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INX Media case: 71 retired bureaucrats write to PM on sanctioning prosecution of 4 ex-officials

The officers also hit out at the government for making officers bear the brunt of criminal proceedings that “originate from settling of political scores”.

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Seventy-one retired bureaucrats on Friday wrote to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, expressing concern over the prosecution of four former officials of the Finance Ministry in the INX Media case and asserted that such action will demotivate diligent and honest officers from taking important decisions.

They demanded that there should be a reasonable period of time after which files should not be reopened.

The letter has been signed by retired civil servants like former cabinet secretary K M Chandrasekhar, former foreign secretary and national security advisor Shivshankar Menon, former foreign secretary Sujatha Singh and former DGP of Punjab Julio Riberio.

The ex-bureaucrats also expressed concern over “selective targeting” of retired and serving officers, apparently for “gaining narrow political advantages”.

Last month, the government issued a sanction to the CBI to prosecute former NITI Aayog CEO Sindhushree Kullar and others in connection with the FIPB clearance granted to INX Media, officials said.

Besides Khullar, the government also sanctioned the prosecution of former secretary of the Ministry of Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises, Anup K Pujari, the then director in the Finance Ministry Prabodh Saxena, and former under secretary in the Department of Economic Affairs Rabindra Prasad in the case involving INX Media, they said.

The government had already sanctioned the prosecution of former finance minister P Chidambaram in February this year, following which he was arrested by the CBI.

The officers also hit out at the government for making officers bear the brunt of criminal proceedings that “originate from settling of political scores”.

The former officials said this will only seem to confirm the worst apprehensions of civil servants that they will get no protection for bona fide acts in the performance of their official duties.

They said all regimes, irrespective of their political affiliations, at both central and state levels, have been “guilty of transgression”.

“Serving officials will naturally be demotivated if diligent and honest officers are selectively targeted for punishment for no fault of theirs other than that they were implementing the policy decisions of the government of the day,” the letter added.

“It will not be surprising if civil servants procrastinate before processing and examining every proposal of importance, as they have no guarantee that they would not be implicated in criminal proceedings many years later,” the letter said.

The retired bureaucrats said rules must be framed to make the legal principle of estoppel apply on reopening decisions based on information provided at the time the decision was taken.

If files are allowed to be “exhumed and dissected on the basis of hindsight and that too with no bar on the time that has elapsed”, no decisions will be made at all in government, they added.

“It is indeed a travesty when governance systems spare no effort in ensuring that political elements charged with or prosecuted for very serious offences are given latitude while officers who have faithfully served the nation for over three decades are arraigned on the flimsiest of technical grounds. In the interests of justice, we earnestly urge that there be an early resolution of this issue,” the letter said.

India

Trade Strike Shuts Down Some States, Partial In Others

25 crore join strike against Centre’s new farm and labour laws

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nationwide strike

Kerala, Puducherry, Odisha, Assam and Telangana witnessed complete shut down on Thursday and normal life was partially affected in many other states as more than 25 crore workers participated in the nationwide strike, according to central trade unions.

The day-long countrywide strike has been called by a joint platform of ten central trade unions to protest against the central government’s new farm and labour laws, among other workers-related issues, as well as to raise various demands.

Various independent federations and associations are also part of the joint platform.

“The states of Kerala, Puducherry, Odisha, Assam and Telangana have reported complete shutdown. Tamil Nadu reported complete shut down in 13 districts, while the industrial strike continues in the rest of the districts. Punjab and Haryana have reported that the state road transport buses have not left their depots in the morning,” a joint statement issued by the trade unions said.

Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh reported 100 per cent strike, including at BALCO, the statement said.

Normal life was affected in West Bengal and Tripura, and sporadic incidents of clashes were reported in West Bengal, according to reports.

Indian National Trade Union Congress (INTUC), All India Trade Union Congress (AITUC), Hind Mazdoor Sabha (HMS), Centre of Indian Trade Unions (CITU), All India United Trade Union Centre (AIUTUC), Trade Union Co-ordination Centre (TUCC) and Self-Employed Women”s Association (SEWA) are part of the joint platform.

Others are All India Central Council of Trade Unions (AICCTU), Labour Progressive Federation (LPF) and United Trade Union Congress (UTUC).

BJP-aligned Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh (BMS) is not participating in the strike.

Hind Mazdoor Sabha (HMS) General Secretary Harbhajan Singh Sidhu told PTI that the number of workers who joined the nationwide agitation on Thursday exceeded the expected number of 25 crores.

He also said that coal mine workers along with those from defence, railways and other public sectors are also supported the strike.

Scheme workers, electricity employees, domestic workers, construction workers, beedi workers, hawkers, vendors, agricultural workers, self-employed in rural and urban India are holding demonstrations at various places, even defying police restrictions, the statement said.

At many places, the auto and taxi drivers have remained off the roads. Railway and defence employees have held demonstrations in support of the strike at their respective places of work.

As per the statement, operations of financial institutions such as banks and insurance companies have also been affected.

Besides state government and central government employees, those from the Income Tax Department and other PSU workers are participating in the strike in a big way, the unions claimed.

“Reports of successful strike in coal and copper mines, including other mineral resource mines, have been received. The employees of postal, telecom and steel sector were also in action and gramin dak sevaks observed 100 per cent strike,” the statement said.

In several places, oil sector unions also observed the strike. Workers also resorted to picketing in some parts of the country.

Further, the statement said that the total number of workers who have joined the strike at over 25 crores exceeds the number of those who participated in a similar strike on January 8.

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Delhi records over 2,300 COVID-19 deaths in less than a month: Official data

The city reported 98 deaths on November 19, 118 on November 20, 111 on November 21, 121 each on November 22 and 23, and 109 fatalities on November 24, according to official data.

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Cremation ground Graveyards

New Delhi, Nov 26: The national capital has witnessed 2,364 deaths due to coronavirus since October 28, when the daily rise in infections breached the mark of 5,000 cases for the first time, according to official data.

Amid a surge in COVID-19 cases and deaths, 99 more fatalities on Wednesday pushed the city”s total death toll due to the disease to 8,720. It was after five days that Delhi recorded single-day deaths below 100.

The city reported 98 deaths on November 19, 118 on November 20, 111 on November 21, 121 each on November 22 and 23, and 109 fatalities on November 24, according to official data.

While 131 COVID-related deaths were recorded on November 18, the highest till date, Delhi registered its highest single-day spike of 8,593 cases on November 11.

On Thursday, Delhi had recorded 7,546 cases, followed by 6,608 on Friday, 5,879 on Saturday, 6,746 on Sunday, 4,454 on Monday, 6,224 on Tuesday and 5,246 on Wednesday, according to the government data.

The total number of coronavirus cases in Delhi climbed to 5,45,787 on Wednesday, of which 4,98,780 have recovered from the virus, the data shows.

Late hospital admissions leading to COVID-19 cases turning critical, shortage of ICU beds, unfavourable weather and rising pollution are among the factors experts attribute to the spike in COVID-19 deaths in Delhi, health experts have said.

Going by the epidemiological trend, the severity of the disease is more in this phase of the pandemic compared to the last one and several factors, including weather and pollution, are contributing to it, a health ministry official said on Wednesday.

Amid a spurt in the infection tally in the city, Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal had Wednesday requested experts to audit COVID-19 death cases and suggest measures to reduce fatalities in the national capital.

Health Minister Satyender Jain on Wednesday claimed the national capital reported the “least fatality per million” population amongst all four metro cities in the country.

The National Centre for Disease Control in a report drafted recently had warned that Delhi needs to be prepared for about 15,000 fresh cases of COVID-19 per day taking into account the upcoming winter season-related respiratory problems, large influx of patients from outside and festive gatherings.

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Delhi ‘actively considering’ night curfew. ‘As active as Covid-19 cases,’ asks high court

Delhi high court on Thursday rapped the AAP government and asked it how the government is ensuring that the new wedding restrictions are not being flouted.

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Delhi High Court

The AAP government has informed the Delhi High Court that it is actively considering whether to impose night curfew or weekend restrictions to contain the Covid-19 situation of the Capital as a bench comprising Justice Hima Kohli and Justice Subramonium Prasad asked the government whether it will be take any specific measure like other states.

The court was hearing a plea seeking to ramp up Covid-19 testing facilities in Delhi.

Though the Capital is grappling with a resurgence of Covid-19 cases since the last week of October, the AAP government has not imposed movement restrictions. It has curtailed the number of guests allowed at weeding events from 200 to 50 and increased the penalty for not wearing masks from Rs 500 to Rs 5,000.

Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal has reiterated that lockdown is not a solution; as it only delays the spread of the infection. However, during Thursday’s hearing, the government told the court that it was actively considering imposing night curfew. “As active as Covid-19 cases?” the bench asked.

On being asked how it is spreading awareness about Covid-19-appropriate behaviour, the government said it held group meering with resident welfare associations (RWA). “Some viral videos suggest that thousands of people turned up for such meetings, please look at them and respond. These meetings can become Covid-19 spreaders. Also, you need to tell us how many market associations and RWAs you’ve reached out to and what’s the plan of engaging them in your Covid management strategy,” the court said.

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