FRONT PAGE NEWS
11 Dec 2020
PM MODI PERFORMS BHUMI-PUJAN FOR NEW PARLIAMENT BUILDING
Putting his own stamp on the Government's showpiece Central Vista
redevelopment project, Prime Minister Narendra Modi laid the foundation
stone of the new Parliament building on Thursday and said that it will
fulfil the country's aspirations of the 21st Century while symbolising the
"coexistence of the new and the old".
The Prime Minister carried out the "bhumi pujan" for the building in the
presence of six priests from Sringeri Math in Karnataka at 1 pm, which was
followed by an interfaith prayer meeting.
The Rs 971-crore structure, covering 64,500 sq m, is expected to come up by
2022, in time for the 75th anniversary of independence.
In his address, Modi spoke about the "soul of democracy" and invoked Guru
Nanak to stress that while there is space for differences and various
streams of thought, they should not lead to a disconnect.
"I will never forget the day I entered Parliament for the first time, in
2014. This is the same building where our Constitution was drafted by
Babasaheb Ambedkar and our founding fathers. Every legislation drawn up in
this building is our pride. But we need to accept the reality as well. This
building is nearly 100 years old. There has been relentless repair work over
the years to keep it up and running," Modi said.
The event was green-lighted by the Supreme Court three days ago after it
obtained an assurance from the Government that that no construction,
demolition or translocation of trees will be carried out at the Central
Vista site till the court decides the various pending petitions against the
Defending the project, the Centre had told the court that the existing
Parliament building had many deficiencies, such as inadequacy of space,
structural weaknesses and security issues.
PROTESTING FARMERS THREATEN TO BLOCK RAILWAY TRACKS IF DEMANDS NOT MET
The farmers who have been agitating for the past two weeks against the new
farm laws on Thursday announced that they will block railway tracks if their
demands are not met by the government. The farmer unions, which held a
meeting on Thursday, said they will soon announce a date for blocking tracks
across the country.
Addressing reporters at the Delhi's Singhu border where they have been
protesting for almost two weeks to demand a rollback of the agri laws, the
farmer unions also reiterated that they will intensify their agitation and
start blocking all highways leading to the national capital.
"We will block railway tracks if our demands are not met. We will decide on
the date and announce it soon. The blocking of tracks will not be limited to
Haryana and Punjab but it will be done across the country," farmer leader
Boota Singh said at the press conference.
The announcement by farmers came on the day Union Agriculture Minister
Narendra Singh Tomar said it was not proper to announce the next stage of
agitation when talks were continuing and urged the unions to return to the
Addressing a press conference, Tomar also urged farmer union leaders to
consider proposals sent to them to break the deadlock over protests against
the three new farm laws and said the government was ready for further
discussions with them any time.
Asked about demands to repeal the laws, Tomar said any law cannot be
entirely defective. However, he said, the Government is ready to discuss
provisions that may adversely affect farmers.
Minister of Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution Piyush Goyal, who
was present during the press conference, cited the BJP's strong performance
in the local body elections in Congress-led Rajasthan this week to say that
the people have welcomed the new Farm laws.
Goyal also appealed to farmers to end their agitation. "We believe that the
farmers had certain issues. We respect the farmers who have come and
discussed with us on several occasions. The issues that came out during the
course of discussions, we have tried to address them. If there are any other
issues, which need to be discussed or they need any clarification on our
current proposal, we are ready to discuss but whether there is any other
reason that is holding back them, we leave that on your wise counsel to
decide," Goyal said.
INDIA A DESTINATION FOR GOOD INVESTMENTS: GADKARI TO NRIs
Union Minister for Minister of Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSME)
Nitin Gadkari on Thursday said that India was a destination with huge
potential for attractive investments and urged people to invest in MSMEs in
While speaking at the virtual Pravasi Bharatiya Divas Conference, Gadkari
added that with the world moving production away from dealings in China,
India was the next best alternative.
"I request all of you to please invest in MSMEs doing an excellent job. You
will get good returns. With huge potential, India is a destination for a
good investment. We know that the whole world is not very interested in
dealing with China at the moment, so the next alternative available is
India. We have the availability of huge raw materials, talent and young
manpower," he said.
He also elaborated on what he called the four most important sectors for
industry development - water, power, transport, communication. "India has a
lot of surplus power and are working towards more sustainable means like
solar energy. Water is also available. Communication is doing very well and
the country is moving towards 5G. Network connectivity has reached the
village level. The road sector is also moving very fast. We are making 30
kms of roads per day," he said.
GLOOM AHEAD OF 'MOMENT OF FINALITY' FOR BREXIT TRADE TALKS
With a chaotic and costly no-deal Brexit only three weeks away, gloom
settled on both sides of the English Channel as European Union and United
Kingdom trade negotiators sought to find a breakthrough in technical talks
where their leaders failed three times in political discussions over the
Facing a Sunday deadline set after inconclusive talks between EU Commission
President Ursula von der Leyen and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson
Wednesday night, both sides realized their drawn-out four-year divorce might
well end on bad terms.
To prepare for a sudden exit on Jan. 1, the EU on Thursday proposed four
contingency measures to make sure that at least air and road traffic would
continue between both sides as smoothly as possible for the next six months.
It also proposes that fishermen will still have access to each other's
waters for up to a year, to limit the commercial damage of a no-deal split.
The plans depend on the U.K. offering similar initiatives. The move was
indicative of how the EU saw a bad breakup as ever more realistic.
Britain has not said whether it will agree to the contingency measures.
Johnson's spokesman, Jamie Davies, said "we will obviously look very closely
at the details."
US PANEL ENDORSES MASS USE OF PFIZER COVID VACCINE, SHOTS MAY BEGIN IN DAYS
A US government advisory panel has endorsed Pfizer's coronavirus vaccine.
The Food and Drug Administration is expected to follow the recommendation
issued Thursday by its expert advisers. The advisory group, in 17-4 vote
with one abstention, concluded that the shot appears safe and effective
against the coronavirus in people 16 and older.
A final FDA decision is expected within days. Millions of shots would then
ship to begin vaccinating health care workers and nursing home residents.
Widespread access to the general public is not expected until the spring.
NADDA CONVOY STONED IN BENGAL, CENTRE SEEKS REPORT
Eight BJP workers were admitted to hospital and senior party leaders Kailash
Vijayvargiya and Mukul Roy suffered minor injuries after the motorcade of
the BJP national president J P Nadda was attacked with stones and sticks,
allegedly by Trinamool Congress supporters, outside Kolkata on Thursday
Several cars in the convoy, which was headed to Diamond Harbour, the Lok
Sabha constituency of Abhishek Banerjee, nephew of Chief Minister Mamata
Banerjee, were damaged.
The vehicles of Vijayvargiya, BJP national general secretary; Roy, national
vice president; Dilip Ghosh, state president; and Anupam Hazra, national
secretary, had their windscreens smashed in the attack. Several BJP workers
and security personnel suffered injuries.
Nadda, who was travelling in a bulletproof vehicle, was not hurt.
Lawlessness and anarchy ruled in West Bengal, he said after the incident.
In the evening, the Centre sought a report on the attack from the West
West Bengal CM Mamata Banerjee suggested that the attack was "staged" even
as several Union ministers, including Home Minister Amit Shah, and West
Bengal Governor Jagdeep Dhankhar, hit out at the ruling party. "Every day
they (BJP activists) are coming out (for rallies) with firearms. They are
slapping themselves and blaming it on the Trinamool Congress. Just think of
the situation. They are roaming around with the BSF, CRPF, Army, CISF..then
why are you so scared," Banerjee said.
TRIPURA BJP MLAs, MINISTERS VISIT BIPLAB DEB: 'WANT HIM TO CONTINUE'
Amid a grave political crisis in Tripura, a majority of state MLAs and
ministers have vouched faith in Chief Minister Biplab Kumar Deb and said
they wanted him to continue in his post. The assertion on Thursday came
after Chief Minister Biplab Kumar Deb said he would hold a "public mandate
event" in Agartala on December 13, claiming that he would resign if he was
rejected. He, however, cancelled the event after the central BJP stepped in
two days ago.
A "pained" Deb had called for the event after some BJP workers raised
slogans of 'Biplab Hatao, BJP Bachao' (Remove Biplab, Save BJP) during BJP
state observer Vinod Sonkar's visit in Tripura on Sunday.
Speaking to reporters here this afternoon, Deputy Chief Minister Jishnu
Devvarma said BJP chief Jagat Prakash Nadda and Sonkar urged the CM to
cancel the "public opinion test". "All the MLAs and ministers also met with
the CM and urged him to call off the December 13 event. He has accepted our
request. There will be no such programme."
Devvarma also said his party would investigate the sloganeering episode.
MOB FORCES ITS WAY INSIDE SISODIA'S RESIDENCE; AAP ACCUSES BJP
More than two dozen men forced their way inside the official residence of
Delhi Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia on Thursday.
The Aam Aadmi Party said the men were from the BJP. Delhi Police registered
an FIR and arrested six men.
The BJP acknowledged protesting outside Sisodia's house but denied that
members of the party had entered the premises. It said the protest was
against a remark by AAP leader Durgesh Pathak against mayors of the
BJP-ruled civic bodies, who have been protesting outside Chief Minister
Arvind Kejriwal's residence in Civil Lines since Monday.
Responding to a tweet by Defence Minister Rajnath Singh expressing concern
over the attack on the convoy of BJP president J P Nadda in West Bengal,
Kejriwal tweeted: "Rajnath ji, don't you think the violent attack on the
Deputy CM's house in presence of the police is wrong? Why is BJP so worked
up over AAP and Delhi government's support to the farmers' agitation?"
HARYANA: MURMURS OF DISSENT WITHIN BJP ALLY JJP
While Haryana Deputy CM Dushyant Chautala continues to stand by the BJP in
defending the three contentious farm legislations, his own party MLAs do not
seem to be on the same page with him.
As the standoff between the Union government and various farmer unions
continues, discussions on withdrawing support from the BJP in Haryana have
started taking place within the Dushyant-led JJP.
In the 2019 Assembly polls, when BJP fell short of majority by six seats in
the 90-member House, it entered into a post-poll alliance with JJP, which
had 10 MLAs. In return for enabling the BJP to form the government, Dushyant
had bagged the post of Deputy CM. Both the parties have recently announced
that their "alliance is rock-solid" and they will also contest the upcoming
municipal body elections in Haryana together.
JJP MLAs have begun saying that they have discussed the issue of
"withdrawing support from BJP in Haryana", if the farmers continue to
believe that they were being "exploited by the Union government" and the
standoff does not end, "soon".
JEE-MAINS TO BE HELD FOUR TIMES IN 2021
The Joint Entrance Examination (JEE - Mains) will be held four times
starting February 2021. Union Minister for Education Ramesh Pokhriyal
'Nishank' made the announcement on Thursday during an online interaction
with teachers, parents and students on board exams and competitive exams.
Usually JEE-Mains are held twice a year.
According to reports, the test will be conducted every month from February
to May 2021 in order to provide candidates with enough flexibility. The
candidates can choose to appear in one or all of the tests and the highest
score among all the appearances of the candidate will be considered for the
rank list and admissions. He also said that while the syllabus for the
examination will remain unchanged, a proposal to permit the students to
answer 75 questions out of the total 90 questions is under consideration.
During JEE 2020 (Mains), the candidates had to answer 75 questions -- 25
questions each in Physics, Chemistry and Maths.
The score in JEE-Mains is considered for admissions into National Institutes
of Technology (NITs), several other engineering and architecture courses and
for eligibility to write JEE- Advanced. Candidates aspiring for a seat in
the Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs) across the country are expected
to clear JEE-Advanced.
RENERGEN PATENTS HELIUM-COOLED CASES FOR CORONAVIRUS VACCINES
South Africa's Renergen Ltd. has patented cryogenic cases that can keep
vaccines at ultra-cold temperatures for 30 days, a potential way of getting
some of the first coronavirus shots to be approved to remote areas, said
Chief Executive Officer Stefano Marani.
Renergen's design uses helium to keep the vaccines at between minus 70 and
minus 150 degrees Celsius without the need for a power supply, Marani said
in an interview on Wednesday.
Pfizer Inc. and BioNTech SE's vaccine, which has been approved for use in
the U.K., must be kept at minus 70 degrees Celsius for extended periods of
time. Moderna Inc's vaccine must also be kept at ultra-cold temperatures.
The cases are made from aluminum and can transport at least 100 doses of the
vaccine. When in its liquid form, helium can stay cold for much longer than
dry ice and liquid nitrogen, said Marani.
Depending on where the helium is sourced, the operating cost of the device
should be under $0.07 per dose per day, he said. Renergen is seeking
partners for the large-scale manufacturing of the cases, said Marani.
BANKS MAKE APPS OPEN FOR ALL
Long after ATMs were made interoperable for bank customers, the whole gamut
of banking is becoming membership agnostic.
Earlier this week, ICICI Bank created some buzz by announcing its banking
app - iMobile Pay - would be free for all to use. A customer need not be
with the bank but can link his bank account with a UPI ID with ICICI Bank
and start using it for all kinds of payments across all platforms. Much like
how Google Pay is being used for paying bills and purchases through UPI.
Feeling the competition pinch, the country's largest lender, SBI has said it
would also make its app YONO open for all in 30 days.
In many ways, this is the ATM-isation of banking.
DANCE PIONEER ASTAD DEBOO PASSES AWAY, AT 73
Contemporary Indian dancer Astad Deboo, known for amalgamating Indian and
western dance techniques, died at his hoe in Mumbai, on Thursday. He was 73.
Deboo employed his training in Indian classical dance forms of kathak as
well as kathakali to create a unique fusion dance form.
"He leaves behind a formidable legacy of unforgettable performances combined
with an unswerving dedication to his art, matched only by his huge, loving
heart that gained him thousands of friends and a vast number of admirers,"
the family said.
Deboo is noted for creating a modern dance vocabulary that was uniquely
Indian. His innovative style of Indian dance may have raised some eyebrows
in the 1970s and '80s, but the 1990s saw people embrace this new idiom.
MITTAL, MUSK BET ON SATELLITE BROADBAND AS TELECOM'S NEW STAR
Space wars are here again, but with a difference. Pitted on one side is
India's telecom czar Sunil Mittal who has taken a big gamble by buying a 50
per cent stake in the once bankrupt low earth orbit constellation satellite
company OneWeb. The company, Bharti Global, is planning to invest $2 billion
(of which it has already put in $500 million) to put up more satellites and
it has set a stiff deadline to launch its commercial internet services by
October next year in the UK, Alaska, northern Russia and northern Europe.
Taking him on will be the formidable tech entrepreneur Elon Musk whose
competing broadband offering through Starlink is much ahead of its rival.
The company has put in over 800 satellites (compared to 74 by OneWeb) and, a
few weeks ago, invited consumers to participate in its beta testing in the
US at $99 a month for the data service and $499 for the kit consumers have
to use to connect to the satellite.
Despite that steep price, Starlink has received 700,000 responses and is
planning to increase the number of authorised user terminals from the
planned one million to five million. And Musk, whose electric car company
Tesla has a market cap equivalent to all other major car companies in the US
together, never appears to be short of cash.
Musk is ahead of Mittal in his timeline for an India launch too - he says it
will be sometime in mid-2021, whereas Mittal is looking at May-June 2022.
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THOUGHT FOR THE DAY
The successful warrior is the average man, with laser-like focus. - Bruce
A man accompanied his wife when she went to get a haircut. Reading a
magazine, he found an interesting article. He asked the receptionist if he
could take the magazine next door to make a copy of the article.
"Leave some ID, a driver's license or a credit card," she said.
"But my Wife is here getting a haircut," he explained.
"Yes," she replied. "But I need something you'll come back for."