24 February 2021
A) Disha Ravi gets bail in ‘toolkit’ case.
A Delhi Court on Tuesday granted bail to climate change activist Disha Ravi, arrested for allegedly being involved in sharing on social media a ‘toolkit’ on the ongoing farmers’ protest against three farm laws. The 22-year-old woman was arrested on February 13 and sent to five days police custody on February 14. After the end of the police custody, on February 19, she was sent to three-day judicial custody, which expired on Monday. According to the Delhi police, Ravi is an editor of the Toolkit Google Doc and was a key conspirator in the document’s formulation and dissemination. It alleged that she started a WhatsApp Group to make the toolkit doc in collaboration with a pro-Khalistani organisation, Poetic Justice Foundation, to spread disaffection against the Indian state. Ravi, in her defence before the court, said that she had just edited two lines in the toolkit and that she was in support of the farmers and was influenced by their protests as farmers provide food. The bail order of the court said that in the absence of any evidence to the effect that the applicant/accused agreed or shared a common purpose to cause violence on 26.01.2021 with the founders of PJF (Poetic Justice Foundation), it cannot be presumed by resorting to surmises or conjectures that she also supported the secessionist tendencies or the violence caused on 26.01.2021, simply because she shared a platform with people, who have gathered to oppose the legislation. There is not even an iota of evidence brought to my notice connecting the perpetrators of the violence on 26.01.2021 with the said PJF or the applicant/accused. It further noted that the perusal of the said ‘Toolkit’ reveals that any call for any kind of violence is conspicuously absent. In his considered opinion, citizens are conscience keepers of the government in any democratic nation. They cannot be put behind the bars simply because they choose to disagree with the State policies.
B) Agitating farmer unions object to Delhi Police posters at Tikri protest site.
Farmer unions today objected to Delhi Police putting up posters that allegedly warned off protesters at the Tikri border site, even as the force claimed these were not new and only informed the protesters that they would not be allowed to enter the national capital. In a statement, the Samyukta Kisan Morcha (SKM), an umbrella body of farmer unions that is spearheading the ongoing agitation against the three agri laws, said that it is opposed to the police’s move as the protesters were exercising their constitutional right and appealed to the farmers to continue their sit-in peacefully. Thousands of farmers, mostly from Punjab, Haryana and western Uttar Pradesh, have been camping at three Delhi border points Singhu, Tikri and Ghazipur for nearly 90 days, demanding a complete repeal of the three agri laws and a legal guarantee on minimum support price (MSP) for crops. The Delhi Police has placed some posters at the Tikri border protest site where farmers have been warned that they will have to vacate the area. Such posters are irrelevant as farmers have been staging a peaceful protest by exercising their constitutional rights. They will oppose the conspiracy to end the protest with these kinds of threats and warnings, the SKM said in the statement. In the posters, the police have not given any deadline to the protesting farmers to vacate the area. On its part, the Delhi Police said it is a routine process. The posters were pasted at the border area after the protest started. It is a routine exercise. Police have conveyed to them through posters that they are sitting in the jurisdiction of Haryana and they are not allowed to enter the national capital unlawfully, a senior police officer said.
C) Uttarakhand floods disaster: Death certificates may be issued for missing persons.
The local administration is considering issuing death certificates to the families of those missing after the flash floods in Uttarakhand’s Chamoli on February 7. The death toll has now gone up to 70, while 135 persons still remain untraced. They are exploring the possibility of issuing death certificates to the families of missing persons to facilitate the processing of various claims. It may take about a month. However, searches will continue, said a senior Uttarakhand police officer. The identities of 39 bodies have been established so far. In all, 29 body parts have so far been found at different places. The Joshimath police have registered 205 missing person reports. The police have sent the DNA samples of 110 family members of the missing persons and 86 bodies/body parts to the forensic science laboratory in Dehradun for matching.
D) BJP sweeps municipal polls in Gujarat.
The BJP has swept the urban local body polls in Gujarat, winning all the six municipal corporations in Ahmedabad, Surat, Vadodara, Rajkot, Jamnagar and Bhavnagar for which the results were announced on Tuesday. The ruling party won 69 out of 76 seats in Vadodara, 68 out of 72 in Rajkot, 50 out of 64 in Jamnagar, and 44 out of 52 seats in Bhavnagar in its largest victory in the civic bodies of the state. In Surat, the parties won 93 out of 120 seats while in Ahmedabad, where counting is underway, the saffron party is likely to win at least 160 of the 192 seats in the city. Though the BJP was expected to win all the six municipal corporations, which are under its control for almost two decades, the party’s victory margin of winning more than 80% of the total seats came as a surprise as it completely routed the Opposition Congress in the six main cities of the state. However, the big surprise was spectacular entry of Aam Admi Party (AAP) in its maiden contest in Surat Municipal Corporation, where it has become the main opposition party, winning 27 out of 120 seats while the Congress has drawn a blank for the first time in Surat. Similarly, AIMIM has won seven seats in Ahmedabad in Jamalpur and Maktampura wards, both Congress bastions for years.
E) Tamil Nadu urges Centre to merge all cesses and surcharges.
Deputy Chief Minister O. Panneerselvam on Tuesday urged the Centre to merge all cesses and surcharges with a basic rate of taxes and ensure that States received their legitimate share of revenue. Presenting the interim budget in the State Assembly, Panneerselvam, who holds the Finance portfolio, observed that though revenue to the Centre on account of various levies on petrol and diesel saw a growth of 48% between April and November 2020, Tamil Nadu had received 39.40% less in the corresponding period as its share of Union excise duties on petrol and diesel. Panneerselvam pointed out that while the levy of surcharge on personal income tax, first introduced in 2013-14 and further expanded and increased since, had become a big revenue earner for the Centre, there was no increase in the share for the State. He said these measures, including reduction in the basic customs duty on gold, silver, alcoholic beverages, crude edible oil, coal, lignite, pears, apples, varieties of pulses and specialised pulses, which had been substituted by agricultural infrastructure development-cess, had further shrunk the divisible pool of taxes.
F) Reliance expects approvals for oil-to-chemicals business spin-off by Q2.
Reliance Industries Ltd expects to get the necessary approvals to hive off its oil-to-chemicals (O2C) business into a separate unit by the second quarter of the next fiscal year, the company said in a presentation to investors on Monday. The company had initiated the process of spinning off the O2C business at a time when the Covid-19 pandemic has caused a slump in fuel demand and weighed on the segment’s recent results. Reliance, owned by billionaire Mukesh Ambani, will retain full control of the business post-restructuring, the company said in the presentation. The Mumbai-headquartered conglomerate also announced its aim to work with the O2C business to reduce its carbon footprint and become net carbon zero by 2035.
G) Delhi riots anniversary: Truth hijacked to serve political interests, says Brinda Karat. CPI (M) leader Brinda Karat, speaking on the first anniversary of the Northeast Delhi riots in New Delhi today alleged that there has been a deliberate subversion of justice as truth has been hijacked to serve political interests and to save BJP leaders. She said the BJP’s Kapil Mishra, accused of making inflammatory speeches ahead of the riot, had the temerity to say that if required, he would do it again. This shows how the government in power has given protection to its leaders who gave inflammatory speeches, Karat said. She added that the government wants no dissent at all and according to its dictionary, dissent equals anti-nationalism, and anti-nationalism becomes patriotism if you wear a saffron scarf and carry a BJP flag. The CPI (M) demanded an independent, impartial probe into the Delhi Riots. It said that the role of the police has to be questioned and asked how the capital was allowed to burn for five days under the eye of the Home Minister himself.
H) Terrorism is a crime against humanity, says Jaishankar.
Terrorism is a crime against humanity, said External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar on Tuesday. Addressing the High Level Segment of the 46th Session of Human Rights Council (HRC), he said India’s commitment to human rights is seen in the way the government has handled the pandemic. Terrorism continues to be one of the gravest threats to humankind. It is a crime against humanity and violates the most fundamental human right, namely the ‘Right to Life’. Terrorism can never be justified, nor its perpetrators ever equated with its victims, said Jaishankar, highlighting India’s experience as an inclusive and pluralistic society and vibrant democracy. The Minister’s comments come days after India reacted angrily to observations by the Special Rapporteurs on Minority Issues and Freedom of Religion or Belief on apparent erosion of human rights in Kashmir and the rest of India. The Ministry had termed the observations as deplorable.
A) Biden, Trudeau to lay out road map to rebuild ties.
President Joe Biden and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will lay out a road map for rebuilding U.S.-Canada relations on Tuesday during their first bilateral meeting, a senior official said, although the scrapped Keystone pipeline could present a hurdle. Following the turbulence of Donald Trump’s presidency, Mr. Biden would have hoped to use his wellhoned skills of personal connection while meeting face-to-face with the leader of the key ally. However, the meeting will occur virtually due to the coronavirus pandemic. He think the biggest deliverable from the trip, or from the meeting, is going to be essentially a road map to reinvigorate U. S.-Canada collaboration, a senior U.S. administration official said on Monday. Mr. Biden and Mr. Trudeau will address several mutual priorities, including tackling climate change, revving up the North American economy, the Arctic, and threats to democracy in Myanmar and Venezuela. By being on the same line on several subjects, like climate change or economic revival, we can do more together, Mr. Trudeau’s office said, offering similar broad brush strokes.
B) Afghanistan warring sides return to table. With violence spiking, Afghanistan’s warring sides have returned to the negotiation table, ending more than a month of delays amid hopes that the two sides can agree on a reduction of violence and eventually, an outright ceasefire. Taliban spokesman Mohammad Naeem tweeted on Monday night that talks had resumed in Qatar, where the insurgent movement maintains a political office. There were no details other than the atmosphere was cordial, a commitment that negotiations should continue and an announcement that the first item of business will be setting the agenda. When talks ended abruptly in January, just days after beginning, both sides submitted their wish lists for agendas. The task now is for the two sides to sift through the respective wish lists, agree on items to negotiate and the order in which they will be tackled. The priority for the Afghan government, Washington and NATO is a serious reduction in violence leading to a ceasefire. The Taliban has said it is negotiable, but until now has resisted any immediate ceasefire. Washington is reviewing the February 2020 peace deal the previous Trump administration signed with the Taliban that calls for the final withdrawal of international forces by May 1. The Taliban has resisted suggestions of even a brief extension, but a consensus is mounting in Washington for a delay in the withdrawal deadline. There is even a suggestion of a smaller intelligence-based force staying behind.
C) Hong Kong to disqualify officials, politicians ‘disloyal’ to China.
Hong Kong announced plans on Tuesday to ramp up the ideological vetting of politicians and officials, with anyone seen to be disloyal to China or a national security threat barred from office. The draft law will be sent next month to the city’s legislature, a body now devoid of opposition after a number of figures were disqualified because their political views were deemed a security threat. Officials have detailed a negative list of offences that could see their colleagues removed from office, including acts that endanger national security, advocating for independence or refusing to accept China’s sovereignty over Hong Kong. The city’s Secretary for Constitutional and Mainland Affairs Erick Tsang confirmed that criticism of the Chinese Communist Party could also be a disqualifying factor. You can’t say you’re patriotic but don’t love the Chi. nese Communist Party’s leadership, or don’t respect it, he told reporters after the new law was announced on Tuesday. This does not make sense. Doing harm to the country’s fundamental system, its socialist system, or doing harm to the socialist system led by the Chinese Communist Party, shouldn’t be allowed. Amid foreign concerns, no let up in protests against Myanmar junta.
D) G7 countries condemn crackdown on peaceful protesters.
Protesters against the military’s seizure of power in Myanmar were back on the streets ofcities and towns on Tuesday, a day after a general strike shuttered shops and brought huge numbers out to demonstrate. In Mandalay, the country’s second-biggest city, a funeral was held for 37 year old Thet Naing Win, one of the two protesters shot dead by security forces on Saturday. Numbers were down from Monday’s massive crowds, but groups of demonstrators in Yangon, the country’s biggest city, assembled again at various venues on Tuesday for peaceful protests. Protesters trained their ire on a new target on Tuesday, gathering outside the Indonesian Embassy in response to a news report that Jakarta was proposing to its regional neighbours that they offer qualified support for the junta’s plan for a new election next year. The demonstrators demand that the results of last year’s election, won in a landslide by Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy party, be honoured. Indonesian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Teuku Faizasyah denied the report, saying it is not Indonesia’s position at all to support a new election in Myanmar. There is continuing international concern over Myanmar, with Foreign Ministers from the Group of Seven nations on Tuesday issuing their second Statement since the coup. Anyone responding to peaceful protests with violence must be held to account, they said. The group also condemned restrictions on freedom of expression, including arrests and the blocking of internet access, and called for the release of Suu Kyi and her colleagues. The U.S. and several Western governments have called for the junta to refrain from violence, release detainees and restore Suu Kyi’s government. On Monday, the U.S. said it was imposing sanctions against more junta members because of the killing of peaceful protesters by security forces.