A) How will migrants get food without ration cards, asks Supreme Court.
The Supreme Court on Friday asked the Centre how it intended to deliver food to crores of migrant labourers who have no ration cards. How will food reach migrant labourers without ration cards? a Bench of Justices Ashok Bhushan and M.R. Shah addressed Solicitor General Tushar Mehta and Additional Solicitor General Aishwarya Bhati, for the Centre. The court said the schemes rolled out so far seemed to cover only ration card holders. Bhati explained that the Centre had kept its best foot forward with the Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Anna Yojana, which covers 80 crore poor identified as beneficiaries under the National Food Security Act. The scheme provides 5 kg of free food grains to every person for May and June. It intends to help the poor tide over the economic disruptions caused by the pandemic. Eight lakh metric tonnes of food grains have already been given, she added. No doubt you [the Centre] are providing food… No doubt some migrant labourers have ration cards. But we are only bothered about those who do not have them. We want to know about your mechanism to identify and provide food for people who do not have ration cards. Justice Bhushan addressed the government side. Bhati said the Centre was only in charge of making available or procuring food grains. The States had to distribute the food within their territories. The law officer said the Centre was ready to give the States whatever they wanted. Senior advocate Dushyant Dave, who appeared for some activists along with advocate Prashant Bhushan, said the Centre was leaving them [the poor without ration cards] to the mercy of the States. Those without ration cards cannot be allowed to die. The economic situation is far more dire now, Dave said. Mehta strongly objected to Mr. Dave’s submissions, saying he was dramatising the issue. In the previous hearing, Bhushan had submitted that the Centre had last year recorded 8 crore migrant workers without ration cards. The States had identified 2.8 crore of them. At this point, the court pulled up the government for delaying the completion of a national database to identify and register migrant workers. The creation of the database portal has remained a non-starter for months now. The government said the delay had something to do with the software. The database would have helped the Centre work in tandem with State governments to identify migrant labourers and provide them timely welfare during the pandemic. The government side said the database would be ready in the next three or four months.
B) Mukul Roy and his son return to Trinamool.
Nearly a month after the BJP suffered a big defeat in the West Bengal Assembly polls, its vice president Mukul Roy on Friday returned to the Trinamool Congress (TMC). Roy (67), one of the founding members of the TMC, had shifted to the BJP in November 2017. TMC supremo and Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee Roy, now a BJP MLA from Krishnanagar Uttar, held a joint press conference after a two-hour meeting. Roy described Banerjee as a leader of the entire country. He said he was feeling relieved after quitting the BJP. In the present circumstances, no one can stay in the BJP in Bengal, he stated. Banerjee in turn described Roy as an old family member and added that old is always gold. Our party is already a strong party. Mukul is an old family member. He was pressured by agencies. I think this decision will provide him mental relief. His health was deteriorating also. His defection from the BJP indicated that more people from the BJP would join the TMC, she said. Those who defected from the party just before the elections and attacked it in sharp language would not be allowed to join it again. Only those who are gentle, we will consider them, she observed. Roy’s son and former MLA Subhrangshu Roy also followed his father’s footsteps to return to the TMC. The speculation of Mukul Roy’s return to the TMC gained momentum after Banerjee visited a city hospital to inquire about the health of his wife last week. Prime Minister Narendra Modi too called up Roy. The veteran politician was reportedly upset for not being given much importance during the 2021 Assembly polls, where Nandigram MLA Suvendu Adhikari emerged as the important face of the BJP. Roy had played a crucial role in the 2019 Lok Sabha polls when the BJP won 18 out of the 42 seats.
C) Supreme Court refuses to hear Mumbai Police ex-chief’s plea seeking transfer of inquiries.
The Supreme Court on Friday told former Mumbai Police chief Param Bir Singh that people who live in glass houses should not throw stones at others while refusing to entertain his plea seeking the transfer of the inquiries/case against him outside Maharshtra to be investigated by an independent agency. He has alleged that the State government is trying to frame him for levelling corruption charges against Shiv Sena leader Anil Deshmukh, who had to resign as Home Minister. Along with Singh’s petition, the Bench of Justices Hemant Gupta and V. Ramasubramanian was also considering an application filed by Mumbai Police Inspector Bhimraj Rohidas Ghadge, who accused Singh, in turn, of corruption and vindictiveness. Ghadge, represented by senior advocate S.B. Talekar and advocate Vipin Nair, accused his former boss of having tried to silence him by framing fake cases against him. It is commonly said that people who live in glass houses should not throw stones at others, Justice Gupta told senior advocate Mahesh Jethmalani, appearing for Singh. Jethmalani raised an objection to the comment, saying it was a prejudicial statement and amounted to pre-judging the case. The court, however, was not impressed. Singh alleged that the government had instituted departmental inquiries against him as an act of reprisal for his complaint about Deshmukh. Solicitor General Tushar Mehta was present in court for the CBI. However, the court saw it differently. You [Singh] are part of the Maharashtra IPS cadre. You have served the State for 30 years, and now you don’t have confidence in your own State. It is shocking… It is a shocking allegation you are making, Justice Gupta addressed Jethmalani. The senior lawyer said there were other police officers in Maharashtra who, like his client, had been victimised by the State government. He claimed that the Maharashtra DGP had approached him as a mentor to give up on his complaint. If a person in the rank of DGP can be pressurised, then there is nobody left. Please do not make these make-believe stories, Justice Gupta told Jethmalani. The court said it cannot possibly intervene and stay the registration of FIR against Singh. Mr. Jethmalani, you are an experienced criminal lawyer. How can there be a blanket stay by a court on the power of the police to register an FIR against any person Justice Gupta asked.
D) Not in touch with BJP, says Sachin Pilot.
While former Rajasthan Congress chief Sachin Pilot on Friday dismissed reports of BJP leaders being in touch with him, the All India Congress Committee (AICC) in-charge for Rajasthan Ajay Maken asserted that there would soon be a cabinet expansion of the Ashok Gehlot-led government. The AICC general secretary also played down reports of Pilot being ‘angry’ with the party. When I am here, how is it possible that views of the MLAs are not heard? We are taking future steps after talking to everyone and ascertaining their views. The vacant posts that are there, be they in the Cabinet or the Boards of Commissions, appointments will happen very soon, Maken said on the sidelines of a symbolic protest against the continuous fuel price hike. On his part, Pilot took part in a protest against fuel hike in Jaipur and categorically rejected the claims that Congress-turned-BJP leader Rita Bahuguna Joshi had spoken to him. I also heard that Rita Bahuguna Joshi had spoken to Sachin. Maybe she spoke to Sachin Tendulkar. She doesn’t have the courage to speak to me, Pilot quipped to reporters at the protest venue. Amid speculation that the former Rajasthan Deputy Chief Minister could be the next to exit from the Congress after Jitin Prasada, Maken said he was in regular touch with Pilot. I speak to him regularly [Pilot]. If he was angry, then would he have spoken to me, Maken said. However, a source close to Pilot told The Hindu that the Pilot camp is not happy that the Congress High Command has not been able to ‘deliver’ on the promises made to him and his supporters even after 10 months. After his unsuccessful revolt against Gehlot, the Congress had removed Pilot both from the post of the Pradesh Congress Committee (PCC) chief as well as Deputy Chief Minister. The MLAs and the ministers who support him were also stripped of all official positions. Last August, the AICC had formed a three-member committee with Congress general secretary (organisation), K.C. Venugopal, Maken and Ahmed Patel to look into Pilot’s grievances. However, the panel made little progress due to Patel’s prolonged hospitalisation due to Covid-19 and his subsequent death.
E) USFDA rejection of Covaxin has no impact on its use in India, says Centre.
The rejection by the USFDA (United States Food and Drug Administration) of the emergency use application of Bharat Biotech’s Covaxin has no impact on the policies in India, NITI Aayog member (Health) Dr. V.K. Paul said at a Union Health Ministry press conference on Friday. Every country has its parameter for approval of vaccinations for its population despite the world sharing a common scientific framework for approval. India also follows its own regulatory process for approval that is tailor-made for our population. It’s their decision, it should be respected. Our regulator has endorsed this vaccine and there is no impact on use of Covaxin in our national programme,’’ he stated, noting that Covaxin phase-3 clinical trial data would be published in the next 7-8 days. We expect that the Covaxin manufacturers will be able to comply with the regulators’ requirement. Our regulator has approved this vaccine. We have enough data on safety and efficacy, he asserted. With the Health Ministry saying on Friday that India was now showing indications of an improving Covid-19 scenario, Dr. Paul said the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) was preparing for a national survey. The ICMR will begin work for next sero survey this month. But if we want to protect our geographies, we won’t have to depend on national sero survey alone, we’ll have to encourage States for sero surveys too, he observed.
A) China-Sri Lanka Friendship Hospital opened.
President Gotabaya Rajapaksa on Friday inaugurated the China-Sri Lanka Friendship Hospital in Polonnaruwa, built with a Chinese grant of $60 million. The hospital, located in Sri Lanka’s North Central Province, will specialise in treating kidney ailments, a widely prevalent and recurring concern in the region, especially among farmers. For years now, residents Of this agriculture-intensive area have been frequently diagnosed with a kidney disorder that the country’s medical experts have identified as Chronic Kidney Disease of Unknown Etiology (CKDu), a condition for which causal factors remain unknown. Following a request from former President Maithripala Sirisena during his time in office he is from and currently represents Polonnaruwa in Parliament the Chinese government provided the grant. The facility was built within 30 months, a press release from the President’s office said. The hospital, said to be one of the largest in South Asia for nephrology care, with a capacity of 200 beds, follows China’s earlier grant projects in Sri Lanka, also built as large public spaces, such as the well-known Bandaranaike Memorial International Conference Hall in Colombo, that Beijing gifted in the 1970s, and the Nelum Pokuna Mahinda Rajapaksa Threate, that China funded during former President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s time in office.
B) Myanmar violence escalating, creating rights catastrophe: UN.
The UN rights chief said on Friday that violence was escalating across Myanmar, warning that the country had plunged into a human rights catastrophe since the February I coup. Pointing to reported military build-up in several regions of the country, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet called for a halt to the already spiralling violence to avert even greater loss of life and a deepening humanitarian emergency. In just over four months, Myanmar has gone from being a fragile democracy to a human rights catastrophe, she said in a statement, adding that the military leadership was singularly responsible for the crisis. The country has been in turmoil since the generals ousted civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi on February 1. The UN rights office pointed on Friday to credible reports showing that at least 860 civilians had been killed in a brutal crackdown by security forces on near-daily protests against the coup. Fighting has flared in several communities especially in townships that have seen a high death toll at the hands of police and some locals have formed defence forces. Ms. Bachelet pointed to intensifying violence in many parts of Myanmar, including Kayah State, Chin State and Kachin State. Human shields State security forces have continued to use heavy weaponry, including air strikes, against armed groups and against civilians and civilian objects, including Christian churches, she said. She pointed to credible reports that security forces have used civilians as human shields, shelled civilian homes and churches, and blocked humanitarian access, including by attacking aid workers.