SATURDAY The US company was the first drugmaker to apply for emergency use authorisation of its Covid-19 vaccine in India on Dec 5, 2020 06 FEBRUARY, 2021 epaper.morningstandard.in facebook.com/TheMorningStandard twitter.com/TheMornStandard 95% COVID EFFECT LARGE CHUNK LEFT UNUSED PM Jan Arogya Yojana saw less than half of allocated funds used last year A CAPITAL VIEW OF NEWS PAGE 7 NEW DELHI J8.00 PAGES 12 Pfizer vaccine’s efficacy against 62% of Covishield made by SII Pfizer withdraws request for emergency use permit EXPERTS COMMITTEE DENIED NOD: REPORTS The move comes after an expert panel of India’s drugs regulatory authority reportedly recommended against granting approval to the firm at this stage. The committee in its meeting on Wednesday noted incidents of palsy, anaphylaxis and other serious adverse events after the vaccine’s approvals in some other countries RBI allows retail investors direct access to G-Secs Decision will help Centre meet its market borrowing target in the next financial year EXPRESS NEWS SERVICE What are G-Secs? @ New Delhi IN a game-changer move, the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) on Friday said it would allow retail investors to buy government bonds directly from it. Currently, retail investors can only buy gilt or government issued bonds through a platform on the National Stock Exchange. However, this is not very popular. The RBI platform for G-Secs is likely to be dubbed Retail Direct, though its details have not been shared. The current yield on a 10-year government bond is 6.126%. Bonds with shorter tenor yield less as interest. “As far as I know, very few countries like the US and Brazil allow this. In Asia, we are the first country to do it,” RBI Governor Shaktikanta Das told reporters on Friday soon after the monetary policy meeting. The move to attract retail investors to the gilt market will help the government meet its market borrowing target of `12 lakh crore. Analysts said the reason why RBI is opening up a direct gilt trading window for small buyers is to widen the market for government bonds and to keep the interest rate paid by the government low. “While a promising move, a lot will depend on the platform and parallel investment opportunities available,” said Nimish Shah, chief investment officer, Waterfield Advisors. Meanwhile, RBI’s six-mem- Government Security (G-Sec) is a tradeable instrument issued by the central or state governments. G-Secs carry practically no risk of default and, hence, are called riskfree gilt-edged instruments ber monetary policy committee did not spring any surprises on Friday as key policy rates were kept unchanged. Repo and reverse repo rates currently stand at record low levels of 4% and 3.35%, respectively . Among others, the first monetary policy announcement after the Union Budget had a few key elements: restoration of the Cash Reserve Ratio (CRR) to 4% in a gradual manner. CRR is the share a bank’s total deposits that is parked with RBI. Banks don’t earn interest on this amount. RBI said it estimates GDP growth at 10.5% during FY22, with an optimistic outlook on economic recovery Rural . demand is likely to be resilient on good agricultural prospects while urban demand and demand for contact intensive services is expected to strengthen with fall in Covid-cases and mass-vaccination drive. Consumer confidence is likely to remain upbeat as demand has moved to actual demand. The central bank said inflation has returned within its ‘tolerance band’, revising inflation at 5.2% for Q4FY21 from P10 5.8% earlier). TAKEAWAYS FROM THE GENERAL BUDGET S Gurumurthy writes on need to expand the Development Finance Institution for infrastructure financing and the off-Budget dangers | P7 EXPRESS READ Biden lets H-1B lottery system continue for now Washington: The Joe Biden administration has announced it is delaying the H-1B policy of the previous Trump administration on allocation of the popular foreign work visas by continuing with the lottery system until December 31, 2021, to give the immigration agency more time to develop, test and implement the modifications to the registration system | P9 4G services back in J&K after 550-day blackout FAYA Z WA NI @ Srinagar IN a huge relief to the people, the Lt Governor administration in Jammu and Kashmir on Friday lifted the ban on highspeed internet and announced the restoration of 4G mobile internet after nearly 550 days. These services were suspended in the erstwhile state hours before the scrapping of Article 370 on August 5, 2019. J & K g ove r n m e n t spokesman and Principal Secretary (Power & Information), Rohit Kansal announced the decision to restore high-speed mobile internet. “4G mobile internet services being restored in the entire J&K,” tweeted Kansal. Later, J&K Home Secretary Shaleen Kabra issued an order lifting restrictions on mobile and fixed landline internet. Restrictions on mobile internet speed were lifted after taking inputs from security forces and police, read the order. The Home Department has directed mobile internet service providers to provide access to the subscribers. The decision brought smiles back on the faces of people. “4G Mubarak! For the first time since Aug 2019 all of J&K will have 4G mobile data. Better late than never,” tweeted National Conference vice-president Omar Abdullah. Former IAS officerturned-politician Shah Faesal said restoration of 4G internet is a positive development. People from all walks of life have welcomed the restoration of high-speed internet. The 4G service had remained suspended even after the outbreak of Covid-19 pandemic and work from home guidelines issued in March last year. Farmers turn up in huge numbers at the Kisan Mahapanchayat against the three new farm laws, at Shamli in Uttar Pradesh on Friday | SHEKHAR YADAV Chakka jam today, protesters spare Delhi-NCR CALL TO STALL WHEELS SAMYUKTA KISAN MORCHA IS GOING AHEAD WITH ITS NATIONWIDE ROADBLOCK IN PROTEST AGAINST FARM LAWS W H AT A N D W H E N There will be no chakka jam inside Delhi. Roads to enter the capital will remain open except for the protest sites. UP and Uttarakhand are also exempted from the programme Only national and state highways across the country will be jammed from 12 noon to 3 pm Emergency and essential services like ambulance, school bus will not be stopped Morcha has promised a peaceful and nonviolent programme. Protesters have been asked to not indulge in conflicts with government officials or ordinary citizens It will conclude by blowing of vehicle horns for one minute Police forces of Delhi, Haryana and UP have made elaborate arrangements to maintain law and order. Delhi Police is on high alert FOR AND AGAINST Congress MP Pratap Singh Bajwa compares the barricades set up at protest sites with the Berlin Wall and concentration camps. “How can farmers trust you?” he asks, likening the situation at Delhi’s borders with scenes from Afghanistan, Libya, Iraq, Uganda and not the country of Mahatma Gandhi Agriculture minister NS Tomar says those opposing the laws are unable to point out what’s wrong. “We have been asking what is wrong in this law and no one is forthcoming,” he says EXPRESS NEWS SERVICE @ Chandigarh/Jaipur/Lucknow/New Delhi WITH the government on Friday strongly defending the farm laws despite protests gathering momentum, farmers unions said that the chakka jam planned for Saturday will not take place in UP, Uttarakhand and Delhi, but will cover other parts of the country including , southern states. While agriculture minister Narendra Singh Tomar said that the offer to amend the laws should not be viewed as if they had any flaws, the Opposition demanded that they be repealed and fresh ones brought after consultations. At the protest site, the Samyukta Kisan Morcha (SKM) announced their action plan on the chakka jam following a meeting between Balbir Singh Rajewal and Rakesh Tikait. “As sugarcane harvesting is on in UP and Uttarakhand, farmers will be busy The SKM has de. cided that farmers in these two states will not resort to chakka jam and will submit memos to the deputy commissioners. Del- REAL ESTATE CIRCLE RATES CUT BY 20%, PROPERTY PRICE TO GO DOWN EXPRESS NEWS SERVICE @ New Delhi PROPERTY rates in Delhi are set to go down as the AAP g ove r n m e n t o n F r i d ay slashed the circle rates for residential, commercial and industrial properties by 20 per cent for the next six months. “In the interest of the people, the Delhi government has decided to reduce the circle rates by 20 per cent. While we are slowly recovering from the economic contraction in the post-Covid era, it is the duty of our government to take all steps to further reduce the financial burden on the common people,” Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal said, after chairing the Cabinet meeting where proposal for reducing the cir- cle rates of properties was approved. It is learnt that a 20 per cent reduction in the circle rate would have an impact equivalent to 1 per cent reduction in the stamp duty or registration charges. Real estate developers and industry stakeholders welcomed the move. “Reducing circle rates, even for only a limited period, is great news for the Delhi housing market because it helps to further bring down property prices, which are very high despite not having risen for quite a long time,” said Anuj Puri, chairman, Anarock Property Consultants. “Market rates, which are invariably higher than circle rates, are nevertheless influenced by them as they act as a floor price for any property transaction.” The government has divided properties in the entire city into eight categories, ranging from Category A to Category H. While most expensive residential areas come under Category A, the lowest-valued areas are classified as Category H. “We understand it is our duty to give maximum impetus to ensure the economy bounces back. I hope this encourages more people to transact in real estate,” Revenue minister Kailash Gahlot told the media. While we are slowly recovering from the economic contraction in the post-Covid era, it is our duty to take all steps to further reduce the financial burden on the people —Arvind Kejriwal, CM hi is also kept away from tomorrow’s stir, though it will cover the rest of the country,” said Tikait and Rajewal. Tikait welcomed the support from international artistes and activists, including Rihanna and Greta Thunberg, but admitted he didn’t know them. The SKM’ said only national and state highways are to be jammed from 12 noon to 3 pm. The farmer leaders appealed to keep it peaceful. Sources said farmer unions fear angry outbursts in UP’s Pilibhit belt as the kisans there are upset over the deaths of some of their comrades. “That’s why the blockade has been called off in these areas,” said a source. Two mahapanchayats in Rajasthan’s Dausa and Shamli in wester n UP drew massive crowds. While Dausa is Congress leader Sachin Pilot’s pocket burough, the one in Shamili was organised by SP and RLD. Meanwhile, the intensified farmer protest at Delhi’s borders cast its long shadow in Rajasthan’s Dausa where Sachin Pilot, the former deputy CM, took part in a farmer rally seen as an attempt by him to reassert his position within the ruling Congress to which he retur ned after a month-long drama of rebellion last year. Similar was the case at Shamli, where the Rashtriya Lok Dal and Samajwadi Party organised a mahapanchayat in a bid to regain their influence lost in the Assembly and parliamentary polls in 2017 and 2019. The leaders ignored the district administration’s directive not to organize such an event following Covid guidelines. Hundreds of farmers sat on the ground amid deafening songs and speeches against the new farm laws. Addressing the crowd, RLD vice-president Jayant Chaudhury accused the Centre of hatching a conspiracy for the Republic Day violence. While Rakesh Tikait chose to keep away from the mahapanchayat. his brother Narendra Tikait attended it in his “perP4&8 sonal capacity”. Comedian Munawar Faruqui finally gets ad-interim bail E X P R ESS N E WS S E RV I C E @ New Delhi THE Supreme Court on Friday granted interim bail to standup comedian Munawar Faruqui who was arrested by the Madhya Pradesh Police for allegedly hurting the sentiments of Hindus during a show. Faruqui was arrested on January 1 in Indore. “The petitioner (Faruqui) is released on ad-interim bail on conditions to the satisfaction of the trial court,” a bench headed by Justice R F Nariman ordered. While issuing notice to the Madhya Pradesh government on Faruqui’s plea, it also stayed a warrant for production of the comedian in Uttar Pradesh in another case. The bench granted interim bail after it was pointed out that procedure under Section 41 of CrPC and the law laid down by the apex court with regard to arrest weren’t followed. Faruqui’s advocate Saurabh Kirpal termed it a case of victimisation and said the allegations made in the FIR were vague. He argued that a person cannot be arrested unless there is a magistrate’s order or a warrant, and the law laid down with regard to arrest weren’t followed. Later, Faruqui’s fat h e r- i n - l aw Yo u n i s Khan alleged that the FIR was lodged by the Indore Police only under pressure of BJP MLA Malini Singh Gaud’s son Eklavya Gaud. “It was all done under pressure of the ruling BJP MLA’s son, right from my son-in-law’s detention to his naming in the FIR and subsequent arrest.” VICTIM OF APATHY Job promise to wheelchair cricket captain remains unfulfilled V I N E ET UPA DH YAY @ Dehradun LIFE is not rosy for all those who play cricket for India. Things are very different for players on the differently-able side, as Rajendra Singh Dhami is finding out. Former captain of the wheelchair cricket team of India and current captain of Uttarakhand, Dhami has been waiting for over six months for the fulfilment of promises made to him by Uttarakhand Chief Minister Trivendra Singh Rawat and state government of- ficials, who said they would find him a job. “I got assurances from the honourable chief minister through the district magistrate’s office for a job but nothing has moved in that direction yet. Our MLA Bishan Singh Chufal made a similar promise. But now, everyone is ignoring me when I am trying to contact them,” Dhami told this newspaper. After it was reported last year that Dhami was working as a manual labourer, Indian Olympic Association gave him Rajendra Singh Dhami continues to work as a manual labourer despite being promised employment | EXPRESS `50,000. The district magistrate’s office of Pithoragarh came forward with `20,000. A resident of Raikot village in Pithoragarh, Dhami had resorted to breaking stones for road building under the MGNREGS. Despite lack of support, the 34-year-old has not got fed up with life and committed himself to training youngsters instead. There are around 20 differently-able teenagers who learn cricket and its various aspects from him. Bishan Singh Chuphal, BJP MLA from Didihat Assembly of Pithoragarh, responding to queries related to employment promises made to Dhami, said: “The government cannot guarantee a job, but priority will be given in agencies like UPNL (Uttarakhand Purv Sainik Kalyan Nigam Limited) and other out-sourcing ventures.” Dhami’s family income is under `3000 a month at the moment. He and his 65-year-old father are forced to work as manual labourers. Other than qualifying from the provincial services exams in 2012,
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