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Bhima Koregaon Case: Tussle brews between Maharashtra, Centre

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Bhima-Koregaon violence

A day after Nationalist Congress Party President Sharad Pawar raised serious doubts over the 2018 Elgar Parishad/Koregaon-Bhima investigations, the Centre swiftly moved against the Maha Vikas Aghadi government and transferred the probe into the case to the National Investigation Agency (NIA).

Crying foul, the NCP-Congress attacked the Bharatiya Janata Party-led Central government “for exceeding its brief for sheer political reasons” over the issue.

A piqued Pawar accused the BJP of harbouring “an acute fear” of being disrobed in the Koregaon-Bhima-Elgar Parishad case and chose to post-haste hand it over to the NIA.

He reiterated his demand for a Special Investigation Team (SIT) to conduct an in-depth independent investigation to “unravel the truth” over the Pune Police’s probe into the case.

“Prima facie, it seems they (Pune Police) misused their power. The NIA may have taken over the probe, but it is necessary for the state government to investigate lapses by Pune Police or whether they misused powers to frame the activists,” Pawar said.

Locking horns with the Centre, he said the fresh probe was necessary as the move to hand over the case to NIA has “aroused suspicions”, and it may have apprehended that the re-investigation could expose the former BJP state government and its hand-picked officials in the matter.

“In no way can it be said that all those who take up cudgels against injustice and atrocities by the government are naxalites, as in this case,” Pawar pointed out.

Interestingly, the Centre’s abrupt move came a day after Pawar wrote to Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray and hours after Deputy CM Ajit Pawar on Friday held a meeting to review the case status and charge-sheets filed by Pune Police.

State Home Minister (NCP) Anil Deshmukh slammed the Centre saying they were scared of a fresh probe contemplated by the MVA government as it could nail the previous BJP-led regime for messing up the original investigations.

“We shall seek legal opinion in the matter before launching a fresh investigation,” said Deshmukh.

Congress leader Rahul Gandhi attacked the move saying it was part of “MOSH (Modi-Shah) agenda of hate”.

“Anyone who opposed the MOSH agenda of hate is an ‘Urban Naxal’. Koregaon-Bhima is a symbol of resistance that the government’s NIA stooges can never erase,” Gandhi said in a sharp tweet.

Pawar had questioned the manner in which Pune Police probed it and claimed that the previous BJP-regime had “vengefully” implicated several Dalit and rights activists in the Elgar Parishad-Koregaon-Bhima cases, based on “trumped up” charges.

After the MVA government of Shiv Sena-Nationalist Congress Party-Congress took office on Nov. 28, there was a change in perception of the cases lodged during the previous government.

Nevertheless, caught unawares by the Centre’s move, shortly before midnight on Friday, Deshmukh condemned the decision “to transfer the probe to NIA without any consent of the Maharashtra government.”

The NCP-Congress appear firm on setting up an SIT to re-look at the high-profile and sensitive case which could bring out skeletons of the former BJP-regime and its investigators, prompting the Centre to hastily shift it to NIA.

Pawar contended that many prominent personalities and legal luminaries such as former Supreme Court Judge P.B. Sawant, former Bombay High Court Judge B.G. Kolse-Patil and others have raised objections to the manner in which the case was probed by Pune Police in which activists were arrested from different parts of India and branded ‘urban Naxals’.

The NCP chief pointed out that the then CM Fadnavis had not described those arrested activists as ‘urban Naxals’ and emphasised that the cases registered against them are not based on facts.

On Dec. 31, 2017, a large Elgar Parishad was organised in Pune’s Shaniwar Wada which was addressed by top leaders of Lefits, social and Dalit intellectual, the Kabir Kala Manch, the banned CPI (Maoist), its frontal organisations and others which allegedly triggered the violence the next day in Koregaon-Bhima.

On Jan. 1, 2018, caste riots erupted when over 100,000 Dalits converged to celebrate the historic Jan. 1, 1818 victory of a small 800-strong force of the Mahar caste of the Bombay Native Infantry of the British East India Company over a battalion of the huge 28,000-strong army of the Peshwa Bajirao II in Koregaon-Bhima after a 12-hour battle.

The two incidents proved to be a watershed in the state’s recent political history and a chasm developed as the then BJP-led government went hammer-and-tongs after the Leftist groups and their leaders.

Later during June and August 2018, many prominent Dalit and Leftist activists and intellectuals were arrested in a nationwide swoop by Pune Police.

They included: Sudhir Dhawale, Rona Wilson, Surendra Gadling, Shoma Sen and Mahesh Raut — all nabbed in June 2018 — and charged with links to Maoist groups.

Subsequently in August 2018, Pune Police arrested P. Varavara Rao, Sudha Bharadwaj, Vernon Gonsalves and Arun Ferreira and Gautam Navlakha on similar charges, besides naming others such as Milind Teltumbde, Rituparn Goswami, Prashanto Bose, as “underground, absconded and wanted accused” in the case.

It was the Pune Police’s contention that these persons/groups supported, funded and organized the Elgar Parishad as part of a larger conspiracy to create social and political unrest in the country, assassinate Prime Minister Narendra Modi, wage a war against the country and overthrow the democratically-elected government.

(Quaid Najmi can be contacted at [email protected])

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India’s Q3 GDP expected to inch-up above 4.5%

India Ratings and Research gave a forecast of 4.7 per cent for Q3 GDP.

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slowdown in global economic growth

New Delhi, Feb 27 : India’s third quarter 2019-20 GDP growth rate is expected to inch up on the back of rising inflation, along with a modest uptick in the momentum of services and industry.

Several economists polled by IANS said that GDP growth rate is seen in the range of 4.6-4.8 per cent for the third quarter from 4.5 per cent reported for the second quarter of the current fiscal.

Various indicators like air passenger traffic, railways’ freight revenue and commercial vehicles’ sales have shown improvement in Q3FY20 against weak performance in Q2FY20.

The macro-economic data point of the national income and the GDP will be released on Friday.

“We expect the GDP Q3 number to be 4.8 per cent. Since no major improvement was observed among leading indicators, market expectations remain subdued,” said Karan Mehrishi, Lead Economist at Acuite Ratings and Research.

“Generally, Q3 is one of the strongest quarters in a financial year because the inclusion of festive seasons sales and kharif harvest-driven rural consumption, this time, however, nothing noteworthy is foreseen.”

Besides, he pointed out that capacity utilisation levels have also fallen.

“Fresh capex looks unlikely and investments will be moderate driven by the public sector. We are however mindful of the inflation trajectory moving forward,” Mehrishi said.

India Ratings and Research gave a forecast of 4.7 per cent for Q3 GDP.

Edelweiss Securities’ Economist Madhavi Arora said: “We expect a marginal shallow pick up in 3Q, amid still-sluggish corporate earnings and weak industrial sector.”

“While government spending has been a respite for the services sector, its’ contribution to growth will also decline marginally. We expect 3Q GDP to print around 4.6-4.7 per cent.”

Meanwhile, ICRA expects the GDP and the gross value added (GVA) growth at basic prices to rise mildly to 4.7 per cent and 4.5 per cent, respectively, in Q3FY20, from 4.5 per cent and 4.3 per cent, respectively, in Q2FY20.

“Some industrial and service sectors displayed a pickup in YoY volume growth in Q3FY20 relative to the previous quarter, while the output of kharif crops displayed a mixed trend,” its principal economist Aditi Nayar said.

“Lower raw material costs, high growth of the government’s non-interest revenue expenditure and the stable profitability metrics revealed by the earnings of some banks would provide a cushion to the pace of economic growth,” she said.

However, the extent and duration of coronavirus outbreak would test the sustainability of the nascent upturn in growth in the ongoing quarter.

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Cannabis use rises among the elderly, finds study

Women, and individuals who were married, had a college degree, or had higher income also significantly increased their cannabis use.

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Cannabis

New Delhi, Feb 26 : Cannabis use continues to increase in popularity among adults of 65 years of age and older in the United States, according to a new study.

Published in JAMA Internal Medicine, the study from NYU Grossman School of Medicine estimates that cannabis use in adults aged 65 and older increased from 2.4 percent to 4.2 percent in the United States — a significant increase of 75 percent — between 2015 and 2018.

With the legalization of cannabis for medical and recreational purposes in many states in the US, medical professionals are studying its use in treating a number of chronic health conditions. Since 1996, 31 states have legalized medical marijuana, while 11 states and Washington DC have legalized recreational use.

The survey categorized cannabis use by asking whether marijuana, hashish, pot, grass, or hash oil was either smoked or ingested.

Researchers observed trends in prevalence of past-year cannabis use, broken down by sociodemographic background, chronic disease, healthcare utilization, and other substance use among adults age 65 and older, in the United States, between 2015 and 2018.

Certain subsets of this population saw an even higher rise in prevalence. For example, researchers estimated that past-year use more than doubled by older adults with diabetes, among those who have received mental health treatment, and those reporting past-year alcohol use.

Women, and individuals who were married, had a college degree, or had higher income also significantly increased their cannabis use.

Researchers say they next plan to acquire more detailed information about how medical marijuana affects older populations, its risks and side effects.

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Ground Zero: A dangerous mix of politics and police inaction?

Eyewitness say when the pro and anti-CAA protesters clashed, the police remained a mute spectator.

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Maujpur anti CAA Violence

New Delhi, Feb 24 : After all, the sudden quiet at Shaheen Bagh, on the boil for over two months, was deeply deceptive, if you look at the way how the protest — for and against the new citizenship law — spilled out to north-east of Delhi, with the police yet again failing to read the situation.

Many locals say the violence at Maujpur-Jafrabad in north-east Delhi erupted soon after BJP leader Kapil Mishra took out a march on Sunday in support of the Controversial Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) as well as against the anti-CAA women protesters who had blocked the road at Jafrabad metro station.

The police stepped in when Kapil Mishra addressed the crowd, sources said. He was flanked by the Deputy Commissioner of Police clad in full riot gear. Some people cite a video clip that shows the BJP leader giving an “ultimatum” to the police, saying “he will come back after the visiting US President leaves India”.

“But the DCP did not act,” said a local resident.

Stone-pelting soon started on the crowd protesting against CAA at Jafrabad.

But how does Kapil Mishra get into the picture? The Karawal Nagar (another north-east Delhi locality) politician was in the AAm AAdmi Party and had switched to the BJP just days before the Delhi polls. He contested from Karawal Nagar, but lost.

A few days back, scores of Jafrabad residents had let it be known that on Saturday (February 22), they would start a march to Rajghat. They were responding to an appeal by Bhim Army chief Chandrashekhar Azad who had called for ‘Bharat bandh’ on Sunday. On saturday, the women protesters were stopped midway, but soon they were at Jafrabad Metro station, blocking the road and the metro station.

Eyewitness say when the pro and anti-CAA protesters clashed, the police remained a mute spectator.

The situation turned uglier: On Monday the violence reached the lanes and by-lanes of some localities where passers-by were beaten up if they did not tell their names to aggressive groups of men.

Many pictures and videos of violence have gone viral where unidentified people have been seen brandishing guns as policemen look on. A head constable, Ratan Lal, lost his life on Monday after being hit by rioters.

The violence has spread to Chand Bagh, Khureji in east Delhi and Hauz Rani in south Delhi and fear stalks the roads. Yet no one knows how it all started and when and how it will end.

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