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K’taka CM Bommai to chair high-level meeting on Omicron


“The meeting would discuss the measures to prevent the spread of new variants of Covid and the strategies to control it. The issue would be discussed with experts of the union government as well. Action would be taken to formulate new guidelines,”

Karnataka Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai will chair a high-level committee meeting with experts and senior officers on Friday afternoon in the wake of detection of the country’s first case of Omicron virus in Bengaluru.

“The meeting would discuss the measures to prevent the spread of new variants of Covid and the strategies to control it. The issue would be discussed with experts of the union government as well. Action would be taken to formulate new guidelines,” Bommai said.

Health Minister K. Sudhakar has also scheduled several meetings on Friday morning, to discuss the situation in the state, ahead of the high level meeting.

He will also holding a meeting with the Managing Director of Bharat Biotech at 12 p.m.

The officials and heads of eight government departments, nodal officers and experts are attending the meeting to discuss the new situation in the state and also to formulate regulations, precautionary measures and steps to contain the infection of the new strain.

Health Minister, Revenue Minister, Principal Secretary, Additional Chief Secretary and Development Commissioner, BBMP Chief Commissioner, Commissioner of Health department, Chief Secretary Revenue Department (Disaster Management), Secretary Medical Education Department, Commissioner, Commercial Taxes Department and designated Covid-19 nodal officer for Kempegowda International Airport, Bengaluru, Commissioner Health department, Dr Arundhati Chandrashekar, Mission Director for National Health Mission (NHM) and Director for Medical Education department have been invited to the meeting.

Meanwhile, health department officials have heaved a sigh of relief after genome sequencing test results of nursing students affected with Covid-19, came out negative.




Over 160 FIRs lodged, 50 arrested under Op Masoom against child pornography


According to the official, NCMEC was established in 1984 by the United Nations Congress. The organisation has tied up with social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram and others. They scroll and crawl the contents of the social media platforms.

Delhi Police have registered over 160 cases in different police stations and arrested more than 50 people during its special drive against the child pornography under Operation Masoom, officials said Friday.

The operation Masoom (Mitigation of Adolescent Sexually Offensive Online Material) was launched by Intelligence Fusion and Strategic Operations (IFSO) unit of the Delhi Police and all the districts played an instrumental role in curbing the menace of child pornography.

“This exercise is a classic example of interdepartmental and inter agency co-ordination,” the official said.

The details of the violations pertaining to child pornographic material is received at IFSO through National Crime Record Bureau (NCRB), which has MOU with National Center for Missing & Exploited Children (NCMEC).

According to the official, NCMEC was established in 1984 by the United Nations Congress. The organisation has tied up with social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram and others. They scroll and crawl the contents of the social media platforms. Whenever, they come across any content found violating the privacy/obscene material regarding children, the same is red flagged. They procure the IP address details of the user who had uploaded the obscene content.

A Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) was signed between NCRB (National Crime Record Bureau) and the National Centre for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC). Under this MoU, NCMEC is providing CyberTipline complaints about sexually offensive content against children to NCRB which is being shared or uploaded on various social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram, etc, he said.

For this, NCMEC works in close coordination with these social media platforms as well as the public at large. These complaints, along with details of the person sharing or uploading such sexually offensive contents is forwarded by NCMEC to NCRB which, then, shares the same with state nodal agencies.

Cyber Crime Unit (IFSO), Special Cell, is the nodal agency in Delhi for the same. At IFSO Unit, the details received from NCRB are analysed for the purpose of identification of any organised nexus. The IFSO unit had analysed all the inputs and identified the suspects, the official added.

Thereafter, the information was disseminated with the concerned to take further necessary legal action.

A team was constituted to segregate the Cyber Tiplines provided by NCMEC, on the basis of jurisdiction of districts and police stations. The information was shared with the concerned police stations and districts for the registration of cases and during the drive more than 160 cases were registered.

In the past also, IFSO Unit had initiated a drive against the child pornography and operation MASOOM (Mitigation of Adolescent Sexually Offensive Online Material) was initiated, in which inputs were taken from NCMEC-NCRB and many persons were arrested, the official said.




After suspension, Oppn making provocative statements: Piyush Goyal


The suspended 12 MPs, who have been suspended for the entire winter session for creating ruckus in the House during the monsoon session on August 11, are sitting in protest at Gandhi statue inside the Parliament premises.

The face-off on the issue of suspension of 12 MPs continued with the opposition raising the issue in the Upper House on Friday.

Leader of the House Piyush Goyal said, “The opposition leaders are making provocative statements and have refused to apologise on the serious issue even though I have offered an apology on small issues.

“When they are not willing to apologise, how can the matter be resolved?”

Earlier, the chairman M. Venkaiah Naidu asked both the parties to resolve the issue.

The Chairman has rejected various notices of opposition leaders under rule 267. One of the notices was given by Congress MP Deepender Hooda in which he has demanded compensation for the families of those farmers who have lost their lives during the agitation since last year.

The suspended 12 MPs, who have been suspended for the entire winter session for creating ruckus in the House during the monsoon session on August 11, are sitting in protest at Gandhi statue inside the Parliament premises.

The suspended MPs are from the Congress, Trinamool Congress, CPI, CPI-M and Shiv Sena.

The members are — Syed Naseer Hussain, Akhilesh Prasad Singh, Phulo Devi Netam, Chhaya Verma, Ripun Bora and Rajmani Patel of the Congress, Priyanka Chaturvedi, Anil Desai of the Shiv Sena, Elamaram Kareem of the CPI-M, Binoy Viswam of the CPI, Dola Sen and Shanta Chhetri of the Trinamool.




After suspension, Oppn making provocative statements: Piyush Goyal


The suspended 12 MPs, who have been suspended for the entire winter session for creating ruckus in the House during the monsoon session on August 11, are sitting in protest at Gandhi statue inside the Parliament premises.

The face-off on the issue of suspension of 12 MPs continued with the opposition raising the issue in the Upper House on Friday.

Leader of the House Piyush Goyal said, “The opposition leaders are making provocative statements and have refused to apologise on the serious issue even though I have offered an apology on small issues.

“When they are not willing to apologise, how can the matter be resolved?”

Earlier, the chairman M. Venkaiah Naidu asked both the parties to resolve the issue.

The Chairman has rejected various notices of opposition leaders under rule 267. One of the notices was given by Congress MP Deepender Hooda in which he has demanded compensation for the families of those farmers who have lost their lives during the agitation since last year.

The suspended 12 MPs, who have been suspended for the entire winter session for creating ruckus in the House during the monsoon session on August 11, are sitting in protest at Gandhi statue inside the Parliament premises.

The suspended MPs are from the Congress, Trinamool Congress, CPI, CPI-M and Shiv Sena.

The members are — Syed Naseer Hussain, Akhilesh Prasad Singh, Phulo Devi Netam, Chhaya Verma, Ripun Bora and Rajmani Patel of the Congress, Priyanka Chaturvedi, Anil Desai of the Shiv Sena, Elamaram Kareem of the CPI-M, Binoy Viswam of the CPI, Dola Sen and Shanta Chhetri of the Trinamool.




Skar­du Airport operation in PoK, India says its ‘interference’ in internal affairs


According to reports from Pakistan, the status of the Skar­du Airport has been ‘upgraded’ and it will start operating as an international airport.

India on Thursday said the decision of Pakistan authorities to upgrade Skardu airport and make it operational for international flights would be “interference in India’s internal matters”.

“I would not like to speak about any specific development in detail. You know our position and stand on Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (PoK). It is an interference in our internal matters,” an MEA spokesman Arindam Bagchi told reporters here in the weekly briefing.

“We do not accept this. I will not make any comment on one specific development”.

He, however, said – “I don’t want to comment on any specific development except that our position over this has been clear”.

According to reports from Pakistan, the status of the Skar­du Airport has been ‘upgraded’ and it will start operating as an international airport.

“In line with Prime Minister Imran Khan’s vision master plan to promote tourism across the country, Skardu Airport starts operating as an international airport from December 2, 2021,” a spokesman for the Pakistan Civil Aviation Authority said in a tweet:

The Skardu airbase raid was carried out by Indian forces on December 17, 1971, during the war of liberation of Bangladesh.

The airbase is located in PoK, Indian government sources have said earlier that care was taken so as to ensure that only the runway was bombed.

India-Bangladesh Maitri Diwas MEA spokesman Mr. Bagchi said, during the visit of Prime Minister Narendra Modi to Bangladesh in March, it was decided to commemorate December 6 as the Maitri Diwas or the Friendship Day.

“Ten days before the liberation of Bangladesh in 1971, India had recognised Bangladesh on December 6, 1971. India was one of the first countries to establish bilateral diplomatic ties with Bangladesh,” he said.

The Maitri Diwas is being commemorated in 18 countries around the world apart from Dhaka and New Delhi.

These countries are Belgium, Canada, Egypt, Indonesia, Russia, Qatar, Singapore, UK, Australia, France, Japan, Malaysia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Switzerland, Thailand, UAE, and the USA.

“The holding of Maitri Diwas is a reflection of the deep and abiding friendship between the peoples of India and
Bangladesh that has been forged in blood and shared sacrifices,” he said.

A special event on Dec 6 in New Delhi will see participation from both countries.




Dam Safety Bill passed in Rajya Sabha after rejecting Opposition demand for Select Committee


The Opposition’s demand for the Select Committee reference was rejected by a division of votes, which showed only 26 members supported it and 80 members were against it.

The Dam Safety Bill, 2019, providing for the maintenance of dams across the country, today received Parliamentary approval after the Rajya Sabha passed it, rejecting the Opposition’s strong demand to refer it to a Select Committee for allegedly encroaching upon States’ rights.

Jal Shakti Minister Gajendra Singh Shekhawat told the House that the Bill, already passed by the Lok Sabha in August 2019, was based on the report given by a Parliamentary Standing Committee which had examined it.

The Opposition’s demand for the Select Committee reference was rejected by a division of votes, which showed only 26 members supported it and 80 members were against it.

In their objections to the Bill, the Opposition not only raised the issue of attack on federalism but pointed out that committee structures envisaged under the Bill would have all members nominated by the Centre.

The States would implement all directives of the Central Government and bear all expenditure for the works, they said.

Several Opposition members tried to raise the issue of 12 suspended members. The issue had kept a sizable strength of the Opposition away from the proceedings.

Replying to the three-hour debate, the Jal Shakti Minister said after the Morvi dam disaster in Gujarat, there was talk of creating a system for the protection of dams. In 1982, it was decided that a protocol be developed for the purpose.

It took the country 40 years to prepare a law. So far, there have been 42 dam disasters in the country which bring it a bad name, the Minister said.

More than 92 per cent of Indian dams are on inter-State rivers, this should be understood, Shekhawat said. “When one of the gates of a dam did not open during floods, who was to be held accountable for the destruction of life and property,” he said.

The Centre had to intervene, he said. “We have to make laws so that dams are protected. We are determined to protect the citizens and committed to the country’s prosperity,” he said.

In 2002 a draft Bill was made and circulated to all States, he said. Only Bihar adapted that Bill. How can members say States are not consulted. “States have rights, but are they working for the protection of their people,” Shekhawat asked.

The Standing Committee gave a report on the earlier Bill in 2011 and referred to Article 252, and stated that the law should be enacted as it was expedient in the interest of the public. The committee questioned why was the law not brought earlier. The sub-committees will invite more State representatives, he assured.

The dams covered under the Bill are with a height of more than 15 metres, or height between 10 metres and 15 metres with certain design and structural conditions.

Tiruchi Siva (DMK) said most of the laws brought by the Government were transgressing the States’ authority. Shaktisinh Gohil (Congress) referred to the Constitutional Lists of subjects and said the Bill could not be passed unless at least two States sought it. If the Supreme Court strikes down the law, not just the Government, but even the House would suffer the loss of prestige, he said.




‘Induce creativity in bureaucracy’, SC sets 24-hour deadline for Centre, states to act


The top court questioned the utility of having a commission for air quality management, if it ends up having on board people from different departments and seems like having no power to enforce decision, and gave 24 hours to the government to come up with concrete ways to curb air pollution.

The Supreme Court on Thursday minced no words to slam the Centre and state governments over the severe air pollution in the national capital and expressed concern that nothing was happening on the ground to improve the air quality.

The top court questioned the utility of having a commission for air quality management, if it ends up having on board people from different departments and seems like having no power to enforce decision, and gave 24 hours to the government to come up with concrete ways to curb air pollution.

A bench headed by Chief Justice N.V. Ramana and comprising Justices D.Y. Chandrachud and Surya Kant said the emergency situation needs emergency measures.

The Chief Justice told Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, representing the Centre, “You have to work with creativity…if things are not working.” In connection with measures to curb air pollution, the Chief Justice added, “We have to do something extraordinary…we cannot enforce or induce creativity in your bureaucracy, you have to come up with some steps”.

The bench asked Mehta, ‘what is the Commission for Air Quality Management doing and pointed out that the judges went through the names and designation of people in the commission’. “It looks like a government of India organisation with all departments together”, said the bench.

Justice Chandrachud said: “Looks like the problem is that this commission has no power of enforcement.”

During the hearing, the bench queried, “Despite our orders, pollution level is only going up. Where is it coming from?”

The bench further added that what is the use of a 20-30-member committee (air quality commission)? “It’s nothing but another burden on the exchequer”, noted the bench.

Mehta said the government is equally concerned about life threatening pollution levels in Delhi and sought one day time to talk to the highest authority and to come out with additional measures to deal with the crisis.

The top court made it crystal clear that it needs to take action within 24 hours to curb air pollution in the capital. The bench said: “If you do not act, we will step in…we have extraordinary steps in mind.”

The top court directed Centre and states to be serious on reducing air pollution and scheduled the next hearing on the matter on Friday.




Facial recognition technology at 4 airports to be introduced by March next year: Centre


The Airports Authority of India (AAI) is working on a project of FRT-based Biometric Boarding System as part of the first phase of Digi Yatra Implementation at four Airports (Varanasi, Pune, Kolkata, and Vijayawada).

Facial Recognition Technology (FRT) has not yet been introduced at any of the airports in India, replied Minister of State in the Ministry of Civil Aviation General V K Singh (retd) to a question in Lok Sabha on Thursday.

The question was asked by MPs Feroze Varun Gandhi and Ram Shankar Katheria. Singh said FRT has not yet been introduced at any of the airports in India. However, the Airports Authority of India (AAI) is working on a project of FRT-based Biometric Boarding System as part of the first phase of Digi Yatra Implementation at four Airports (Varanasi, Pune, Kolkata, and Vijayawada).

He added that the proposed Digi Yatra Central Eco-system is planned to go live in March 2022. It is to be scaled up in a phased manner for adoption across various airports of the country.

On being asked about the safeguards taken by the Government to prevent the leakage of passenger data, he said that as per the Digi Yatra policy, registering for the Digi Yatra Central Ecosystem is optional to the passenger.

For availing the Digi Yatra services, passengers would send the travel details (Pax details, PNR and Facial Biometrics) through an app to the Biometric Boarding System of the respective departing airport.

Moreover, if for a particular journey, the passenger does not want to avail the Digi Yatra services then the passenger has an option to not send the data and use the existing manual process at airports.

“The Digi Yatra Central Ecosystem envisages assessments (by independent teams to assess the level of security and system resilience to protect PII) and periodic audits by governing/regulatory bodies twice every year. Facial recognition is as per Industry ISO standards with best in class National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) listed algorithms complying to Data Privacy and Data protection requirement as laid down by Government,” he said.

Data shared by the Passenger is to be used for the purpose defined and would not be shared with any other external stakeholders. It is important to note that data shared by passengers is to be retained during the transit of the passenger at the airport and will not be retained for more than 24 hours after Take-off/departure of the flight, he replied.




Winter session: Rajya Sabha Chairman urges members to hold discussions, let House do its ‘mandated job’


Speaking at the House, the Rajya Sabha Chairman said, “I urge both the sides of this august House to talk it out and let the House do its mandated job.”

Raising concerns over the continued disruptions in the ongoing winter session of the Parliament, Rajya Sabha Chairman M Venkaiah Naidu on Thursday urged both the Opposition and treasury benches to hold discussions and let the House function.

After the commencement of Business on the fourth day of the ongoing winter session, Naidu said the House could not transact any business during the last three days. Speaking at the House, the Rajya Sabha Chairman said, “I urge both the sides of this august House to talk it out and let the House do its mandated job.”

Naidu said the Rules of Procedure and Conduct of Business in the Council of States clearly provide for the suspension of members for disrupting the proceedings of the House and for misconduct lowering the dignity of the House, under Rules 255 and 256.

“Some of the respected leaders and members of this august House, in their wisdom, chose to describe the suspension of 12 members as ‘undemocratic’. I have struggled to understand if there was any justification in that kind of narrative being propagated but could not,” he said.

Naidu further said, “While calling this suspension as undemocratic both within and outside the House, not even a word is being said about the reasons given for the suspension, the disdainful conduct of some members during the last session, which I have categorically called as ‘acts of sacrilege’ on the last day of last session. Unfortunately, a message is sought to be sent out that ‘sacrilege’ of the House is democratic but action against such sacrilege is undemocratic. I am sure people of the country would not buy this new norms of democracy.”

Naidu said it is for the House to take a view on its earlier decision of suspension of members and it is for all the concerned to take it forward.
“It is human to err and it is also human to make amends. One cannot refuse to amend and insist on glossing over the wrongdoings. Suspensions, either in the past or now, are only the expression of disapproval of the acts of misconduct of some members by the House. Disapproval of undemocratic conduct in the House cannot be decried as undemocratic, for sure,” he added.

He said the latest suspension is not the first time to have happened. Such suspension of members, starting in 1962 happened on 11 occasions till 2010, further to a Motion moved by the Governments of the day.

“Were all of them undemocratic? If so, why has it resorted to so many times?” he asked.

He said there were suspensions in the past and some of them were revoked prematurely further to the errant members regretting their acts of misconduct in the House.

“I am deeply pained to know from media reports of categorical refusals to express any regret for the acts of misconduct during the last session that led to this round of suspensions. Then what is the way forward? You do not want to regret your misconduct but insist on revoking the decision of this House taken as per due process stipulated under the Rules of the House. Does this amount to upholding the principles of democracy?” Naidu said.




Omicron a setback for international travel: Scindia


“At present we have air bubble agreement with 31 countries and have a proposal with 10 other nations to start air bubble agreement,”

The latest coronavirus variant, Omicron is certainly a setback for resuming international travel, Civil Aviation Minister Jyotiraditya Scindia told the Lok Sabha on Thursday.

Responding to a question during Question Hour, he said, “Omicron’ is certainly a setback. Therefore, several countries have put different yardsticks to deal with it. Our country has categorised 11 nations as “at risk”. The U.K., South Africa, Brazil, Botswana, China, Zimbabwe, Mauritius, New Zealand, Hong Kong, Singapore and Israel are the “at risk” countries.

To another question by Congress MP Manish Tewari, he said that the World Health Organisation and International Air Transport Association should jointly formulate a common protocol for air travel.

“At present we have air bubble agreement with 31 countries and have a proposal with 10 other nations to start air bubble agreement”, he said in response to a question regarding the current situation of air bubbles during Covid-19.

He also informed that the government has implemented new norms from Wednesday and now the passengers coming from these countries, need to go in for RT-PCR Test at the airport and mandatory seven days home quarantine.

On the eighth day, the passenger will go for RT-PCR test again and only after a negative report, will he or she will be allowed to move freely.

Scindia also said: “We have identified the airports in the country where the passengers from these 11 countries would come and make adequate arrangements for their testing.” He also clarified that a person with both doses of Covid vaccines can also be infected with Omicrone, therefore, the persons having double doses of vaccine cannot be exempted from the RT-PCR test at the airports.

The Minister of Housing and Urban Affairs Hardeep Singh Puri, while responding to a question on inclusion of the Shirdi into smart city project, said that the process of inclusion has been closed. He also said that the state government was asked to nominate cities from their states but the Maharashtra government did not include the city.

Maharashtra has eight smart city projects, he added. “Smart City may not be the only way the infrastructure of a city may be attended to. We would be very happy to include Shirdi whenever Smart Ciity 2 comes up and Maharashtra government recommends”, Puri said on the modernisation of the religious city Shirdi.

“In 2011 census, it was put under Amrut as a holy city, all steps we take for holy cities are being taken. If additional steps are needed, we are happy to consider them,” he further said.




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