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CM Thackeray opposes railway project in Maharashtra tiger sanctuary

Objecting to the proposal, Thackeray pointed out that this amounts to not just a gauge conversion of the existing railway lines, but also a re-alignment.

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Uddhav Thackeray

Mumbai, July 15 : Batting for the big cats, Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray on Wednesday opposed the Centre’s proposal to undertake a railway gauge conversion traversing through the Melghat Tiger Reserve in the Vidarbha region.

The gauge conversion of the 176 km long Akola-Khandwa line, to be taken up by South Central Railway, passes through a core tiger habitat in eastern Maharashtra, which is among India’s oldest.

In letters to Union Minister for Environment Prakash Javadekar and Railway Minister Piyush Goyal, Thackeray has urged them to consider alternative alignment and cancel the current proposal.

The plan involves gauge conversion work on the existing meter-gauge line, which connects Akola and Khandwa, as part of the government’s uni-gauge policy.

The proposal includes open cutting of tunnels, which would lead to blasting of rocks using heavy machinery and explosives, realignment away from the existing railway tracks to ease sharp curves, cutting through the critical area of the tiger sanctuary.

Objecting to the proposal, Thackeray pointed out that this amounts to not just a gauge conversion of the existing railway lines, but also a re-alignment.

“Along with increase in the railway traffic, it would also lead to increase in speed of the trains, restrictions on future expansions and modifications and increase in pollution along the track. The core area has been made inviolate by rehabilitating 13 villages and 6 of these are within 10 km distance of the existing railway line. Due to this, wildlife has significantly increased in the area,” Thackeray said.

The Melghat Tiger Reserve was among the first nine tiger sanctuaries declared in India in 1973-1974, and is spread over 2,767 sq km in the Satpura-Maikal range, which enjoys the distinction of being one of the global priority tiger conservation landscapes, the CM added.

Satpuda Foundation chief and Maharashtra State Wildlife Board member Kishor Rithe said the reserve is home to around 55 tigers and the state government’s move would be beneficial both tigers and the local villages.

However, the proposed gauge conversion will substantially increase railway traffic in the long run, leading to huge disturbances to the core area of the reserve, said Thackeray.

He mentioned that the Wildlife Institute of India (WWI) had recommended that the best mitigation for the railway line is ‘avoidance’ of the upgradation through the tiger reserve and opting for alternative alignments.

The proposal was considered by the Central Empowered Committee in 2018 which asked the National Board for Wildlife to reconsider its decision to divert 160.94 hectares of forest land for the gauge conversion running through the Wan Sanctuary within the Melghat Tiger Reserve.

On its part, the National Board for Wildlife returned the proposal to Maharashtra, requesting it to reconsider it in view of the recommendations of the WII and National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA).

Referring to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s statement that “Conservation of Tigers is not a choice but an imperative,” Thackeray urged that though railways must be developed, it is equally important to conserve tigers and prevent environmental degradation, for which an alternative route must be selected for the project.

India

“India Feels Absence…”: Rahul Gandhi’s Birthday Wish For Manmohan Singh

Rahul Gandhi, in his birthday wishes, praised Dr Singh’s “honesty, decency and dedication”, which he said was an inspiration to others.

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Manmohan Singh

New Delhi: India feels the absence of a prime minister with the “depth” of Dr Manmohan Singh, said Congress leader Rahul Gandhi as he wished the former Prime Minister on his 88th birthday today.

Rahul Gandhi, who was one of the first to wish Dr Singh, also praised him for his “honesty, decency and dedication”, which, he said, was an inspiration to others.

“India feels the absence of a PM with the depth of Dr Manmohan Singh. His honesty, decency and dedication are a source of inspiration for us all. Wishing him a very happy birthday and a lovely year ahead,” Mr Gandhi tweeted, using hashtag HappyBirthdayDrMMSingh.

India feels the absence of a PM with the depth of Dr Manmohan Singh. His honesty, decency and dedication are a source of inspiration for us all.

The Congress praised Dr Singh as a dedicated leader who was always committed towards the overall well-being of each Indian. “A dedicated leader’s primary aim is always to eradicate the worst evils that plague the society in the soonest & surest possible way. Today, we celebrate former Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh’s commitment towards the overall well-being of each Indian,” it tweeted.

The party also released a short video listing out the senior Congress leader’s achievements.

Gujarat Congress leader Hardik Patel, meanwhile, credited Dr Singh for good governance and strengthening the Indian economy during his tenure as prime minister of the country.

“Happy birthday to the great economist, former Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh. May God keep you healthy and provide longevity. Due to Dr. Saheb, the country was strengthened financially, today the public remembers the strong good governance of Manmohan Singh. Jai Ho,” he tweeted in Hindi.

Born in Gag, now in Pakistan, on September 26, 1932, Dr Singh is credited with bringing in sweeping reforms in the 1990. He was Prime Minister for 10 years until the Congress was decimated by the BJP in 2014 and PM Modi took power for the first time.

Manmohan Singh, who was the first Sikh in office, was also the first prime minister since Jawaharlal Nehru to be re-elected after completing a full five-year term. Mr Singh’s political career began in 1991 when he was appointed as the country’s Finance Minister under the leadership of late prime minister PV Narasimha Rao. It was the same year during which he helped usher in “liberalisation and privatisation” to the Indian economy.

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Cities

Another earthquake jolts Jammu and Kashmir

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Earthquake Strong

An earthquake measuring 4.5 on the Richter Scale jolted Jammu and Kashmir on Saturday. According to the National Centre for Seismology (NCS), the tremors were felt at 12:02 pm today.

The epicentre of the earthquake was yet not known.

There were no immediate reports of any loss of life or damage to property due to the earthquake.

More to follow…

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Health

NPPA steps in to cap price of Liquid Medical Oxygen and Medical Oxygen cylinders

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oxygen cylinder

New delhi: The National Pharmaceutical Pricing Authority of India is now capping price of Liquid Medical Oxygen and Medical Oxygen cylinders.

  1. The present situation of COVID-19 has resulted in increased demand of Medical Oxygen (MO) in the country and hence its availability is of utmost importance. Many of the States/UTs are dependent on the medical oxygen supply from other States/UTs.
  2. The demand of Medical Oxygen has gone up almost four times, from 750MT/day to 2800 MT/day. This has caused strain at all levels in the value chain of production and supply. The manufacturers of Medical Oxygen and Fillers have given representation to the Government for up to three fold price increase in the Ceiling Price of gaseous Medical Oxygen.
  3. The government is committed to uninterrupted supply of Medical Oxygen especially in the times of pandemic. Oxygen Inhalation (Medicinal Gas) is a scheduled formulation, covered under the National List of Essential Medicines (NLEM). Its existing Ceiling Price fixed by NPPA is Rs. 17.49/CUM. However, due to absence of price cap on liquid medical oxygen, manufacturers have hiked prices to fillers. During COVID, supply of medical oxygen through cylinders has increased from 10% to around 50% of total consumption. Price regulation at this end is imperative for continued availability of medical oxygen across the country.
  4. The issue related to availability, including pricing of oxygen has been under the continued consideration of Empowered Group 2, GOI. The Empowered Group 2 has recommended NPPA to consider capping the ex-factory price of liquid oxygen in order to ensure its supply to fillers at reasonable prices. It has also requested NPPA to consider a cap for ex-factory price of oxygen in cylinders in order to ensure supply of oxygen cylinders from filler at reasonable prices.
  5. To deal effectively with the situation, Ministry of Health & Family Welfare (MOH&FW), GOI has vide its letter dated 23.09.2020 conferred the delegation of powers under Section 10(2) (l) of Disaster Management Act, 2005 to NPPA to take all necessary steps to immediately regulate the availability and pricing of LMO and Medical Oxygen in cylinder.
  6. The Authority deliberated upon the matter in its extra ordinary meeting held on 25.09.2020. It has been decided to invoke extra-ordinary powers in public interest, under Para 19 of DPCO, 13 and under Section 10(20) (l) of Disaster Management Act, 2005 to deal with the emergent situation arising due to the pandemic. Accordingly it has been decided:

To cap the ex- factory price of Liquid Medical Oxygen (LMO) at manufacturers end at Rs. 15.22/CUM exclusive of GST; and

To further cap the ex-factory cost of Medical Oxygen Cylinder at filler end at Rs. 25.71/CUM exclusive of GST in suppression of the existing Ceiling Price of Rs. 17.49/CUM, subject to transportation cost fixation at state level, for six months.

  1. The existing rate contracts of state governments for oxygen purchase, as applicable, shall continue, in consumer interest.

The ex-factory price cap of LMO and oxygen gas cylinders will be applicable to domestic production.

The above measures will ensure availability of medical oxygen at consumer end at reasonable price both at hospital level and through oxygen cylinders, especially to distant and interior districts.

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