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‘Quad’ leaders may hold first meet amidst China’s posturing


Officially known as the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue, the “Quad” is an informal strategic forum of the four countries which regularly hold dialogue at the ministers’ and senior officials’ level and also conduct joint military drills.

The four ”Quad” countries ~ India, Japan, Australia and the USA ~ propose to hold the first meeting of their leaders against the backdrop of growing Chinese assertiveness on maritime issues, according to the Japanese media.

If it fructifies, the meeting could also provide a platform for detailed talks between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and America’s new President Joe Biden on growing Indo-US ties.

A report in The Japan Times said the Biden administration appeared eager to build on the grouping of the four major Indo-Pacific democracies. It said the US had already proposed to other countries the idea of holding an online meeting of the “Quad” leaders. It quoted US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan calling the “Quad” a “foundation upon which to build substantial American policy in the Indo- Pacific,” in recent remarks.

However, there was no immediate confirmation available from the foreign office in New Delhi on whether such a meeting would take place any time soon. Whether the talks would materialise soon would depend on India, which is known for its relatively cautious stance on the framework. It is the only “Quad” member that shares a land border with China and operates outside the US-led security alliances.

During the proposed meeting, the four nations are expected to discuss cooperation for the realisation of a free and open Indo-Pacific amid concerns over China’s aggressive posturing in the region. China may react with displeasure, as it sees the framework as an attempt to contain its rise.

Officially known as the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue, the “Quad” is an informal strategic forum of the four countries which regularly hold dialogue at the ministers’ and senior officials’ level and also conduct joint military drills.




Time for people of Bengal to show TMC ‘Ram Card’: Modi


Further taking a dig at Mamata Banerjee, the Prime Minister said: “Mamata Didi gets bamboozled when Bengal asks her about development and feels scared when Jai Shri Ram slogans are hurled. It isn’t unusual since her government has only institutionalised corruption and politicised government institutions but made no effort to resuscitate Bengal. TMC is a party of extortionists.”

The Prime Minister Narendra Modi virtually set the ball rolling for the BJP’s campaign for the West Bengal Assembly polls during his visit to Haldia today where he asserted that once the BJP forms a government in Bengal, the first cabinet meeting will seek to bring relief measures for all the farmers of the state who have been deprived of the benefits of the PM Kisan Samman Nidhi scheme by the ‘Ma Mati Manush’ (Trinamul Congress) government.

With the BJP and the TMC engaged in what is expected to be a tight fight in the Assembly election, Mr Modi launched a scathing offensive against the Trinamul government, which he alleged took one retrograde measure after another, leading to Bengal taking a backseat in terms of development.

Addressing lakhs of supporters from the podium in his first public rally in the state before the polls, the PM asked, “How many factories have come up in Bengal in the last 10 years? Mamata promised change in 2011 and people who believed in it today feel dejected. The state government didn’t even spare the poor farmers of the state who are still waiting to avail the Centre’s Kisan Samman Nidhi scheme. Once BJP wins the polls, the first cabinet meeting will not just address the issue but also create provisions to clear the earlier funds which Bengal farmers couldn’t avail.”

Further taking a dig at Mamata Banerjee, the Prime Minister said: “Mamata Didi gets bamboozled when Bengal asks her about development and feels scared when Jai Shri Ram slogans are hurled. It isn’t unusual since her government has only institutionalised corruption and politicised government institutions but made no effort to resuscitate Bengal. TMC is a party of extortionists.”

“You even looted the funds sent by the Centre as relief for all those whose lives were devastated by cyclone Amphan,” the Prime Minister charged the Trinamul Congress.He said people expected “mamta” (affection) from Miss Banerjee but got “nirmamta” (cruelty) instead.

Recalling the zest among Bengalis for football, he said: “Trinamul is busy committing foul after foul and it’s about time the people show her the red card.”

He likened the Mamata Banerjee government to a second version of the Left Front government in Bengal and said there has been a “rebirth of communism” under her rule. The indicator, he said, was that politics has been criminalised and administration has been politicised in the state. The state’s politics is the “biggest reason for its condition,” he said.

Referring to the Left – Congress alliance in the state, he said “The Trinamul, Left and the Congress are now busy match fixing behind closed doors. Voting for this alliance is also voting for TMC. Voters must not be fooled by this since Bengal needs ‘Poriborton’ (change). Trinamul turncoats Suvendu Adhikari and Rajib Banerjee today shared the dais with the Prime Minister.

Mr Modi inaugurated a slew of projects today in Haldia, including an LPG import terminal built by Bharat Petroleum at an approximate cost of Rs 1100 crore and which is expected to generate employment of 15 lakh man-days. The second project is Dobhi- Durgapur natural gas pipeline built by GAIL at a cost of Rs 2400 crore, generating employment of 11 lakh man-days. A four lane ROB-cum-flyover at Ranichak built at Rs 190 crore was inaugurated while the PM also laid the foundation stone of the second catalytic iso-dewaxing unit at the Haldia Refinery.




Just 78 Covid-linked fatalities reported in last 24 hours


There were also no Covid- 19 death in seventeen states and Union territories during the last 24 hours, said a senior officer of the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare on Sunday.

Even as the number of beneficiaries vaccinated against Covid-19 in India crossed 58 lakh, daily Covid-19 fatalities fell below 80 in the past 24 hours, the lowest in nine months.

There were also no Covid- 19 death in seventeen states and Union territories during the last 24 hours, said a senior officer of the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare on Sunday.

Just 78 fatalities linked to the coronavirus were recorded for the country as a whole for the same period, the lowest recorded after nine months.

The figure took the total death toll increased to 1,54,996.

The ministry said 12 states have vaccinated more than two lakh beneficiaries each and the highest number of vaccinations were reported in Uttar Pradesh with 6,73,543 vaccinations.

In the vaccination drive, India is now only next to the United States and the United Kingdom in terms of coverage, the Ministry said.

The cumulative number of healthcare workers and frontline workers vaccinated against Covid-19 is 58,03,617 till 6:40 p.m. on Sunday.

The cumulative vaccination coverage includes 53,17,760 healthcare workers and 4,85,857 frontline workers, the officer said.

There has been a sustained increase in the number of beneficiaries being vaccinated every day.

The country, meanwhile, added 12,059 new Covid-19 cases over the previous 24 hours, according to health ministry data updated at 8 a.m on Sunday. India’s tally of Covid-19 infections now stands at 1,08,26,363, while the active caseload is 1,48,766, which is just 1.37% of India’s total positive cases. Further, India’s cumulative recoveries stand at 1.05 crore with a recovery rate of 97.19%.

While the situation has improved remarkably in many states, 81.5 per cent of the new recovered cases are observed to be concentrated in 6 States/UTs. Kerala has reported the maximum number of singleday recoveries with 6,178 newly recovered cases. 1,739 people recovered in Maharashtra in the past 24 hours followed by 503 in Tamil Nadu, the ministry stated.

As regards new cases, 84.83% of the daily new cases are from 6 States and UTs mainly Kerala (5,942 new cases, followed by Maharashtra with 2,768, and Karnataka (531) new cases.

According to the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), 20,13,68,378 samples have been tested up for the coronavirus till February 6, with 6,95,789 samples being tested on Saturday.

Delhi sees 119 cases, 2 deaths:

Delhi today recorded 119 new coronavirus infections (Covid- 19) and 2 Covid-linked deaths, according to the Delhi government’s latest health bulletin. These 119 fresh coronavirus cases were detected out of 54,247 tests. The positivity rate stood at 0.22 per cent.

The national capital’s cumulative Covid tally rose to 6,36,035 and its coronavirus toll climbed to 10,879, the health bulletin said. Delhi’s tally of active Covid cases dropped to 1,112 from 1,174 the previous day, the bulletin stated. The patients who remained hospitalised numbered 528 while 465 were under home isolation.




‘Flash Mob’ to ‘Hashtags’: Keeping Delhi Police on their toes


All district units of Delhi Police have been asked to stay alert and prepared to respond to any untoward situation on short notice. Senior police officers would be supervising the arrangements themselves.

The Delhi Police is all geared up to tackle any surprise element, including ‘flash mob’ tactics and ‘protest call on social media’ on Saturday as the Samyukta Kisan Morcha and other farmer organisations are set for a nationwide 3-hour ‘Chakka jam’.

Despite the agitating farmers assurance that the proposed ‘chakka jam’ would not be implemented in Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand and Delhi, the Delhi Police as a precautionary measure have intensified security arrangements with special focus on bordering areas where the protesting farmers have been present since November 26 last year.

The city police force is keeping an eye any flash mob situation where groups of people or protesters could assemble at designated location at a specified time to perform an indicated action before dispersing back again.

It is also keeping an eye on social media handles and hashtags so that any call for instant gathering like the ‘Flash mob’ one, can be tackled. This is after the entire police mechanism had taken a hit on Republic Day, when the farmers’ tractor rally had gone off-track and created hours of ruckus in the heart of the capital culminating in the siege of the Red Fort.

“Though we have got to know that the farmers have no plans to do chakka jam in the capital but in the wake of the flouting the agreement earlier on January 26, we are taking no chances and have made elaborate security arrangements especially on border areas,” said Chinmoy Biswal, Delhi Police PRO.

Security has been tightened at strategic locations and the police is keeping an eye on the protest build up in the bordering states and the protest sites close to Singhu, Tikri and Ghazipur borders.

Additional forces have been deployed in these areas amid multi-layer barricading and barbed wire fencing. The Delhi Police is also in touch with the police of bordering states like Haryana and Uttar Pradesh and collecting intelligence inputs in close coordination with the state police.

The Delhi Police is also keeping a close vigil on various social media accounts on Twitter, Facebook and others.

On Friday, the Delhi Police Commissioner S.N. Shrivastava held a meeting with senior police officers and reviewed the security arrangements.

All district units of Delhi Police have been asked to stay alert and prepared to respond to any untoward situation on short notice. Senior police officers would be supervising the arrangements themselves.

Bharatiya Kisan Union (BKU) leader Rakesh Tikait earlier said the nationwide protest will be peaceful and added that there will be no ‘chakka jam’ in Delhi.

“Farmers will not block roads in Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand on Saturday as part of the nationwide ‘chakka jam’ called by Samyukta Kisan Morcha,” Tikait said on Friday.

 




Modi to visit Assam, West Bengal on Feb 7


The Prime Minister will also dedicate to the nation the 348 km Dobhi-Durgapur Natural Gas Pipeline section, which is part of the Pradhan Mantri Urja Ganga project.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi will be on a day’s visit to poll-bound Assam and West Bengal on February 7 to lay the foundation stone for several infrastructure projects.

According to a government statement, Modi will visit Assam on Sunday around 11.45 a.m. and will lay the foundation stone of two hospitals and launch ‘Asom Mala’, a programme for state highways and major district roads, at Dhekiajuli in the state’s Sonitpur district.

Later on the same day, the Prime Minister is scheduled to visit Haldia in West Bengal around 4.50 p.m. There, he will lay the foundation stone of key infrastructure projects.

The statement said Modi will dedicate to the nation the LPG import terminal built by Bharat Petroleum Corporation Limited in West Bengal, which has been constructed with an investment of around Rs 1,100 crore and has a capacity of one million metric tonne per annum.

It said that LPG import terminal will cater to the growing requirement of LPG in West Bengal and other states in eastern and north-eastern India and is an important step towards realizing the vision of the Prime Minister to provide clean cooking LPG to every household.

The Prime Minister will also dedicate to the nation the 348 km Dobhi-Durgapur Natural Gas Pipeline section, which is part of the Pradhan Mantri Urja Ganga project.

According to the government, the pipeline will help revival of HURL Sindri (Jharkhand) fertiliser plant, supply gas to Matix Fertilizer Plant in Durgapur (West Bengal) and cater to gas demand of industrial, commercial and automobile sectors, and city gas distribution across all major towns in the state.

Modi will then lay the foundation stone of the second Catalytic-Isodewaxing unit of Haldia Refinery of Indian Oil Corporation, which will have a capacity of 270 thousand metric tonne per annum, and once commissioned, is expected to result in a saving of about $185 million in foreign exchange.

Modi will also dedicate to the nation the four lane ROB-cum-flyover at Ranichak, Haldia on NH 41, which has been built at the cost of Rs 190 crore.

The statement said that these projects are in line with Prime Minister’s vision of Purvodaya, of driving growth of Eastern India. Governor and Chief Minister of West Bengal, and Union Minister for Petroleum and Natural Gas will be present on the occasion.

In Assam, the Prime Minister will launch ‘Asom Mala’, aimed at helping improve state highways and major district roads network in the state.

It said that the programme is unique for its emphasis on effective maintenance through continuous field data collection and its linkage with the Road Asset Management System.

Assam Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal will also be present on the occasion.

The Prime Minister will then lay the foundation stone of two medical colleges and hospitals, which are being set up at Biswanath and Charaideo, at a total estimated project cost of over Rs 1,100 crore.

It said that each hospital will have 500 bed capacity and 100 MBBS seats capacity.




India ready to share resources in Indian Ocean Region: President


Referring to the theme of ‘Enhanced peace, security and cooperation in the Indian Ocean’ at the IOR defence ministers’ conclave held on Thursday, the President said that India is for ‘security and growth for all in the region’ (Sagar).

Calling upon nations in the Indian Ocean Region (IOR) to focus on fostering political, economic, cultural and defence cooperation, President Ram Nath Kovind said on Friday that India is ready to share its expertise and resources with other countries in the IOR.

“As an advocate of universal peace and development, we are ready to share our expertise and resources with all the 28 IOR nations in humanitarian assistance and disaster relief,” Kovind said at the valedictory ceremony of the 13th biennial AeroIndia 2021 expo at the Yelahanka air base here.

Referring to the theme of ‘Enhanced peace, security and cooperation in the Indian Ocean’ at the IOR defence ministers’ conclave held on Thursday, the President said that India is for ‘security and growth for all in the region’ (Sagar).

“Under Operation Sagar-1, we reached our neighbours after the Covid pandemic outbreak and assisted them with medical teams, medicines, diagnostic kits, ventilators, masks, gloves and other supplies,” he said.

In line with the country’s commitment to use its vaccine production and delivery capacity to help the humanity fight the pandemic, the President said supplies under grant assistance to friendly countries have begun.




Congress announces Maharashtra unit with parliamentary board


The Maharashtra unit has been asked to sort out the issues at the state and district levels by itself.

The Congress has announced its Maharashtra state unit with a parliamentary board, giving it the autonomy to decide on alliance and selection of candidates, which till date were prerogatives of the All India Congress Committee (AICC).

The revival of parliamentary board at the AICC level had been the demand of the group of 23 leaders, who had written to interim Congress President Sonia Gandhi in August last year seeking sweeping reforms in the party .

The process of reviving the parliamentary board has started in the states, which is a positive sign, said one of the signatories.

The parliamentary board can only be constituted after the election to select a new Congress President takes place in May or June this year.

The Maharashtra unit has been asked to sort out the issues at the state and district levels by itself.

The Congress leaders who wrote to Sonia Gandhi had asked to give more powers to the state organisations. The first signs were seen in West Bengal where a state leaders’ committee was constituted to finalise the seat-sharing arrangement for the forthcoming Assembly polls.




High speed internet to be restored in J&K, LG thanks PM


The Jammu and Kashmir government on Friday announced restoration of 4G mobile Internet services in the entire Union Territory.

“4G mobile Internet services being restored in entire J&K,” government spokesman Rohit Kansal said in a tweet.

At present, 4G mobile services were available in only two districts of J&K — Udhampur in the Jammu division and Ganderbal in the Kashmir division.

All other 18 districts of the Union Territory had only 2G mobile Internet services.

Mobile telephony and Internet services were suspended on August 5, 2019 when Article 370 was abrogated and the state bifurcated and downgraded to a Union Territory.

While mobile telephony was restored after five months, restrictions on Internet services had since continued.

There had been growing demand from businesses, students and professionals for the restoration of 4G mobile Internet services. Poor internet connectivity compounded the problems of people across the UT particularly students as absence of high speed internet impacted the effectiveness of online classes.

Lt Governor Manoj Sinha has thanked Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah for the restoration of high speed internet.

“I thank the Hon’ble PM @narendramodi Ji and HM @AmitShah Ji for acceding to our request and restoring 4G services in the entire J&K UT. The move will fulfil the aspirations of the people, particularly the youth,” he said in a tweet.

Former Chief Minister Omar Abdullah welcomed the move.

“4G Mubarak! For the first time since Aug 2019 all of J&K will have 4G mobile data. Better late than never,” he tweeted.




RBI keeps policy rate unchanged fourth time in a row


The benchmark repurchase (repo) rate has been left unchanged at 4 per cent, Governor Shaktikanta Das said while announcing the decisions taken by the central bank’s Monetary Policy Committee (MPC).

Reserve Bank of India (RBI) on Friday decided to leave benchmark interest rate unchanged at 4 per cent but maintained an accommodative stance, implying rate cuts in the future if need arises to support the economy hit by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The benchmark repurchase (repo) rate has been left unchanged at 4 per cent, Governor Shaktikanta Das said while announcing the decisions taken by the central bank’s Monetary Policy Committee (MPC).

Consequently, the reverse repo rate will also continue to earn 3.35 per cent for banks for their deposits kept with RBI.

He said MPC voted for keeping interest rate unchanged and decided to continue with its accommodative stance to support growth.

The central bank had slashed the repo rate by 115 basis points since late March 2020 to support growth.

This is the fourth time in a row that MPC has decided to keep the policy rate unchanged. RBI had last revised its policy rate on May 22 in an off-policy cycle to perk up demand by cutting interest rate to a historic low.

The 27th meeting of the rate-setting MPC with three external members — Ashima Goyal, Jayanth R Varma and Shashanka Bhide — began on February 3. This is the first meeting of the rate setting panel after the Budget 2021-22, announced this week, projected a nominal GDP growth rate of 14.5 per cent and a fiscal deficit of 6.8 per cent for the financial year beginning April 1.

The government moved the interest rate setting role from the RBI Governor to the six-member MPC in 2016. Half of the panel, headed by the Governor, is made up of external independent members.

MPC has been given the mandate to maintain annual inflation at 4 per cent until March 31, 2021, with an upper tolerance of 6 per cent and a lower tolerance of 2 per cent.




Open seas and respect for international law essential for IOR security: Rajnath


“IOR countries have demonstrated mutual respect for a rules-based order and commitment to abide by international law,” he said without directly criticising China which has been involved in disputes with all its neighbours in the disputed sea.

In an apparent reference to China’s growing assertiveness against its neighbours in the South China Sea, defence minister Rajnath Singh today said the negative impact of conflicting claims in some maritime areas of the world highlighted the need to ensure peace in the Indian Ocean Region (IOR).

“IOR countries have demonstrated mutual respect for a rules-based order and commitment to abide by international law,” he said without directly criticising China which has been involved in disputes with all its neighbours in the disputed sea.

Addressing the IOR defence ministers’ conclave in Bengaluru on the margins of the Aero India 2021, Singh spoke of the various policy initiatives of India to promote trade and tourism among IOR countries through sea link Sagarmala, Project Mausam, and Asia Africa Growth Corridor.


 
He emphasised the need to take economic, trade, naval cooperation and collaboration further in the region. He said the linked futures of IOR countries depended on how they tackle emerging challenges and leverage opportunities.

Representatives of 27 out of 28 countries in the IOR attended the conclave either physically or in the virtual mode. They included ministers, high commissioners/ ambassadors and other senior officials. Outlining the agenda, the Indian minister said that as the largest nation in the IOR region with a vast coast-line of 7500 kilometre, India has an active role to play for peaceful and prosperous co-existence of all countries.

He stressed that the Indian Ocean was a shared asset and a lifeline to international trade and transport due to its control of major sea-lanes carrying half of the world’s container ships, one third of the world’s bulk cargo traffic and two thirds of the world’s oil shipments.

Singh identified maritime resources as the key to sustained growth and development of IOR nations in the 21st century. India, he said, was developing a comprehensive Maritime Domain Awareness picture in the IOR, which has resulted in signing of technical agreements for sharing of ‘White Shipping Information’.

He added that Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief (HADR), Noncombatant Evacuation (NEO), and Search and Rescue (SAR) Operations were important and highlighted India’s swift response during the cyclones in Mozambique and Madagascar and reaching out to countries through medical teams and medicines.

Singh said Covid vaccine supplies by India under grant assistance to Bhutan, the Maldives, Bangladesh, Nepal, Myanmar and Seychelles have already highlighted the country’s commitment to protect humanity from the pandemic.





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