TUESDAY 23 MARCH, 2021 epaper.morningstandard.in facebook.com/TheMorningStandard twitter.com/TheMornStandard SHOPIAN SHOOTOUT 4 LeT MILITANTS KILLED IN J&K KANGANA RANAUT Police ploy to make them surrender goes in vain, gunfight follows A CAPITAL VIEW OF NEWS PAGE 8 NEW DELHI J8.00 PAGES 12 6-8 weeks between Covishield jabs Sharad Pawar Anil Deshmukh Pawar poser on timeline to back minister E X P R E S S N E W S S E R V I C E @ Mumbai A day after NCP chief Sharad Pawar said former Mumbai Police commissioner Parambir Singh’s allegations of extortion against state home minister Anil Deshmukh were serious, he sought to question the timeline mentioned in Singh’s recent ‘letter bomb’ while stoutly defending his minister. While Singh letter says the now arrested assistant inspector Sachin Waze was called by Deshmukh to his official residence “in and around mid-February and thereafter” to instruct him on extorting `100 crore per month, Pawar argued it was incorrect as the minister was hospitalised from February 5 to 15 after testing positive for Covid-19. “After discharge, Deshmukh was in home quarantine for the next 10 days in Nagpur. There is no way Waze could have met him in Mumbai then,” Pawar said. Though the Opposition claimed Deshmukh had addressed the press on February 15, the latter quickly clarified that he had just returned home from hospital and taken a few quick questions that day . Pawar said the focus should be actually be on the bomb scare at Antilia. The ATS on Sunday had claimed to have made a big breakthrough in Thane-based businessman Mansukh Hiren’s murder with the arrest of two persons, including a former policeman. The ATS on Monday arrested a Gujarat man for providing 14 SIM cards to the two accused. Parambir moved the Supreme Court, seeking a CBI probe into “malpractices” of Deshmukh and challenged his P8 transfer order. Centre accepts recommendation of experts saying that delaying shot has better outcome S U M I S U K A N YA D U T TA UP, UP AND UP @ New Delhi IF you are waiting for your second jab of the Covid-19 vaccine Covishield, you’ll be better protected if you take it between the sixth and eighth weeks of the first shot, and not after four-six weeks as is the practice now. That has been the international consensus, and expert panels back home have now aligned themselves with that view. Based on the recommendations of the National Technical Advisory Group on Immunization and subsequently by National Expert Group on Vaccine Administration for Covid-19 vaccine, the Centre on Monday directed all states to increase the interval between two doses of Covishield. In fact, scientific evidence from some countries shows 46,951 Fresh cases on Monday 30,535 Logged by Maharashtra, followed by Punjab (2,644) DEATHS RECORDED IN 24 HRS 1,16,46,081 888 NEW CASES IN DELHI that while the vaccine is about 60-65% effective at a gap of four weeks, it can be up to 90% effective against infection when administered at an interval of 12 weeks. But India’s ex- 212 Country’s tally 1.11 crore Recovered so far 1,59,967 Total deaths pert panels chose a more conservative gap of eight weeks. The directions by the Centre apply immediately, which means all beneficiaries who have taken the first dose but Fuel tax collection up by 45% more in 10 months than FY20 J O N AT H A N A N A N D A @ New Delhi IF there were any doubts left over whether fuel taxes have become the gover nment’s prized cash cow, the finance ministry’s reply to the Lok Sabha on Monday serves to quash most of them. Not only have excise duty collections on petrol, diesel, and natural gas surged, the share of such taxes in India’s gross tax revenue has spiked sharply over the years too, indicating a steadily increasing dependence on fuel tax revenues. According to figures submitted to the Lok Sabha by the finance ministry, excise duty collections from fuel and natural gas in the first 10 months of Centre levy is 39% of retail price In June 2014, petrol & diesel prices were `71.51 and `57.28 per litre. While crude prices fell, Centre & states kept hiking taxes. Currently, these taxes form around 60% of the retail price of petrol and 53% of diesel in Delhi. Around 39% of retail price is central taxes this financial year (FY21) are already 45 per cent higher than collections recorded during the whole of FY20. Between April 2020 and January 2021, this figure stood at `2.94 lakh crore against just `2,03,010 lakh crore in FY20. Collections in the first 10 months of this fiscal are also over five times (456%) larger than the `53,090 crore recorded in FY14. The surge in excise collections, accompanied by a lower, but still significant increase in state VAT, are the primary reason why retail fuel prices have remained stubbornly high even though Brent crude prices have gone from $114 per barrel in June 2014 to $64 per barrel currently . While prices have swung between as high as $90 and as low as $16 during this period, they have averaged around $50-60 per barrel. But the majority of the gains from this decline has been siphoned off to the exchequer. EXPRESS READ Mufti no-show before ED in laundering case New Delhi: PDP president Mehbooba Mufti on Monday did not appear before the Enforcement Directorate at its headquarters in a money laundering case, citing that she had prior commitments. The former J&K chief minister said she is ready and willing to be questioned in Srinagar, preferably at her residence. States should act, SC on reservation matter A WALK IN THE RAIN A mother and her daughters brave the showers on a chilly morning in Srinagar on Monday | PTI New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Monday said states should take more steps to promote education and establish institutes for the upliftment of socially and educationally backward classes. The bench hearing the Maratha quota case said that several other things can be done by the states for this purpose. are due for the second, ought to follow the new advisory . Since the launch of the Covid-19 vaccination drive on January 16, the Covishield developed by AstraZeneca-Oxford University and manufactured by the Serum Institute of India, has been its mainstay For, . nearly 90% of the vaccine doses administered so far are of Covishield. Based on evidence from several countries, the WHO had in early February said that the two doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine should be given at a gap of 8-12 weeks. Incidentally , AstraZeneca’s large-scale clinical trial in the US showed that the jab is 79% effective against asymptomatic infection and 100% against severe disease. The Centre’s advisory does not apply to Covaxin, the vaccine developed by HyderabadP7 based Bharat Biotech. POLLS CAMPAIGN INTENSE IN BENGAL, ASSAM Heavyweights of BJP and other parties challenge each other in rallies PAGE 7 DHANUSH MANOJ BAJPAYEE NAVIN NOOLI KANGANA’S 4TH & 3RD FOR BAJPAYEE IN FILM AWARDS E X P R E SS N E WS S E R V I C E THE 67th National Awards for films submitted in 2019 were announced on Monday , following a year’s delay owing to the coronavirus pandemic. While Kangana Ranaut won her fourth National Award for her performances in the films Manikarnika and Panga, Dhanush’s turn in Vetrimaaran’s Asuran, as an oppressed elderly man fighting for his family in a caste-afflicted society, won him a second National Award for Best Actor (following his first for Aadukalam by the same director). This is an award Dhanush will share with Manoj Bajpayee, who has won a National Award for the third time for the film Bhonsle, with both of his previous wins coming for a supporting act. Bajpayee’s masterful performance in Devashish Makhija’s bitingly political film stands testament to the adage that less is more. Sanjay Puran Singh Chauhan won the Best Director award for Bahattar Hoorain. It was a huge haul for south Indian cinema in all major categories, with more than 15 films from the region being awarded. While Malayalam cinema led the pack with seven wins, Tamil cinema followed closely with six, Telugu with three, and Kannada with one. The Malayalam epic, Marakkar: Arabikadalinte Simham, that is awaiting release, and the Telugu action drama, Maharshi, won the big two awards: Best Film and Best Popular Film, with the latter also fetching Raju The Bill effectively takes away powers from those who were voted by the people while giving powers to those who were defeated in the polls. The BJP has cheated the people Arvind Kejriwal, Delhi CM WINNERS IN THE TOP CATEGORIES Marakkar: Arabikadalinte Simham (Malyalam)— Best Film, directed by Priyadarshan Kangana Ranaut — Best Actress (Manikarnika and Panga). Dhanush (Asuran, Tamil) and Manoj Bajpayee (Bhosle) — Best Actor Sanjay Puran Singh Chauhan — Best Director for the film Bahattar Hoorain Sundaram his second National Award for Best Choreography Jersey, awarded the . Best Telugu Film, also bagged the Best Editor award for Naveen Nooli. The film is a heart-rending take on the life of a failed cricketer who yearns to retain the respect of his son. The visually breathtaking Jallikattu, India’s official nomination to the Oscars, won a National Award for its cinematographer Gireesh G a n g a d h a r a n . Vi j ay Sethupathi won his first National Award for Super Deluxe for his supporting act as a helpless transgender woman called Shilpa, who grapples with humiliation and guilt. It was a first for Tamil composer Imman, too, as he won the Best Music Director award for his work in the Ajith-starrer Viswasam. Naga Vishal was bestowed the Best Child Actor award for his performance in the Tamil drama, K D Karuppu Durai. Mathukutty Xavier’s debut directorial, Helen, bagged two awards: Best Film by a Debutant and Best Makeup (Ranjith). CONTINUED ON P7 There is no murder of democracy. No right is taken away from the state government or no new right is given to L-G... If the L-G thinks a matter involves emergency, he can decide as per his wisdom G Kishan Reddy, MoS, Home Affairs Bill to curb powers of Delhi govt gets LS approval, Kejriwal calls it an insult E X P R E SS N E WS S E R V I C E @ New Delhi THE Lok Sabha on Monday passed the controversial Bill giving discretionary powers to the Delhi Lieutenant Governor, drawing flak from CM Arvind Kejriwal who called it as an insult to Delhi’s people. The Government of National Capital Territory of Delhi, Bill, 2021, gives powers to the L-G even in legislative matters. Kejriwal objected to the language of the Bill that says “government” in Delhi means the “lieutenant governor.” “The passage of the Bill is an insult to the people of Delhi. The Bill effectively takes away powers from those who were voted by the people while giving powers to those who were defeated in the polls. The BJP has cheated the people,” Kejriwal tweeted. Many Opposition members opposed the Bill inside the House, terming it unconstitutional. Minister of State for Home Affairs G Kishan Reddy said the Opposition was misleading the House. “There is no murder of democracy. No right is taken away from the state government or no new right is given to L-G. What is proposed is, if there is a divergence of opinion between the L-G and Delhi government, the former can send the matter to the President. This existed even before the present Bill. We removed only ambiguities. If the President does not give his opinion immediately and if the L-G thinks the matter involves emergency he , can decide as per his wisdom,” the minister said. The Bill makes it mandatory for the Delhi government to take the L-G’s opinion before any executive action. Reddy explained that under Article 239 of the Constitution, the L-G is an administrator, a position different from that of other governors. “He has executive powers. The constitutional position is different in states with legislative assemblies and UTs with a legislature,” he said. Opposition parties, including AAP, SP, BSP, NCP, Congress, Shiv Sena and others, opposed the Bill. Initiating the debate, Manish Tiwari of the Congress said that the present legislation is unconstitutional and coloured. “It seeks to remove the limits imposed by a Constitutional bench on the powers of the L-G,” he said. He quoted a Supreme Court order to argue that pragmatic and cooperative federalism will fail if the Centre is given overP5 riding powers. CHEERS Drinking age lowered in Delhi as government eyes additional revenue of `2K crore E X P R E SS N E WS S E R V I C E @ Kolkata THERE is good news for some of those who were unable to buy alcohol due to age. To mop up revenue, the Delhi government has decided to lower the legal age of drinking in the national capital to 21 years under the new excise policy announced by Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia. Earlier, 25 was the legal age. The AAP government on Monday approved the suggestion from a committee of ministers constituted for the purpose by Delhi’s Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal. The government said new rules such as ‘age gating’ would be in place, where a person below the age of 21 won’t be allowed inside a hotel and restaurant. Finance Minister Sisodia said the government’s revenue could rise by `2,000 crore within a year of the new policy Ex. cise is a major source of revenue for the government. The government has also decided that no new liquor shop will be authorised in the national capital, but the issue of uneven distribution of shops will be addressed. It also decided to get out of the retail liquor business, given that 40 per cent of private liquor shops give more revenue than the government-owned shops. Kejriwal said the step to reform the excise Massive changes as per industry feedback are being made to stop harassment of honest businessmen running hotels and restaurants in Delhi —Manish Sisodia, Deputy CM and Finance Minister, Delhi policy of Delhi will act as a “major blow” to the liquor mafia. “The mafia will do everything to obstruct these refor ms. The AAP government has ended their raj in many sectors such as education, w a t e r, p o w e r a n d health,” the chief minister tweeted. The excise department had last year formed an expert pan- el to change the excise policy of Delhi. The panel’s report was put out in public for suggestions. The government received around 14,00,700 suggestions, after which Kejriwal constituted a group of ministers to study the report of the expert committee, public suggestions and other factors, which was headed by Sisodia along with cabinet minister Satyendar Jain and law minister Kailash Gahl- ot. To improve ease of doing business, the government has also decided to merge various licenses. “Massive changes as per industry feedback are being made to stop harassment of honest businessmen running hotels and restaurants in Delhi,” Sisodia said. “There have been demands from the hospitality sector to abolish various obsolete licence systems relatP5 ed to liquor sale.”
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