125 saturDAY 26 december, 2020 Persons are likely to be brought in for dry run in one district epaper.morningstandard.in facebook.com/TheMorningStandard The states will plan it in two districts each in different medical settings — district hospitals, community/primary healthcare centres, urban and rural sites, and private facilities next Monday and Tuesday. court relief Pearl killers to be free Today Page 9 The Centre plans a dry dry-run of the vaccination process in four states — Punjab, Gujarat, Assam and Andhra Pradesh — next week Mock drills in 2 districts each twitter.com/TheMornStandard Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh and his three aides will walk out of a Karachi prison Covid vaccination dry run in 4 states next week A CAPITAL VIEW OF NEWS l New Delhi l J8.00 l PAGES 12 Hands-on experience for managers The mock drill will also check cold storage facilities, transport arrangements for vaccine and management of crowds with proper physical distancing at the vaccination sites The two-day dry run will provide a handson experience to programme managers at various levels, the health ministry said | P7 In a first, BJP poaches MLAs from ally JD(U) E x p r e s s N e w s Se r v i c e @ Guwahati/Patna Farmers watch the address of Prime Minister Narendra Modi on television while sitting inside a truck parked at the Ghazipur border protest side | Express Modi broadside on political foes Says they’re fanning the farmers’ agitation through false narratives; let farm laws stay for a year or two before taking call, urges Rajnath E x p r e s s N e w s Se r v i c e @ New Delhi Keeping the offer of talks open, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Friday led a battery of Union ministers and BJP leaders who launched a fierce counter offensive against the farm agitation, saying it is being fuelled by rumours and falsehood churned out by the ruling party’s political and ideological opponents. While Modi sought to package the initiative as a Brand India building exercise in agriculture for the international market, Union Minister for Defence Rajnath Singh suggested trying out the new farm laws for one or two years before taking a call on their utility . Modi cited the absence of the APMC (Agriculture Produce Marketing Committee) in Kerala and the non-implementation of the PM-Kisan Nidhi scheme in West Bengal to argue that the ideological opponents (of the BJP) are stoking farmers’ protests and likened them to “event management”. Rajnath, while addressing a group of farmers in the national capital, sought to assure them that the government will be open to considering amendments in the farm laws, but first they ought to be implemented for one or two years. Home minister Amit Shah, who addressed another group of farmers here, stressed that the Opposition is spreading falsehood about dismantling the mandi system though it would remain unaffected. He assured that corporates can’t snatch away any farmer’s land. Modi maintained that the government is ready for talks. “I want to assure that the government is ready for talks even with politically and ideologically driven critics, on facts and substance of the new farm laws,” he said. “Big speeches are being made at the protest venue to grab headlines. But the same set of people driven with certain political ideology will not protest in Kerala where there is no APMC or in Bengal where 70 lakh farmers have been deprived of the benefits of PM Kisan Nidhi scheme,” Modi said. Modi added that genuine concerns were flagged in the initial stages of the agitation, like the minimum support price (MSP) mechanism, but later all sorts of political issues, including demands for the release of those who are in jails on charges of violence, were raised. He charged that farmers suffered the most for decades when such parties were in power at the Centre. Modi also interacted with seven farmers who shared their experience of benefits from the new farm laws. Mamata joins issue West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on Friday accused Prime Minister Narendra Modi of peddling half-truths over nonimplementation of the PM Kisan Samman Nidhi scheme in the state. She said she has written two letters to the Union agriculture minister and spoken to him two days ago over it | P7 There’s a kind of event management going on. People are taking selfies and coming on television. There’s an attempt to harass the people of Delhi and hurt the economy Narendra Modi, Prime Minister Time to get aerial view of the big cat in MP’s Bandhavgarh reserve E x p r e s s N e w s Se r v i c e @ Bhopal If you happen to be a wildlife lover with a dash of adventurous spirit, Bandhavgarh National Park and Tiger Reserve is where your calling lies. Now, you can have an aerial view of the free-spirited big cats roaming about in the reserve in Umaria district of Madhya Pradesh, courtesy a hot air balloon wildlife safari, which was launched on Friday . The inaugural flight in the giant hot air balloon had State’s forest minister Kunwar Vijay Shah on board. “One more adventure has been added for tourists coming to Bandhavgarh Tiger Reserve with the launch of the hot air balloon wildlife safari. It is the first in any tiger reserve in the country. Now like Africa’s forests, tourists in India will also enjoy hot air balloon wildlife safari,” Shah told reporters after inaugurating the new service by taking a ride. “This is in line with Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan’s vision of ‘Buffer Mein Safar’. This will go a long way in attracting more tourists to the state,” he said after the flight over the reserve’s buffer zone. Shah said the state was planning to introduce this service in Pench, Kanha and Panna tiger reserves as well. The balloon safari will be operated by SkyWaltz Balloon Safari, which is the country’s first fully licensed and government approved commercial hot air balloon operator. “We have ensured the safety of the wildlife lovers as well as the animals. We are allowing the operator to offer the service from a safe height. Landing and take off would be allowed only inside the buffer zone,” the forest minister said. “We have waited for ten years to start the service. It’s only now that we have received the clearance,” SkyWaltz Balloon Safari official Jai Thakur said. Madhya Pradesh was declared the Tiger State in July 2019. As per the tiger census report in July 2019, the big cat count in the state had risen to 526 in 2018 from 308 in 2014. Farmers to form 7-member panel on talks strategy E x p r e s s N e w s Se r v i c e @ New Delhi/Chandigarh After a flurry of correspondence and the prime minister’s hardsell on the new farm laws, the agitators on Friday decided to form a seven-member committee consisting of farmer union leaders to devise strategies for talks with the Centre. The committee is expected to include Bharatiya Kisan Union (BKU) chief Gurnam Singh Chaduni, Krantikari Kisan Union president Darshan Pal, BKU-Rajewal head Balbir Singh Rajewal, farmer leader Shiv Kumar Kaka and activist Yogendra Yadav. Farmers unions are expected to send their reply to the Centre’s latest missive in a day or two but won’t budge on the demand to repeal the three laws. This was decided at a meeting of 32 farmer unions at the Singhu border on Friday . BKU (Rajewal group) general secretary Onkar Singh said: “The leaders were clear that we will talk to the government only if it decides to repeal these laws. Once the government agrees, then we can take up our strategy for further talks on other issues Our Sanyukt Morcha will meet on Saturday to vet our letter to the Centre.’’ Meanwhile, a group of people launched an online campaign urging NRIs to come to India to lend moral and material support to the protest. Shiromani Akali Dal chief Sukhbir Singh Badal said the Centre should stop “defaming farmers” and hold talks with them on ways to repeal the laws. He accused the Modi government of being callous and insensitive towards the suffering of farmers who are braving severe cold at the Delhi borders for over a month. Charge Delhi Cops file complaint Special Cell says Advocate Mehmood Pracha and associates caused obstructions in police probe | P4 Kerala student to be youngest mayor E x p r e s s N e w s Se r v i c e @ T’Puram MP’s Forest Minister Vijay Shah launches India’s first hot air balloon wildlife safari at Bandhavgarh | PTI Wild idea to usher in the New Year All the tiger reserves and national parks in Madhya Pradesh are reportedly full with tourist bookings for the Christmas and the New Year, despite the fear of a surge in the Covid-19 pandemic surge. Twenty-one-year-old Arya Rajendran from Kerala’s Thiruvananthapuram will become India’s youngest mayor on Monday A . second-year BSc Mathematics student,she was elected from Thiruvananthapuram municipal corporation on a CPM ticket. Arya is the daughter of K Rajendran, an electrician and branch committee member of the CPM, and Sreelatha, an LIC agent. Quite active in local politics, Arya is a state committee member of the Student Federation of India. She is also the state president of the Balasangham. Arya says her immediate priorities are to work for the welfare of the people and also continue her studies. Among her plans for the corporation is effecting a behaviour change among residents so that they become more conscious about the city’s cleanliness. “Some people still dump waste on the road. They need to be educated,” she said. Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar’s Janata Dal (United) suffered a setback on Friday as six of its seven MLAs in Arunachal Pradesh defected to ally BJP . The six MLAs – Hayeng Mangfi, Jikke Tako, Dongru Siongju, Talem Taboh, Kanggong Taku and Dorjee Wangdi Kharma – were supposed to attend the JD(U)’s two-day National Working Committee meeting in Patna on Saturday . The lone People’s Party of Arunachal legislator Kardo Nyigyor also joined the BJP. The defections took the BJP’s tally in Arunachal to 48 in the 60-member Assembly while the strength of the Opposition went down to 12. Arunachal BJP chief Biy- uram Wahge said the development shows people’s trust in PM Narendra Modi’s and Chief Minister Pema Khandu’s leadership. BJP leader Arvind Kumar said, “They defected due to regional compulsions. The NDA is united in Bihar.” The opposition RJD in Bihar taunted Nitish calling the desertion the BJP’s ‘Christmas gift’ to its ally. “The BJP purchased six JD(U) MLAs in Arunachal. Nitish is silently watching everything. But he has to assert if his party will merge with the BJP said RJD spokes,” person Shakti Singh Yadav. Congress spokesperson Prem Chandra Mishra said: “The BJP has come down to breaking up its own allies.” He also cautioned Nitish to keep his flock together, as the BJP would be eyeing JD(U) MLAs in Bihar next. Delhi Covid count lowest since Aug E x p r e s s N e w s Se r v i c e @ New Delhi Delhi recorded 758 fresh Covid-19 cases on Friday the lowest , in over four months. The positivity rate also dipped further to 0.88 per cent, lowest in eight months while 30 fatalities have been registered. This week, the daily case count has remained below the 1,000-mark, barring Thursday where a minor surge in cases (1,063) was registered. On Monday, 803 cases were reported, the lowest since August 17; on Tuesday 939 cases were reported and 871 on Wednesday . On August 17, Delhi had recorded 787 cases, and 652 on August 16. Earlier this week, the positivity rate also went down to 0.99 per cent for the first time since the daily bulletin has been issued by health department. The decline in cases has come as a big relief as experts had warned about a possible surge in cases around the year-end because of Christmas-New Year festivities, if there was laxity in following the norms. Also, the Delhi government has significantly ramped up testing, with over 85,000 tests being conducted on Thursday, as per the health bulletin. Nitish grins and bears it Downplaying the defections, JD(U) chief and Bihar CM Nitish Kumar said in response to queries, “They went their own way.” The JD(U) had won seven seats in the Arunachal assembly polls last year and become the main opposition group. Delhi Covid watch s tat u s o f cases 758 Positive Cases 1,370 Recovered 30 Deaths Source: Delhi health bulletin December 25
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