Today Picture



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Prime Minister dubs former Union telecom minister A Raja ‘outdated 2G missile’ of Congress & DMK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




7.72% polling in Bengal in first two hours


The BJP workers also complained about Trinamool workers “unleashing terror” in poll-bound districts in collusion with a section of the state police.

There has been 7.72 per cent voter turnout recorded till 9 a.m., in the first phase of polling for the 294-seat West Bengal Assembly, said the Election Commission on Saturday.

More than 73 lakh voters will exercise their franchise polling for 30 seats with 191 candidates in the fray. The first phase includes those seats from the Jungal Mahal area in the south-western fringes that are considered sensitive as voting began at 7 a.m.

Of the five assembly elections, West Bengal has the maximum number of seats and highest phases staggered into eight.

Seven seats in Purba Medinipur — Patashpur, Kanthi Uttar, Bhagabanpur, Khejuri, Kanthi Dakshin, Ramnagar and Egra — are ticked of as sensitive.

The polls are being closely watched because of prestige battles between Suvendu Adhikari, a former Trinamool Congress man, who is now facing his erstwhile supremo Mamata Banerjee in Nandigram.

Trinamool has complained to the Election Commission that they apprehend voters to be threatened in Nandigram. Raising concerns about voter safety in the state and the party approached the EC on Friday saying electorates were already being intimidated in Nandigram, Bhagwanpur, and Haripur.

Media reports showed an election vehicle being set on fire in Purulia’s Bandwan, hours before the polling began. There was tension reported from Tulsidi village where the fire incident took place. Security forces are keeping a close vigil in the area, surrounded by forests that were once Maoist hideouts.

Trinamool MPs Derek O’Brien and Kakoli Ghosh Dastidar have visited the EC office in Kolkata to raise the issue. “Many people with criminal records are living in Nandigram, Bhagwanpur and Haripur — are not voters of the constituency. Voters are being scared and threatened. The Election Commission should ensure voters’ safety,” Dastidar said.

O’Brien tweeted: On May 2, Trinamool will win Bengal”, and posted a chequered flag emoji highlighting three main points — Bengal’s daughter (Mamata Banerjee) will defeat Bengal’s traitor (Adhikari) in his ‘backyard’ in Nandigram.

He slammed Modi and Shah calling them members of the Tourist Gang, and, adding that, “Women in Bengal will continue to wear saris any way they want.”

Reports of EVM malfunction were reported from two polling booths in Kharagpur. The EVMs in booth number 98, 99 had stopped working temporarily due to a technical glitch, reports in the media said. The people said they waited for over two hours to cast their votes.

In Purulia, allegations were raised by the BJP against former minister and Trinamool candidate of purportedly distributing cash among the voters. The BJP has filed a complaint with the poll body.

The BJP workers also complained about Trinamool workers “unleashing terror” in poll-bound districts in collusion with a section of the state police.

Earlier in the day, Prime Minister Narendra Modi urged voters in a tweet: “Today, Phase 1 of the West Bengal Assembly elections begin. I would request all those who are voters in the seats polling today to exercise their franchise in record numbers”, just before polling got underway in the state around 7 a.m.




10% turnout in 1st phase Assam Assembly polls


The 126-member Assam Assembly will go to the polls in three phases.

Around 10 per cent voters have cast their ballots so far on Saturday in the first phase of the Assam Assembly polls which is underway amid tight security in 47 constituencies, according to election officials.

Men and women in large numbers queued up in front of the polling stations well before the voting started at 7 a.m.

Polling will continue till 6 p.m as the Election Commission extended the time by an hour in view of the Covid-19 induced situations.

A total of 8,109,815 voters, including 4,032,481 females, are eligible to cast their votes across 11,537 polling stations mostly covering the eastern Assam’s 12 districts.

The first phase of polling will decide the fate of 264 candidates, including Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal (Majuli), Assembly Speaker Hitendra Nath Goswami (Jorhat), state Congress chief Ripun Bora (Gohpur), Asom Gana Parishad chief Atul Bora (Bokakhat), Congress Legislature Party leader Debabrata Saikia (Nazira), jailed Raijor Dal President Akhil Gogoi (Sivasagar) and Assam Jatiya Parishad President Lurinjyoti Gogoi (Duliajan).

Twenty-three women aspirants are also in the fray.

Covid-19 protocols for the voters, including social distancing and thermal screening, are being maintained.

In the 2016 elections, the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party-led alliance secured 35 of the 47 seats, while the Congress won nine and the remaining three seats by other parties.

According to the election officials, over 30,000 Central Armed Police Forces along with thousands of state security forces have been deployed to maintain law and order during this phase.

No untoward incident has been reported so far from any of the 12 districts where the balloting processes are underway.

In a unique gesture, the election officials donated saplings to the voters in the model polling stations, which were decorated with colourful balloons.

The 126-member Assam Assembly will go to the polls in three phases.

The other phases will be held on April 1 (39 seats) and April 6 (40 seats).

The results will be declared on May 2.




Biden invites PM Modi to climate summit


The Climate Summit will be Modi’s second multilateral virtual meeting with Biden.

US President Joe Biden has invited 40 heads of state, including Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, to join him for the World Leaders Summit on Climate to be hosted by his administration on April 22-23.

The other leaders including Presidents Xi Jinping of China and Vladimir Putin of Russia, and Prime Ministers Sheikh Hasina of Bangladesh and Lotay Tshering of Bhutan have also been invited to the virtual meeting to highlight the urgency of action to combat climate change, the White House said on Friday.

European leaders including German Chancellor Angela Merkel, French President Emmanuel Macron and UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson were invited.

So were Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz, Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

“The Leaders Summit on Climate will underscore the urgency, and the economic benefits, of stronger climate action. It will be a key milestone on the road to the UN Climate Change Conference (COP26) this November in Glasgow,” the White House said.

The virtual summit will be live-streamed for people everywhere to watch the proceedings.

Biden has made fighting climate change a pillar of both his foreign and domestic policies and one of his first actions on taking office in January was to have the US rejoin the Paris Climate Change Agreement.

The summit is meant to position Biden, and the US, as the global leader in meeting the climate change challenge and boost his stature.

“By the time of the summit, the US will announce an ambitious 2030 emissions target as its new Nationally Determined Contribution under the Paris Agreement for limiting the damage from climate change, the White House said.

Biden has asked all US government agencies to come up with ways to cut greenhouse emissions and harness green energy.

He appointed former Secretary of State John Kerry to be his international emissary for climate change reflecting the high priority it has on his agenda.

He is reaching out to the leaders of China and Russia, who he has harshly criticised over their human rights record and their international rivalry with the US to work together on the climate agenda despite their differences.

Biden wants countries around the world to take steps to limit emissions to a level that would limit planetary warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius “in order to stave off the worst impacts of climate change”, the White House said.

“The President urged leaders to use the Summit as an opportunity to outline how their countries also will contribute to stronger climate ambition.”

India will be under US pressure to cut its greenhouse gas emissions by being shown as the world’s third-highest emitter of greenhouse gases after Beijing and Washington.

However, that picture is misleading as on a per capita basis the US emissions were nearly nine times that of India.

An Indian emitted only 1.96 tonnes of greenhouse gases in a year, while an American was responsible for 16.56 tonnes.

For all the posturing and preaching, Biden or the climate change activists in the US are not going to bring down the US per capita emissions anywhere near the Indian level while demanding that India cut down its emissions overall.

India is already promoting green energy to eventually eliminate fossil fuel-generated electricity.

It is reportedly working on a goal of achieving a net-zero emissions by 2050. Net-zero emission is achieved by removing all greenhouse gases that are put out by various means ranging from aforestation to technologies to capture the emissions.

The Climate Summit will be Modi’s second multilateral virtual meeting with Biden.

Earlier this month, Biden and Modi were joined by Prime Minister Yoshihide Sugo of Japan and Scott Morrison of Australia at a summit of the Quad.




Two astronomy labs opened for students in Ladakh


The Lt. Governor shared the idea conceived to convert Hanley into a dark sky sanctuary and to explore possibilities to promote virtual tourism in Ladakh which he said would generate entrepreneurial opportunities for the local youth.

In a first, two astronomy labs were on Friday dedicated to students in Ladakh by the Lt. Governor RK Mathur and Prof. K Vijay Raghavan, principal scientific adviser to the government of India.

These labs have been established one each at Kendriya Vidyalaya, Leh and Kendriya Vidyalaya, Kargil. These have been sponsored by Shiv Nadar Foundation.

Addressing the gathering, the Lt. Governor said that environment protection was one of the aspirations of Ladakhi people in the newly formed UT of Ladakh. “I believe that knowing one’s environment is the best way to preserve and protect the environment and setting up of these astronomy labs is a culmination of this thought towards a practical understanding of the extra-ordinary clean environment of Ladakh,” said Mathur. He said these astronomy labs would benefit not only school children and youth at large but could be utilized as a stepping stone to promote Astro tourism in Ladakh.

The Lt. Governor shared the idea conceived to convert Hanley into a dark sky sanctuary and to explore possibilities to promote virtual tourism in Ladakh which he said would generate entrepreneurial opportunities for the local youth. He also pointed out the need to utilised the enriched environment of Hanley for continuous research programme by researchers and experts from India and abroad. He asked for continued support from the Principal Scientific Adviser and Indian Institute of Astro Physics to get these ideas conceptualized on ground.

Prof. Raghavan spoke of the rich legacy that India holds in the history of Astronomy citing Aryabatta and modern tradition using telescopes. He said that every child can aspire to be an astronomer and excel in the field of Astrophysics. This should not remain restricted to a particular section of the society. He said that these Astronomy labs will allow the Ladakhi children to unfold their ambition and inspire them to become world class scientists.




Modi hails B’desh’s achievements on eve of Dhaka visit


Modi said he was happy that his first foreign visit after the onset of the pandemic would be to a friendly neighbouring country, with which India shares deep cultural, linguistic and people-to-people ties.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi today said his two-day state visit to Bangladesh from tomorrow would be an occasion to convey to Dhaka India’s appreciation of the remarkable economic and developmental strides made by the neighbouring country under the leadership of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina.

In a statement on the eve of his departure, he said he would also convey to the Bangladesh leadership India’s abiding support for the achievements made by the country and express New Delhi’s support and solidarity for Bangladesh’s fight against Covid-19. Modi said he was happy that his first foreign visit after the onset of the pandemic would be to a friendly neighbouring country, with which India shares deep cultural, linguistic and people-to-people ties.

“I look forward to my participation at the National Day celebrations tomorrow, which will also commemorate the birth centenary of the Father of the Nation of Bangladesh, Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman. Bangabandhu was one of the tallest leaders of the last Century, whose life and ideals continue to inspire millions. I look forward to visiting Bangabandhu’s Samadhi in Tungipara to pay my respects to his memory,” he said. He said he also looked forward to offering prayers to Goddess Kali at the ancient Jashoreshwari Kali Temple, one of the 51 Shaktipeeths in the Puranic tradition.

“I am particularly looking forward to my interaction with representatives of the Matua community at Orakandi, from where Sri Sri- Harichandra Thakur ji disseminated his pious message,” the Prime Minister said.

He said he would have substantive discussions with Sheikh Hasina following their very productive virtual summit in December last year.

He said he also looked forward to his meeting with Bangladesh President Abdul Hamid, and interactions with other Bangladeshi dignitaries.

Modi’s visit to Bangladesh starts a day before the first phase of voting in the Assembly elections in West Bengal where the BJP is involved in virtually a straight contest with Mamata Banerjee’s Trinamul Congress.

A number of agreements will be signed and new announcements for intensifying cooperation in key areas will be made during the Prime Minister’s visit, Foreign Secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla told the media.

The areas in which pacts are likely to be signed include disaster management, trade and oceanography. New announcements of cooperation will be made in areas like culture, health, preservation of spirit of 1971, railways, education, border development, power cooperation and start-ups.




SC sets aside NCLAT order reinstating Cyrus Mistry as Tata Sons chairperson


A bench headed by Chief Justice S.A. Bobde said all questions of law are in favour of Tata Group and dismissed the appeals filed by Mistry. The top court upheld the Tata Sons decision to sack Cyrus Mistry on October 24, 2016.

In a huge victory for Tata Group, the Supreme Court on Friday accepted all contentions of the Tata conglomerate and set aside the order of the NCLAT, which restored Cyrus Mistry as the executive chairman of the Tata conglomerate.

A bench headed by Chief Justice S.A. Bobde said all questions of law are in favour of Tata Group and dismissed the appeals filed by Mistry. The top court upheld the Tata Sons decision to sack Cyrus Mistry on October 24, 2016.

Shapoorji Pallonji Group counsel had argued that Mistry was removed because he was going to place a draft governance structure at the Board meeting on October 24, 2016.

“We find all the questions of law are liable to be answered in favour of the appellants (Tata Group) and the appeals filed by the Tata Group are liable to be allowed and Shapoorji Pallonji group is liable to be dismissed,” said the top court.

The top court said the value of SP Group shares will depend on the valuation by Tata Sons equities and the court will not determine the fair value.

In December 2019, the NCLAT had ruled that the proceedings of the Board meeting of Tata Sons held on October 24, 2016 removing Cyrus Mistry as chairperson was illegal.





Top