THURSDAY 2 JUDOKAS TEST POSITIVE, TEAM OUT OF OLY QUALIFIER APRIL, 2021 Entire 19-member contingent for Asia-Oceania meet in Bishkek has been quarantined. Other sports too not spared 08 epaper.morningstandard.in facebook.com/TheMorningStandard twitter.com/TheMornStandard BACK IN BARRACKS MUKHTAR ANSARI BROUGHT TO UP A Bhopal hospital has created a SAI ward to admit infected athletes UNCERTAIN DAYS AHEAD FOR SQUAD Gangster-turned-politician kept in isolation at Banda prison amid tight security A CAPITAL VIEW OF NEWS PAGE 8 NEW DELHI J8.00 A day after one judoka contracted Covid-19, a second also returned a positive test on Wednesday. As all members are in isolation. The Judo Federation of India has dialled Indian Embassy, seeking their help in flying those who tested negative back to India | P11 PAGES 12 Sparring match on vax politicalisation Dovish RBI opts for pause on rates, flags inflation risk Maharashtra, Andhra send SoS for more stock; Centre says some states are trying to mislead and spread panic S A N A S H A K I L @ New Delhi THE Centre and the Opposition -ruled states clashed over vaccine availability on Wednesday when India recorded a day’s high of 1,15,736 fresh cases, crossing the 1-lakh mark for the second time in three days. The Union health ministry came down hard on Oppositionruled states for playing “petty politics” over vaccination and stated that there is no dearth of vaccine stock, hours after Maharashtra, Delhi, Odisha and Andhra Pradesh said that they have sent SOS alerts to the Centre over Covid vaccine scarcity . “The lackadaisical attitude of the state government has singularly bogged down the entire country’s efforts to fight the virus,” Union health minister Harsh Vardhan said referring to the Thackerayled Maharashtra government. He also criticised the Congress-led government in Chhattisgarh for being ‘perhaps the only government in the world where its leaders were inciting vaccine hesitancy’ and blamed its leaders for spreading “misinformation” and “panic” re- EXPRESS READ Assam writer held for post on martyrs The Assam Police has arrested Guwahati-based writer Sikha Sarma for allegedly making controversial comments against martyrs on social media. According to the police, Sarma had allegedly written on Facebook: “Salaried professionals who die in the line of duty cannot be termed martyrs.” ‘Don’t treat our stir like Shaheen Bagh’ BKU leader Rakesh Tikait on Wednesday said the government should not treat the ongoing farmers’ protest like last year’s protest in Shaheen Bagh and asserted that the protesters will only go home after the new farm laws are repealed. He said the protesters will follow all Covid protocols. Post-poll violence in Kerala, one killed Political violence erupted in several parts of Kannur district in north Kerala after a youth wing leader of IUML was allegedly killed by CPI(M) activists after the culmination of Assembly polls on Tuesday. Several offices of the CPI (M) was set on fire during a protest procession in the district on Wednesday night. QUAKE MONITORING MECHANISM The central government has deployed more earthquake recording instruments in the National Capital Region after nine low-intensity tremors in last three months PAGE 5 garding vaccination. Vardhan blamed states for their alleged attempts to distract attention from their failure to manage the Covid-19 pandemic and described the allegations of vaccine shortage as “baseless”. Referring to Delhi, Maharashtra and Rajasthan governments’ demand to open vaccination for all adults, Vardhan said that the Centre has been transparently updating all the state governments about the demand-supply dynamics and the resultant jab strategy . In his letter, Harsh Vardhan also pointed to the lack of Covid-19 facilities in Rajasthan, Punjab as well as BJPruled Karnataka and Gujarat. “Many other states also need to bring their healthcare systems up to the mark. For example, the quality of testing needs to improve in Karnataka, Rajasthan and Gujarat. In Punjab, high case fatality rate needs to be improved by early identification of those needing hospitalization,” he said. Vardhan said irresponsible statements by some state functionaries were spreading panic among the people. EXPRESS NEWS SERVICE GET THE SHOT IN YOUR OFFICE @ New Delhi A beneficiary receives a dose of Covid-19 vaccine in Prayagraj on Wednesday | PTI Govt and private offices eligible Should have about 100 eligible and willing employee beneficiaries In districts, task force chaired by District Magistrate to identify workplace In cities, task force headed by Municipal Commissioner to identify workplace Beneficiary has to be 45+; registration on Co-WIN mandatory Workplace management to designate senior staff as nodal officer to coordinate with authorities | P8 ‘Private’ vehicle also ‘public’ place & mask is compulsory, rules HC E X P R E S S N E W S S E R V I C E @ New Delhi DELHI High Court on Wednesday ruled it is compulsory for people to wear masks in a private vehicle even if they are driving alone and clarified that a private vehicle on the road is covered under the definition of public place. Justice M Pratibha Singh said: “A private vehicle on the road is a public place and it is mandatory to wear a mask even when one is travelling alone in the car. A mask acts as a suraksha kavach which would prevent the spread of the deadly virus.” Stressing that several experts, doctors and researchers have emphasised the need to wear face masks right from the early days of the pandemic, the court also chided four lawyers who petitioned the high court last year against fines imposed by the Delhi Police for violating the mask rule, observing that compliance by lawyers encourages common people to wear the masks needed to curb the spread of the coronavirus disease. HIGHEST EVER 1,15,736 new cases registered in 24 hours as of Wednesday morning, the highest-ever tally in India on a single day 630 59,856 deaths reported in the last 24 hours; 446 deaths on Tuesday; cumulative toll 1,66,177 recovered on Wednesday; cumulative recoveries stand at 1,17,92,135 2 SHOTS & POSITIVE Several doctors return positive tests in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar despite taking two rounds of Covid-19 vaccine. Health ministry says it will collect data to find out why this is happening | P8 THE Reserve Bank of India (RBI) on Wednesday kept interest rates unchanged to support g rowth but remained cautious amid risks to the economy arising from the second wave of Covid infections and high inflation. Announcing the decision to keep the policy rate at 4%, RBI governor Shaktikanta Das said the central bank will do “whatever it takes” to support economic recovery . RBI also retained its FY22 GDP growth forecast of 10.5% with the warning that re-imposition of lockdown in some states could hurt the economy . “The recent surge in infections has imparted greater uncertainty to the outlook,” Das said. “Localised and regional lockdowns could dampen the recent improvement in demand conditions and delay the return of normalcy he added. ,” Inflation remained a concern, as RBI raised its inflation forecast for Q2 and Q3 Rahul Gandhi in West Bengal? Maybe in Naxalbari T HE game is going into the bloody slog overs in Bengal, but where is Rahul Gandhi? Call it a secondary mystery wrapped inside a nail-biting political thriller. It’s a missing piece of jigsaw no one seems to have much noticed—or considered — despite it having the potential to decide a cliffhanger. Now, it’s quite natural that when it comes to Bengal—the mother, or perhaps the big sister of all battles— attention has tended to be concentrated upon the primary antagonists. Like a convex lens focusing sunlight, the pitched battle of attrition between the Trinamool and the BJP has been setting off a lot of fires in the media. Who has time, then, to think about the Congress — a dwindling presence here, atrophying even in its old pockets of influence? If at all it gets talked about, it’s because of the curious alliance it has helped put together, the Sanjukta Morcha, which has it partnering with the Left and a party floated by an Islamic cleric. The Morcha is in play in 294 seats, but it may be tough going for them. The Congress is fighting some 92 of those, but even by its own internal estimations, the party stands a good chance of halving its tally in the state Assembly from 44 to 22. Others say even that’s optimistic, and reckon the Morcha’s overall pickings would be anywhere between 25 and 60 when play ends. But 92 seats are not piffling stakes, so the question remains: Where is Rahul? Or Priyanka Gandhi, for that matter? Even CRPF’ is beating women, harassing and killing people. They are obstructing voters from entering polling booths. Union Home Minister Amit Shah has instructed them to do so —Mamata Banerjee, Bengal CM WEST BENGAL SANTWANA BHATTACHARYA @ Bolpur/Suiri/Rampurhat, Birbhum the other usual national faces of the Congress have all been conspicuous by their absence. What’s up? The standard reading is Bengal offers such a dismal picture that they are giving it a wide berth, and focused on Assam and Kerala, where they are truly in the game. But there’s also a sense that the Congress central command is uncomfortable campaigning against Mamata Banerjee. Many of the party’s UPA allies—the NCP RJD and DMK— , are outright supporting Mamata as the lone woman soldier holding out against a rampaging BJP . Even the Samajwadi Party, though not in the UPA, sent Jaya Bachchan to the battlefield—she held a press conference explicitly backing Mamata, and letting on that her party leader Akhilesh Yadav had clearly taken the West Bengal CM as a valuable anti-BJP force. So is there actually reluctance to fight the good fight? Not so, say key party insiders in New Delhi. Out in Kolkata, Rajya Sabha MP Pradip Bhattacharya, speaking while leading a padayatra for a candidate to file nomination papers, confirms that. CONTINUED ON P7 Three electoral officers transferred in Bengal New Delhi: The Election Commission has transferred three electoral officers to nonelection posts in West Bengal. The EC said that district election officers of Dakshin Dinajpur, Purba Bardhaman and Paschim Bardhman are being transferred. CM Mamata Banerjee addresses a gathering with TMC candidate Arup Biswas (C) and other party workers in Kolkata on Wednesday| BIBHASH LODH EC notice to Mamata alleging violation of model code, reply sought in 48 hours EXPRESS NEWS SERVICE @ New Delhi THE Election Commission on Wednesday issued a notice to West Bengal Chief Minister and TMC leader Mamata Banerjee for appealing to Muslims in the state that “their votes should not be divided”. The poll panel claimed that prima facie, it appeared to be a violation of the Model Code of Conduct and gave her 48 hours to explain her stand. The development comes just a day after Prime Minister Narendra Modi hit out at the TMC chief, claiming her comments indicate that the Muslim vote bank is slipping from the TMC’s grasp. “Didi recently asked all Muslims to vote en bloc for her. It shows that the Muslim vote bank is slipping out of her hands. Had we said the same thing that all Hindus should unite, everybody would have criticised us. The EC would have sent us notices. We would have been censured,” Modi had said at an election rally on Tuesday . The BJP had on Monday approached the Election Commission seeking action against Banerjee, alleging she had violated the Representation of the People’s Act by asking Muslims to come together and vote for her party in the state Assembly polls. At a rally on April 3, the Bengal chief minister had urged Muslim voters to vote en bloc for her party . by 0.2% and 0.1% to 5.2% and 4.4%, respectively With . this, RBI is projecting inflation at 5% in FY22. RBI also committed to buy government bonds worth `1 lakh crore under ‘the secondary market government securities acquisition programme’ or G-Sap. While the RBI stance was on expected lines, experts say the focus was on supporting growth. “The RBI policy was more dovish than expected with the central bank recognising the risks associated with the rising infection cases in the county and continuing its support for growth. Fears of any premature tightening either through rates or liquidity management by some sections of the market have been put to rest by RBI’s dovish tone,” said Abheek Barua, chief economist, HDFC Bank. In another development, RBI has proposed to allow cash withdrawals from digital wallets such as Paytm and prepaid cards issued by P10 non-bank entities. GST citizen friendly no more: SC observation EXPRESS NEWS SERVICE @ New Delhi RESERVING an order, the Supreme Court has observed that the manner in which the Goods and Services Tax (GST) was being enforced by authorities was not right and said that the taxmen cannot see all businesses as being fraudulent. A bench headed by Justice D Y Chandrachud, while hearing a plea against powers of provisional attachment under the Himachal Pradesh GST Act, said: “The Parliament had aimed to give GST a citizenfriendly tax structure. But the purpose of the Act is lost by the manner of enforcement.” The plea was filed by Radha Krishna Industries, alleging that power of attachment under Sec 83 is draconian which stated that during the pendency of tax proceedings, the department can attach any property (including bank accounts and accounts receivable). The bench pulled up tax officers for raising huge demands without accountability “Tax of. ficers raise huge demands from businesses with no accountability If a `10,000 crore demand . is reduced to `1,000 crore by a court it must reflect in the assessment of the tax officer.” The industry’s plea was dismissed by Himachal Pradesh High Court in January, following which an appeal was filed. Pakistan issues visas to over 1,000 Sikh pilgrims for Baisakhi celebrations EXPRESS NEWS SERVICE @ New Delhi PAKISTAN on Wednesday said it has issued visas to around 1,100 Sikh Indian pilgrims to facilitate their participation in the Baisakhi celebrstions between April 12 and 22. According to a statement issued by the Pakistan High Commission, the visas were issued as a special gesture in view if the importance of Baisakhi for Punjabis and Sikhs. Baisakhi marks the start of their new year. The move comes amid a relaxation in tensions between the countries following a joint statement by the Director Generals of Military Opoerations, reiterating their commitment to adhere to the 2003 ceasefire along the Line of Control (LoC). Leaders of both nations have hinted of late that they are willing to address the issues through dialogues, instead of indluging in hostilities. Late last month, Indian Army Chief General MM Naravane had said that the LoC has been silent for the first time in around five to six years, as not a single shot was fired on it in March, bar ring an odd incident. “The Pakistan High Commission extends special felicitations to all those celebrating this auspicious occasion and wishes the visiting pilgrims a fulfilling yatra,” said the statement. “The issuance of pil- grimage visas is a part of the Government of Pakistan’s efforts for facilitating visits to religious shrines.” Under the framework of the Pakistan-India protocol on visits to religious shrines of 1974, a large number of Sikh pilgrims from India visit Pakistan to observe various religious festivals every year, the High Commission said.
Express Network Private Limited publishes thirty three E-paper editions of The New Indian Express newspaper , thirty two E-paper editions of Dinamani, one E-paper edition of The Morning Standard, one E-paper edition of Malayalam Vaarika magazine and one E-paper edition of the Indulge - The Morning Standard, Kolkatta.