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Congress pats its back for India not joining RCEP

On Saturday while addressing the party leaders, Congress interim chief Sonia Gandhi opposed the government move to sign the RCEP deal.

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New Delhi, Nov 4 : The Congress has sought to take credit for India not joining the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), saying the “forceful opposition” by it and its leader Rahul Gandhi had made the government “back down”.

In a series of tweets here on Monday, Congress national spokesperson Randeep Singh Surjewala said, “A forceful opposition by the Congress and Rahul Gandhi ensured that the BJP government back down from bartering the interests of farmers, dairy producers, fishermen, small and medium businesses at the altar of political expediency.”

“A victory for all fighting for protecting national interests,” he tweeted.

His remarks came soon after the government decided against joining the 16-nation RCEP trade deal, saying it was not shying away from opening up to global competition across sectors but had made a strong case for an outcome that is favourable to all countries and all sectors.

According to sources, in his speech at the RCEP summit, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said, “The present form of the RCEP agreement doesn’t fully reflect the basic spirit and the agreed guiding principles. It also doesn’t address satisfactorily India’s outstanding issues and concerns in such a situation.”

The Congress leader said with rampant unemployment, a sinking economy and deep agrarian crisis emanating from utter mismanagement of economy by the Bharatiya Janata party (BJP) government, signing the RCEP would have been “catastrophic”.

“The Modi government was pushing to sign the RCEP without addressing genuine concerns and national interests. India’s farmers and MSMEs had genuine unaddressed concerns about circumvention of ‘rules of origin’ to dump Chinese goods, absence of safeguards to prevent against import surges at the cost of domestic industry, and no assurance on market access for service and IT industry,” Surjewala said.

On Saturday while addressing the party leaders, Congress interim chief Sonia Gandhi opposed the government move to sign the RCEP deal.

“As if the government’s economic decisions have not damaged the economy enough, it’s now ready to deal a body blow by signing the RCEP agreement – the regional free-trade pact of 16 Asian countries,” she said.

It would result in untold hardship for farmers, shopkeepers, small and medium enterprises and serious repercussions for the people, she said. “We can ill-afford to become a dumping ground for products, including agricultural produce from foreign countries,” she remarked.

India

Five new faces in Prasar Bharati board

The Prasar Bharati Board plays a crucial role in the general administrative functioning of the state broadcaster. Prasar Bharati is an autonomous body.

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Shaina NC

New Delhi, July 7 : With nine of the 13 posts in the Prasar Bharati board becoming vacant, the Centre on Tuesday appointed five key individuals, including BJP spokesperson Shaina NC and music composer Salim Merchant, as part-time members of the coveted board.

The other three are Sanjay Gupta, the editor-in-chief of a Hindi daily, media personality Alok Agawarwal and veteran journalist Ashok Kumar Tandon.

While Merchant’s tenure lasts till 2021, Agarwal and Shaina NC’s tenures last till 2023. Sanjay Gupta and Ashok Kumar Tandon’s tenures expire in 2025.

Speaking to IANS, Shaina NC said that thrust will be given on the All India Radio. “I think our endeavour will be to completely organise Doordarshan and Prasar Bharati, particularly mediums like All India Radio, which has tremendous connectivity and a lot of goodwill. I think that will be maximised to the best of our ability,” she said.

The Prasar Bharati Board plays a crucial role in the general administrative functioning of the state broadcaster. Prasar Bharati is an autonomous body.

Recently, the state broadcaster made headlines after its spat with news agency PTI. Prasar Bharati had shot off a letter threatening to end its “relationship” with PTI over the alleged “anti-national” reportage by the news agency, a charge refuted by PTI’s former Editor-in-Chief M.K. Razdan, who called it “preposterous”.

Asked about whether deciding the fate of the “relationship” between the broadcaster and the news agency will be on the table, Shaina NC said, “I am sure a lot of issues will come up,” adding that it won’t be right for her to “predetermine” at this juncture.

Earlier, in her tweet, the BJP leader also thanked Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Information and Broadcasting Minister Prakash Javadekar for her appointment to the prestigious board.

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Health

Health Ministry steps in to curb black marketing of Covid drug

The Central Drugs Standard Control Organisation has given approval for the manufacturing and marketing of Remdesivir to Cipla, Hetro and Mylan.

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New Delhi, July 7 : The Union Health Ministry has asked all the states to strengthen their vigil so that black marketing of Covid-19 drug Remdesivir is prevented.

The Directorate General of Health Services under the Health Ministry has written to the Drug Controllers of the states to prevent sale of Remdesivir above MRP.

The Central Drugs Standard Control Organisation has given approval for the manufacturing and marketing of Remdesivir to Cipla, Hetro and Mylan.

The DGHS said that it has received a letter from LocalCircles routed through the Health Ministry, raising concerns over black marketing and overpricing of Remdesivir by certain unscrupulous persons.

“In view of the above, you are requested to instruct your enforcement officials to keep strict vigil on the matter to prevent black marketing and sale of Remdesivir injection above the MRP,” the DGHS said in the letter to the states.

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Cities

LG Polymers CEO among 12 arrested over Vizag gas leak mishap

According to police, while 12 people died on May 7 and 8, three more villagers succumbed on May 25 and afterwards. A total of 34 animals also died in the incident.

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Visag Gas Victims Protests

Visakhapatnam, July 7 : LG Polymers Managing Director and CEO, Sunkey Jeong and Technical Director D.S. Kim were among 12 officials of the company arrested by Visakhapatnam police on Tuesday, in connection with the styrene gas leak tragedy that left 15 dead and hundreds hospitalised in May this year.

Assistant Commissioner of Police, R.V.S.N. Murthy, who is also the investigation officer, said the accused were booked for culpable homicide not amounting to murder.

They were also booked under Indian Penal Code”s Sections 278 (Making atmosphere noxious to health), 284 (Negligent conduct with respect to poisonous substance), 285 (Negligent conduct with respect to fire or combustible matter), 337 (Causing hurt by act endangering life or personal safety of others), 338 (Causing grievous hurt by act endangering life or personal safety of others) read with section 34 (Acts done by several persons in furtherance of common intention).

The gas leak from LG Polymers plant on the intervening night of May 6 and 7 affected Venkatapuram and five other villages.

According to police, while 12 people died on May 7 and 8, three more villagers succumbed on May 25 and afterwards. A total of 34 animals also died in the incident.

The development comes a day after the High Powered Committee (HPC) submitted its probe report to Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Y. S. Jagan Mohan Reddy.

The HPC probe report had listed several lapses on the part of the LG Polymers management, which led to the styrene gas leakage.

The other accused arrested on Tuesday are LG Polymers” and Additional Director (Operations) P.P. Chandra Mohan Rao, HOD, SMH (in-charge) K. Srinivas Kiran Kumar, team leader production Raju Satyanarayana, engineers C. Chandrasekhar, K. Gowri Sankara Nagendra Ramu, K. Chakrapani, operator Muddu Rajesh, night duty officer (operations) P. Balaji, incharge GPPS S. Atchyut and safety officer in night shift K. Venkata Narasimha Ramesh Patnaik.

According to the investigating official, the investigations disclosed that the incident at M6 styrene storage tank took place due to negligence of the accused who were also having knowledge that their acts are likely to cause death.

“The investigations so far made disclosed that the accident occurred to the poor design of M6 Tank, inadequate refrigeration and cooling system, absence of circulation systems, inadequate measurement parameters, weak safety protocol, poor safety awareness, inadequate risk assessment and response, poor management, slackness of management, insufficient knowledge amongst staff, insufficient understanding of the chemical properties of styrene, especially during storage under idle conditions and total breakdown of the emergency response procedures,” the police said.

Meanwhile, in a related development in the case, the Andhra Pradesh Pollution Control Board (APPCB) suspended environmental engineers R. Lakshmi Naryana and P. Prasada Rao for negligence.

Acting on the report of the HPC, APPCB suspended Prasada Rao, environmental engineer, regional office, Visakhapatnam, for gross negligence in allowing operation of LG Polymers without environmental clearance, allowing import and storage of huge quantity of styrene without verifying safety and environmental issues. Lakshmi Narayana, environmental engineer, zonal office, Visakhapatnam, was also suspended on the same charges.

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