responsible government and a father of a 14-year-old daughter, I was deeply pained and disturbed. The pain of this incident is inexplicable. At no point, I tried to deny the right to the security provided by the law. Goa police have been a truly professional force especially when it comes to the security of women and children. They have already acted swiftly and arrested the accused, and let me assure you that I shall ensure that the culprits get the most stringent punishment under the law,” said Dr Sawant.
Stating that the safety of citizens has always been his government’s priority, the CM, who also holds the home portfolio, said, “Safety of children, especially minors, has to be a shared responsibility. Our right to security has to be strengthened further with more cautiousness. Children, especially minors, need the guidance of their elders.” Dr Sawant said that his statement of shared responsibility for minors was out of concern, care and lover for fellow citizens and children. ‘’We all love our kids. My feeling of concern is extended to all the children of Goa. I can never hurt the sentiments of the fellow citizens of Goa,” the CM said. He added, “Let us stand united as one Goa so that all such evils can be defeated with all our might.” Four men, including a driver with the agriculture department, have been arrested for allegedly raping the minor girls after beating up the boys who were with them at Benaulim Beach on Sunday.
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