Tue, 23 February 2021
Stir against agri laws: H'yana farmers destroy crop

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23:40   H'yana farmers destroy crop in protest against agri laws
Some farmers in Haryana destroyed their wheat crop in protest against the Centre's new agriculture laws, prompting political and farmer leaders to appeal to them not to resort to such drastic measures.
Some farmers in the state's Karnal, Jind and Ambala districts had destroyed wheat crops over two to four acres of their land.
In Karnal's Mundigarhi village, a farmer destroyed his wheat crop on four acres on Tuesday. The farmer told reporters that he did it in protest against the new farm laws.
Another farmer at Manakpur village, around 3 km from Ambala City, flattened his wheat crop over one acre.
Gurpreet Singh, who wanted to destroy the crop over five acres, was prevented from doing so by local BKU leader Gulab Singh.
Gurpreet told reporters that he was annoyed over the attitude of the Union government as it was not repealing the farm laws. 
In the past a couple of days, some farmers destroyed their crop on few patches of land using their tractors, prompting Haryana BKU chief Gurnam Singh Chaduni to appeal to them not to take such a step.
Chaduni appealed to them not to take such a step, saying the Centre will not be moved by such measures. 
"Since the past a couple of days, we have been receiving reports that farmers are destroying crops. It pains to see this as farmers raise their crops like their children," Chaduni said.
"Those farmer brothers who are doing this, I want to tell them that the government is not going to accept their demands by such measures. Ten to 15 farmers have already committed suicide, when this did not move the government, will they agree to the demands if crops are destroyed," Chaduni said in a video message.
Talking to reporters in Bhiwani, Agriculture Minister J P Dalal said, "I don't think it is appropriate. There can be other ways of protest." -- PTI
23:19   Maha CM asks chief secy to plan shifts at Mantralaya, Work-From-Home
Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray on Tuesday asked the state's chief secretary to draw up a plan to implement two working shifts at Mantralaya, the government's administrative headquarters.
At the NITI Aayog meeting last week, Thackeray had talked about the need to adopt staggered office timings to lessen crowding in the face of the coronavirus pandemic.

Amid rising COVID-19 cases in the state, Thackeray also asked chief secretary Sanjay Kumar to explore which government departments can run at full capacity with employees working from home, an official statement said.
The chief minister was speaking at a meeting with representatives of the gazetted officers' association at his official residence `Varsha' in Mumbai.

Mantralaya is located in south Mumbai.
Maharashtra should take the initiative and start a new work culture, the chief minister said.
"We should start this new work style where work can be completed with full capacity and properly and there will be less COVID-19 threat too.
"The officers' association should take initiative and see how office timings at Mantralaya can be planned in two shifts, taking everybody into confidence," the statement quoted the CM as saying.
Thackeray also asked the chief secretary to plan vaccination for all officers and staff at Mantralaya as frontline workers on priority.
Steps should be taken in a day or two to restrict the number of outside visitors at Mantralaya, he said.
Also, body temperatures of staff at Mantralaya should be checked every day, the chief minister said.
An arrangement should be made to conduct antigen tests so that infected individuals do not enter Mantralaya, he instructed. -- PTI
23:07   Priyanka calls PM 'arrogant', 'coward'
Congress general secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra on Tuesday lashed out at Prime Minister Narendra Modi at a "kisan mahapanchayat" here, calling him "arrogant" and a "coward" who does not owns up the responsibility for his policies. 
She also accused the PM of insulting farmers by making a mockery of them in Parliament through his "andolanjeevi" (habitual agitators) remark.      
Promising that her party will repeal the new farm laws when it comes to power, Priyanka alleged that they have been enacted by those engaged in making money ("noton ki kheti") to benefit their "billionaire friends".
"People have always taught a lesson to arrogant governments, and the time for it has arrived," she said, claiming that all election promises made by the ruling party have turned out to be false.
"The truth is that the prime minister is not only arrogant ('ahankari') but also a coward ('kayar'). As soon as his policies are questioned, he backtracks," said the Congress leader, accusing the PM of wrongly blaming her party's policies  for high fuel prices.
Thank God the previous Congress governments had developed industries, otherwise, the present government would not have been able to sell anything, she said. 
The Congress general secretary also said the GST and demonetisation were introduced to benefit "billionaire friends" of the prime minister.  
She said the government is "intoxicated" by the idea of selling public sector assets and asked people at the gathering to save the sacred Govardhan hill "lest the BJP should sell it".
She alleged that while the Centre collected over Rs 20 lakh crore through taxes on fuel and waived loans of its "billionaire friends", it did not spare a single penny for farmers.  
Speaking over the farm laws, she said they will continue to fight for the cause of farmers till the anti-farmer legislations are repealed.  
"The Congress will repeal the laws when it comes to power if the present government failed to do so," she said.
She also said promises like doubling the income of farmers, waiving their loans and clearing sugarcane arrears have proved hollow.  
The government does not have Rs 15,000 crore to pay to farmers while two planes worth Rs 16,000 crore were purchased for the prime minister, she said. 
She said through the laws, the government has paved the way for the hoarding of produce and elimination of mandis. -- PTI
22:07   Repeal agri laws or farmers to gherao Parl: Tikait
Farmer leader Rakesh Tikait said on Tuesday that if the Centre does not repeal the three new agriculture laws, the protesting farmers will gherao Parliament. 
He appealed to farmers to be ready as the call for 'Delhi march' can be given at any time. 
Tikait was addressing the Kisan Mahapanchayat of United Kisan Morcha in Sikar, Rajasthan Tuesday. 
"This time the call will be for Parliament gherao. We will announce it and then march towards Delhi. This time 40 lakh tractors will be there instead of four lakh tractors," he said.
Tikait said the protesting farmers would plough the parks near India Gate and grow crops there. Leaders of the United Front will decide the date to gherao the Parliament, he added. 
He also said there was a conspiracy to malign the country's farmers on January 26, when violence had broken out in the national capital during their tractor parade. 
"The farmers of the country love the tricolor, but not the leaders of this country," he said.
Tikait said farmers are openly challenging the government that if it does not repeal all three contentious agricultural laws and does not implement the MSP, then the farmers of the country will also demolish the godowns of big companies. 
The United Front will also give a date for this soon, he said. 
The mahapanchayat was also addressed by Swaraj movement leader Yogendra Yadav, National Vice President of All India Kisan Sabha Amra Ram, National General Secretary of Kisan Union, Chaudhary Yudhvir Singh and others. 
Earlier on Tuesday, Tikait also addressed a farmers' gathering at Sardarshahar in Churu district. -- PTI
21:26   Disha Ravi walks out of jail
Disha Ravi, the 22-year-old climate change activist charged with sedition after being arrested February 13 in connection with a "toolkit" relating to the farmers' protest, walked out of Delhi's Tihar Jail late Tuesday night, hours after a Delhi court granted her bail.
AAP supremo Arvind Kejriwal
AAP supremo Arvind Kejriwal
21:15   AAP puts up strong show in Surat civic polls, is main opposition
Putting up a strong show, the Aam Aadmi Party on Tuesday won 27 seats in Surat municipal polls to emerge as the main Opposition party in the local body. 

The Bharatiya Janata Party won 93 out of 120 seats to emerge as the winner. The Congress could not open its account in Surat. 

The results show that Patidars, a dominant community that had in the past also supported Congress, have apparently moved away from the party. 

Hardik Patel, the face of Patidar agitation in Gujarat, is working president of Gujarat Congress and the results are a big setback for the party. 

In many wards, AAP candidates led by 10 to 20,000 votes. 

The results are a boost for AAP which is looking to increase its footprint outside Delhi. 

Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal is scheduled to visit Gujarat and hold a roadshow in Surat on February 26 in light of AAP's performance in Gujarat municipal polls. 

"Heartfelt congratulations to the people of Gujarat for introducing new politics in the state," Kejriwal said in a tweet. 

In a tweet from its official handle, AAP said it had "entered the BJP fort in Surat". 

"The party is leading on many seats throughout Gujarat. Kejriwal's Delhi model is giving hope to the people of Gujarat. They stamped on the education and health politics of the AAP," the party said.
20:52   Maha: Night curfew in Aurangabad till March 8
Amid a rise in COVID-19 cases over the past few days, night curfew was imposed in Aurangabad city between 11pm and 6am till March 8, a senior police official said on Tuesday.
Police Commissioner Nikhil Gupta told reporters that the decision was taken after district, civic and police officials held a meeting during the day.
"A rise in COVID-19 cases is being observed in the city, and the administration has noticed that a lot of people are not complying with outbreak protocols like wearings masks, maintaining social distancing etc. So the decision was taken to impose night curfew from tonight," Gupta said.
He said the industrial sector, medical and emergency services, public transport etc are exempt from the night curfew.
The caseload in Aurangabad district is inching towards the 50,000 mark with 132 cases recorded on Monday and 201 on Sunday. -- PTI 
20:38   More pvt hospitals to be used for vaccination coverage, speed: Govt
The Centre on Tuesday said that more private hospitals will be utilized to increase the speed and coverage of COVID-19 vaccination in the coming days. 
Responding to a query during a press briefing in New Delhi, Union Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushan said out of 10,000 hospitals being used for administering the vaccines in a day, 2,000 hospitals are private.
"Approximately 10,000 hospitals are being used for administering vaccines in a day. Out of these, 2,000 hospitals are private. This shows how essential is the private sector and it plays the role of a force multiplier which is acknowledge by the government. In the coming days, more private sector hospitals will be utilized to increase the vaccination coverage and speed," Bhushan said.
He also said that private sector is playing a vital role in many of the government's health programs. 
"Out of the 24,000 hospitals under the Centre's Ayushman Bharat Pradhan Mantri Jan Aarogya Yojna which are providing cashless treatment, 11,000 hospitals are of private sector. From last two years private sector is involved. Similarly, the Central Government Health Scheme is completely based on private sector except the dispensaries. More than 800 private hospitals are already a part of CGHS," Bhushan said. -- PTI 
20:14   Mumbai's Covid cases drop for 2nd consecutive day
The number of COVID-19 cases in Mumbai increased by 643 on Tuesday to reach 3,20,531, a drop in the daily addition for the second day in a row, civic officials said.
The country's financial capital had recorded 900 and 760 cases respectively in the past two days, they pointed out.
Three deaths during the day took the toll to 11,449, while the discharge of 501 people increased the recovery count to 3,00,681, leaving the city with 7,536 active cases, an official said.
However, worryingly, the daily growth rate of cases rose from 0.17 per cent on Thursday to 0.23 per cent on Tuesday, while the case doubling time shortened from 417 days to 305 days now, data from the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation showed.
With 17,489 samples being examined on Tuesday, the overall number of tests in Mumbai went up to 31,64,211, civic officials added. -- PTI 
20:10   President accepts resignations of Puducherry CM
President Ram Nath Kovind has accepted the resignation of Puducherry Chief Minister V Narayanasamy and his council of Ministers, a day after they quit in the wake of losing the trust vote in the assembly.
A notification of the Union Home Ministry issued on Tuesday said: "The President has been pleased to accept resignation of V.Narayanasamy Chief Minister of Puducherry along with his council of Ministers with effect from February 22."
A copy of the notification was made available to the media in Puducherry by the Raj Nivas, the office of Puducherry Lt Governor.
Chief Secretary Ashwani Kumar said the notification has been republished in the Gazette of Puducherry government.
Narayanasamy, who led the Congress government, resigned on Monday ahead of the confidence vote after his ministry was reduced to a minority following a spate of resignations of his party MLAs and a DMK legislator in recent days .
He called on Lt Governor Tamilisai Soundararajan, who had earlier directed a floor test to prove his majority, and submitted the resignation of his four-member cabinet. -- PTI 
19:28   Facebook to restore news services in Australia
Social media giant Facebook on Tuesday said it will restore news services in Australia after it reached a revised agreement with the government on the proposed media bargaining laws, which aim to make technology companies pay for hosting news content.
The dispute on paying news organisations for sharing journalism content came to a head last week, when Facebook banned Australians from sharing news articles. Inadvertently, some government pages and announcements, 

including alerts on COVID-19, were blocked too, drawing severe backlash.
The Australian government's landmark media bargaining laws, also being called 'the code', is yet to be passed in its Parliament.
Australia government Treasurer Josh Frydenberg, who has held detailed discussions with Facebook Founder Mark Zuckerberg, on Tuesday said: "Facebook has re-friended Australia. Australian news will be restored to the 

Facebook platform, and Facebook has committed to entering into good-faith negotiations with Australian news media businesses and seeking to reach agreements to pay for content."
Frydenberg, quoting Zuckerberg, said Facebook will sign individual commercial deals with news publishers and that these discussions "are pretty advanced with a number of (news) parties."
Similar to Facebook, internet services heavyweight Google is also expected to follow the media bargaining code. Google and Facebook can avoid the code altogether, if they can satisfy the government that enough deals 

with news organisations have been struck outside it.
"It has been a difficult process, but these are really important issues. Facebook is now going to engage in good faith negotiations with the commercial players," he said.
In a statement, Facebook said it was "pleased" the company was able to reach an agreement with the Australian government.
"After further discussions, we are satisfied that the Australian government has agreed to a number of changes and guarantees that address our core concerns about allowing commercial deals that recognise the value our 

platform provides to publishers, relative to the value we receive from them," Facebook said.
"As a result of these changes, we can now work to further our investment in public interest journalism and restore news on Facebook for Australians in the coming days." -- PTI
19:21   Biden admin rolls back Trump-era citizenship test, reverts to 2008 version
The Biden administration has announced the reversal of the stringent Trump-era policy by reverting to the 2008 version of the naturalisation test module to make the path to US citizenship more accessible to all eligible individuals.
US Citizenship and Immigration Services announced on Monday that it is reverting to the 2008 version of the naturalisation civics test beginning March 1, 2021.
The previous Trump administration had introduced some changes to the naturalisation civics test, called the 2020 civics test, which increased the number of questions from 100 to 128 and the correct answers in the multiple-choice questions had political and ideological overtones.
Announcing the reversal, the USCIS said the agency has determined that the revised civics test, applicable for individuals who had applied on or after December 1, 2020, "may inadvertently create potential barriers" to the naturalisation process.
"This action is consistent with the framework of the Executive Order on Restoring Faith in Our Legal Immigration Systems, which directs a comprehensive review of the naturalisation process to eliminate barriers and make the process more accessible to all eligible individuals," USCIS said in a statement.
"The 2008 civics test was thoroughly developed over a multi-year period with the input of more than 150 organisations, which included English as a second language experts, educators, and historians, and was piloted before its implementation. USCIS aspires to make the process as accessible as possible as directed by President Biden's request to review the process thoroughly, it said.
The civics test is administered to applicants who apply for US citizenship through naturalisation and is one of the statutory requirements for naturalising. Applicants must demonstrate a knowledge and understanding of the fundamentals of the history, principles, and form of government of the United States.
"The decision to naturalise demonstrates an investment in and commitment to this country. USCIS is committed to administering a test that is an instrument of civic learning and fosters civic integration as part of the test preparation process, the statement said.
Applicants who filed their application for naturalisation on or after December 1, 2020, and before March 1, 2021, likely have been studying for the 2020 test; therefore, USCIS will give these applicants the option to take either the 2020 civics test or the 2008 civics test, it said.
There will be a transition period where both tests are being offered. The 2020 test will be phased out on April 19, 2021, for initial test takers. Applicants filing on or after March 1, 2021, will take the 2008 civics test, the agency said. -- PTI 
19:07   2 Covid variants detected in Maha, Kerala: Govt
Two variants of SARS-CoV-2 -- N440K and E484K -- have been detected in Maharashtra and Kerala but there is no reason to believe presently that they are responsible for the surge in cases in some districts in these two states, the Centre said on Tuesday.
Addressing a press conference here, NITI Aayog Member (Health) V K Paul said that 187 people have tested positive for the UK strain of SARS-CoV-2 in the country so far, while six people have detected with the South Africa variant. Also, one person has tested positive for the Brazil variant strain.
"Both the N440K and E484K variants of SARS-CoV-2 have been detected in Maharashtra. In Kerala and Telangana also these variants have been found. Also, three others -- UK, South Africa and Brazil variants are there in the country. But there is no reason for us to believe that they are responsible for the upsurge of the outbreak in some districts of Maharashtra and Kerala," Paul said. -- PTI
18:30   Court sends Deep Sidhu to 14-day judicial custody
A Delhi court Tuesday sent actor-activist Deep Sidhu to judicial custody for 14 days in connection with the Red Fort violence on the Republic Day during farmers' tractor parade against the Centre's three new agri laws.
Sidhu was produced before Metropolitan Magistrate Samarjeet Kaur on the expiry of his 7-day police custody in the case.
The court had earlier sent Sidhu to police custody after the police alleged he was one of the main instigators of the violent incidents at the Red Fort.
Tens of thousands of protesting farmers clashed with the police in the national capital on January 26 during a tractor parade to to highlight their demands.
Many of them driving tractors reached the Red Fort and entered the monument, where a religious flag was also hoisted. Over 500 police personnel were injured and one protestor died.
In the FIR registered in connection with the Red Fort violence, police alleged two magazines with 20 live cartridges were snatched from two constables by protestors who also damaged vehicles and robbed anti-riot gear. -- PTI
17:46   Punjab orders fresh curbs amid Covid-19 surge
The Punjab government on Tuesday ordered curbs on both indoor and outdoor gatherings from March 1 and authorised deputy commissioners to impose night-curfew in COVID-19 hotspots in their districts if needed.
Chairing a virtual review meeting of the COVID-19 situation in Punjab, Chief Minister Amarinder Singh issued orders to limit indoor gatherings to 100 people and outdoor events to 200 attendees from March 1, an official statement said.
He also directed that face masks and social distancing norms be strictly enforced, it said.
The move comes amid growing concerns over an upswing in the number of coronavirus cases in the state.
Singh authorised DCs to adopt micro-containment strategies and impose night-curfews in COVID-19 hotspots if needed, and directed the police to ensure that people wear masks.
The chief minister said a decision on reducing occupancy in cinema halls will be taken after March 1.
Private offices and restaurants will be encouraged to display last COVID-19 tests done for all employees, he added.
Punjab is among five states that have been asked by the Centre to refocus on strict surveillance, containment and RT-PCR testing to check the growing number of cases. The other four states are Maharashtra, Kerala, Chhattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh. -- PTI 
17:23   136 missing in glacier disaster presumed dead
The Uttarakhand government has issued a notification authorising 136 people still missing after the flash flood in Chamoli district over two weeks ago to be declared "presumed dead". 

Sixty-eight bodies have so far been recovered after the February 7 disaster. There is a tunnel in which around 35 people are suspected to have been trapped, but rescuers have not been able to reach it till now due to the sludge. Authorities say clearing the debris from the tunnel could take months. 

 A glacial lake was formed upstream of Tapovan over Rishiganga following the devastating flash flood which had demolished a 13.2 MW hydel project along the river besides causing extensive damage to the NTPC's Tapovan-Vishnugad hydel project along Dhauliganga. 

 Uttarakhand Health Secretary Amit Singh Negi said on Tuesday that the presumption of death can be made by officials in the affected district only in case of missing people who in all likelihood have died in the disaster but their bodies have not been found.

 Normally the missing are declared dead only when they are not traced for seven years after the incident responsible for their disappearance but in case of an extraordinary occurrence like the one witnessed in Uttarakhand special provisions can be made, he said. 

 The move to declare those who continue to be missing in the flash flood as presumed dead has been initiated to expedite the process of distribution of compensation among the affected families, he said. The notification was issued on the basis of an SOP issued by the Centre in this regard on February 21, Negi said. A similar SOP was issued by the Centre after the Kedarnath deluge of June, 2013 in which thousands of people were killed and left missing. 

 The SOP was formulated on the request of the state government by the Registrar General and Census Commissioner, India, he said. In normal circumstances, the death is registered only on the reports from persons mentioned in section 8 of the Registration of Births and Deaths (RBD) Act, 1969. However, in extraordinary cases like the one in Uttarakhand, reports from public servants after due enquiry can be made use of for registering the deaths,the notification said.
16:40   Varavara Rao also gets bail in Maha mine case
The Nagpur bench of Bombay High Court on Tuesday granted interim bail on medical grounds to ailing poet-activist Varavara Rao in connection with a 2016 Surjagarh iron ore mine arson case. Rao, 82, and advocate Surendra Gadling were arrested by the Gadchiroli police in Maharashtra in February 2019 in connection with the case. 

Justice Swapna Joshi of the HC's Nagpur bench granted bail to Rao on similar grounds on which the principal bench of the high court on Monday granted bail to him in the Elgar Parishad-Maoist links case. 

Rao suffers from a host of ailments, including symptoms of dementia, as per his lawyers. His advocates Firdos Mirza and Nihalsingh Rathod said the activist had sought bail on health and medical grounds and not on merits of the case pertaining to arson at the iron ore mine at Surjagarh in Gadchiroli.

"We pointed out to the court here (Nagpur) the order passed by the division bench of Justices S S Shinde and Manish Pitale on Monday, granting Rao interim bail for six months after considering his health condition," Mirza told PTI. 

 Justice Joshi, after perusing the order of the division bench, granted interim bail to Rao for the same period in the arson case too, he said. 

 On December 25, 2016, Naxals allegedly set ablaze least 80 vehicles engaged in transporting iron ore from Surjagarh mines in Etapalli tehsil of Gadchiroli. Rao, who is currently admitted in the Nanavati Hospital in Mumbai, had sought bail on medical grounds in the Elgar Parishad-Maoist links case, which is being probed by the National Investigation Agency (NIA). -- PTI
16:35   Fine for not wearing mask is Rs 200 and not Rs 1,000: Mumbai police chief
The Mumbai Police on Tuesday clarified that the fine for not wearing a mask is Rs 200 and not Rs 1,000. 

The clarification comes amid the news that a fine of Rs 1000 is being levied on those found without masks. "Dear Mumbaikars! #FakeNews mongers are back again! This time claiming that No Mask can cost you a fine 1000 rupees. While no money can compensate for safety being compromised, you can only be charged Rupees 200 for not wearing a mask," Param Bir Singh, Mumbai Police Commissioner said in a tweet.

Maharashtra is witnessing a rise in COVID-19 cases during the last few days.

The Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) on Sunday collected a total fine of Rs 28 lakhs from 14,000 people who were caught without face masks in public spaces.

According to the state health department, the total number of COVID-19 cases in Maharashtra has reached 21,00,884 with the addition of 6,971 new cases. The death toll in the state has risen to 51,788 with the addition of 35 new deaths. The number of active cases in Maharashtra stands at 52,956. -- ANI
16:28   Disha Ravi gets bail in toolkit case
Toolkit case: Delhi court grants bail to 21-year-old climate activist Disha Ravi. Additional Sessions Judge Dharmender Rana granted relief to Ravi on a personal bond of Rs 1 lakh and two sureties of like amount.

A Delhi court on Monday had sent Ravi, arrested in connection with allegedly being involved in sharing a "toolkit" on social media related to the farmers' protest, to one-day police custody to be confronted with co-accused in the case.

Police only got one day custody of Ravi, though it had sought five days of custodial interrogation contending that during her interrogation, she shifted entire burden on two co-accused -- Nikita Jacob and Shantanu Muluk -- who "cannot be arrested because they are currently on transit bail.

On Friday, Ravi was sent to three day judicial custody after police had said her custodial interrogation was not required for the time being.

The agency had said that it would seek her further interrogation once co accused -- Nikita Jacob and Shantanu Muluk -- join the interrogation on February 22.
16:24   Sensex, Nifty end marginally higher
Equity benchmarks Sensex and Nifty ended marginally higher on Tuesday amid high volatility and tepid cues from global markets. After gyrating 667.46 points during the day, the 30-share BSE Sensex ended 7.09 points or 0.01 per cent higher at 49,751.41. 

After a similar movement, the broader NSE Nifty settled 32.10 points or 0.22 per cent up at 14,707.80. ONGC was the top gainer in the Sensex pack, rallying around 6 per cent, followed by IndusInd Bank, L&T, UltraTech Cement, Titan, SBI and NTPC. 

On the other hand, Kotak Bank, Maruti, Bajaj Auto, HDFC Bank and HCL Tech were among the laggards. Domestic equities witnessed roller coaster ride amid high volatility, with metals and realty indices recording substantial gains, said Binod Modi, Head - Strategy at Reliance Securities.

"Concerns pertaining to increase in bond yields and higher commodity prices dented investors' sentiments in last couple of days. However, underlying strength of economy and market remains intact," he added.-- PTI
NCP chief Sharad Pawar
NCP chief Sharad Pawar
16:05   NCP wins mayoral election in Maha, BJP loses
In a major shock to the BJP, the NCP on Tuesday managed to elect its mayor for the Sangli Miraj Kupwad Municipal Corporation, which was ruled by the saffron party. The NCP's Digvijay Suryawanshi was elected as the mayor of the civic body, after five BJP corporators voted in favour of him. 

 "There are 78 members in the civic body. During the election, the NCP candidate bagged 39 votes, while the BJP's Dhiraj Suryawanshi got 36 votes," the NCP's district president Sanjay Bajaj said. 

 At least five BJP corporators voted in favour of the NCP candidate, while two abstained from voting, he said. Earlier, the BJP's strength in the civic body was 43, while the NCP's was 34, he said, adding that the party managed to adjust seven votes in the election. Umesh Patil of the Congress has been elected as the deputy mayor, he said. The NCP's state unit chief and cabinet minister Jayant Patil congratulated Suryawanshi and Patil on their win.
15:07   Indian firms may offer 7.7% pay hike in 2021
No increments or bonus in years? Send this to your HR.
Companies in India are likely to offer a 7.7 per cent salary increase in 2021, one of the highest among the BRIC nations, and higher than the average actual increase of 6.1 per cent in 2020, says a survey. 

Global professional services firm Aon Plc on Tuesday released insights from its latest Salary Increase Survey in India, as per which 88 per cent of the surveyed companies reported that they intend to increase salaries in 2021, as compared to 75 per cent companies in 2020, reflecting positive business sentiment. 

The study, that analysed data across 1,200 companies from more than 20 industries noted that while salary increments indicate strong recovery, the Code of Wages could be a gamechanger. 

"We expect the increment dynamics for 2021 to play out over a longer period of time given the uncertainty and potential impact of forthcoming changes," Nitin Sethi, partner and Chief Executive Officer of Aon's performance and rewards business in India, said. 

The proposed definition of wages under the new Labor Codes could lead to additional compensation budgeting in the form of higher provisioning for Benefit plans like gratuity, leave encashment and provident fund, Sethi noted. 

"We expect organisations to review their compensation budgets in the second half of the year once the exact financial impact of the Labor Codes is known. It is also possible that some of the salary increments may not translate into higher cash-in-hand for employees if organisations choose to pay higher provident fund contributions on the new definition of Wages," he said. 

 As per the survey, sectors with the highest projected increases include, e-commerce and venture capital, hi-tech/information technology, ITeS, life sciences. On the contrary, sectors with the lowest projected increases include hospitality/restaurants, real estate/infrastructure, engineering services. -- PTI
14:47   Petrol nears Rs 91/l in Delhi, above Rs 97 in Mumbai
Petrol price on Tuesday neared the Rs 91 per litre mark in the national capital and diesel crossed Rs 81 a litre, as fuel prices were hiked again after a two-day pause. 

Petrol and diesel prices were raised by 35 paise per litre each, sending retail rates to an all-time high, according to a price notification of state-owned fuel retailers. 

The increase pushed petrol price to Rs 90.93 a litre in Delhi and to Rs 97.34 in Mumbai. Diesel - the most consumed fuel in the country - now comes for Rs 81.32 a litre in the national capital and for Rs 88.44 in Mumbai. Fuel prices had risen for 12 straight days before hitting a two-day pause button on February 21 and 22. 

The increase follows a spurt in oil prices in the international market, on which India is dependent to meet its 85 per cent of crude oil needs. Brent oil crossed USD 66 a barrel on Tuesday as US output was slow to return after a deep freeze in Texas shut production last week. 

Petrol prices have been raised by Rs 4.63 per litre in February and by Rs 7.22 in 2021. Diesel rates have gone up by Rs 4.84 a litre in February and by Rs 7.45 in 2021. Petrol price has already surged past the Rs 100-mark in some places in Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh, which levy the highest value-added tax (VAT) on the fuel. Retail pump prices differ from state to state depending on the local taxes (VAT) and freight.

The increase in fuel prices has been criticised by the opposition parties such as the Congress that said that the Narendra Modi government should have cut excise duty to ease consumer pain. 

The Modi government had raised taxes to scoop out the benefit that arose from international oil rates plunging to a two-decade low in April/May last year. While global rates have rebounded with pick-up in demand, the government has not restored the taxes, which are at a record high. Central and state taxes make up for 60 per cent of the retail selling price of petrol and over 54 per cent of diesel. PTI

Image: Robert Vadra rode a bicycle on his way to his office to protest the hike in fuel price, in New Delhi.
14:22   Court frames terror charges against Aasiya Andrabi
A Delhi court has framed terrorism, sedition and other charges against Kashmiri separatist Aasiya Andrabi and her two associates for allegedly waging war against the government of India and conspiring to commit terror acts in the country. 

The case relates to waging war against the country with support from Pakistan including terror entities. Special Judge Parveen Singh had put Andrabi and her associates - Sofi Fehmeeda and Nahida Nasreen - on trial for various offences punishable under IPC and the stringent Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) on February 20. 

The court passed the order after the accused pleaded not guilty and claimed trial. The court framed charges under sections 120-B (criminal conspiracy), 121 (waging war against the government of India), 121-A (conspiracy to wage war against government of India), 124-A (sedition), 153-A (promoting enmity between different groups), 153-B (imputations, assertions prejudicial to national-integration) and 505 (statements conducing to public mischief) of the IPC. It further framed sections 18 (conspires or attempts to commit, or advocates, abets, advises or incites terror act), 20 (being member of terrorist gang or organisation), 38 (offence relating to membership of a terrorist organisation) and 39 (offence relating to support given to a terrorist organisation) under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act. 

 Andrabi, who was chief of the banned outfit Dukhtaran-e-Millat (daughters of nation), was accused by the National Investigation Agency (NIA) of being involved in conspiracy and acts to "severely destabilise the sovereignty and integrity of India", along with her two other associates. By their activities on cyber space, they were running a concerted campaign to solicit support of Pakistani establishment which inter-alia included arranging support from terrorist entities from Pakistan, it said. 

The NIA, on directions of the Union home ministry, registered a case against them and the organisation. According to the FIR, Andrabi, Fehmeeda and Nasreen were actively running Dukhtaran-e-Millat (DEM), a terrorist organisation proscribed under the first schedule of the UAPA. They were using various media platforms to spread insurrectionary imputations and hateful speeches that endanger the integrity, security and sovereignty of India, the NIA said. 

DEM through Andrabi openly advocated secession of Jammu and Kashmir from the Union of India and had also called for Jihad and use of violence against India, it said. The three accused were arrested in April 2018 and are currently in custody. PTI
14:17   Four crude bombs recovered in West Bengal's Birbhum
Police have recovered four crude bombs in the Siuri area of Birbhum district in West Bengal on Tuesday.

Further investigation is underway. 

Earlier, Trinamool Congress leader and state Labour Minister Jakir Hossain, suffered injuries after the bomb attack on him while he was walking towards Nimtita Railway Station to board the train for Kolkata on February 17.

The case has been handed over to West Bengal CID today and the investigation is underway at Nimtita Railway Station.
13:48   Dehradun break? Covid test mandatory for 5 states
The Uttarakhand government on Tuesday issued an order to make the COVID-19 test mandatory for people coming from Maharashtra, Gujarat, Kerala, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh in the wake of a surge in coronavirus cases in these states.

"Due to the rise in COVID19 cases in Maharashtra, Gujarat, Kerala, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh, travellers from these states have to undergo testing on arrival in Uttarakhand at state borders, railway stations and Dehradun airport," said Dehradun District Magistrate. 

The decision was taken in face of a sudden rise in the number of Covid-19 cases in several states.Meanwhile, India on Tuesday registered 10,584 new COVID-19 cases and 78 deaths in the last 24 hours, the Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MoHFW) said.

With the new cases, the coronavirus tally in the country has reached 1,10,16,434 including 1,47,306 active cases and 1,07,12,665 discharges. The death toll has mounted to 1,56,463 with the loss of 78 lives.  -- ANI
13:32   Rs 6,000 cr cleared for Arjun Mark 1A tank
Days after Prime Minister Narendra Modi dedicated the Main Battle Tank Arjun Mark1A to the nation, the defence ministry on Tuesday is all set to clear the acquisition of these tanks worth over Rs 6,000 crore by the army.

The defence ministry had recently cleared the induction of 118 Arjun Mark1A tanks into the Indian Army. 

"The Defence Ministry will consider the proposal in the Defence Acquisition Council meeting to be held in presence of the Chief of Defence Staff General Bipin Rawat and Army chief Gen Manoj Mukund Naravane," defence sources said.

The tank has been fully designed and developed by the DRDO in close coordination with the Indian Army. 118 tanks would be joining the fleet of the first batch of 124 Arjun tanks which have already been inducted into the army and are deployed in the western desert along the Pakistan front.

The 118 Arjun tanks would also form two regiments in the Armoured Corps of the Indian Army like the first 124 tanks.

-- ANI
13:00   Mumbai police given 2-week custody of Ravi Pujari
Gangster Ravi Pujari, who was brought to Mumbai from Bengaluru this morning, has been remanded to police custody by the sessions court till March 9, in the 2016 Gajali restaurant firing case. 

Pujari, who is wanted in more than 49 cases in the city, is a prime catch for the Mumbai police. 

Mumbai's Joint CP (Crime), Milind Bharambe, said Pujari is accused of committing serious offences including murder and extortion. 

Pujari was extradited from Senegal on February 22. 

Last week, a Bengaluru court had given his custody to Mumbai Police after a year-long battle.

The 59-year-old gangster -- a fugitive for more than two decades till last year -- had returned to Bengaluru in the custody of Karnataka police in February 2020 from Senegal.
12:45   Panneerselvam tables TN budget
Tamil Nadu Deputy CM O Panneerselvam presented the interim budget in the State Assembly today. DMK and Congress MLAs staged a walkout from the Tamil Nadu Assembly today during the presentation of the interim budget. 

Image: O Panneerselvam with a pictorial briefcase of late TN CM J Jayalalithaa. The briefcase holds the budget papers. 
12:39   CBI at Abhishek's house to question his wife
A CBI team visited the residence of Trinamool Congress MP Abhishek Banerjee on Tuesday to question his wife Rujira in the coal pilferage case, officials said.

Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee visited the residence of her nephew Abhishek in south Kolkata's Harish Mukherjee Road minutes before the CBI team landed there.

The CBI's visit to Abhishek's residence comes after Rujira told the central agency that she will be available for examination between 11 am and 3 pm on February 23, replying to a notice that the sleuths had hand-delivered her on Sunday.

The agency sought the examination of Rujira Banerjee to ascertain the details of her bank transactions, suspecting a connection to the proceeds of the illegal coal excavation money, sources said.

On Monday, the CBI examined Rujira's sister Menaka Gambhir in connection with the same case.

Two woman officers of the CBI visited Gambhir's residence off EM Bypass and had examined her for nearly three hours.

The developments come months ahead of the assembly elections in the state with Trinamool Congress alleging it to be a political vendetta.
-- PTI
12:27   Gujarat local body polls: BJP leading in 58 seats, Congress leads 8
The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is leading in 58 seats in the elections for six municipal corporations in Gujarat, while Congress has maintained a lead in eight seats, as per initial trends. 

The BJP is leading Jamjodhpur, Thaltej, Vastrapur, Asarwa, Saijpur, Nava Vadaj and Navrangpura wards in the local body polls. On the other hand, Congress is leading in Dariapur and Chandkheda wards, while the All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM) is leading in Behrampura ward.

The six civic bodies -- Ahmedabad, Surat, Rajkot, Vadodara, Bhavnagar and Jamnagar -- were being ruled by the BJP.

The counting of votes in Gujarat local body polls that were held on Sunday, had begun at 9 am on Tuesday.

The State Election Commission (SEC) has said an average 46.08 per cent turnout was registered during voting, which was held between 7 am and 6 pm on Sunday.
11:53   Mamata at nephew's home ahead of CBI questioning
West Bengal CM Mamata Banerjee arrives at nephew and TMC leader Abhishek Banerjee's residence.  Abhishek's wife, Rujira, is expected to answer CBI's queries today in connection with the coal scam case.

Rujira Banerjee yesterday, responded to the CBI's summons in the alleged coal pilferage scam and asked the central agency to send its team to her residence for examination on Tuesday, officials said. The CBI had on Sunday asked her to join the probe.
BJP's Bengal president Dilip Ghosh
BJP's Bengal president Dilip Ghosh
11:44   No politics behind raids on TMC leaders: BJP
Amid a spate of corruption investigations on people associated with the ruling Trinamool Congress (TMC) in West Bengal, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) state president Dilip Ghosh on Monday said the agencies proceed with evidence at hand and the notices issued against TMC allies has no political motive behind them. 

Speaking in Hooghly district, Ghosh said if nothing wrong was done, then the people against whom the notices are issued should come forward and clarify the facts. 

"Investigation agencies summons people based on the evidence they gathered. Trying to find a political agenda in this is wrong. I agree that elections are around the corner, but because of the elections, the investigation should not be stopped. The scam should be unearthed and culprits should be punished," Ghosh added. 

"TMC is worried after Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) summoned Rujira Banerjee (Abhishek Banerjee's wife). The party is making statements saying they aren't afraid of rats. It can't be that you do wrong and stand by it. If you haven't done anything wrong, go and answer." 

He said that if investigation agencies are sending notices to people, that means something wrong was done. The BJP leader said that apart from summoning Abhishek Banerjee's wife in the coal scam case, ED had summoned TMC leader Firhad Hakim's daughter, who is an employee of Kolkata Metro along with her other colleagues in the Metro Dairy Scam case. 

Earlier February 21, CBI served a notice to Rujira Banerjee Naroola, the wife of West Bengal CM Mamata Banerjee's nephew Abhishek asking her to join the investigation related to the coal scam case. In another crucial development, CBI has also issued summons to Abhishek Banerjee's sister-in-law Maneka Gambhir in connection with the coal scam case
11:39   Maharashtra: 479 new COVID-19 cases in Thane, 5 more deaths
Thane has reported 479 new cases ofcoronavirus, raising the infection count in the Maharashtra district to 2,61,204,an official said on Tuesday. Besides these new cases reported on Monday, five more people died of the viral infection, taking the toll in the district to 6,243, he said. 

The COVID-19 fatality rate in the district stands at 2.40 per cent, he said. So far, 2,50,488patients have recovered from the infection in the district, reflecting a recovery rate of 95.90 per cent. As of now, there are 4,473 active COVID-19 cases in the district the official said.

In neighbouring Palghar district, the COVID-19 case count has gone up to 45,732,while the death toll is 1,202, an official from the district administration said. PTI
11:21   Lok Sabha member Delkar's body handed over to his family
The body of Dadra and Nagar Haveli Lok Sabha member Mohan Delkar, who was found dead in a
Mumbai hotel, has been handed over to his relatives after postmortem, an official said on Tuesday.

His viscera has been preserved for histopathological examination to ascertain the exact cause of the death, the official said.

The body of Delkar, 58, Independent MP from Dadra and Nagar Haveli Union Territory, was found hanging from a ceiling fan in his hotel room in the Marine Drive area of south Mumbai on Monday, a police official said.

A suicide note in Gujarati was also found at the spot, he said.

Delkar was a seven-term Lok Sabha member from the Union Territory of Dadra and Nagar Haveli.

In May 2019, he was elected to the 17th Lok Sabha, his seventh term in the House.
Delkar is survived by wife, a son and a daughter.

-- PTI
10:59   Ravi Pujari in Mumbai as cops get custody
Gangster Ravi Pujari, who has nearly 80 cases filed against him in Mumbai, was brought to the city this morning. Last week, a Bengaluru court had given his custody to Mumbai Police after a year-long battle.

"We had been trying to get his custody for a year, and finally got success in the 2016 Ghazali Hotel firing case," Milind Bharambe, joint commissioner (crime branch), Maharashtra, was quoted as saying.

Today, he will be presented in court to seek remand, officials said.

The 59-year-old gangster -- a fugitive for more than two decades till last year -- had returned to Bengaluru in the custody of Karnataka Police in February 2020 from Senegal.

A five-member team of cops from Bengaluru had picked up Ravi Pujari, who was once associated with underworld don Chota Rajan, from the west African nation.
10:44   Rahul slams Centre over price hike of fuel, train fares
Slamming the Centre over the hike in prices of fuel and train fares, Congress leader Rahul Gandhi on Tuesday termed the situation as a 'disaster' for the people and an 'opportunity' for the government.

Sharing a newspaper article that reported that the fare of passenger trains will be doubled, the Congress leader said: "COVID- Disaster for you, opportunity for the government." "Petrol-diesel-gas-train fare, middle-class has been badly trapped, loot has broken the illusion of 'jumlas'," he tweeted (roughly translated from Hindi).

The prices of petrol and diesel have been increasing continuously for more than 10 days and in some states, the price of petrol has even crossed Rs 100 in some states. 

Opposition parties also held protests in different parts of the country over the rise of prices of diesel and petrol.

Earlier on Sunday, Congress interim president Sonia Gandhi wrote a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi to convey "every citizen's anguish and deep distress regarding the spiralling fuel and gas prices."

-- ANI
10:22   India's Covid tally crosses 1.1 crore
India reports 10,584 new COVID-19 cases, 13,255 discharges, and 78 deaths in the last 24 hours, as per data provided by the government.

The tally stands at --
Total cases: 1,10,16,434
Total discharges: 1,07,12,665
Death toll: 1,56,463 
Active cases: 1,47,306
Total Vaccination: 1,17,45,552
09:54   Maha CM to review Covid-19 situation today
Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray on Tuesday will hold a meeting with the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation Commissioner and officials to review the coronavirus situation in the state.

This comes a day after Maharashtra on Monday recorded a little over 5,000 daily Covid-19 cases after a sudden spike of over 6,000 cases since the last three days.

According to an official statement, with 5,210 new infections, Maharashtra's coronavirus tally rose to 21,06,094.

Of late, Maharashtra has been witnessing a surge in coronavirus cases.

CM Thackeray had earlier called the coronavirus situation in Maharashtra 'serious' and warned that lockdown would have to be reimposed if daily Covid cases continue to rise in the next two weeks.
09:39   CBI may question Abhishek Banerjee's wife today
Sleuths of the Central Bureau of Investigation are likely to question Trinamool Congress MP Abhishek Banerjees wife Rujira Banerjee on Tuesday in connection with a multi-crore coal smuggling case.

The central agency has already questioned Rujira Banerjees sister Menaka Gambhir for nearly three hours on Monday at her residence, officials said.

The CBI had on Sunday visited the residence of Abhishek Banerjee, the nephew of chief minister Mamata Banerjee, to serve a notice to his wife for questioning. The agency had also summoned Gambhir for questioning.

On Monday, Rujira Banerjee responded to the CBI saying the central agency may visit her residence between 11am and 3pm on Tuesday.

Though I am unaware of the reason for being called for questioning on the subject matter of the investigation, you may visit my residence as per your convenience between 11am and 3pm tomorrow i.e 23 February 2021, Rujira Banerjee wrote in her letter to the CBI on Monday morning.
09:25   R-Day violence: Farmer leader from Jammu taken into custody by Delhi Police
A prominent farmer leader from Jammu was taken into custody by the Delhi Police for his alleged involvement in the violence during farmers' tractor parade against the new agri laws in the national capital on Republic Day, officials said on Tuesday.
Jammu and Kashmir United Kisan Front Chairman Mohinder Singh, a resident of Chatha area of Jammu city, is the first person to be arrested from Jammu in connection with the January 26 violence.

He was taken into custody on Monday night and immediately shifted to Delhi for questioning, they said.

Thousands of protesters had clashed with the police during the tractor parade called by farmer unions on January 26 demanding repeal of the Centre's contentious farm laws. 

Many of the protesters reached the Red Fort driving tractors and entered the monument, and some of them even hoisted religious flags on its domes and a flagstaff at the ramparts.

Singh's family, however, said that he was innocent and demanded his immediate release.
-- PTI
09:08   Mumbai mayor on mask drive
Mumbai Mayor Kishori Pednekar distributes masks at Dadar vegetable market as COVID-19 cases rise in the city.

Mumbai has recorded 36.38 per cent rise in the active COVID-19 cases since February 8, according to the city civic body.
Careless attitude of citizens, allowing the general public to travel in local trains and opening of various other commercial activities were among the reasons behind the current surge in cases in Mumbai, civic officials said.
08:54   Pak PM Imran Khan allowed to use Indian airspace
India has allowed Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan's aircraft to use Indian Air Space, according to informed sources.

Imran Khan will be travelling to Sri Lanka on his maiden visit on February 23. In 2019, Pakistan had denied opening its airspace for Prime Minister Narendra Modi's flights to the US and Saudi Arabia citing alleged human rights violations in Kashmir.

India took up the denial of permission to VVIP flight with an International Civil Aviation Organisation.

Under normal circumstances, the VVIP aircraft are granted permission by countries. 

However, Pakistan's denial of permission to VVIP aircraft was an aberration.

-- ANI
08:37   Gujarat municipal elections: Counting of votes to begin at 9 am
The Gujarat Municipal Election Results 2021 will be declared today. 

Counting of votes polled in elections to six municipal corporations of Gujarat -- Ahmedabad, Surat, Rajkot, Vadodara, Bhavnagar, and Jamnagar -- will begin at 9 am. 

Polling for 576 seats in 144 wards across six municipal corporations - Ahmedabad, Surat, Rajkot, Vadodara, Bhavnagar, and Jamnagar - was held on February 21. 
07:52   US tops 5L virus deaths, matching toll of 3 wars
The COVID-19 death toll in the US has topped 5,00,000, all but matching the number of Americans killed in World War II, Korea and Vietnam combined.

The lives lost, as recorded by Johns Hopkins University on Monday, are about equal to the population of Kansas City, Missouri, and greater than that of Miami; Raleigh, North Carolina; or Omaha, Nebraska.

And despite the rollout of vaccines since mid-December, a closely watched model from the University of Washington projects more than 589,000 dead by June 1.

The US toll is by far the highest reported in the world, accounting for 20 per cent of the nearly 2.5 million coronavirus deaths globally, though the true numbers are thought to be significantly greater, in part because of the many cases that were overlooked, especially early in the outbreak.

Average daily deaths and cases have plummeted in the past few weeks. Virus deaths have fallen from more than 4,000 reported on some days in January to an average of fewer than 1,900 per day. But experts warn that dangerous variants could cause the trend to reverse itself.

Some experts say not enough Americans have been inoculated yet for the vaccine to be making much of a difference.

The first known deaths from the virus in the US happened in early February 2020. It took four months to reach the first 100,000 dead. The toll hit 200,000 deaths in September and 300,000 in December. Then it took just over a month to go from 300,000 to 400,000 and another month to climb from 400,000 to 500,000.

The US recorded an estimated 405,000 deaths in World War II, 58,000 in the Vietnam War and 36,000 in the Korean War.
00:18   Centre announces Satyajit Ray Award ahead of WB poll
Information and Broadcasting Minister Prakash Javadekar on Monday announced a national level film award after legendary filmmaker Satyajit Ray. 
Javadekar made this announcement at a programme organised by the National Film Development Corporation in Kolkata, according to an actor who was present at the event.
At the programme in which the media was not allowed, the Union minister interacted with leading actors and directors of West Bengal where the Assembly election is due in April-May.
No detail is available on the 'Satyajit Ray Award'.
Senior actor and BJP leader Roopa Ganguly, who was present at the function, said that it is great that an award is being instituted after Ray.
"It has been under planning stage for quite some time," she told a news channel.
Director Arindam Sil said that discussions were held with the Union minister on how to develop the Bengali film industry.
Actors Paoli Dam, Abir Chattopadhyay, Ritupana Sengupta, director Gautam Ghosh, classical singer Rashid Khan, singer-turned-Union minister Babul Supriyo and others were present at the programme. -- PTI