19 February 2021
A) Two minor Dalit girls die after being found unconscious in a field in Unnao; another in serious condition.
Two minor Dalit girls were declared brought dead to the hospital and another was in a serious condition after they were found in an unconscious state in a field in Unnao district in eastern Uttar Pradesh on Wednesday, police said. The three girls, aged 15, 14 and 16, were found tied in a field in Babuhara village in Asoha, around 36 km south of Lucknow, by villagers when they did not return after they left their house to take fodder for the cattle, police said. Director General of Police H.C. Awasthy said the post-mortem could not ascertain the cause of death and the viscera had been preserved for chemical examination. No injury mark was found on the body of the deceased in the autopsy, he stated. On the condition of the third girl, he said she had been referred to a Kanpur hospital for better treatment. According to the medical bulletin, it is a suspected case of poisoning and her condition is critical but stable. Six teams have been formed to investigate the case from all possible angles. Ramesh Chandra Prayalankar, Circle Officer, Purwa, said that on the complaint of the family members, an FIR had been registered against unidentified persons under sections 302 and 201 of the IPC. The girls were cousins. They were found in the wheat field of the family, he told. He denied reports that the victims’ family members were detained at the police station and not allowed to talk to the media. There is no such attempt. They were called to understand the sequence of events and now they have been sent home under police protection to conduct the last rites, he said. Chief Medical Superintendent of Unnao District Hospital Basant Bhatt said that when the girl was brought in, she was in a serious condition. Clinically, it appeared like a case of organo phosphorous poisoning. The chemical is used in insecticides. Froth was coming out of her mouth and she was gasping for breath. They have intubated her to take water out of lungs. The Opposition described it as yet another example of the deteriorating law and order situation in the State. A delegation of the Samajwadi Party met the family members of the victims. First a daughter in Hathras, then a mother in Budaun, and now sisters of Unnao – women are not safe in BJP rule, tweeted SP President Akhilesh Yadav in Hindi.
B) ‘Rail roko’ protest remains peaceful.
Farmers on Thursday gathered near railway tracks at many places in Punjab and Haryana for the ‘rail roko’ protest against the Centre’s new agri laws, with officials stopping trains at stations as a precautionary measure. The rail blockade did not have much impact in Uttar Pradesh, with farmers organising token protests near railway tracks and stations in the state. Around 25 trains have been regulated in the northern zone due to the ‘rail roko’ call by farmers protesting the three agri laws on Thursday, a zonal railway spokesperson said. Regulating trains means they have either been cancelled, short terminated or rerouted. Farmers protesting on railway track against the new farm laws at the Rail Roko agitation at Modinagar railway station in Ghazibad, Uttar Pradesh. Farmers protesting on railway track against the new farm laws at the Rail Roko agitation at Modinagar railway station in Ghazibad, Uttar Pradesh. The Samyukta Kisan Morcha (SKM), an umbrella body of farmer unions which is spearheading the protest, last week had announced the nationwide rail blockade to press for its demand to repeal the legislations and had said that the agitation will be from 12 pm to 4 p.m.
C) Third Quad ministerial meeting to discuss regional, global issues.
External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar will join his counterparts from the U.S., Japan and Australia on February 18 (later this evening) under the framework of the Quad coalition to deliberate on ways to enhance cooperation in the Indo-Pacific in the backdrop of growing Chinese assertiveness in the region. This is the first such meeting since the election of U.S. President Joe Biden. The Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) said the Ministers will exchange views on regional and global issues, especially practical areas of cooperation towards maintaining a free, open, and inclusive Indo-Pacific region. The third India-Australia-Japan-USA ministerial meeting will be held on February 18 with participation of the respective Foreign Ministers, the MEA said in a brief statement. The evolving situation in the Indo-Pacific region in the wake of China’s increasing military muscle-flexing has become a major talking point among leading global powers. The U.S. has been favouring making Quad a security architecture to check China’s growing assertiveness. The MEA said the meeting will provide an opportunity to continue the useful exchange of views from their last meeting in Tokyo in October last.
D) LG asks Puducherry CM to prove majority in the Assembly on February 22.
The Congress government in Puducherry will face a test of strength on Monday, newly appointed Lieutenant Governor Tamilisai Soundararajan said, by citing the Opposition’s stand that the ruling party no longer enjoyed a majority. Just months before an election, the state government is believed to have lost its thin majority after four recent resignations, though Chief Minister V Narayanasamy denies this. He insists that two of those resignations are yet to be accepted. Soundararajan, who was sworn in as Lieutenant Governor on Thursday after Kiran Bedi’s sudden removal, said a floor test was needed to ascertain whether the Congress government enjoys a majority. The vote will take place by 5 pm on Monday. A statement said the Lieutenant Governor had conveyed to Narayanasamy that the assembly would meet for a single agenda, namely whether the government of the incumbent Chief Minister continues to enjoy the confidence of the House. Of the 30 elected MLAs in the assembly, the Congress had 15 members and, along with the DMK’s three and one independent member, was just past the majority mark of 16. After the resignations, the government and the opposition both are at 14. The Congress has 10 members, leaving the government one short of the majority mark, which has dropped to 15 with the assembly strength coming down to 28.
E) SC makes queries to govt on felling of trees of a certain species, age.
Chief Justice of India (CJI) Sharad A. Bobde on Thursday asked the government whether measures could be taken to prevent the felling of trees of a certain species and age, after considering their contributions to ecology, even for infrastructure projects. Can something be done to see if trees of a certain age and type are never cut down, Chief Justice Bobde addressed the government, represented by Solicitor General Tushar Mehta and Additional Solicitor General Aishwarya Bhati. Chief Justice Bobde said certain species of trees could be identified and graded on the basis of their abilities to provide oxygen and to bind the soil. The remarks came even as a Supreme Court-appointed expert committee filed a report that said the felling of 300 heritage trees to construct five railway overbridges in West Bengal would cost India a staggering ₹2,23,50,00,000. The 10-digit figure was arrived at by the committee after calculating the products these trees would produce over the 100 years of their natural lifetime. These include oxygen, micro-nutrients, compost and bio-fertilizer, besides being valuable members of the natural environment. The committee had said an individual tree annually parts with products worth ₹74,500. Though the report was submitted a year ago, the figures of loss quoted in the report had managed to alarm Chief Justice Bobde’s Bench. The CJI had suggested framing a new protocol by which road and highway projects ought to be cleared only after checking the feasibility of other modes of transport such as waterways and railways.
F) ‘Metroman’ E. Sreedharan to join BJP.
In a major boost for the party, E. Sreedharan, principal advisor to the Delhi Metro Rail Corporation (DMRC) and popularly known as Metroman, is all set to join the BJP. This was announced by the BJP Kerala unit president K. Surendran at a news conference here on Thursday. Sreedharan, 88, would officially join the party during the inauguration of the Statewide Vijaya Yatra led by Surendran from Kasaragod on February 21, ahead of the Assembly polls. Surendran claimed both the Congress-led United Democratic Front and the CPI (M)-led Left Democratic Front had opposed and humiliated Sreedharan on several occasions. He said that Sreedharan was an asset for the State. The BJP had already requested him to contest the polls, Surendran said.
G) PM moots special visa scheme for medical staff during Covid workshop with nine countries.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Thursday suggested that neighbouring countries should consider creating a special visa scheme for doctors and nurses, so that they could travel quickly within the region during health emergencies, on the request of the receiving country. Modi was addressing a workshop on ‘COVID-19 Management: Experience, Good Practices and Way Forward’ with nine neighbouring nations, including Pakistan. India was hosting the secretary-level virtual meeting, chaired by Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushan.The Prime Minister said that civil aviation ministries could coordinate a regional air ambulance agreement for medical contingencies and countries could come together to create a regional platform for collating, compiling and studying data about the effectiveness of Covid-19 vaccines among populations.
A) Facebook news goes dark in Australia.
Australians woke to empty news feeds on their Facebook Inc pages on Thursday after the social media giant blocked all media content in a surprise and dramatic escalation of a dispute with the government over paying for content. The move was swiftly criticised by news producers, politicians and human rights advocates, many of whom pointed out that official health and meteorology information had also been scrubbed during the coronavirus pandemic and at the height of Australia’s summer bushfire season. Facebook was wrong, Facebook’s actions were unnecessary, they were heavyhanded, and they will damage its reputation here in Australia, Treasurer Josh Frydenberg said. Mr. Frydenberg said facebook Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg gave no warning of the news shutdown when the pair spoke over the weekend about looming laws that will force them to pay local publishers for content. The two had a subsequent conversation on Thursday morning which was constructive, Mr. Frydenberg said, adding they discussed what he called differing interpretations about how the new Media Bargaining Code would work.
B) Texas shivers amid power outages, water shortages.
Power was gradually being restored but hundreds of thousands of households remained without electricity on Thursday across Texas, the oil and gas capital of the U.S., with some facing water shortages as a deadly winter cold spell that pummelled the southeastern part of the country headed east. The National Weather Service (NWS) issued a winter storm warning. It said the storm would bring ice, sleet and heavy snow to parts of Texas, Louisiana, Arkansas and Mississippi as it tracks to the northeast, causing power outages, tree damage and making driving hazardous. Even though the Arctic air mass was beginning to lose its grip on an area of the country not used to such extreme cold, the frigid temperatures would continue, the NWS said. More than 30 storm-related deaths have been reported.