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Modi’s cronyism putting IAF pilots at risk, says Rahul Gandhi

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Rahul Gandhi

New Delhi, Oct 18: Congress President Rahul Gandhi on Thursday said the Narendra Modi government’s focus on renegotiating Congress-led UPA era defence deals to benefit crony capitalists instead of finalising them, was causing life risks for the Indian Air Force (IAF) pilots, who are compelled to fly “ancient” aircraft.

“Since 2014, instead of closing the deals that had been negotiated by the Congress-led UPA government, the present government has focussed on renegotiating them just to benefit crony capitalists.

“And so, our pilots are forced to put their lives at risk each day — flying ancient Jaguars, that are kept in the air using parts scrounged from junk yards in France and other parts of the world,” said Gandhi on Facebook.

“Not only is this shameful, it reduces India’s prestige globally and puts the lives of our pilots at risk,” he said over the IAF’s drive to acquire airframes and spares from overseas grounded-fighters to upgrade the ageing Jaguar fleet.

Continuing his attack on Rafale deal, Gandhi said: “The UPA’s Rafale deal for 126 aircraft would have transformed the Indian Air Force allowing us to scrap and replace ancient aircraft like the Jaguar.

“It involved the transfer of technology to HAL (Hindustan Aeronautics Limited) which would have helped make us become more self-reliant in the future.

“Instead, the deal was re-worked to Anil Ambani’s benefit and reduced to just 36 aircraft — all made in France! These aircraft will take years to arrive in India,” he added.

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K’taka Dy CM tests Covid positive, in home isolation

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coronavirus

Karnataka Deputy Chief Minister Ashwath Narayan tested positive for coronavirus on Saturday and is under home isolation in the city.

“Ahead of the Monsoon Session of the Assembly from Monday, I underwent a Covid-19 test and the result has turned positive. I am asymptomatic and will be under home isolation,” tweeted Narayan.

Narayan, 51, is one of the three Deputy Chief Ministers in the ruling BJP government and is a legislator from the Malleshwaram Assembly segment in the city’s northwest suburb.

The other two Deputy Chief Ministers are Govind Karjol and Laxman Savadi.

“I request those who have come in contact with me to take precautions,” Narayan added.

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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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