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ECI bans A Raja from campaign


Removes his name from DMK’s list of star campaigners

The Election Commission of India (ECI) today, banned DMK’s deputy secretary and MP A Raja from campaigning for the party for 48 hours with immediate effect and also removed his name from DMK’s list of star campaigners. The commission has reprimanded Raja for his comments against CM Edappadi Palaniswami.

Meanwhile, DMK filed a plea with Madras HC to revoke the ban and requested an urgent hearing in the matter. However, the principal bench of the court consisting Chief Justice Sanjib Banerjee and Justice Senthilkumar Ramamoorthy refused to list the case for urgent hearing.

The ECI took the decision to ban A Raja after considering his written response to the Commission on a report sent by the chief electoral officer of Tamil Nadu Satyabrata Sahoo. “The Election Commission of India debars you from campaigning for 48 hours with immediate effect, reprimands you for violation of model code of conduct and delists your name from the list of star campaigner of DMK,” the EC notice says.

The notice issued by ECI also cautioned Raja not to resort such acts anymore. “The Commission also advises you to be watchful and not to make intemperate, indecent, derogatory, obscene remarks and lower the dignity of women in future during the election campaign.” notice said. The action by ECI was taken based on A Raja’s comment at Thousand Lights constituency last week. While comparing DMK president MK Stalin and CM Edappadi Palaniswami’s political career, he said, “Stalin is a child of good relationship and good birth while Edapadi Palaniswamy is a child of bad relationship and a premature born child”. The ECI referred to Raja’s speeches made on two different occasions to justify its decision to impose a ban on him.

Earlier, the ECI had sent A Raja a notice, stating the Commission had found the contents of his speech “derogatory but also obscene” and that they “lower the dignity of motherhood of women.” The EC had said this was serious violation of the provisions of model code of conduct.

In his response to the Election Commission notice, A Raja had said his speech was taken out of context. He said AIADMK and BJP had “falsely propagated” that he insulted Palaniswami. He also said that he had “not spoken anything that is violative of the model code of conduct, which is obscene or which will lower the dignity of mother or women, much less any other provision of law.”

He had denied making any “derogatory or defamatory speeches” against the chief minister. He also denied that he made any speech that would “demean or defame women or motherhood.”

Meanwhile, the issues related with violence against women continue to reverberate in TN election campaigns. DMK chief MK Stalin today lambasted UP chief minister Yogi Adithyanath for his comments on DMK. On Wednesday UP chief minister Yogi Adityanath accused the DMK of failing to safeguard women during its regime. But Stalin hit out at him saying he had no moral right to speak of women’s safety. Stalin said that according to the data of the Union Government, the highest number of atrocities and sexual assaults against women and girls were reported from Uttar Pradesh.

Shah lashes out at DMK

Union home minister Amit Shah today hit out at the DMK over its leader A Raja’s alleged vulgar remarks against TN chief minister K Palaniswami’s mother, saying it showed the party had no regard for women. The “mothers and sisters” of the state should teach a ‘lesson’ to the DMK in the April 6 Assembly polls by defeating it, he said, adds PTI.

Addressing an election rally here, Shah canvassed votes for NDA candidates-those from the AIADMK, BJP and the PMK,even as he charged the DMK with aiming to romp home in the polls by ‘hook or crook’.

Referring to Raja’s alleged offensive remarks targeted at Palaniswami, leader of the BJP’s ally AIADMK, Shah also accused the DMK and Congress of corruption and dynasty. “In the past, DMK made such bad remarks against (the late Chief Minister) Jayalalithaa ji.




Those above 45 begin getting Covid jabs


More than 6.5 crore vaccine doses have been administered across the country so far to frontline workers, healthcare workers, those above 60 and for people aged above 45 with specified co-co-morbid conditions.

Covid-19 vaccination for all people aged 45 years and above commenced from Thursday, the Union Health Ministry said.

More than 6.5 crore vaccine doses have been administered across the country so far to frontline workers, healthcare workers, those above 60 and for people aged above 45 with specified co-co-morbid conditions.

The countrywide vaccination drive was rolled out on January 16 with healthcare workers (HCWs) getting inoculated and vaccination of frontline workers (FLWs) started from February 2.

The next phase of Covid- 19 vaccination commenced fromMarch 1for those over 60 years of age and for people aged 45 and above with specified co-morbid conditions.

The ministry said so far vaccine doses have been administered to 82,60,293HCWs (1st dose), 52,50,704 HCWs (2nd dose),91,74,171 FLWs (1stdose) and 39,45,796 FLWs (2nd Dose), 78,36,667(1st dose) and 17,849 (2nd dose).

As on Day-75 of the vaccination drive (31st March), 20,63,543 vaccine doses were given. Out of which, 17,94,166 beneficiaries were vaccinated across 39,484 sessions for 1st dose and 2,69,377 beneficiaries received 2nd dose of vaccine.

Vaccination throughout April:

Seeking to exponentially expand the countrywide anticoronavirus inoculation drive, the Centre has decided to keep all public and private sector Covid-19 Vaccination Centres (CVCs) operational throughout April, including on gazetted holidays.

The vaccination exercise continues to be regularly reviewed and monitored at the highest level, the Union Health Ministry highlighted.

~With inputsfrom PTI~




Indian Army to be part of military drill in B’desh


The Indian contingent will comprise 30 personnel, including officers, JCOs and Jawans of a Battalion from the DOGRA Regiment. Contingents of the Royal Bhutan Army and the Sri Lankan Army will also take part in the exercise, a Defence Ministry release said.

An Indian Army contingent will participate in the multinational military exercise, “SHANTIR OGROSHENA 2021” (Front Runner of the Peace) to be hosted by Bangladesh from 4-12 April to commemorate the birth centenary of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and 50 years of the country’s liberation.

The Indian contingent will comprise 30 personnel, including officers, JCOs and Jawans of a Battalion from the DOGRA Regiment. Contingents of the Royal Bhutan Army and the Sri Lankan Army will also take part in the exercise, a Defence Ministry release said.

The theme of the exercise is “Robust Peace-Keeping Operations”. Military observers from the US, UK, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Singapore will also be in attendance throughout the exercise.

The announcement comes days after Prime Minister Narendra Modi visited Bangladesh to participate in the Bangabandhu’s anniversary functions.




Bengal phase 2: Temperatures run high


Statesman News Service | Kolkata/Bankura/East and West Midnapore | 
The phase 2 polling of Assembly elections in West Bengal recorded an overall voter turnout of 80.43 per cent till 5 p.m. amidst sporadic violence with the ruling Trinamul Congress accusing the BJP and Central forces of stopping polling agents and voters from entering polling booths.

Trinamul traded allegations of booth capturing in Nandigram, where chief minister Mamata Banerjee slammed the Election Commission over inaction to complaints filed by her party and threatened to move court over it as well as raised the issue to Governor Jagdeep Dhankhar over phone.

Tension erupted in Nandigram, where Miss Banerjee is locked in a high- stakes electoral battle with her former lieutenant Suvendu Adhikari, who has switched to the BJP, with Trinamul Congress accusing the BJP and the Central forces of stopping voters from casting their votes.
Later in the afternoon, Miss Banerjee rode her wheelchair to the polling booth at Boyal primary school and seated herself outside the booth while the situation aggravated outside.

Mr Sudip Jain, deputy Election Commissioner incharge of Bengal inquired about the Nandigram incident from Chief Electoral Officer Ariz Aftab while special and micro observers spoke to Miss Banerjee at the booth. The Commission has also sought a detailed report from the district administration in connection to this incident.

“There was disturbance between two groups following which tension had ensued. But re-enforcement of forces brought the situation under control,” said Mr Aftab. Till 5 p.m., Bankura recorded the highest voter turnout of 82.92 per cent followed by East Midnapore with 81.23 per cent while South 24 Parganas recorded a voter turnout of 79.65 per cent and West Midnapore saw a turnout of 78.02 per cent. In Nandigram 80.79 per cent voters cast their votes.

“Polling was overall peaceful except a few stray incidents. Twenty eight people were arrested in connection to two incidents in Keshpur in West Midnapore,” said Mr Aftab adding that decision on re-poll would be taken after scrutiny tomorrow.

Earlier, Mr Adhikari’s car was attacked, and stones were pelted while he was visiting booths in the constituency. Two separate stone-pelting incidents took place in Takapura and Satengabari in Nandigram.

A BJP worker was found hanging at his home at Bhekutia in Nandigram, triggering tension in the constituency. The deceased has been identified as Uday Sankar Dubey, a worker of IIT-Kharagpur and his family members lodged a complaint with the police stating that he committed suicide as some unidentified Trinamul workers had threatened him after he attended Mithun Chakraborty’s rally in the area.

Soon after polling started it was reported that a TMC worker, identified as Uttam Dolui, was stabbed to death in the early hours today. SP of West Midnapore said that some unidentified miscreants killed a TMC worker with a sharp weapon last night in Dadpur. Eight have been arrested in connection with the murder.

A BJP polling agent at booth number 173 in Keshpur was beaten up allegedly by TMC workers and was rushed to a hospital. BJP leader Tanmay Ghosh’s car was also vandalised.

Bharti Ghosh, BJP candidate from Debra constituency, alleged that her polling agent was surrounded by TMC goons in Nowpara booth no 22 of Anchal-1 who were not letting him inside the booth.

There are a few sporadic incidents of violence in Chandipur, Nandigram, Keshpur, Ghatal and Chandrakona. Few media persons were attacked and their vehicles were damaged.

In the Gosaba area of South 24 Parganas, clashes were reported between Trinamul and BJP supporters while in the Mahisadal seat, the Trinamul alleged BJP workers had stopped voters from going to the polling stations.

An overall peaceful polling was witnessed in Bankura. In booth number 73 and 74 of Sonamukhi, trouble ensued after BJP polling agent was allegedly beaten up with sticks by Trinamul workers but police reached the spot bringing the situation under control.

Polling in a few booths were stalled for few hours due to technical problems. A total of 87 VVPATS were replaced while 12 EVMs reported malfunctioning in the district. CPI-M delegation led by senior leader Rabin Deb complained to the EC against BJP and Trinamul workers for blocking voters from entering polling booths in Keshpur, Chandrakona and Ghatal




Campaign ends for high-voltage ‘khela’


All eyes set on Nandigram where Mamata Banerjee takes on her protege-turned-rival Suvendu Adhikari

All eyes are on battleground Nandigram, where West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee has locked horns with her protege- turned-rival Suvendu Adhikari.

The campaigning in the constituency, which will go to the polls on April 1, ended at 5 p.m. today.

The stage is all set for the voting in 30 constituencies spread across four districts on April 1. The fate of 171 candidates will be decided in the second phase by 75,94,549 voters who will exercise their franchise in 10,620 polling booths spread across the 30 constituencies, the Election Commission sources said.

All the booths where polling will be held in the second phase have been declared as “sensitive” by the EC, sources in it said.

It will deploy total 651 companies of Central Armed Police for this phase of election which will be held in Bankura (Part II), Purba Medinipur (Part II), Paschim Medinipur (Part II) and South 24 Parganas (Part I), they said.

A total of 199 companies of CAPF will be deployed in Purba Medinipur, 210 companies in Paschim Medinipur, 170 in South 24 Parganas and 72 in Bankura, the sources said.

The final day of the campaigning saw hectic canvassing for the Nandigram seat in Purba Medinipur district where Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee is facing BJP leader and her former follower Suvendu Adhikari.

Union Home Minister Amit Shah held roadshows with Bengal’s megastar Mithun Chakraborty in support of Adhikari in Nandigram during the day, while Banerjee, who is confined to a wheelchair following her injury which she had sustained while campaigning in the constituency, crisscrossed it addressing rallies at several venues.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Shah and BJP national president J P Nadda had led BJP’s campaign from the front addressing rallies at Kanthi and Nandigram and urging the electorate to vote for the saffron party to usher in ‘ashol poriborton’ (actual change) to build ‘Sonar Bangla’ (prosperous Bengal).

Modi in his rallies had attacked the TMC government and Banerjee, accusing her of “appeasement politics” and asserting that “khela shesh hobe” (game will be over).

Other star campaigners of the BJP stressed on various scams of the ruling Trinamool Congress – from the Saradha and Narada tape scam to the recent allegations over the siphoning of funds for Amphan relief and the Covid-19 pandemic.

They highlighted the achievements of the BJPled government at the Centre in their rallies and blamed the TMC government for not allowing schemes like the Ayushman Bharat, PM Kisan Samman Nidhi to be implemented in the state, where the BJP leaders claimed corruption and anarchy are prevalent.

Banerjee, who has chosen to contest from Nandigram instead of from her home seat Bhowanipore in the city, stayed put there and campaigned from her wheelchair.

The feisty politician held two back-to-back rallies in Paschim Medinipur despite the early summer heat urging people to vote for TMC so that the development work taken up there by the government continued.

Banerjee, who was accompanied by TMC MP Abhishek Banerjee attacked the Adhikary family, calling them “gaddars” (traitors) and “Mir Jafars” and asked people not to vote for them.

“Bangla wants her own daughter (Mamata). So vote for her,” Abhishek Banerjee urged in his meetings.

~With inputs from PTI~




India calls for ‘double peace’ in Afghanistan; acceleration of dialogue


“For a durable peace in Afghanistan, what we need is a genuine ‘double peace’, that is, peace within Afghanistan and peace around Afghanistan. It requires harmonising the interests of all, both within and around that country,’’ external affairs minister S Jaishankar said while addressing the ninth ministerial conference of “Heart of Asia’’ on Afghanistan being held at the Tajikistan capital of Dushanbe.

Supporting efforts to accelerate the dialogue process between the Afghan government and the Taliban, including the intra- Afghan negotiations, India today called for an immediate reduction in violence leading to a permanent and comprehensive ceasefire in the war-torn nation.

“For a durable peace in Afghanistan, what we need is a genuine ‘double peace’, that is, peace within Afghanistan and peace around Afghanistan. It requires harmonising the interests of all, both within and around that country,’’ external affairs minister S Jaishankar said while addressing the ninth ministerial conference of “Heart of Asia’’ on Afghanistan being held at the Tajikistan capital of Dushanbe.

The conference is being held at the joint initiative of Afghanistan and Tajikistan. It is part of the Istanbul Process ~ a regional initiative on security and cooperation for a stable and peaceful Afghanistan ~ that was launched on 2 November, 2011 in Turkey.

Apart from India, it is being attended by Afghanistan, Turkey, Iran, Pakistan, China, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Iran and Central Asian countries.

Jaishankar said if the peace process was to be successful, it was necessary to ensure that the negotiating parties continue to engage in good faith, with a serious commitment towards reaching a political solution.

However, the situation in Afghanistan, Jaishankar said, continued to be cause for grave concern. Violence and bloodshed were daily realities.

He pointed out how New Delhi had remained committed to steadfastly supporting the war ravaged country. “Our development partnership of $3 billion is aimed at making Afghanistan a self-sustaining nation.




Pak desires peace: Imran writes to Modi


“We are convinced that durable peace in South Asia is contingent upon resolving all issues between India and Pakistan, particularly the Jammu and Kashmir dispute,” he said in the letter sent in response to the message received by him from Modi last week on the occasion of ‘Pakistan Day’.

Amid attempts by key Gulf nations to bring India and Pakistan to the negotiating table, Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan has written to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, saying the people of his country desired peaceful cooperative relations with all countries, including India.

“We are convinced that durable peace in South Asia is contingent upon resolving all issues between India and Pakistan, particularly the Jammu and Kashmir dispute,” he said in the letter sent in response to the message received by him from Modi last week on the occasion of ‘Pakistan Day’.

Khan is believed to have stated that the creation of an enabling environment was imperative for a constructive and result-oriented dialogue between the two countries. He also conveyed to Modi his best wishes for the people of India in the fight against Covid-19.

In his letter sent on 22 March, Modi had stated that India desired “cordial relations” with Pakistan in an environment “devoid of terror”.

The exchange of letters between the two Prime Ministers follows efforts being made by Saudi Arabia and the UAE to bring down the temperature between the two South Asian neighbours and persuade them to resume the stalled dialogue after more than two years of heightened tensions in the wake of the Pulwama terror attack and the Balakot airstrikes.

But in February, the two countries agreed to abide by the 2003 ceasefire agreement at the LoC in letter and spirit. They also last week concluded water-sharing talks in New Delhi on a positive note.

However, the much-anticipated meeting between the foreign ministers of the two countries on the sidelines of the ‘Heart of Asia’ conference on Afghanistan in the Tajikistan capital of Dushanbe did not fructify today.




Modi slams Cong-DMK’s ‘anti-women’ mindset


Prime Minister dubs former Union telecom minister A Raja ‘outdated 2G missile’ of Congress & DMK

Amid black flag protests and arrests, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had a whirlwind campaign in Tamil Nadu and Puducherry today. #GoBack- Modi also trended ahead of the PM’s visit to campaign.

Campaigning for NDA candidates at Dharapuram in Tiruppur district, Modi accused the Congress-DMK culture to insult women and the Opposition’s ‘anti-women mindset’ extended to other states as well like West Bengal, where an elderly woman Shova Majumdar lost her life.

The NDA by contrast, believes that the nation’s development can only start with women empowerment. In his speech, Modi referred to Dindigul Leoni’s sexist remarks on women while campaigning for the DMK, and also reminded of the assault on J Jayalalithaa in Tamil Nadu Assembly in 1989.

In a veiled attack, the PM dubbed former Union telecom minister A Raja, as an ‘outdated 2G missile’ of the Congress and DMK and slammed him for insulting chief minister Edappadi K Palaniswami’s mother and targeting Tamil Nadu women.

Chief minister Palaniswami and deputy chief minister O Panneerselvam, and BJP TN candidates shared stage with Modi. Modi started his speech with slogan to rever lord Murugan, ‘Vetrivel Veeravel’ after receiving a Vel (spear) from BJP state unit president L Murugan.

While seeking vote for NDA candidates Modi said: “People are expecting a rail link and the Union government is positively looking into the demand. We are making efforts to make technical and medical language courses available in the local language, if possible. If you vote for NDA, it’s a vote to solve long-standing issues.”

Making scathing attack on opponents in the fray, the DMK and Congress alliance, Modi said while NDA’s agenda is development, the Congress and DMK have their own ‘dynasty agenda.’ The speeches of the leaders of these parties had nothing positive to offer and they hardly talk about their vision or work and all they do is ‘demean’ others and spread ‘lies’.

Today Congress and DMK have insulted the respected mother of Tamil Nadu chief minister Palaniswami, he alleged. “God forbid, if they come to power, they will insult many other women of Tamil Nadu.”

“Insulting women is a part of DMK and Congress culture. When the crown prince of DMK (Stalin’s son Udhayanidhi Stalin) sidelined many senior leaders and made horrible remarks, DMK did nothing to stop him.

He recalled the infamous episode in Tamil Nadu Assembly on 25 March, 1989 when late AIADMK supremo, J Jayalalithaa (then leader of the Opposition) was attacked allegedly by DMK leaders. DMK-Congress will not safeguard women, he said.

Meanwhile, police on Tuesday arrested social activist Mugilan for his attempt to show a black flag to the PM. Several protesters were arrested for showing black flag ahead of PM’s visit. In Dharapuram, farmers who held black balloons were detained.




Coronavirus situation going from ‘bad to worse, huge cause of worry’ says Government


“Trends show the virus is still very active and enter our defences, just when we think we can control it, it sparks back,” said VK Paul, Chairman of National Expert Committee on Vaccine Administration at the briefing by the health ministry amidst the surge in Covid-19 cases.

The Union Health Ministry on Tuesday said that the coronavirus situation in the country is going ‘from bad to worse’ and it is a huge cause of worry.

“Trends show the virus is still very active and enter our defences, just when we think we can control it, it sparks back,” said VK Paul, Chairman of National Expert Committee on Vaccine Administration at the briefing by the health ministry amidst the surge in Covid-19 cases.

He, however, denied that the surge in the Covid-19 cases is due to the mutated strains. He said that the states have been asked to strictly enforce Covid-appropriate behaviour and stressed the use of masks.

“Use the law, use fine as an option. People need to wear a mask,” he said.

While discussing the situation in various states, VK Paul said that Punjab is neither doing ‘an adequate number of tests nor is isolating infected people properly’ and that Karnataka also needs to improve testing and isolation.

He said, “Punjab is neither doing adequate number of tests nor is isolating infected people properly. Maharashtra has 3.37 lakh active cases. Death has increased from 32 in Feb to 118 now. Karnataka needs to improve testing and isolation.”

Delhi has been taken as one district and it is among the top 10 Covid-19 high burden districts. Eight of these districts are from Maharashtra he added.

NITI Aayog’s Member (Health) VK Paul emphasised contact tracing, quarantining, isolation. He said, “We have taken pride that fatality has been low. But the death rate is now at four times — at 271 from 73. The virus needs to be eliminated.”

“We want to emphasize that without contact tracing, quarantining, isolation etc. we cannot contain the virus,” he added.

He denied that there is an Indian variant of the virus and said that the ‘virus shift drift and shift’. He said, “There is a concept of virus shift drift and shift. There is no such thing as an Indian strain. It is not a cause to panic.”

The ministry, in the briefing, said that 855 patients in India have been found to be affected with the UK, South African and Brazilian mutant variants of coronavirus in which 807 Covid-19 cases are of UK variant, 47 of the South African and one with the Brazilian variant. A total of 11,064 samples were subjected to genome sequencing.

The government has told that there should be saturation of vaccination for priority age groups in districts that are reporting surge in cases.

As of March 30, 6.11 lakh vaccine doses have been administered.

India recorded 56,211 new coronavirus cases in the last 24 hours taking the total tally to 1,20,95,855 on Tuesday. Maharashtra, Punjab, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and Gujarat continue to report a surge in daily new cases.

NITI Aayog’s Member Paul cautioned about the situation and said that if cases surge it will ‘overwhelm the system.’ He said, “We are facing an increasingly severe intensive situation, more so in some districts but the whole country is potentially at risk. If the cases are more, they will eventually overwhelm the system. The deaths will also occur, even if they are low. If it is business as usual, we will continue to be chased by the virus.”

He assured that the country has sufficient capacities in the hospitals, ambulance services and ICU beds are functional.




Covid resurge: India reports 59,118 new cases in 24 hours


The national recovery rate is 95.09 per cent. A total of 32,987 recoveries were registered in the last 24 hours.

India reported 59,118 Coronavirus cases in the last 24 hours pushing the total tally to 1,18,46,652 on Friday. According to the Health Ministry, Maharashtra and Punjab are turning out to be the highest contributors to the new surge. A net incline of 25,874 cases was recorded from the total active caseload in the last 24 hours.

Three states~ Maharashtra, Kerala and Punjab together account for 73.64 per cent of the total active cases in the country. Of the 59,118 new cases reported in the last 24 hours through out the country, Maharashtra contributed 35,952, followed by Punjab with 2,661 while Karnataka reported 2,523 new cases ~which comes to 41,136 alone.

Ten states~ Maharashtra, Gujarat, Punjab, Madhya Pradesh, Delhi Tamil Nadu, Chhattisgarh, Karnataka, Haryana and Rajasthan~ are displaying an upward trajectory in daily new cases, it highlighted India’s cumulative recoveries stand at 1,12,64,637 as on the day.

The national recovery rate is 95.09 per cent. A total of 32,987 recoveries were registered in the last 24 hours.

The Central government is closely monitoring and actively engaging with states and union territories over the rising cases in the country. With death of 257 people in the last 24 hours, the fatality toll has reached 1,60,949 in India.

The active caseload in country has mounted to 4,21,066. With the discharge of 32,987 patients in a day, a total of 1,12,64,637 persons have been discharged so far. So far, 5.55 crore doses of Corona vaccine have been administered in the country since the drive began on 16 January.





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