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Congress President Rahul Gandhi constitutes 23-member CWC

This is the first CWC to be constituted by Rahul Gandhi after his elevation as party chief in December.

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New Delhi, July 17 : Congress President Rahul Gandhi on Tuesday set up a 23-member Congress Working Committee (CWC), retaining many senior leaders including Ghulam Nabi Azad, Ahmed Patel and Mallikarjun Kharge while bringing in some new faces.

UPA Chairperson Sonia Gandhi and former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh will be the senior members of the new CWC that will form the core team of the party for the 2019 Lok Sabha polls.

There are 18 permanent invitees and 10 special invitees.

The CWC was announced four months after the AICC plenary session in March ratified the election of Gandhi as party chief and authorised him to set up the party’s highest decision making body.

Ahead of the plenary, Gandhi had turned the existing CWC into a steering committee.

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Refrain from farm protest amid corona: Punjab govt

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Amarinder Singh

Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh on Saturday ordered an inquiry into a letter issued by a BDPO regarding the protests by farmers allegedly organised by the state government and his transfer to the headquarters.

The government has not organised any such protest, as claimed by the Block Development and Panchayat Officer (BDPO), said a government spokesperson.

Far from organising any protests by farmers, the government was in fact appealing to all political organisations to refrain from holding public gatherings in the light of the Covid-19 pandemic, he said.

The overzealous BDPO had, on his own, announced a protest dharna on September 21 and issued a letter to ask all Panchayat Secretaries in his block to intimate all sarpanches about it.

He had also wrongly claimed that Ministers and MLAs will join in these protests, said the spokesperson, rejecting any such plans by the state government.

The state had neither planned such protests against the farm ordinances nor asked the BDPO to issue the letter in question, said the spokesperson, adding that the Chief Minister had asked officials to inquire and pin the responsibility on officials for this incorrect communication.


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NPH Act promised as RS passes Epidemic Diseases Amendment Bill

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Parliament

 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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