17 February 2021
A) 37 dead, many missing after bus falls into canal in M.P.’s Sidhi district.
At least 37 people, including 16 women, died after the bus they were travelling in fell off a bridge into a canal near Patna village in Madhya Pradesh’s Sidhi district on February 16 morning, a senior official said, adding that search operations are still going on. After fishing out 18 bodies initially, rescuers have retrieved 19 more bodies until now, said Rewa Divisional Commissioner Rajesh Jain. A total of 37 bodies, including 16 women, 20 men and a child, have been fished out of the Bansagar canal until now, he said, adding that a magisterial probe has been ordered. Prima facie, 44 passengers were travelling on the bus at the time of the accident, which occurred around 8:30 a.m. Seven persons managed to swim to the banks of the canal after the incident and 37 bodies have been recovered. The 44 passengers have been identified, Jain added. Earlier in the morning, Inspector General (Rewa zone) Joga had confirmed the recovery of 18 bodies from the accident site. The bus landed in the canal near Patna village, around 80 km from the Sidhi district headquarter, around 8:30 a.m. The State government has cancelled the ‘grih pravesh’ or house-warming ceremony to be attended virtually by Union Home Minister Amit Shah in view of the bus accident. The cancellation of the event, which was scheduled to start at 11 a.m. at Minto Hall in Bhopal, was announced by Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan after he reached the venue. Amit Shah was scheduled to take part via video conferencing in this programme for the beneficiaries of over one lakh houses constructed in Madhya Pradesh under the Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana (PMAY).
B) Disha Ravi arrest: Court asks Delhi Police to share FIR copy; DCW issues notice.
A court in Delhi on Tuesday directed the Delhi Police to hand over to 21-year-old climate activist Disha Ravi a copy of the FIR related to her arrest for allegedly sharing a social media ‘toolkit’ on the farmers’ protest, PTI reported. The court also allowed her to speak to her family. Besides the FIR, the court also directed the police to provide her the copies of the arrest memo and remand paper which was placed to seek her custodial interrogation. The court also permitted her to get warm clothes, masks and books. Chief Metropolitan Magistrate Pankaj Sharma allowed Ravi to speak with her family members over phone for 15 minutes a day and meet with her lawyer for 30 minutes a day, during the time she is in police custody. The court passed the order on an application filed by Ravi through her lawyer. The court had on Sunday sent Ravi to five day police custody after the agency said her custodial interrogation was required to probe an alleged larger conspiracy against the government of India and to ascertain her alleged role relating to the Khalistan movement. Meanwhile, the Delhi Commission for Women (DCW) on Tuesday issued notice to the Delhi Police over Ravi’s arrest. Taking suo motu cognisance of the matter, the women’s panel in its letter to the police has sought reasons as to why a transit remand was not sought. Please provide reasons for allegedly not providing a lawyer of her choice when she was produced before the court in Delhi, the notice read. The DCW has also sought copies of the FIR and a detailed action taken report by February 19. DCW Chairperson Swati Maliwal said that as per media reports, Disha Ravi was not given a lawyer of her choice neither were rules followed during her arrest. Police should inquire into the matter. However, it is extremely sad and unfortunate if Disha has been arrested because of her support for the protesting farmers.
C) Toolkit case: Activist gets temporary pre-arrest bail.
Environmental activist Shantanu Muluk, a suspect in a case registered by Delhi Police in connection with the toolkit shared by climate activist Greta Thunberg about the ongoing farmers’ protest, on Tuesday got temporary anticipatory bail from the Bombay High Court. The high court on Wednesday will pass its order on another accused, advocate Nikita Jacob’s similar plea. Justice Vibha Kankanwadi of the Aurangabad bench of the HC granted Muluk, resident of Beed in central Maharashtra, ten days’ transit anticipatory bail to enable him to apply for protection before the appropriate court in Delhi. Muluk and Jacob had on Monday approached the high court separately seeking transit anticipatory bail, after a Delhi court issued non-bailable warrants against them. According to Delhi Police, the duo were involved in preparing the toolkit document and were in direct touch with pro- Khalistani elements. Jacob’s plea for pre-arrest bail was heard by Justice P D Naik at the high court’s principal bench in Mumbai, which said it would pass the order on Wednesday. The case has been lodged under IPC sections 124(a) (sedition), 153 (a) (promoting enmity among different groups) and 120 (b) criminal conspiracy. Senior counsel Mihir Desai, appearing for Jacob, argued that the alleged toolkit was prepared by a number of people and only spoke of support to the protesting farmers. It does not talk about any violence or about the January 26 incident at the Red Fort (when a tractor rally by protesters led to violence), Desai argued. Advocate Venegavkar, however, claimed that the toolkit was created and authored by Disha Ravi and Jacob along with many others who were part of the Khalistan movement. He also contended that the HC does not have the powers to grant any relief when the matter pertains to another state. Meanwhile, sources in Delhi Police today said that US-based climate activist Greta Thunberg has been absolved of any criminality, as of now.
D) OTT platforms: Explain action taken, SC tells govt.
The Supreme Court on Tuesday remained unimpressed with the government’s submission that it is contemplating regulations for OTT (over-the-top) platforms such as Netflix and Amazon Prime. Everybody in the world can contemplate. They put it out in an affidavit what they are doing, Chief Justice of India Sharad A. Bobde addressed Additional Solicitor General K.M. Nataraj, for the government. The court issued notice on a plea filed by advocates Shashank Shekhar Jha and Apurva Arhatia seeking a proper board/institution /association for monitoring and managing the content of different OTT/streaming and digital media platforms. Initially, during the hearing, the court had asked the petitioners to approach the government with their representation. However, the court, later on, decided that the government should better file a written reply to the petition. The plea contended that there was no law or autonomous body governing the digital content to monitor and manage the content of OTT platforms made available to the public at large without any filter or screening, it said. Lack of legislation governing OTT/streaming platforms is becoming evident with each passing day and every new case that is filed on these grounds. The government is facing heat to fill this lacuna with regulations from the public and the judiciary; still the relevant government departments have not done anything significant to regularise these OTT/Streaming Platforms, the plea said. None of the OTT/streaming platforms, including Netflix, Amazon Prime, Zee5, and Hotstar, have signed the self-regulation code provided by the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting since February 2020, it alleged. However, last week, the Internet and Mobile Association of India (IAMAI) had said that 17 platforms, including Netflix, Disney+ Hotstar and Amazon Prime Video, have adopted a ‘toolkit’ for effective implementation of the self-regulation code introduced in February 2020. The industry body added that it will also set up an ‘IAMAI Secretariat for the Code’, comprising representatives from the signatories to the Code as well as IAMAI.
E) Withdraw ‘Modi tax’ on petroleum products immediately: Congress.
Continuing to exert pressure on the Narendra Modi government over high excise duty on petroleum products, the Congress on Tuesday referred to it as Modi tax and demanded the immediate withdrawal of additional excise duty. At a press conference at party headquarters, spokesperson Pawan Khera said the Modi government has collected more than ₹20 lakh crore from additional excise duty collection. They demand an immediate withdrawal of this additional ‘Modi Tax’ imposed over the last six years and eight months. This in itself will reduce petrol price to ₹61.92 per litre and diesel price to ₹47.51 per litre. Every common Indian deserves this relief immediately, Khera said. India deserves a government which works and thinks for every single Indian and not, to use the words of my leader Rahul Gandhi, just a government of ‘Hum do, Humare do’. He said when former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh demitted office in May 2014, international crude oil price was $108 per barrel yet petrol was sold at ₹71.51 per litre in Delhi and diesel at ₹57.28. As on February 1, 2021, international crude oil price was $54.41 per barrel, just half of May 2014, yet the price as of today of petrol is ₹89.29 per litre and diesel ₹79.70 per litre. The Congress alleged the BJP and its eco system always keeps citizens engaged on emotive issues that generate hatred, fear or anger to distract attention from its failure.
F) Kiran Bedi removed as Puducherry L-G.
Kiran Bedi was removed as the Lieutenant-Governor of Puducherry late on Tuesday evening. Telangana Governor Tamilisai Soundarajan has been given additional charge of the Union Territory until regular arrangements are made. A communique from the Rashtrapati Bhavan said that the President has directed that Dr. Kiran Bedi shall cease to hold the office ofthe Lieutenant-Governor of Puducherry and has appointed Dr. Tamilisai Soundararajan, Governor of Telangana, to discharge the functions of the Lieutenant-Governor of Puducherry, in addition to her own duties. The statement did not specify any reason behind Ms. Bedi’s removal. In fact, she had put up a two-minute video reviewing the reasons for the low rate of COVID-19 vaccination in the UT. The Congress had written to the President earlier to recall the L-G. The move came on a day the Congress government, headed by Chief Minister V. Narayanasamy, lost majority following the resignation of two MLAs in the past two days. The high profile exits come as an embarrassment for the party as former chief Rahul Gandhi is scheduled to kick off the party’s poll campaign on Wednesday.
A) Rocket strike at U.S. base in Iraq kills contractor, injures 5.
A rocket attack at a U.S.-led military base in Kurdish northern Iraq on Monday killed a civilian contractor and wounded five other people, including a U.S. service member, according to initial reports, the U.S. coalition in Iraq said. It was the most deadly attack to hit U.S.-led forces in almost a year in Iraq, where tensions have escalated between U.S. forces, their Iraqi and Kurdish allies on one side and Iran-aligned militias on the other. A coalition spokesman said on Twitter the attack hit coalition forces in the Kurdish regional capital of Erbil. Kurdish security sources said at least three rockets landed near Erbil International Airport in the autonomous region late at night. Reuters reporters heard several loud explosions and saw a fire break out near the airport. A group calling itself Saraya Awliya aldam claimed responsibility for the attack on the U.S.-led base, saying it targeted the American occupation in Iraq. It provided no evidence for its claim. U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Monday the United States was outraged by the attack. In a statement, Mr. Blinken said he had reached out to Kurdistan Regional Government Prime Minister Masrour Barzani to discuss the incident and to pledge our support for all efforts to investigate and hold accountable those responsible. Groups that some Iraqi officials say have links with Iran have claimed a series of rocket and roadside bomb attacks against coalition forces, contractors working for the coalition and U.S. installations including the Embassy in Baghdad in recent months.
B) Sri Lanka considering India’s grant instead of China project.
In an apparent bid to displace a Chinese company that had won the contract to install renewable energy SYStems in three small islands offJaffna Peninsula in northern Sri Lanka, India has offered a grant of $12 million to execute it, Colombo-based media reported. Sri Lanka’s Minister of Power Dullas Alahapperuma has recently said that the government would consider India’s proposal, and that he would present a Cabinet paper on the matter soon. Newspaper reports quoted him as saying that receiving a grant is an advantage that would ease the burden on the Treasury, as opposed to an Asian Development Bank (ADB) loan, as per the original project proposal, that would have to be repaid. The development comes less than a month after the Cabinet cleared a project to install hybrid renewable energy systems in Nainativu, Delft or Neduntheevu, and Analaitivu, located in the Palk Bay, some 50 km off Tamil Nadu. The Cabinet decisions taken on January 18, published officially, included a proposal to award the contract to Sinosoar-Etechwin Joint Venture in China, with funding from the ADB. Meanwhile, a group of northern Tamil political parties have voiced opposition to Chinese involvement in the project, citing security threats to Tamil people and India. They are not opposed to China but given that India has known security concerns in this regard, and also because the project is to come up very close to Tamil Nadu, they oppose Chinese involvement, Jaffna parliamentarian Dharmalingam Sithadthan told. The people of Tamil Nadu have been lending unconditional support to the Tamil cause, so their security, as well as that of India, is very important to us, the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) legislator said, adding that India was a long-term friend of the Tamil people of Sri Lanka. It remains to be seen if India’s proposal gets official clearance, but India’s swift offer comes in the wake of being ejected along with Japan out of the East Container Terminal (ECT) development project at the Colombo Port, following another Cabinet decision taken on February 1 this year.