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My thoughts with Kashmiris in lockdown within lockdown: Chidambaram

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New Delhi, May 19 (IANS) Former Union Minister P Chidambaram said that as the fourth phase of the nationwide lockdown amid the coronavirus scare began from Monday, his thoughts were with the people of Kashmir who were in a “terrible lockdown within a lockdown.”

The senior Congress leader said that at least now, the people in the rest of India will understand that he dubbed the “enormity of the injustice” done to those who were detained in Kashmir and those still under detention” immediately before and after the abrogation of Article 370 of the Indian Constitution on August 5, 2019.

Chidambaram said that former Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti was the “worst sufferer” of preventive detention and even courts had shirked their constitutional duty with respect to detainees.

“The worst sufferers are Mehbooba Mufti and her senior party colleagues who are still in custody in a locked-down state in a locked-down country. They are deprived of every human right,” he said in a statement.

“I cannot believe that for nearly 10 months, the courts will shirk their constitutional duty to protect the human rights of citizens,” he added.

The detention on Mehbooba Mufti under the Public Safety Act (PSA) had been extended for three more months on May 5. Booked under the stringent PSA, she was initially kept at the Hari Niwas guesthouse in Srinagar but later shifted to a Tourism Department hut in the Chashma Shahi area.

She was shifted to her Gupkar Road official residence on April 7.Besides Mehbooba Mufti, two other former Chief Ministers — Omar Abdullah and his father Farooq Abdullah — were also detained under the PSA but later released.

India

Monsoon Session may be very short; eye on passing ordinances

Given the huge challenge both LS and RS Secretariats are facing right now to make seating arrangements in Parliament, maintaining social distancing, the monsoon session is likely to be “very short”

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Parliament of India

With the resumption of Parliamentary standing committees, efforts are on to convene the monsoon session of Parliament, with a focus to clear ordinances brought by the Centre. Given the huge challenge both Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha Secretariats are facing right now to make seating arrangements in the Parliament, maintaining social distancing, the monsoon session is likely to be “very short”, suggest informed sources.

On June 5, the government brought ordinances that it claimed would be game changers. It amended the six-a-and-a-half decade old Essential Commodities Act, for ease of doing business with an objective to deregulate food items, including cereals, pulses and onions, in bid to raise farmers’ income.

The Centre also brought the Banking Regulation (Amendment) Ordinance, 2020 for “better management & sound regulation of Cooperative banks”, as well as the APMC tweaking with a goal of ‘One India, One Agriculture Market’. But the ordinances, that are crucial for Centre’s effort to boost the economy intake of the lockdown slump, need to be passed by Parliament. Monsoon session’s primary goal will be to get these ordinances okayed by the Parliament, at the earliest.

The treasury bench will also be ready to make a statement on the India-China border stand-off, that killed 20 Indian brave hearts, presuming that the opposition will press for it. The Centre may use the Parliament to send a “strong message of unity”, as far as LAC aggression was concerned.

However, given the monumental challenge the Parliament is facing to reconvene, it is unlikely that a detailed session with a full business transaction can take place.

Both the Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha secretariats have explored all possibilities including using a substitute venue like Vigyan Bhawan, to ensure seating with “do gaaz ki doori”, but none were big enough to accommodate the entire Indian Parliament, all together.

The capacity constraints have shot down any idea of a larger virtual session. In spite of Rajya Sabha Chairman Venkaiah Naidu saying to “scale up capacities for larger virtual Parliament in due course”, Government sources suggest that is not going to happen immediately. Hence, sources say, the Rajya Sabha Secretariat is exploring seating members of the upper house in the house’s chamber as well as the galleries in conformity with the norm of physical distancing and to enable virtual participation of other members from either the Central Hall or Balayogi Auditorium in the Parliament premises. The chamber and the galleries of the Rajya Sabha can accommodate 127 members while adhering to the physical distancing norms.

Meanwhile, “For enabling the viewing of participation of the members from outside the chamber of the House through virtual participation, it has been felt that screens need to be arranged both within the chamber of the House and outside as required,” sources said.

As for the Lok Sabha, the challenge is bigger, given the number of members is much higher than the upper house — 543 to be precise. Given that, Lok Sabha speaker Om Birla has held multiple meetings to brainstorm a solution that government’s need and opposition’s demand alike to bring a monsoon session without subjecting any member to health risks. The budget session this year was cut short abruptly on March 23, after one member Dushyant Singh came in contact with a COVID-19 positive singer. Singh later met other members, causing a sense of panic, with members like Trinamool leader Derek O’ Brien going into self quarantine.

But the treasury bench seems convinced it will find a solution and suggests it does not want to rush without adequate arrangements to keep the health consideration of all members in mind, amid the raging COVID-19 pandemic. The sense of government’s comfort also stems from the fact that the ordinances remain in force for six weeks after the Parliament is reconvened. Once it gathers, it must be approved by both Houses of Parliament for the ordinance to become a law.

So, the government does not find an immediate countdown to start for okaying the ordinances. However, sources in the government say, regardless of that, almost regular meetings are afoot to reconvene the Parliament, this monsoon.

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Disaster

Hand over Goa Covid-19 hospital to Army: Kamat

With two more deaths in the last 24 hours, Goa’s Covid-19 death count has reached 11. The state has 895 active cases.

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Digambar Kamat

Panaji, July 11 : With two more Covid-19 deaths reported in Goa, Congress leader Digambar Kamat on Saturday demanded its only designated Covid-19 hospital be handed over to the Army and a White Paper issued on the coronavirus situation in the state.

In a statement issued here, the Leader of Opposition in the Goa Assembly also demanded that the White Paper should also tell the efforts made by the state government to manage the health crisis.

“I want to ask the government with a heavy heart: ”How many more deaths does the government need to show sensitivity towards Covid patients to provide proper, safe and secure food and other facilities?”” Kamat, a former Chief Minister, said.

With two more deaths in the last 24 hours, Goa’s Covid-19 death count has reached 11. The state has 895 active cases.

“The government must immediately hand over the Covid hospital management to the Army, before more damage is done to the innocent people,” Kamat said.

The statement comes a day after Union Minister of State for Defence Shripad Naik said that with the Covid-19 infections on the rise in the , Chief Minister Pramod Sawant had sought the help from area commanders of armed forces” units in the state and the Indian Coast Guard.

“At least now, when the Goa government is seeking help from the Army, it is important not to waste any more time. It is worrying to see the pictures of pathetic situation in the Covid hospital going viral,” the Congress leader said. The dedicated hospital is run from the Employees State Insurance Hospital in South Goa.

“Immediate action is needed to ensure that all coronavirus patients get hygienic and quality food, clean drinking water and other facilities. Goans need an action plan on controlling further spread of coronavirus.”

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Shiv Sena, BJP ideologies don’t sync, says Sharad Pawar

To a query whether Pawar wielded the ”remote control”, the NCP chief laughingly brushed aside the suggestion and said that the three-party government is a “successful experiment” in the state with Uddhav Thackeray doing an excellent job as CM.

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Sharad Pawar

Mumbai, July 11 : In a significant statement, Nationalist Congress Party president Sharad Pawar has said that he does not believe that the ideology of Shiv Sena founder-patriarch, the late Balasaheb Thackeray was ”in sync” with that of its former ally Bharatiya Janata Party.

“The Balasaheb Thackeray that I knew, maybe you know him better… but I never felt that his (Balasaheb”s) ideology, his working style was in sync with that of the BJP,” the senior leader said.

The NCP chief”s remark came in a marathon interview with ”Saamana” and ”Dopahar Ka Saamana” Group”s Executive Editor Sanjay Raut on a wide variety of current interest topics.

In this context, Pawar said that Shiv Sena majorly contributed to the BJP”s victory in the October 2019 assembly elections, helping the latter achieve the figure of 105 seats to emerge as the single largest party in the state.

“I think, if the Sena had not been the BJP”s ally, then that figure (105), would have been around 40-50 seats. The BJP leaders took Shiv Sena for granted though it helped them win 105 seats,” Pawar asserted, sparking off a potential political row with the BJP.

The NCP chief”s response was to a query by Raut whether it was strange how a party (BJP) which was thrown up as the single-largest group failed to form the state government or a miracle which ultimately an unexpected alliance of Shiv Sena-NCP-Congress took power in November 2019.

Brushing aside suggestions that it was some kind of a ”miracle”, Pawar hinted that the BJP even committed the error of taking the “voter for granted”, referring to then Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis” oft-repeated slogan – “Mee Punha Yaeena (I will return).

“When a political leader makes such a statement, the voters get the impression that it is ”hubris” and they decide to teach him a lesson. When the people think that we (politicians) are crossing the limits, they don”t like it. This doesn”t work in politics,” Pawar explained.

Recalling the previous Shiv Sena-BJP government in 1995, he said it was completely under the control of Sena and Balasaheb Thackeray, but in the next round from 2014-2019, the BJP had virtually ”sidelined” Sena, it conveyed the notion that “nobody else can rule”, treated the people as a ”jaagir” (fiefdom), which ultimately led to (BJP”s) the debacle.

Citing similar historical instances, the NCP supremo said a leader like Indira Gandhi with tremendous mass support had to taste defeat, even Atal Bihar Vajpayee was vanquished, proving that “the common man of this country is more intelligent than the leaders when it comes to his democratic rights”.

Dwelling on Balasaheb Thackeray”s style of functioning, Pawar fondly recalled how he always respected people, like Vajpayee, L.K. Advani, but he was not always opposed to the Congress, nor did he harbour any hatred for the party (Congress).

“He was a fearless yet forgiving personality. Such magnanimous people are rare in politics. He supported Indira Gandhi during the Emergency, and surprisingly, even did not put up Sena candidates for the next elections to stand by her. This was shocking and unprecedented. He could maintain excellent personal relations even with his staunch political opponents, and was never bothered about the repercussions. Once, he even ensured that Supriya Sule should get elected unopposed. Only Balasaheb Thackeray could do all this and he did that,” Pawar said.

To a query whether Pawar wielded the ”remote control”, the NCP chief laughingly brushed aside the suggestion and said that the three-party government is a “successful experiment” in the state with Uddhav Thackeray doing an excellent job as CM.

Giving full marks to the government”s performance, Pawar – the chief architect of the MVA asserted: “No… none of these… I am not a headmaster, not a remote control… this is a democratic government and cannot be run by any remote control… the government is run by the CM and his council of ministers.”

Incidentally, this is the first time that a top national leader has been interviewed for the ”Saamana” by Raut, who has earlier done hundreds of interview sessions with Balasaheb Thackeray and Uddhav Thackeray, and now plans to grill some other national leaders soon.

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