The News Editorial Analysis 17th Dec 2021

The News Editorial Analysis 17th Dec 2021

The News Editorial Analysis 17th Dec 2021

1971 war altered ideological map: Kovind

The Liberation War of 1971 changed the “ideological map” of South Asia, President Ram Nath Kovind said in Dhaka on Thursday. Participating in the celebration to mark the golden jubilee of the independence of Bangladesh and victory in the war, President Kovind recollected the “grassroots support” from India to attain the freedom of Bangladesh.

“We celebrate with you this historic day: 50 years ago, the ideological map of South Asia changed irreversibly and the proud nation of Bangladesh was born. On this occasion, I pay tribute to the memory of the untold suffering of the tens of millions of Bangladesh, especially the brutalised daughters, sisters and mothers,” said President Kovind, adding that India attached “highest priority” to its friendship with Bangladesh.

“We remain committed to doing all we can, to help realise the full potential of our friendship. Like millions of Indians of my generation, we were elated by the victory of Bangladesh over an oppressive regime and were deeply inspired by the faith and courage of the people of Bangladesh,” Mr. Kovind said in a speech at the National Parliament of Bangladesh.

Praise for Hasina

In a special gesture, he recited national poet of Bangladesh Kazi Nazrul Islam and praised Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina for inheriting her father Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman’s rebellious (bidrohi) spirit.

He praised Ms. Hasina for confronting military dictatorships of her country and for facing “assassination attempts with remarkable courage” in the past to establish democracy.

“The vision of Bangabandhu was of a Bangladesh that was not only free politically but also of a nation that was equitable and inclusive. Sadly, his vision could not be realised in his lifetime. The anti-liberation forces that brutally killed Bangabandhu and most of his family did not realise that bullets and violence cannot extinguish an idea that has captured the imagination of millions of people,” the President said.

Omicron slow to infect lungs, says Hong Kong study.

The Omicron variant of SARS-CoV-2 infects and multiplies faster than the Delta variant and original SARS-CoV-2 in the human bronchus, which may explain why it may transmit faster between people than previous variants. However, it does not easily infect the lower lungs and this, researchers say, potentially explains why instances of severe disease are proportionally lower in cases involving Omicron.

The study was led by researchers from the LKS Faculty of Medicine at the University of Hong Kong.

The two bronchi lie at the end of windpipe and split like a ‘y’ into each lung. The research paper, that is still being peer reviewed, however, does not explain why the virus was less successful in progressing deeper into the lungs compared to previous variants.

The scientists used lung tissue for investigating viral diseases of the respiratory tract. After isolating the Omicron variant, they used it to compare infection with the original SARS-CoV-2 from 2020, the Delta variant and the Omicron variant. They found that Omicron replicated around 70 times higher than the Delta variant and the original SARS-CoV-2 virus over 24 hours. In contrast, the Omicron variant replicated less efficiently (more than 10 times lower) in the lung tissue than the original SARS-CoV-2 virus.

However scientists involved with the study said this was not reason enough to breathe easy.

“It is important to note that the severity of disease is not determined only by virus replication but also by the host immune response, which may lead to dysregulation of the innate immune system, or cytokine storm,” said Dr. Michael Chan Chi-wai, Associate Professor, School of Public Health, HKUMed and the leader of the study, in a statement.

New rules on child labour notified

The State government has decided to initiate stringent action against those employing child labour in different works/occupations and outlined steps envisaging continuity of their education.

The State government has come out with a comprehensive set of rules for protecting the interests of children and ensuring that their education is not disturbed. According to new rules, if a child receiving education in a school remains continuously absent for 30 days without intimation to the principal or head master of the school, the latter should report the matter to the nodal officer concerned who would be designated by the district magistrate.

Children would not perform any tasks during school hours and between 7 p.m and 8 a.m the next day. They should not be engaged in such tasks that would hinder/interfere with the right to education of the child or his/her attendance in the school. They should also be not engaged in activities they could adversely affect education including activities that were inseparably associated to complete education like home work or any extra-curricular activity assigned by the school. The Government has issued the Telangana Child Labour (prohibition and regulation) (amendment) Rules 2021 that would come into force on the date of their publication in the gazette. According to the new rules, children should not be engaged in any task continuously without rest that could make him/her tired and should be allowed to take rest to refresh health and mind. Accordingly, the child should not help for more than three hours excluding the period of rest in the day. Steps should also be taken to ensure that there was substitution of child for an adult or adolescent while helping family or family enterprise. The new rules envisaged constitution of a task force with district magistrate as chairperson and it should consist of, inspector of police, superintendent of police, additional district magistrate, and assistant labour commissioner.

4 more Omicron cases in Telangana

Four more Omicron cases were detected in Telangana on Thursday. Of them, three are from Kenya and one is of Indian origin, said Director of Public Health Dr. G. Srinivasa Rao.

With this, seven Omicron cases were detected in the State, including three (7-year-old boy sent to Kolkata) from Wednesday.

Out of these, one passenger is from an ‘at-risk’ country and seven from ‘non-risk’ countries. All passengers who come from ‘at risk’ countries undergo RT-PCR tests. In case of fliers from ‘non-risk’ countries, 2% samples are collected at random for COVID test. If anyone from the two categories test positive for COVID, their samples are sent for genome sequencing.

The DPH said that a thorough investigation into the four new Omicron cases was in progress. Whenever a case is detected, immediate contacts of the patients are traced and samples are collected for RT-PCR tests.

From December 1 to 16, 6,764 people have come from ‘at-risk’ countries and 21 tested COVID positive.

190 test COVID positive

The State of Telangana has recorded 190 COVID cases on Thursday, taking the total to 6,79,064. Two more COVID patients died.

The new cases include 80 from Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation (GHMC), 14 from Rangareddy, 13 from Medchal-Malkajgiri, 12 from Hanamkonda, and 10 from Mahabubabad.

From March 2, 2020 to December 16 this year, a total of 2.91 crore samples were tested and 6,79,064 were detected with coronavirus.

Out of the total cases, 3,805 were active cases, 6,71,247 recovered, and 4,012 people died.

Lapse in response time to trace Somalian

A lapse in response time to trace people in Telangana with COVID was exposed as there was at least one day delay in tracing the 23-year-old Somali man infected with Omicron.

Samples collected from him were sent for genome sequencing on Monday (December 13) after he tested positive. However, efforts were not made to trace him even after knowing his COVID status.

The efforts were initiated after the genome sequencing results, received on Tuesday night (December 14), revealed that he had Omicron. Before that, he went to at least two corporate hospitals in Hyderabad after landing here on December 12.

The Somalian was traced on Wednesday afternoon when he stepped out of an auto. When DPH Dr. G. Srinivasa Rao was asked about the possibility of the foreign national coming in contact with a large number of people, he said that would be done. What followed the lapse in response time was hectic activity by Health staff to trace everyone he had come in contact with including people at hospitals, at Tolichowki where he was residing, and other places. The Health staff have collected samples from more than 500 people in Paramount Colony for RT PCR tests till Thursday night.

No food, no water

Around 25 Health teams have been on the task of collecting samples from foreign nationals residing in Paramount Colony, Tolichowki. Each team had a lab technician, Auxiliary Nursing Midwife (ANM), and an Accredited Social Health Activist (ASHA).

However, the tired staff said that food, water and other resources were not provided to them during their elaborate ground work. They went from door to door to collect samples for RT PCR tests.

Their work started at around 7.30 a.m. on Wednesday and ended at 11 p.m. The schedule was almost the same on Thursday too.

“We are not provided food and water. We had to buy it ourselves while on the job,” said a Health worker.

‘Hyderabad poised for growth in defence, aerospace sector’

DRDO chairman and secretary of the department of defence R&D Satheesh Reddy called for the academia, research labs and micro, small and medium enterprises, to come together to form a complete ecosystem for strong growth in the defence and aerospace sector.

The sector is expected to flourish in near future and Hyderabad with a strong base in defence and aerospace will be in the forefront, he said, and underscored the need for qualitative research and development to achieve success, for India to emerge as a leading exporter in defence products.

Dr. Reddy was addressing the 5th edition of the annual flagship event, Defence Conclave – Strategies for bridging technology, start-ups and exports in India’s defence sector, organised by the Confederation of Indian Industry virtually on Thursday. The government has earmarked 64% of defence procurement budget for the local industry and a lot of effort is going into strengthening local capabilities. Domestic supply chains need to thrive and network with original equipment manufacturers, said additional secretary, department of defence production, Sanjay Jaju.

Telangana Industries secretary Jayesh Ranjan said that the State happens to be the hub of both start-ups, defence production and defence research.

A perfect ecosystem that can bridge the gaps in technology, start-ups and exports and enhance the country’s defence capabilities, he said, and suggested policy level interventions in creation of level playing field for the new generation entrepreneurs to enter into the sector.

Chairman and MD of Ananth Technologies and CII TS convenor P. Subba Rao said that the defence industrial policy has to be supplemented by the strategy for exports without which the economic base of the industry would be difficult to sustain in present economic competitive environment.

CII CMD Sameer Goel sought online export authorisation procedures to be streamlined through portals. Kalyani Rafael CEO and MD Rudra Jadeja said that policy interventions are required in technology transfer, foreign direct investment and conducive environment for sustainability of business operations, said a release.

Charminar arch gets a coat of peach

The Kali Kaman now has a coat of peach. Workers on scaffolding perched like birds are applying the final layer of peach paint to the 60-foot high arch that was built along with the Charminar in the 1590s.

Cleared of all the encroachments, the grandness of the arch is apparent from a great distance. “The big breakthrough was when the building which was almost attached to the arch was demolished. We could work without hindrance. Now, if we can persuade the shop owners running their business from the Kaman, our work will be complete,” says Shrinivas Sulge of Laxmi Hericon that’s executing the project. The Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation officials managed to demolish the encroachment in May this year. The vegetal growth on the roof of the building has been cleared and a coat of lime mortar over square red tiles is being laid to waterproof the structure. Ten outlets have been added to the roof to drain the rainwater. “We removed 8 inches of rubble and then started our work on the roof,” informed Mr. Sulge.

It was called Kaman-e-Sharkh or the eastern arch according to ‘Tareeq-e-Qutb Shahi’. “There was an Ashoor Khana inside the Kaman. During Muharram, the arch would get covered with black flags and look black and it acquired the sobriquet of Kali Kaman. In the ’90s the Alams were moved out to Panjey Shah and the rangrez (colour dyers) moved in permanently,” informs Mubbashir Ali Khan, who is researching Ashoor Khanas of Hyderabad. Now, workers and visitors have to enter the quarter of dyers to climb the 60 steps to reach the top of the building.

The arch is surrounded by kite sellers, zari workers, jewellers, and a new café called ‘Le Mitron’.

“The colour is not peach. It is earthen hue. It is the building’s original colour as lime mortar was mixed with bricks during construction,” informs Mr. Sulge. The workers use a water-based lime emulsion ‘verona lime emulsion’ for the final colour coat. According to the product information it “creates a stable link with the surface, maintaining the level of vapour permeability of the support facilitating the evaporation of internal humidity. Its level of alkalinity prevents the development of mould and bacteria.”

Vijay Diwas celebrated

The military authorities and 1971 war veterans organised a wreath laying ceremony at the Martyrs Memorial in Parade Grounds and also at the Artillery Centre, Hyderabad, to mark the 50th anniversary of ‘Vijay Diwas’, commemorating the victory achieved when the Eastern Army Commander of Pakistan, Lt Gen AAK Niazi, signed the “Instrument of Surrender” to the Indian Army. The military band, officers and soldiers paid homage to their brethren in uniform who had laid down their lives in defending the Republic.

CAG raps Union Ministries for elephant deaths on rail tracks

The Comptroller and Auditor-General of India (CAG) has pulled up the Union Ministries of Railways and Environment, Forests and Climate Change for neglecting the elephant corridors in the Palakkad railway division. Elephants continue to die on railway tracks despite the Ministries jointly initiating short- and long-term measures, the CAG says in its latest report.

Neither the Railways nor the governments of Tamil Nadu and Kerala have approached the authorities concerned of the Centrally sponsored Project Elephant for a permanent mitigation plan in the Podanur-Palakkad rail section. Seven elephant passages have been identified in the 48-km section which passes through the reserve forests of the Western Ghats. This section is part of the main line from Chennai to Thiruvananthapuram, via Erode.

Seven passages

Two of the seven passages are in Tamil Nadu, three in Kerala and the remaining two fall in both States. On an average, 61 express and passenger trains pass daily through the section where wild elephants cross the track frequently. The railway line passes through the forests for 16.5 km, of which 5 km is between Ettimadai and Walayar in Tamil Nadu and 11.5 km in Kerala.

Ten elephants were killed due to train hits in the Kanjikode-Madukkari section from 2006 to 2010 and four between 2016-17 and 2018-19, sources say.

In its 260-page report, the CAG says no underpass or overpass has been constructed in the identified locations so far by the Railways or the State governments.

Precautionary steps

Precautionary measures such as providing ramps for trapped elephants between Ettimadai and Walayar, setting up watchtowers for monitoring their movement, building percolation ponds and installing infrared equipment to detect the presence of elephants have failed.

Association seeks GI tag for Andhra Pradesh’s paper sweet

The Sir Arthur Cotton Atreyapuram Pootharekula Manufacturers Welfare Association, which operates from East Godavari in Andhra Pradesh, has filed an application seeking Geographical Indication (GI) tag for the famous Atreyapuram Pootharekulu, also known as paper sweet.

  1. Sanjai Gandhi, IP Attorney and Advocate, Nodal Officer, Geographical Indication Registration of Products, Government of Tamil Nadu, who filed the application on behalf of the association, told The Hindu that this sweet is made by skilled women from the local community in that region. The sweet is prepared in the village of Atreyapuram and adjacent villages in Atreyapuram Mandal in East Godavari district. On an average, these women make this sweet in 3-5 days and it is priced between ₹20-₹25 per piece. Each woman makes around 600 pieces per day. “A lot of Telugu people live across the globe and there is a huge potential for this sweet in the export market,” he noted.

According to details provided in the application, this sweet is made of dry fruits such as cashews and almonds, naturally obtained jaggery or powdered sugar and desi ghee wrapped in wafer-thin rice sheets. The rice is procured locally from the Konaseema belt. This recipe has been passed on since 300 years.

SC to hear pleas on Vanniyar quota law

The Supreme Court on Thursday held that admissions to higher education institutions and appointments to State government jobs made this year under the Vanniyar quota would not be disturbed, but barred fresh appointments and admissions until February 15 next.

It passed the direction when it took on board a batch of petitions, including one by the Tamil Nadu government, challenging a Madras High Court decision to quash a State law which provided 10.5% internal reservation to the Vanniyars within the overall 20% quota for the Most Backward Classes (MBCs).

A Bench of Justices L. Nageswara Rao, B.R. Gavai and B.V. Nagarathna said no fresh appointments to government services or admissions to higher education institutions should be made till February 15, the next date of hearing. But admissions and appointments made, pursuant to a High Court order of August 25, would not be disturbed.

As the High Court did not stay the law, the appointments and admissions were made. But it quashed the law on November 1, leaving the appointments and admissions vulnerable.

The Bench said the case had to be heard expeditiously since it had implications for the future of a large number of students and government employees. It scheduled back-to-back hearings for February 15 and 16. It asked the lawyers to prepare their pleadings and organised three lawyers from either side to compile the records and arguments to avoid delays. The government said Tamil Nadu had been a “pioneer” in grant of reservation.

Wrong forum

The attempt to securitise the climate change agenda could have unintended consequences

India’s negative vote at the UN Security Council (UNSC) on a draft resolution on climate change is a reflection of its long-held opposition to expanding the UNSC’s mandate into areas that are already being dealt with by other multinational fora. The resolution, piloted by Ireland and Niger and which had the support of a majority of the UNSC members, was voted down by India and Russia — it has veto powers — while China abstained. Their position is that the UNSC’s primary responsibility is “maintenance of international peace and security” and climate change-related issues are outside its ambit. But the supporters of the resolution argue that the climate is creating security risks in the world, which will exacerbate in the future with water shortage, migration and a destruction of livelihoods. Germany had circulated a similar draft last year which was never put to vote in the Security Council as the Trump administration opposed it. Now, with support from the Biden administration, the developed world is pushing to include what they call “climate security” in the agenda of the UNSC. While the urgency to take action to tackle climate change is appreciated, the attempt to securitise the climate agenda could have unintended consequences. Bringing the issue under the UNSC will also give more powers to the world’s industrialised countries, which hold a veto power, to decide on future action on climate-related security issues.

Currently, all matters related to climate change are being discussed in the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), a specialised agency. And with over 190 members, its framework has made progress in tackling climate change. It is this process that led to the Kyoto Protocol, the Paris Agreement and the recent COP26 summit, and has put in place an international approach to combat global climate change. Sure, there is valid criticism that decision making at UNFCCC conferences is slow and there has to be faster collective action to tackle climate change and associated challenges. But the solution is not outsourcing decision making to the five permanent members of the UNSC. Also, it is wrong to look at climate change through the prism of security. Each nation faces different challenges in transitioning into a greener economy. As India’s Permanent Representative at the UN T.S. Tirumurti pointed out, the developed countries, all big polluters, have not met the promises they made with regard to climate action. The least developed and developing countries should be encouraged to keep the promises they made with financial assistance. This needs to be a collective process and the best way is through the UNFCCC, where decisions made are by consensus. The UNFCCC should not only make sure that the promises made by member countries, especially the powerful ones, in previous conferences are kept but also expand the scope of discussions to include climate-related security issues.

The WTO’s challenge to MSP is another frontier to cross

The demand of farmers to provide a legal guarantee for the minimum support price (MSP) for their produce has triggered a nationwide debate. Some believe it would be “fiscally ruinous” to procure all the 23 crops for which MSP is announced annually. Others contend that procuring these crops would be a logistical nightmare. There is yet another dimension of this debate that has largely gone unnoticed. Can India provide a legal guarantee for MSP without violating its international law obligations enshrined in the Agreement on Agriculture (AoA) of the World Trade Organization (WTO)?

As a trade-distorting subsidy

One of the central objectives of the AoA is to cut trade-distorting domestic support that WTO member countries provide to agriculture. In this regard, the domestic subsidies are divided into three categories: ‘green box’, ‘blue box’ and ‘amber box’ measures. Subsidies that fall under the ‘green box’ (like income support to farmers de-coupled from production) and ‘blue box’ (like direct payments under production limiting programmes subject to certain conditions) are considered non-trade distorting. Countries can provide unlimited subsidies under these two categories. However, price support provided in the form of procurement of crops at MSP is classified as a trade-distorting subsidy and falls under the ‘amber box’ measures, which are subject to certain limits.

To measure ‘amber box’ support, WTO member countries are required to compute Aggregate Measurement of Support (AMS). AMS is the total of product-specific support (price support to a particular crop) and non-product-specific support (fertilizer subsidy). Under Article 6.4(b) of the AoA, developing countries such as India are allowed to provide a de minimis level of product and non-product domestic subsidy. This de minimis limit is capped at 10% of the total value of production of the product, in case of a product-specific subsidy; and at 10% of the total value of a country’s agricultural production, in case of non-product subsidy. Subsidies breaching the de minimis cap are trade-distorting. Consequently,they have to be accounted for in the AMS.

The procurement at MSP, after comparing it with the fixed external reference price (ERP) — an average price based on the base years 1986-88 — has to be included in AMS. Since the fixed ERP has not been revised in the last several decades at the WTO, the difference between the MSP and fixed ERP has widened enormously due to inflation.

For instance, according to the Centre for WTO Studies, India’s ERP for rice, in 1986-88, was $262.51/tonne and the MSP was less than this. However, India’s applied administered price for rice in 2015-16 stood at $323.06/tonne, much more than the 1986-88 ERP. When this difference is accounted for in the AMS, the possibility of overshooting the de minimis limit becomes real. Procuring all the 23 crops at MSP, as against the current practice of procuring largely rice and wheat, will result in India breaching the de minimis limit making it vulnerable to a legal challenge at the WTO.

Even if the Government does not procure directly but mandates private parties to acquire at a price determined by the Government, as it happens in the case of sugarcane, the de minimis limit of 10% applies. Very recently, a WTO panel in the case, India – Measures Concerning Sugar and Sugarcane, concluded that India breached the de minimis limit in the case of sugarcane by offering guaranteed prices paid by sugar mills to sugarcane farmers.

Peace clause

The AoA needs to be amended so that it provides adequate policy space to run an MSP-backed food security programme. Although a permanent solution is nowhere in sight, the countries have agreed to a peace clause. The peace clause forbids bringing legal challenges against price support-based procurement for food security purposes even if it breaches the limit on domestic support. However, the peace clause is subject to several conditions. For example, it can be availed by developing countries for the support provided to traditional staple food crops to pursue public stockholding programmes for food security (procuring food to provide free ration through the Public Distribution System).

Furthermore, the peace clause is applicable only for programmes that were existing as of the date of the decision and are consistent with other requirements. Countries are also under an obligation to notify the WTO if their subsidies exceed the permissible level. For instance, earlier this year, India reported to the WTO that it gave subsidies worth $6.31 billion for rice in 2019-20 while the value of rice production was $46.07 billion. In other words, the subsidies were 13.6% of the total value of production as against the de minimis level of 10%.

India’s procurement for rice and wheat, even if it violates the de minimis limit, will enjoy legal immunity. However, India will not be able to employ the peace clause to defend procuring those crops that are not part of the food security programme (such as cotton, groundnut, sunflower seed).

Even if the AoA is amended to exclude MSP-backed procurement for food security purposes from the AMS, procurement for other crops at prices higher than the fixed ERP would be considered trade-distorting and thus subject to the de minimis limit. Therefore, India needs to recalibrate its agricultural support programmes to make use of the flexibilities available in the AoA.

Some alternatives

Arguably, India can move away from price-based support in the form of MSP to income-based support, which will not be trade-distorting under the AoA provided the income support is not linked to production.

Alternatively, one can supplement price-based support (keeping the de minimis limit in mind) with an income-based support policy. However, it will be arduous especially given the climate of high misgiving prevailing between the farmers and the political establishment.

The recent fiasco with the three repealed farm laws demonstrates that reforms in agriculture, no matter how sagacious, cannot be shoved down the throats of the farmers. The Government needs to engage with the farmers and create an affable environment to convince them of other effective policy interventions, beyond MSP, that are fiscally prudent and WTO compatible.

Bullock cart races get SC approval

The Supreme Court on Thursday gave the nod to resume bullock cart races in Maharashtra that were prohibited since 2017.

A Bench led by Justice A.M. Khanwilkar said the amended rules notified by the State under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960 would apply to the conduct of the races until a final decision is arrived.

The court found no reason to prohibit races in Maharashtra when jallikattu and bullock cart races were happening in Tamil Nadu and Karnataka respectively.

The court was hearing an application filed by the Maharashtra government, which sought that the ban on bullock cart races in the State should be lifted.

Education a mirage for tribal women

The News Editorial Analysis 17th Dec 2021

The news that about half of the tribal students in Tamil Nadu do not continue their studies beyond Class 10 is alarming. What makes it worse is that some students were denied education this year due to their inability to produce a community certificate. This newspaper had brought to light a few such cases. An 18-year-old girl from the Kattunayakar community from Tenkasi, who was denied a seat, finally got a free spot in another private college. Other Scheduled Tribe students were probably not as lucky as her. In 2019, the Adi Dravidar and Tribal Welfare Department said at a hearing before NHRC that only 69 community certificates had been issued by the government to members of the SC and ST communities over the previous two years.

Looking at the larger picture, poor literacy rate among tribal women across India is a stark reminder of the woeful state of affairs of STs in the country. Northeastern states have shown the way to embrace all STs, but most big states stare at a yawning gap between the literacy levels of all females and tribal women. 
Among southern states, Tamil Nadu has a lot of catching up to do. As per the Union tribal affairs ministry’s annual report, it stands out with the widest gap of 26.6%, with the ST women’s literacy rate hovering around 46.8%, below the national average of 49.4%. The reasons are common: poverty, compulsion to work, early marriage, no nearby schools, discrimination and the nomadic culture of the indigenous population. Kerala and Karnataka were above national average at 71.1% and 53% respectively.

So what is the way forward? It is crucial for state governments to launch schemes to draw tribal students to classrooms and create awareness on school education among STs, most of whom live far away in remote villages. They should also enact the existing Central schemes for ST students and ensure the funding reaches the needy. Each school should keep a tab on these students. Education is a basic right of every citizen and it should be taken as the prime tool to usher STs into the mainstream.

CBI files chargesheet against former Allahabad HC judge

The CBI has filed its chargesheet against retired Allahabad High Court Judge Justice S.N. Shukla in a corruption case for allegedly favouring a private medical college in his orders, officials said.

The agency has moved with its chargesheet against Mr. Shukla after getting the go-ahead from the government to prosecute the retired judge, they said.

The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) had booked Justice Shukla with other accused in December 2019 under Section 120B of the Indian Penal Code and provisions of the Prevention of Corruption Act.

In its FIR, besides Justice Shukla of the Lucknow Bench of the Allahabad High Court, the agency had also named retired Chhattisgarh High Court judge I.M. Quddusi, Bhagwan Prasad Yadav and Palash Yadav of the Prasad Education Trust, the Trust itself and private persons Bhavna Pandey and Sudhir Giri, they said.

Several other accused in the FIR have also been named in the chargesheet.

It is alleged that Prasad Institute of Medical Sciences was debarred by the Centre from admitting students due to substandard facilities and non-fulfilment of the required criteria in May 2017, along with 46 other medical colleges.

The decision to debar was challenged by the Trust before the Supreme Court through a writ petition. Subsequently, a conspiracy was hatched by those named in the FIR and the petition withdrawn.

Justice Shukla had allegedly defied the categorical restraint orders passed by a Chief Justice of India-led bench of the apex court to permit private colleges to admit students for the 2017-18 academic session.

‘Mineral output to rise with changes to rules’

The government on Thursday said that amendment in mineral auction rules will encourage competition that will ensure more participation in the sale of blocks.

The Ministry of Mines has notified the Minerals (Evidence of Mineral Contents) Second Amendment Rules, 2021 and the Mineral (Auction) Fourth Amendment Rules, 2021 to amend the Minerals (Evidence of Mineral Contents) Rules, 2015 (MEMC Rules) and the Mineral (Auction) Rules, 2015 (Auction Rules), respectively, the Mines Ministry said.

“These amendments would encourage more participation in auction and promote competition,” the Ministry said.

This will facilitate State governments in identifying more blocks for auction of composite licence.

These amendments were aimed at identifying more mineral blocks for auction and thereby increasing pace of exploration and production resulting in improving the availability of minerals in the country, it added.

The News Editorial Analysis 16th Dec 2021






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