Ahead of a crucial review and consultative meeting between Chief Ministers and the Prime Minister to finalise next stage of response to fight Covid-19, there are reports of a disconnect between Opposition-ruled states and the Centre. Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs & Water Resources Arjun Ram Meghwal spoke about Ashok Gehlot’s Government in Rajasthan trying to score political points against the Centre even in the midst of a health emergency. The minister also said Rahul Gandhi’s insistence on rapid testing has been flawed as ICMR has all along suggested only RT-PCR Tests can be relied upon.
Q. As a minister and as a former bureaucrat, you have a good understanding of Rajasthan. How do you see the current situation in the state, especially since there has been a recent surge in cases?
A. There has been a surge in the number of hotspots in Rajasthan. The trend is increasing in Jaipur, Jodhpur, Ajmer, Kota and the situation does not look completely under control right now. Even in Bikaner — where I come from — there are now 37 cases. Though this pandemic is the time for all stakeholders to come together, I have to point out that Ashok Gehlot and his cabinet have been constantly criticising and opposing the PM’s policies. This is not the right time, it is time to unite against coronavirus. This is not the time to score political points against each other.
Q. The rapid testing kits that India imported from China have failed quality standards. The Rajasthan government said only 5% are showing accurate results, how big a setback this is for the state?
A. As far as testing is concerned, ICMR has said from the very beginning that the gold standard is the RT-PCR test. But then both Rahul Gandhi and Sonia Gandhi kept insisting on conducting rapid tests. The Congress government in Rajasthan under the influence of Rahul Gandhi and Sonia Gandhi asked for 10,000 tests. Now, after the inaccuracies have come t o l i g h t , I C M R h a d banned those tests for two days. What I want to highlight is that now is not the time for pushing one’s political agenda and anyone doing so would not be doing justice to mankind, which is fighting a deadly virus. This is a fight where all of humanity has to unite. Over the last few weeks, India has ramped up its overall health infrastructure which includes testing capabilities, hospital infrastructure to deal with the pandemic. All good and constructive suggestions from state governments are welcome as the effort is to have a united and coordinated response to Covid-19.
Q. Do you think that Opposition-ruled states like Rajasthan and West Bengal are not aligned with the Centre to chart out a clear roadmap to fight the virus and the larger impact it will have on livelihoods and economy?
A. I think most states have been aligned with the Centre, but it is only when certain elements use this opportunity to set a larger political agenda that the fight gets jeopardised. For instance, when the Central team went to Bengal, there has been no co-operation from the state government. This is deliberate and driven by political agenda. Likewise, in Rajasthan, a Congress MLA resorted to such low level of politics by asking people who was doing a better job — Ashok Gehlot or the Prime Minister. This kind of discourse does not behoove an elected representative.
Q. So, how do we ensure that this political one-upmanship doesn’t continue in the middle of a health emergency? And what advice you would like to give to the Rajasthan government right now?
A. There have been recent reports in global newspapers that people across the world are hailing PM Narendra Modi’s leadership in fighting Covid-19. This is a very good thing and everyone should accept it since he is the Prime Minister of this country and is working for everyone’s well-being. I have known the Chief Minister of Rajasthan, Ashok Gehlot, and several of his cabinet colleagues for a long time; it is my suggestion that they shouldn’t view this health scare as a political opportunity to score points over the Centre. This is not a time to indulge into a power struggle and indulge into blame game or take credit. Every government is doing good work and we must continue the same and not distract attention by taking credit.
Q. Do you think the Ordinance passed by the Union Cabinet, which has made attacks on doctors a non-bailable offence attracting strict penal provisions, will act as a deterrent against such attacks?
A. I feel very strongly about the repeated attacks on our doctors and police personnel. These are people who are risking their lives for our protection. Doctors are leaving their families to fight the disease and treat patients. Those who are opposing and attacking these ‘Covid-19 Warriors’ are doing great harm to humanity. The Ordinance is a very good move by the Centre and this will act as a deterrent against harassment against medical fraternity. In the wake of multiple attacks pan-India, the Ordinance was also a key demand that had been made by the Indian Medical Association. This will also bring about greater civic sense and respect for healthcare professionals and awareness that attacking doctors is tantamount to ensuring we do not succeed in the fight against the deadly virus.
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We were the first ones to take a chance with OTT: Vidyut Jammwal
Actor Vidyut Jammwal recently joined NewsX for an insightful conversation as part of NewsX India A-List. As part of the interview, Vidyut opened up about his latest film Sanak, taking a chance with the OTT last year and much more. Read excerpts:
Speaking about the shift to the OTT space, Vidyut said, “It is quite good. I have a lot of people, who are working now. I have had friends, who really had the talent, but never got the work. I think OTT is doing a great job with a lot of talent, to start with. We were the first ones to take a chance with OTT last year and what chance we took. It just changed everything for good.”
“We are working on Khuda Haafiz 2. We are aiming for a theatrical release now. Sanak was made for the theatres. Everything was ready and we could not just hold the movie. We do lose a lot of money at the movies. We decided why not just get the best out of it. I’ve grown up watching Jackie Chan films and I believe that this is the time for everybody to go on the platform Disney plus Hotstar, press the pause button, slow it down, see what I’ve done, how I have I’ve done it, the way I’ve always done from Jackie Chan and just try to do it,” he added.
Giving more insights about his latest film Sanak, Vidyut shared, “It has been different because Kanishk Verma, the director of the film, is a friend of mine. I have always believed in him. He was a director. He’s a friend of mine. Every time he sat and I used to look at him, like wow look at this idea! I love the way you think about music and then I got a chance in life where I thought I could get to work with people who I believe in. Kanishk was one of them. I made him meet Vipul and they just enjoyed each other’s company. That’s how the journey started. We came up with an idea and we thought it was phenomenal.”
When asked if he enjoyed the action in the film, he responded, “I enjoyed it. I had to surpass everything that I have done in the past. Today, I was watching the news by these international action critiques and I was very proud of myself being an Indian. They loved what they saw. I have enjoyed everything I put in the effort. I wanted to do something different. I wanted to use every things in my movie because he’s not a trained fighter. He’s just a martial artist and how he could depend on his wife and the whole everybody in the hospital. I have to be creative with ideas and people have enjoyed it.”
Remote work has been our culture from day one: Vipul Amler, Founder, Saeloun
Vipul Amler, Founder, Saeloun recently joined us for an insightful conversation as part of NewsX India A-List. Before diving deeper into his company Saeloun, Vipul introduced himself as saying, “I am a software developer, who works on web and mobile applications. We primarily use technology called Ruby On Rails and React JS, which are used by major companies like Facebook, Flipkart, Instagram and so forth. I have been in this industry for the last decade or so. At the same time, I also have written books on the same. Other than that, recently I have also been doing small angel investments.”
Talking about Saeloun and his journey to start the company, Vipul shared, “This is my second company in the last couple of years. Saeloun was started as a way for being a company, which is employee owned as well as having a very open transparent culture. We started off with that so that employees have more input in the growth and so forth. Saeloun specialises in the same thing- Ruby On Rails and React.Js and we help a bunch of different clients in various fields from e-commerce, healthcare and so forth. That was the primary purpose of starting Saeloun. “
When asked about the services they offer and their primary clientele, he responded, “Many clients, which are established clients, they contact us and reach out to us for our expertise on Ruby On Rails and React.Js, which I use for building applications. Like you might have seen Airbnb or Amazon or Flipkart. We help them to build the web applications. We also have expertise in helping them build mobile applications that you use. For example, if you are using PayTm or Google Pay, these kind of applications. We help our clients spread out. At the same time, when the clients were growing a lot, they come to us for helping them to scale or a bunch of different things.”
“There has been a huge growth since the last year. A lot of people last year, after the pandemic started coming up online, which for us has been a very busy time,” he added.
Speaking about the founding principles on the basis of which he started Saeloun and what sets apart Saeloun from others in the market, Vipul said, “Profit sharing was one part of the thing. This is before the pandemic. Last year, everyone started to do work from home or remote work but we have doing or I have been doing remote work since 2011 or 2012. That was the same principle as well, which sets Saeloun apart. We have been doing remote work and remote work has been our culture from day one since we started in 2019. In terms of profit sharing, we are a services company so we provide consulting with various different companies. For employees to have more ownership in the company, that was one of the ways. Whatever profits we have, we actually announce them publicly as well and share the financial data with everyone, so that they are aware of how we are doing and also equitably distribute 25% of all of our profits with our employees.”
HARYANA GOVT SETS UP 100-BED COVID CARE ICU
In order to ensure quality healthcare facilities even in the deepest pockets of the State, Government of Haryana has set up a 100-bed critical COVID ICU in Shaheed Hasan Khan Mewati Government Medical College located in the outskirts of Nuh in Nalhar.
The hospital will cater to the medical needs of patients from adjoining NCR-region, Alwar, Mathura, Rewari and Palwal as well, easing off the burden on health institutes in this area.
Sharing information in this regard an official spokesperson of Department of Medical Education and Research said: “As per the instructions of GoI (Government of India), a triple layer oxygen planning has been done in medical colleges and the constituent hospitals. Taking steps in this regard, the State Government through the Department of Medical Education and Research has started this 100-bedded ICU where Liquid Medical oxygen tanks of 10,000 L capacity along with 3000 LPM capacity PSA plants along with 1026 D- type oxygen cylinders have been installed in Nalhar Nuh.”
The spokesperson said that the existing capacity of Gas Manifold has been augmented to cater to the need along with the medical gas pipeline work. During the second wave there was a rush of thousands of patients from Delhi-NCR region towards the State of Haryana especially in adjoining districts to seek the medical care, he elaborated. Considering such demand, the existing capacity has been augmented and a 100 bed Critical COVID care ICU has been set up to meet the rising requirements and needs of the people.
“Thus, this completes the oxygen triad for COVID patients care. First being PSA plant, second being Liquid Oxygen tank and third being D-Type cylinders. In case of demand for oxygen the same will be pressed into the service as per the need basis,” he added.
The spokesperson said that man and material is the desired combination which is required to achieve the goal of providing superlative healthcare facilities. Thus, ventilators and equipment along with drugs and consumables have been purchased to make it functional. In addition to equipment 143 SRs (Senior Resident doctors) have already joined Government medical colleges along with 54 more specialist doctors as faculty have been offered joining.
Further, as many as 275 staff nurses’ recruitment is under process and another 85 faculty of specialist doctors’ recruitment process is about to commence soon. With such a large skilled manpower the State Government is ready to meet any eventuality in days to come wherever and whenever the need arises.
HARYANA NOTIFIES WASTE MANAGEMENT PLAN FOR INDUSTRIES
Haryana Government has notified the ‘Assistance for Waste Management Scheme’ for Industrial Sector under which incentives will be provided to the industries in the state to encourage them to carry out waste management activities including collection, transportation, treatment, and disposal of waste which is not just environmentally, socially, and financially sustainable but is also economically viable. Giving information in this regard an official spokesperson of Industries and Commerce Department said that the Scheme shall commence with effect from January 1, 2021 and shall remain in operation for a period of 5 years. The assistance shall be admissible on the purchase of land, machinery and equipment on or after January 1, 2021 and before December 31, 2025.
He said that under Assistance for Waste Management Scheme, a financial assistance of 50 percent of project cost (land and building subject to maximum of 25 percent of Project cost) including machinery and equipment up to Rs 50 Crore will be provided to facilitate setting up of electronic waste management and e-waste recovery projects for industries operating in Electronics System Design and Manufacturing (ESDM) sector.The spokesperson said that New Ultra-Mega Projects, Mega Projects, Large Industries, Micro, Small and Medium enterprises operating in Electronics System Design and Manufacturing (ESDM) sector anywhere in the State shall only be provided financial support by way of reimbursement of expenditure incurred.
The spokesperson said that the restrictive list of the Industries notified under HEEP-2020 shall not be applicable for this assistance. The eligible Units shall also comply with the conditions i.e. the unit shall file IEM/Udhyam Registration Certificate (URC) and Haryana Udhyam Memorandum (HUM) on the portal for the statistical purpose, at any stage. He said that the unit should have obtained NOC/CLU from Competent Authority if applicable. The unit should be in commercial production. He said that the unit should be in regular production at the time of disbursement and the subsidy shall not be released to a closed unit.
NO TREE CUTTING, SALE ALLOWED IN PUNJAB TILL FURTHER ORDERS
There would be no stumpage permission in Punjab till further orders as mentioned in the recent notification of the Department of Rural Development and Panchayat Punjab.
This comes after the orders issued by t the Punjab and Haryana High Court under PIL and Writ petition that the department released the notification vide no. 25/04/2020/LD-3/3994-3996. The notification said that the tree selling policy is under reconsideration and till then there would be no tree cutting and sale in the State of Punjab.
As per the Notification, there was a tree selling policy in the Panchayat area which was made in the year 2000 but the policy was never taken into action, hence the panchayat used to severe the trees and sell them at their capacity. The respected Court took the notice of the matter and has asked the respective departments to stop this practice till the policy is reconsidered.
The notification referring to the Punjab and Haryana Court order read, “On the subject of alleged illegal felling of 2,058 trees in the premises of the Faridkot Cooperative Sugar Mills Limited, we direct the PCCF (Hoff), Punjab to look into the grievance.
EC NOTIFICATION FOR BENGAL CIVIC POLLS SOON
The West Bengal Election Commission started preparations for the three municipal polls. It has recently come to light that the state government is keen to hold pre-polls in Kolkata, Howrah and Bidhannagar before Christmas in the third week of December.
However, neither the Election Commission nor any representative of the state government has publicly acknowledged this. But in the words of Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, there was a hint that the vote could take place as soon as the festive season is over.
After winning the Bhabanipur by-election, she said efforts would be made to expedite the state’s municipal polls. After receiving such an indication from the Chief Minister, the State Election Commission has started tidying up the houses like themselves. According to sources, the polls of three municipalities may be held on December 12 or 19.
The Election Commission wants to end the voting in these three municipalities before the Christmas holidays. It will be able to complete a long-pending phase of the pre-vote. At the same time, the rest of the municipalities can go a long way in preparing for the polls.
According to the source, if the chatpujo is completed, the notification of voting may be issued on behalf of the commission. Incidentally, the Election Commission started preparations for the pre-poll in February 2020. But due to the corona infection, all the preparations got stuck. The pre-poll also went back. But at that time, the work of preparing for the referendum, including the rearrangement of seats, went ahead.
Therefore, according to the sources of the commission, they will not have to get too much speed in the preparation of the vote this time. “Our initial preparations were completed in March last year,” said an Election Commission official. But as the vote was delayed, we could no longer move forward. But with the vote in the third week of December, we have started preparations again. However, in the case of voting, there are some things that cannot be started unless the vote is declared. So as soon as the vote is announced, the work will start,” he said, adding,“Since the vote will be held in Kolkata, Howrah and Bidhannagar. So, it doesn’t seem like too much pressure will fall on us. I think the rest of the municipal polls will be held next year.”
It is to be noted that there are about one and a half years left for voting in Kolkata. It has been under the purview of the city administrator since May 2020. Howrah Municipality is again being managed by the Municipal Administration from October 2016.
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