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Amit Shah to court Thackeray for poll alliance

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Mumbai, June 5: Hoping to repair the severely strained relations between the two alliance partners, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) President Amit Shah will call on Shiv Sena President Uddhav Thackeray on Wednesday, party sources said on Tuesday.

This will be the second summit between Shah and Thackeray. The first took place exactly a year ago when the BJP chief called on the Sena supremo in June 2017 to seek his support in the Presidential election.

The meeting is officially described as part of an outreach programme by the BJP to mollify its allies and build bridges before the 2019 parliamentary battle.

The BJP and Prime Minister Narendra Modi have been bitterly targeted by Thackeray and his party in recent times.

The meeting will come a couple of days after Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis exhorted his party workers to work hard for an alliance with the Sena.

The relations between the two partners plummeted to a new low when Shiv Sena ‘hijacked’ Shriniwas Vanga – the son of late BJP MP Chintaman Vanga from Palghar – and gave him the party ticket for the May 28 Palghar Lok Sabha bypolls.

A raging BJP inducted former Congressman Rajendra Gavit, who defeated Vanga.

In a guarded initial reaction, Sena MP and spokesperson Sanjay Raut pointed out how the ruling National Democratic Alliance (NDA) partners were not satisfied with the BJP and leaving it one by one.

But he refused to speculate whether the Sena would reconsider its oft-repeated stance of going solo in all future elections and pointed out that the party did extremely well and showed its strength in Palghar which it contested for the first time ever.

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NPH Act promised as RS passes Epidemic Diseases Amendment Bill

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 In between the Congress crediting Rahul Gandhi for predicting the Covid-19 pandemic well before a spike in infections and the Trinamool objecting to the amendment to the epidemic legislation saying it gives unqualified power to the Centre to meddle into state issues, the upper house passed the Epidemic Diseases Amendment Bill, 2020 on Saturday.

The Centre also gave a peek into a new legislation that it is working on.Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan informed the House that the government is working on a National Public Health Act for the past few years and it will be brought to the House.

The legislation is tipped to address the deficiencies of the NDMA Act and Epidemic Diseases Amendment Bill. “All issues not included under the Epidemic Act or National Disaster Management Act will be included in the Public Health Act,” he said.

Earlier, while introducing the bill, Vardhan said that there was a need for legislation at the central level so that there is a prohibitory mechanism to put an end to attacks and insults on healthcare workers.

But Congress didn’t lose time to talk about Rahul Gandhi’s warning. Neeraj Dangi said that the Centre did not take it seriously irrespective of that. While making a political statement, he said, “While Rahul Gandhi warned, the Centre was busy breaking state governments. They were successful in M.P., but not in Rajasthan.”

Dangi also alleged that the Centre used Covid as an “excuse to gloss over economic losses due to demonetisation and GST”. He added, 80 lakh people were forced to withdraw their EPF contributions.

BJP’s Saroj Pandey staunchly defended the government. She stressed that the ordinance was brought out because of the attacks on healthcare professionals, in the first place, thwarting Congress’s volley of political accusations. “We showered flowers on them, the healthcare workers couldn’t even meet their families for months as they wanted to protect them from infection,” Pandey added.

But Trinamool Congress MP Derek O’Brien expressed the apprehension that it would give unqualified power in the hands of the Centre to meddle in what he calls state affairs. “The Bill is an attempt to encroach states’ constitutionally assigned functioning,” he said.

Meanwhile, Samajwadi Party’s Ram Gopal Yadav focused on alleged scams in buying PPE kits etc while claiming the Bill lacks any provision to punish such offenders. Yadav also asked for strict provisions for Covid medicines being sold at exorbitant prices. Yadav also demanded private hospitals be reined in for overcharging patients in this “extarordinary situation”. Interestingly, he argued for financial assistance for families of single bread earners who died owing to Covid-19.

DMK’s M. Shanmugam asked, “What actions are you going to take against contractors who brought migrant labourers to towns and left them there to die? Labourers simply cannot be treated as a commodity.”

RJD’s Manoj Jha raised the issue of ‘single source’ issue in a veiled reference to the Jamaat congregation at Delhi’s Nizamuddin area which created a Covid cluster and hence drew widespread ire for that. “Do recall what was being played on TV channels in the month of April and May? We were fighting against our own people – a cart puller was attacked. We are not fighting the disease, but our own,” Jha said.

Interestingly, Congress’s Anand Sharma supported the amendment but called for greater consultation with states so that a more “comprehensive” amendment can be brought.

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National Education Policy will strengthen future of youth: Kovind

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Ram Nath Kovind

President Ram Nath Kovind on Saturday said the new National Education Policy (NEP) is a milestone in strengthening the future of youngsters and would also pave the way for the country to become ‘Atmanirbhar Bharat’.

On July 29, the Union Cabinet had approved the the NEP 2020 which aims for transformational reforms in schools and higher education systems in the country. It replaced the 34-year-old National Policy on Education.

Effective implementation of the NEP 2020 is likely to restore India’s glory as a great centre of learning. It will be a milestone in the history of our country. It will not only strengthen the future of our youth but also set our country on course to becoming ‘Atmanirbhar Bharat’,” the President said in a statement.

The NEP sets the vision of developing an equitable and vibrant knowledge society by providing quality education to all. This calls for achieving the twin objectives of inclusion and excellence, he added.

Kovind said that the NEP seeks to discourage rote learning and overemphasis on marks or grades, while encouraing critical thinking and a spirit of enquiry.

“Universities and institutes of higher education should be centres of innovation. They should provide innovative solutions to national and local problems.”

India was a globally respected education hub in ancient times, he said, adding that Universities at Takshashila and Nalanda had iconic status.

The President, however, rued that India’s higher education institutions do not get high positions in global rankings these days.

“Academic Bank of Credits (ABC) is a major shift in Policy which will be of great help to students. This will digitally store the academic credits earned from various Higher Education Institutions so that degrees can be awarded, taking into account the credits earned by students,” he added.

Kovind on to say that NEP will allow students to take courses as per their vocational, professional or intellectual requirements.

It will also allow them suitable exit and re-entry points.

“One of the targets of the NEP 2020 is to increase the Gross Enrolment Ratio or GER in higher education to 50 percent by 2035. Technology can help in achieving this target.

“Greater use of online facilities will also help overcome problems of shortage of faculty and other resources. Educational institutions should develop very good portals and apps to provide e-learning, e-library and other digital facilities,” he said.

The President said that one of the most important features of the NEP is its focus on equity and inclusion.

He cited the All India Survey of Higher Education for 2018-19 which stated that GER for females is slightly higher than that for males.

“However, the share of female students is extremely low in Institutions of National Importance. Their share is particularly low in technical education. This needs to be corrected.

The higher education ecosystem should reflect concern for gender justice in terms of enrolment and contribution, especially in technical institutions,” Kovind said.

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In RS, BSP raises quota in Jammu, Cong digital divide

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BSP’s Rajaram on Saturday raised the issue of reservation for Scheduled Castes and Other Backward Classes in the Jammu region in the upper House.

He claimed in spite of having OBC population of around 35 per cent and SC population of around 17 per cent both groups get 2 and 8 per cent quota, respectively.

He said that Bahujan Samaj Party supported the abrogation of Article 370 on condition of extending the reservation in the region like rest of the country but it has not happened even after one year.

Rajya Sabha Chairperson M. Venkaiah Naidu asked MoS, Home G. Kishan Reddy to look into it.

Congress leader Ahmed Patel raised the issue of digital divide amid online schools during the pandemic. He also demanded financial assistance to poor families for this purpose.

BJD’s Sasmit Patra urged the government to engage international media to put forth its point as far as International terrorists are concerned. He claimed while Pakistan’s point of view is covered by international media, much rarely does it cover India’s point of view.

He also urged the government to use MPs to spread its message.

BJP’s Neeraj Shekhar demanded that Bhojpuri be included in the 8th schedule of the constitution. This demand is significant ahead of the Bihar election which is round the corner and where the language is widely spoken.

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