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Delhi Cabinet clears establishment of 100 ‘Schools of Specialised Excellence’


The NEP advocates for gifted students to be provided with adequate enrichment opportunities, guidance and encouragement.

The Delhi government plans to establish ‘Schools of Specialised Excellence’ to cater to the needs of students, enrolled in government schools, who are gifted in various areas of study such as science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM), performing and visual arts, humanities and high-end 21st century skills.

The Delhi Cabinet today approved the establishment of about 100 such schools. These schools will be choicebased and will cover grades 9 to 12 — the last four years in the 5+3+3+4 framework of schooling introduced by the New Education Policy (NEP)- 2020.

The NEP advocates for gifted students to be provided with adequate enrichment opportunities, guidance and encouragement.

Deputy Chief Minister and Education Minister Manish Sisodia said, “As we are going to live in an era of specialisation and excellence, our children need an opportunity to be ready for the next-generation challenges. Every child is unique and gifted. We want to ensure that they get the opportunity and the support to achieve higher success in their lives. Schools of Specialised Excellence will provide the right platform to our children to nurture their talent and excel in areas of their specialised interests.”

Sisodia also shared that while all schools of the Delhi government will be upgraded to the level of the existing RPVVs and SoE, these new Schools of Specialised Excellence will nurture specialisation among children having special aptitude and interest in the four domains. Operating with the vision of discovering and nurturing innate talents in gifted students, Schools of Specialised Excellence will focus on providing holistic and experiential learning opportunities through state-of-the-art infrastructure, creativity and problemsolving focused learning and teaching, strong partnerships with universities and industry leaders, mentorship schemes and easy access to role models to empower students to achieve their highest potential.

Sisodia said these schools hold the potential to serve as examples of how providing the correct environment and opportunities to students can catapult them from even the most marginalised backgrounds to great heights of success in various fields. These schools will act as hubs of excellence in their respective zones and provide other schools with inspiration and technical knowhow to foster excellence.




India reducing dependence on oil import, exploration of oil and gas underway in country


Oil Industry Development Cess at the rate of 20% ad valorem is applicable on crude oils produced from pre-NELP blocks and at present, there is no such proposal to amend the rate of cess.

The government is making all efforts to reduce import dependence. India’s oil and oil equivalent gas import dependence in 2014-15 and 2015-16 were 68.9% and 72.2% respectively and during current April-January, 2020-21 is 77.1%.

Oil Industry Development Cess at the rate of 20% ad valorem is applicable on crude oils produced from pre-NELP blocks and at present, there is no such proposal to amend the rate of cess.

Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas has taken several steps inter alia promotion of renewable and alternate fuels like ethanol, second-generation ethanol, compressed biogas and biodiesel, promotion of natural gas as clean fuel/feedstock in the country with a view to moving towards a gas-based economy, refinery process improvements, promoting energy efficiency and conservation, efforts for increasing production of oil and natural gas through various policies under Production Sharing Contract (PSC) regime, Discovered Small Field Policy, Hydrocarbon Exploration and Licensing Policy, Setting up of National Data Repository, etc.

The government has also provided functional freedom to National Oil Companies and wider private sector participation by streamlining approval processes including an electronic single-window mechanism. Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas is also working in collaboration with various Central Government Ministries/stakeholders to make efforts to achieve a reduction in import dependency on oil.

Exploration of Oil and gas in the country are taking place under:

Nomination Regime – by ONGC and OIL

PSC/RSC Regime – by Indian & Foreign Companies & JVs, including PSUs

At present, Exploration and Production activities are taking place ~2,75,000 sq. km area across different sedimentary basins across India in onshore and offshore areas under Nomination, PSC and RSC Regimes.

This information was given by the Union Minister for Petroleum and Natural Gas Dharmendra Pradhan in a written reply in the Lok Sabha on Monday.




PM Modi launches ‘Jal Shakti Abhiyan: Catch the Rain’ campaign on World Water Day


The Prime Minister also interacted with sarpanches and ward panches in Rajasthan, Uttarakhand, Karnataka, Maharashtra and Gujarat.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi launched the ‘Jal Shakti Abhiyan: Catch the Rain’ campaign on World Water Day, i.e. today via video conferencing. A Memorandum of Agreement was signed between the Union Minister of Jal Shakti and the Chief Ministers of Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh to implement the Ken Betwa Link Project, the first project of the National Perspective Plan for interlinking of rivers, in the presence of the Prime Minister.

The Prime Minister also interacted with sarpanches and ward panches in Rajasthan, Uttarakhand, Karnataka, Maharashtra and Gujarat.

Speaking on the occasion, the Prime Minister said on International Water Day, a major step has also been taken for the Ken-Betwa Link Canal along with the introduction of the Catch The Rain campaign. He added this agreement is important to realize Atal Ji’s dream in the interest of millions of families of Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh. He said rapid development is not possible without water security and effective water management. He added that the vision of India’s development and India’s self-reliance is dependent on our water sources and our Water Connectivity.

The Prime Minister noted that the challenge of the water crisis is increasing equally with India’s development. He said it is the responsibility of the present generation of the country to fulfill its responsibility for the generations to come. He asserted that the government has made water governance a priority in its policies and decisions.

The Prime Minister pointed out that the better India manages rainwater, the lesser the country’s dependence on groundwater. Therefore, the success of campaigns like ‘Catch the Rain’ is very important. He noted that both urban and rural areas have been included in the Jal Shakti Abhiyan. He called upon to step up water conservation efforts in the days leading up to Monsoon. Emphasizing the importance of sarpanches and DMs/DCs, The Prime Minister said that the ‘Jal Shapath’ which is being organized all over the country should become everybody’s pledge and second nature. He said when our nature changes with respect to water, nature will also support us.




States tighten Covid-19 curbs


India records biggest jump in cases in 4 months with close to 40,000 new cases added in span of 24 hours.

India on Friday added close to 40,000 new Covid-19 cases in the biggest daily increase in nearly four months, even as states such as Maharashtra and Punjab, which account for much of the surge in cases, imposed fresh restrictions in a bid to control the spread of the virus (see side-bars).

Union health minister Harsh Vardhan, meanwhile, told Parliament that the Covid-19 vaccination drive will be extended in the coming days.

He also said it is not necessary, scientifically, to administer the vaccine to each and every person in the country.

The Union Health Ministry, in its morning bulletin, reported 39,726 new coronavirus cases in the previous 24 hours, the highest since November last year, taking the total tally to 1,15,14,331.

The country has registered an increase in the number active cases for the ninth consecutive day, reaching 2,71,282 as of Friday morning.

A net rise of 18,918 cases was recorded in the total active caseload in a span of 24 hours. With the death of 154 people in the last 24 hours, the fatality toll has reached 1,59,370, according to the Health Ministry’s bulletin issued at 8 a.m.

Apart from Maharashtra and Punjab, the states of Karnataka, Gujarat and Chhattisgarh are also reporting a surge in daily Covid19 cases, the five states accounting for over 80 per cent of the new infections. A day after Maharashtra witnessed the highest oneday spike of 25,833 Covid19 cases, the state recorded 25,681 cases on Friday, according to the state health department, with Mumbai reported the highest spike of 3,062 new infections.

Punjab reported 2,369 new cases in a 24-hour period while Kerala reported 1,899 new cases, the health ministry said in its morning update.

The new cases in Punjab rose by 2,490 on Friday, according to a state medical bulletin issued in the evening. During the Question Hour in the Lok Sabha, Union health minister Harsh Vardhan said India has vaccinated 3.5 to 4 crore people so far and side effects of the vaccines has been recorded at 0.000432 per cent.

“Every vaccine doesn’t require universal immunisation and all these priority groups whom we are vaccinating today like healthcare staff first and then senior citizens and people aged between 45 and 59 years, it will be extended in the coming days, all these are based on experts’ opinion.




Military cooperation, eastern Ladakh on US defence secy’s agenda in talks with India


India and the USA may also discuss measures to encourage American companies to set up local manufacturing facilities for defence equipment, including possibilities of joint ventures with Indian partners.

The situation in the IndoPacific region, China’s aggressive behaviour against its neighbours and a strong India-US defence and strategic partnership are likely to figure prominently during US Secretary of Defence Lloyd Austin’s talks with Indian leaders, sources said today.

Mr Austin arrived here this evening on a three-day visit, becoming the first top American leader to visit India since the inauguration of the Joe Biden administration in January.

Mr Austin will hold talks with Defence Minister Rajnath Singh tomorrow and also call on Prime Minister Narendra Modi.


 
Defence Secretary Ajay Kumar, Chief of Defence Staff, General Bipin Rawat and the three services chiefs are likely to be part of the Indian delegation at the talks.

Mr Austin was scheduled to meet National Security Adviser (NSA) Ajit Doval late in the evening.

Mr Austin is the first US Secretary of Defence to include India on his maiden foreign trip, reflecting the importance the new administration in Washington gives to ties with New Delhi.

The visit comes days after the virtual summit of four ‘Quad’ countries attended by Prime Minister Modi, President Biden, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga.

The leaders decided to work towards an “open and rule-based” Indo-Pacific region in the backdrop of the aggressive posturing by China on maritime and territorial issues. Sources said China’s aggression in Eastern Ladakh is also likely to come up during the talks since Mr Austin is arriving in New Delhi after visits to Japan and South Korea, two of Washington’s key allies which have their own disputes with Beijing.

India and the USA may also discuss measures to encourage American companies to set up local manufacturing facilities for defence equipment, including possibilities of joint ventures with Indian partners.

India’s decision to purchase S-400 Triumf air defence systems from Russia may also come up. However, India is yet again expected to convey to the US administration its decision to continue diversifying its defence imports keeping in mind the country’s security needs in a volatile region.




Narendra Modi meets US Defence Secretary; stresses commitment to partnership


It is particularly highlighted in the Indo-Pacific region and the US is responding by working closely with allies and partners.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi has met with US Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin and stressed the commitment to the strategic partnership between the two countries amid rising tensions in the region and around the world with China.

Modi tweeted after their meeting on Friday, “Pleasure to meet U.S. @SecDef Lloyd Austin today. Conveyed my best wishes to @POTUS @JoeBiden. India and US are committed to our strategic partnership that is a force for global good.”

Austin also met with National Security Adviser Ajit Doval, according to the US embassy.

Soon after his arrival, Austin tweeted that his discussions in India would centre on cooperating to face “most pressing challenges” in the Indo-Pacific region where China’s aggressive actions, from the Himalayas to the South China Sea are on the rise.

He is scheduled to meet Defence Minister Rajnath Singh and the delegations from the two countries are to hold discussions during his visit.

The first visit by a member of US President Joe Biden’s Cabinet to India came as leaders of the US and China clashed at a meeting in Alaska symbolising the growing aggressiveness of China.

It is particularly highlighted in the Indo-Pacific region and the US is responding by working closely with allies and partners.

Austin tweeted, “Thrilled to be here in India. The breadth of cooperation between our two nations reflects the significance of our major defense partnership, as we work together to address the most pressing challenges facing the Indo-Pacific region.”

Outlining Austin’s agenda in India, Acting Assistant Defence Secretary for Indo-Pacific, David F. Helvey, said that he will “discuss operationalising the major defence partnership that we have with India, including through enhanced information sharing, regional security cooperation, defence trade, and cooperation in new domains.”

The Indian Defence Ministry said that Singh and Austin “are expected to discuss ways to further strengthen bilateral defence cooperation and exchange views on regional security challenges and common interests in maintaining a free, open and inclusive Indo-Pacific region.”

It added, “Discussions regarding defence cooperation would also focus on how both countries could consolidate military-to-military cooperation and defence trade and industry cooperation.”

The US designated India as a major defence partner by the US in 2016 allowing it access to some defence hi-tech that would normally be available only to allies.

The visit reflects President Joe Biden’s focus on the Indo-Pacific region to meet the Chinese challenge.

Last week Biden held a virtual summit with other leaders of the Quad nations, Prime Ministers Narendra Modi of India, Scott Morrison of Australia and Yoshihide Suga of Japan, at which they discussed security issues in the face of Chinese aggressive actions.

While on his way to India, Austin spoke to Australia’s Foreign Minister Maria Payne, who also holds the defence portfolio.

Helvey said that Austin spoke to her about the “Quadrilateral process” of the four nations.

Before coming to India, Austin had visited two US treaty allies, Japan and Korea, on the frontlines of Chinese aggressiveness at sea in the region, and the military headquarters of the Indo-Pacific headquarters in Hawaii.

He and Secretary of State Antony Blinken held 2+2 ministerial meetings with their counterparts in Seoul and Tokyo.

The meeting of Blinken and US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan with senior Chinese officials, State Councilor Wang Yi and Communist Party Foreign Affairs Director Yang Jiechi and State Councilor Wang Yi, opened yesterday in Anchorage, Alaska, with open hostility.

Blinken said: “We will always stand up for our principles for our people, and for our friends.”

Yi retorted that the US was trying to “obstruct normal trade exchanges, and incite some countries to attack China” — a veiled reference to India, which hs defended itself against a by Beijing’s army along the Line of Actual Control.




BJP issues whip to Lok Sabha MPs for March 22


In this case, all the Lok Sabha MPs of the party are requested to vote in favour of the government by compulsorily appearing in the House throughout the day on March 22.”

The Bharatiya Janata Party has issued a whip for its Lok Sabha MPs for March 22. Sources say that the government may bring the Bill related to the creation of new banks for infrastructure funding on this day. Apart from this, there are preparations to bring two other Bills.

A three-line whip issued by Chief Whip Rakesh Singh stated, “On March 22, some very important legislative functions will be brought to the Lok Sabha for discussion and passage.

In this case, all the Lok Sabha MPs of the party are requested to vote in favour of the government by compulsorily appearing in the House throughout the day on March 22.”




Maharashtra ATS may seek Sachin Vaze’s custody in businessman’s death case


After a brief hearing this afternoon, the Thane court has now posted the matter for further hearing on March 30.

The Maharashtra Anti Terrorism Squad (ATS), which is probing the death of Thane businessman Mankukh Hiran, is likely to seek custody of arrested-suspended Assistant Police Inspector Sachin Vaze from the Special NIA Court, official sources said here on Friday.

Official sources said that the ATS has collected sufficient evidences in the case for which Vaze’s custody may be required and for this, it will approach the Special NIA Court.

Earlier on Friday, the ATS opposed the anticipatory bail plea of Vaze – currently in the NIA custody till March 25 – at a hearing before the Thane Sessions Court.

The anticipatory bail plea – which was filed by Vaze before his arrest and subsequent suspension – had come up for hearing on March 12 when the court declined any relief, but served notice to the state government and posted it for hearing on March 19.

After a brief hearing this afternoon, the Thane court has now posted the matter for further hearing on March 30.

The NIA is probing the SUV case involving the abandoned Scorpio found near industrialist Mukesh Ambani’s home on February 25 along with 20 gelatin sticks and a threat note, while the ATS is handling the Hiran death case.

Both the cases triggered a huge political uproar culminating in the shunting of the former Mumbai Commissioner of Police Param Bir Singh who was replaced by Hemant Nagrale, with speculation of more action expected in the next few days.




SUV case fallout: Pawar-Anil Deshmukh meet in New Delhi


“The NIA and ATS are investigating the matter in depth. The state government is fully cooperating with the NIA… Both their probes are proceeding in the right direction,” informed Deshmukh.

Maharashtra Home Minister Anil Deshmukh called on Nationalist Congress Party President Sharad Pawar along with state NCP chief Jayant Patil and others in New Delhi on Friday.

Emerging from the meeting after nearly two hours, Deshmukh said that they discussed the fallout in the Antilia bomb scare case in which an explosive-laden SUV was left outside Mukesh Ambani’s residence, and the Assistant Police Inspector (API) Sachin Vaze matter besides the ongoing probes by National Investigation Agency (NIA) and Maharashtra Anti Terrorism Squad (ATS) into them.

“The NIA and ATS are investigating the matter in depth. The state government is fully cooperating with the NIA… Both their probes are proceeding in the right direction,” informed Deshmukh.

He said that after the probe agencies’ reports are received, the state government will take appropriate action against the culprits.

However, he declined to answer a query whether the recent developments have resulted in a demoralization of the Mumbai and state police forces which witnessed a major shakeup on Wednesday following the arrest of the Crime Branch API Vaze, and others under the scanner of NIA.

Pawar is expected to return to Mumbai later this evening and may meet Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray, amid speculation that there may be some changes in the Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) cabinet pertaining to NCP ministers.

The case of the SUV parked near the Ambani residence was followed by the death of Thane businessman Mansukh Hiren erupted into a huge political row, Pawar has been closely monitoring the situation with senior leaders of the ruling Shiv Sena-Nationalist Congress Party-Congress.

Upping the ante against the MVA, the opposition BJP has demanded that Thackeray should accept moral responsibility in the matter and resign as Chief Minister.




Fresh Covid cases at new high: Nearly 40K reported


Maharashtra, Kerala and Punjab are recording the highest daily cases.

India has logged 39,726 coronavirus cases in the last 24 hours, highest since November last year, taking the total tally to 1,15,14,331.

A single-day spike of 41,810 new infections were recorded on November 28. The country has registered an increase in the cases for the ninth consecutive day.

Maharashtra, Kerala and Punjab are recording the highest daily cases.

With the death of 154 people in the last 24 hours, the fatality toll has reached 1,59,370 in India. The active caseload has mounted to 2,71,282.

With the discharge of 20,654 patients in a day, a total of 1,10,83,679 have been discharged so far. A total of 10,57,383 tests were done on Thursday.

So far, 3.9 crore doses of corona vaccine have been administered in the country since the drive began on January 16 after approval for ‘Covishield’ and ‘Covaxin’.

More than 17.83 lakh doses were administered on a single day on Thursday.





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