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PIL moved in SC challenging NEET ordinance

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New Delhi, May 26 : The Supreme Court was moved on Thursday, challenging the NEET ordinance exempting Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Gujarat, Maharashtra and Punjab for this year from the ambit of National Eligibility-cum-Entrance Test (NEET) for medical colleges.

The petition has been moved by Anand Rai – whistle-blower in Madhya Pradesh’s Vyapam admission and recruitment scam and on whose earlier petition, the apex court had ordered CBI probe in the Vyapam scam.

In his new petition, Rai has challenged the NEET ordinance which was signed by President Pranab Mukherjee on May 24, contending that the ordinance was contrary to the stand taken by the central government before the top court wherein it had said that it “favoured unified, standardised medical entrance exam for the whole of India”.

Speaking to IANS, Vaibhav Srivastava, advocate for Rai, said that petition says that “lakhs of students are confused as to what will happen after the promulgation of ordinance as the state governments have been given a choice to conduct their own medical entrance examinations for the seats in the government medical colleges as well as for the government quota seats in private medical colleges”.

He said that PIL notes that the ordinance is “in direct conflict with the stand taken by the Union of India before the Supreme Court in the case of NEET as they (central government) were eager to conduct unified, standardised medical entrance examination for the whole of India” and sought to know the reasons. “What is the compulsion, why the U-turn,” asked Srivastava.

He said that the PIL is likely to be mentioned on Friday before the vacation bench of Justice Prafulla C. Pant and Justice D.Y.Chandrachud for an early hearing but if it does not happen, then it would certainly be mentioned on Monday.

President Mukherjee had signed the ordinance on May 24 after seeking clarifications from the government including legal opinion from legal luminaries and government’s senior law officer.

Though the NEET ordinance had permitted Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Gujarat, Maharashtra and Punjab to enrol students in undergraduate medical courses on the basis of exams conducted by them, the apex court by its May 9 order had refused to modify its April 28 order making NEET mandatory for admission to undergraduate medical courses across the country for the academic year 2016-2017.

A bench of Justice Anil R. Dave, Justice Shiva Kirti Singh and Justice Adarsh Kumsr Goel had held that “prima facie, we do not find any infirmity in the NEET regulation on the ground that it affects the rights of the states or the private institutions” and found “no merit” in the applications seeking modification of its April 28 order making NEET the only route for admission to medical colleges.

Meanwhile, Gujarat-based student Jugal Nikhil Shah filed a caveat seeking to be heard in the event of any challenge to the NEET ordinance.

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The dismantling of the idea of India

Instead of focusing on the economy, the Modi government has pushed its divisive agenda

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Migrant workers plight

March 24, 2020, was a watershed moment with Prime Minister (PM) Narendra Modi announcing a national lockdown in view of the coronavirus disease (Covid-19) pandemic. This black swan event in the first year of the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government’s second term in office has changed our lives. Prior to that date, the government was pushing the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)’s core agenda with characteristic authoritarianism. But the pandemic has humbled all of us, including those with invincible mindsets.

Two decisions of Modi-1 cast their shadow on the Modi-2 dispensation. First, the ill-thought-out, knee-jerk decision of the PM on November 8, 2016, to demonetise high-value currency notes. The rich were able to exchange their unaccounted cash but it deprived the poor of their hard-earned money. That was a monetary lockdown that destabilised the economy. The second was the establishment and implementation of a multi-layered Goods and Service Tax (GST) regime, which is mired in confusion even today. Its negative economic fallout impacted the free flow of commercial transactions. The result was that India’s economy grew at 4.2% (2019-20), the lowest in 11 years, as against 6.1% (2018-19). Prior to the pandemic, the unemployment rate touched its highest watermark in 45 years. Industrial growth suffered, as did key sectors of the economy, such as manufacturing, construction, trade, hotels, transportation and communications and financial services. The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) warned (in May 2020) about the slackening of private consumption. Economic growth is a continuum subject to occasional hiccups that no one can control. But during Modi-2, these hiccups were man-made. An economy already in decline needed an impetus to revive it. Instead of concentrating on governance issues — including health care, education and the concerns of the poor — Modi-2 tore the nation apart by polarising it with a communal agenda.

In August 2019, Article 370 was recast and President’s rule imposed, with the state of Jammu and Kashmir being converted into two Union territories. This paradigm shift was claimed by Modi as a signal achievement. However, the situation on the ground is far from normal. The communication blackout, detention of political leaders and the imposition of curfew resulted in Kashmir witnessing one of its worst economic crises. Despite the government’s iron grip over the Valley, we have been regularly losing members of India’s security forces. The criminalisation of triple talaq on July 30, 2019 had nothing to do with the pain the BJP felt for Muslim women, especially when it did not shed a tear for the two million Hindu women who are abandoned by or separated from their husbands. The passage of the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 2019, under challenge in the Supreme Court, witnessed protests across campuses in the country. In the violence that erupted in Delhi on February 24-25, 53 people lost their lives and hundreds were injured. Instances of police brutality and, on occasion, collaboration with perpetrators of violence, was there for all to see. But the government looked the other way. The possibility of a National Register of Citizens and the announcement of a National Population Register further stoked communal fires. The passing of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 2019, though intended to fight terror, has been used against those who have raised their voice against the government, which includes Right to Information activists, research scholars, thinkers, photojournalists and others. The aim was to silence dissent.

Suddenly, on March 24, things changed. But again, Modi made a mistake. He announced a lockdown with just four hours for its implementation. The consequences are there for all to see. An already sliding economy has been hit hard by the lockdown. The fact that all economic activities have been frozen for months will have dire consequences that will push India back for years. The last quarter of 2019-20, with only seven days of the lockdown, brought economic growth down to 3.1%. Economists have predicted that the growth this year will be in negative territory. This has also been endorsed by RBI. That is not all. A 25% reduction in earnings will increase the number of those below the below the poverty line from 21.9% to 46.3%. In the midst of all this, mass migration of hapless victims of the lockdown has resulted in a humanitarian crisis not seen in this country for a long time. Apart from deaths in trains, because of accidents or hunger and thirst, the sheer scale of the misery is captured by the image of a young child lifting his dead mother’s shroud in an effort to wake her up. The government’s initial denial that no migrant was on the road is consistent with its constant denial of the consequences of ill-thought decisions.

Modi-1 symbolised muscle power and a determined PM taking knee-jerk decisions. Modi-2 has dismantled an India that was carefully built by successive governments until 2014. It is time the government realises that its divisive agendas will only jeopardise the future of generations to come. This government must abandon its “let the fire burn and the cauldron bubble” policy and shift gears to address the burning issues of poverty and the marginalisation of those at the bottom of the pyramid.

This article first appeared in the HindustanTimes on June 1, 2020 under the title ‘The dismantling of the idea of India’. The writer, a senior Congress leader, is a former Union minister.

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Disaster

Maharashtra Covid-19 cases cross 70K with 76 more deaths

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Patients infected with the novel coronavirus

Mumbai, June 1 : The number of Covid-19 cases shot above the 70,000-mark in Maharashtra on Monday even as the state notched a fresh death toll of 76, down by 40 from the highest 116 deaths recorded on May 29, health officials said.

In a major development, Thane district with 9,941 cases has become the second worst-hit in the state, overtaking Pune district”s tally of 8,045 cases.

Monday”s toll includes a whopping 60 deaths in the Mumbai Metropolitan Region alone — the worst-hit in the country. The state reported 2,361 new cases on Monday.

This comes to roughly one death every 19 minutes, and an average 98 new cases notched every hour in the state.

Maharashtra has been recording 75-plus fatalities and over 2K new patients daily for the past one week, with the previous highest figures of 3,041 infections notched on May 24.

With 76 fatalities, the state”s death toll has touched 2,362 while the total number of coronavirus patients increased from Sunday”s 67,655 to 70,013 on Monday.

The health department said that of the total number of cases declared till date, 37,534 were ”active cases”, increasing by 1,503 over Sunday”s 36,031.

The state recorded a recovery rate of 43 per cent while the mortality (death) rate remained unchanged at 3.37 per cent.

In the past three months, the state has built an impressive rate of recoveries from March 31 (12.91 per cent) to April 30 (16.88 per cent) to May 31 (43.35 per cent).

Of the total 76 fatalities on Monday, 40 were recorded in Mumbai alone, taking the city”s death toll up from Sunday”s 1,279 to 1,319 now, while the number of Covid-19 positive patients here shot up by 1,413 cases to touch 41,099.

Besides Mumbai”s 40 deaths, there were 15 fatalities in Thane (Navi Mumbai, Thane, Kalyan-Dombivali, Mira-Bhayander), 9 in Pune, 3 each in Palghar and Aurangabad, 2 in Raigad, and one each in Nashik, Jalna, Beed and Nagpur.

The victims comprised 45 men and 37 women, and nearly 67 per cent of them suffered from other serious ailments such as diabetes, hypertension, heart problems and asthma.

On the positive side, a total of 779 fully cured patients returned home on Sunday, taking the number of those discharged to 30,108.

In an important measure, the state government has set up a special 200-bed hospital with oxygen supply to all the beds in Mumbai”s top hotspot Dharavi, Asia”s biggest slum, which will be operational from Tuesday, state Home Minister Rajesh Tope said.

The hospital — with 10 doctors, 15 nurses, other support staff, CCTV coverage, thermal sensors and other amenities — was set up in just two weeks, said Brihanmumbai Additional Municipal Commissioner Sanjeev Jaiswal.

The MMR (Thane Division) continued to cause grave concerns for the authorities with 1,608 deaths and 53,259 positive cases.

Though trailing a distant third after Mumbai, Pune Division”s fatalities touched 424, besides 9,505 positive cases.

The next major area of concern is Nashik Division with 164 deaths and 2,178 positive cases, followed by Aurangabad Division with 70 fatalities and 1,925 cases, and Akola Division with 48 deaths and 1,036 cases.

There”s also Latur Division with 11 deaths and 371 cases, Kolhapur Division with 10 deaths and 918 patients, and Nagpur Division with 12 deaths and 761 cases.

Meanwhile, the number of people sent to home quarantine increased from Sunday”s 558,100 to 567,552 on Monday, while those in institutional quarantine increased by 1,709 to 34,480.

In another bit of relieving news, as many as 72,704 beds are currently available for quarantine in the state.

The state”s containment zones increased from 3,157 to 3,294 on Monday while 18,674 health teams have carried out a survey of a population of around 70.6 lakh in the state.

–IANS

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Liquor shops in Delhi to operate daily till 8 PM

It also said in case the shops allowed to operate comes under the containment zone in future, the same shall be closed immediately.

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liquor sales

New Delhi, June 1 : All government and private liquor shops, which were allowed to operate so far in Delhi, will be allowed to open all days a week, except dry days, between 9 a.m. and 8 p.m., the Excise Department said on Monday.

An Excise Department official told IANS that an order has been issued which says all the shops having L-6 and L-8 licenses are allowed to function all day between 9 a.m. and 8 p.m.

While L-6 is for the government-run retail vends of Indian liquor, L-8 is for the retail vends of country liquor.

For the private shops, the order, a copy of which is with IANS, said only those which were allowed to operate on an odd-even basis after May 19 will be allowed all day and the timing has been changed from 9.30 a.m. to 6.30 p.m. to between 9 a.m. and 8 p.m. now.

Total 76 private liquor shops were allowed after May 19, the official added.

There are about 850 liquor shops in Delhi. However, close to 150 shops, which were in malls across the city, will continue to remain shut, the official said.

While the rules for timing have been changed, the other directives remain the same, the official added.

“They will deposit 70 per cent Special Corona Fee on total sales daily, which will be deducted from their ledger account linked with their Vend-ID in ESCIMS. They should, therefore, maintain the requisite balance in their ledger account,” the official told IANS.

“In case of any un-scanned sale, the MSR Gap generated shall be treated as the stock sold and 70 per cent Special Corona Fee shall be levied and payable on the same,” it added.

The Excise Department asked the shop owners to strictly comply with the National Directives for Covid-19 Management and to take all possible measures including deployment of adequate number of guards, proper barricading, marking to ensure social distancing, etc. in coordination with Delhi Police and local administration.

It also said in case the shops allowed to operate comes under the containment zone in future, the same shall be closed immediately.

From May 4, the standalone liquor shops were allowed in the city, while from May 19, even those in the market places were allowed on alternate days. On May 5, the government imposed the ”Special Corona Fee”, which was 70 per cent of the MRP. Till May 25, the government has earned Rs 127 crore as the special corona fee.

The Delhi government on Monday allowed all the shops to operate even in markets without any odd-even system.

–IANS

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