27 February 2021
A) EC announces Assembly election schedule; Bengal polls to be held in eight phases.
The Election Commission (EC) on Friday announced elections to the Assemblies of Assam, Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Puducherry and West Bengal, where polling would be held in eight phases. Chief Election Commissioner Sunil Arora said the votes in all five elections would be counted on May 2. Polling in Assam would be held in three phases, with voting on March 27, April 1 and April 6. Elections in Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Puducherry would be held in a single phase, with voting on April 6. West Bengal would see elections in eight phases, up from seven phases in the last elections, Arora said. He said advance teams of Central Armed Police Force (CAPF) personnel had been sent to all poll-bound states and UT. In addition, he said the EC had issued a circular on February 8 for the formation of committees comprising the state’s chief electoral officer, state police nodal officer and state CAPF coordinator for coming up with the security plan and monitoring the deployment of forces. He said two special police observers had been appointed for West Bengal and two special expenditure observers for Tamil Nadu, given the concerns in the two states.
B) Mamata asks whether poll dates were announced as per suggestions of Modi and Shah.
West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee today questioned the rationale behind the EC’s decision to hold the 2021 Assembly polls in the State in eight phases. West Bengal has 294 seats. Why will elections be held here in eight phases? This is for the benefit of whom? There should be some rationale behind the decision, Banerjee said hours after the EC announced dates for Assembly polls in the State. This is the first time that the elections in West Bengal are held in eight phases. The earlier occasion when West Bengal went to polls with the highest number of phases was during the 2019 Lok Sabha elections when polls were conducted in seven phases. The Chief Minister, who is also chairperson of Trinamool Congress, said that these dates are as per the requirement of the BJP. She raised strong objections to elections being held in South 24 Parganas district in different phases. In South 24 Parganas, since we are strong, elections are held in three phases. Is it at the instructions of Narendra Modi and Amit Shah, she asked. Raising questions on the appointment of police observers, Banerjee said that one of them was deployed in the State in the 2019 Lok Sabha polls. The Trinamool Congress chief said that the EC should see West Bengal as their own State and not through the eyes of the BJP. She said that even in the 23-day election game, she will defeat the BJP as she is from the grassroots. Welcoming the eight-phase polls, the BJP, however, said that it was a matter of shame that West Bengal had to have elections in so many phases and it was because of the history of political violence. Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee seems to be mistaking Election Commission of India with the State Election Commission, which has been working at the whims and fancies of the State government and we have seen the results in local polls, State BJP spokesperson Shamik Bhattacharya said.
C) Labour rights activist Nodeep Kaur granted bail.
The Punjab and Haryana High Court on Friday granted bail to labour rights activist Nodeep Kaur in a case of attempt to murder and rioting, among others. The court has granted bail to Nodeep Kaur. While granting bail, the court observed that Section 307 [attempt to murder] is debatable at this stage of the case, Kaur’s counsel Arshdeep Singh Cheema told. Once the order is signed, she can walk out from jail, he said. Kaur, who was arrested by the Haryana police in January and is currently in Karnal Jail, said in her bail plea that she was beaten up, tortured and made to sign on blank papers at a police station. The police have denied the allegations. Her application for bail added that she was being falsely implicated and targeted as she had successfully generated massive support in the Kundli industrial area in favour of the ongoing farmers’ movement against the Centre’s new farm laws, which has earned the wrath of the administration.
D) Five Congress MLAs suspended in Himachal.
Himachal Pradesh Governor Bandaru Dattatraya was allegedly manhandled by some Congress members in the Assembly complex on Friday, following which five MLAs were suspended for the remainder of the Budget Session. Speaker Vipin Parmar said the Congress MLAs, including Leader of the Opposition Mukesh Agnihotri, were suspended on a motion moved by Parliamentary Affairs Minister Suresh Bhardwaj. The Opposition members tried to stop the governor in front of the speaker’s chamber when he was going towards his cavalcade, accompanied by Chief Minister Jai Ram Thakur and Parmar, after addressing the Assembly on the opening day of the Budget Session. The speaker said the Congress members’ action was against rules..No Congress MLA was present in the House at the time of suspension of the five MLAs. The Assembly, which was adjourned till 12 noon on Monday earlier in the day, was reconvened at 1 pm on Friday to consider the motion moved by Bhardwaj. While moving the motion in the House, Parliamentary Affairs Minister Bhardwaj said Chief Minister Thakur had termed the manhandling an attack on the governor. It reflected the frustration of Congress MLAs after the party’s defeat in the recent panchayat elections, Bhardwaj added.
F) SC bats for steps to speed up relief for accident victims.
The Supreme Court is exploring the creation of a nationwide online mechanism to help road accident victims and their families get compensation within a short time of the mishap. A Bench led by Justice S.K. Kaul is considering various avenues to speed up the compensation process, including the setting up of a national grid to seamlessly disburse compensation across States to the online submission of police records and accident claim documents in Motor Accidents Claims Tribunals. The court’s intervention came on a writ petition filed by one of India’s largest insurance firms, Bajaj Allianz General Insurance Company, highlighting the plight of victims who have been waiting for years for their money. Bajaj, drawing on its pan-India experience in the insurance sector, said in many parts of the country the police take months to even file an accident report for submission before the claims tribunal. The report is the first step towards fixing compensation under the Motor Vehicles Act. The delay is often due to chronic shortage of manpower in the police force, unwieldy geography or pure lethargy. The Act requires contemporaneous collection and verification of information about an accident. Delay would destroy crucial and important evidence. Further, it could also influence witnesses away from the truth. The company argued that delay also adds to the trauma of the accident and affects the victim’s right to equality and access to justice.
G) Indian economy enters positive territory, records 0.4% growth in Oct-Dec.
After contracting for two quarters in a row, the Indian economy entered the positive territory with a growth of 0.4% in the October-December quarter, mainly due to good performance by farm, services and construction sectors, as per official data, PTI reported. Trade and hotel industry registered a contraction of 7.7% during the third quarter this fiscal, as the sectors continued to suffer on account of coronavirus pandemic. According to the data released by the National Statistical Office (NSO), the farm sector recorded a growth of 3.9%, and the manufacturing sector output grew by 1.6% in the quarter under review. The construction sector advanced by 6.2%, while electricity, gas, water supply and other utility services clocked a 7.3% growth. The NSO said, GDP at Constant (2011-12) Prices in Q3 of 2020-21 is estimated at ₹36.22 lakh crore, as against ₹ 36.08 lakh crore in Q3 of 2019-20, showing a growth of 0.4%. The GDP had expanded by 3.3% per cent in the corresponding period of 2019-20.
A) India, China Foreign Ministers to establish hotline.
The foreign ministers of India and China have agreed to establish a new hotline to ensure timely communication in the wake of last year’s border crisis, but differed sharply on the way forward to restore relations in a 75-minute phone call on Thursday. External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar told his Chinese counterpart, Wang Yi that bilateral relations have been impacted severely over last year and that while the Boundary Question may take time to resolve, the disturbance of peace and tranquility, including by violence, will inevitably have a damaging impact on the relationship. Underlining how both sides have viewed differently the impact of the border crisis on the broader relationship, Wang said that there has been some wavering and back-pedalling in India’s China policy, because of which practical cooperation between the two countries has been affected. Decades of experiences have shown repeatedly that heightening differences does not help solve problems, and that it only erodes the basis of mutual trust, he said, adding that booths sides should avoid the wrong path of mutual misgivings and suspicion, still less the path of retrogression and should handle the boundary question properly to prevent the bilateral relationship from sinking into a negative cycle.
B) U.S. strikes on Iran-backed militias in Syria kill at least 22.
The U.S. military has struck Iran-backed militias in eastern Syria, killing at least 22 fighters, according to a war monitor. In its first military action against Iran-linked groups since Joe Biden became President five weeks ago, the Pentagon said it had carried out air strikes on Thursday at a Syria-Iraq border control point used by Iranbacked groups, destroying multiple facilities, in retaliation for a spate of rocket attacks targeting its troops in Iraq. At President Biden’s direction, the U.S. raids targeted”infrastructure utilised by Iranian-backed militant groups in eastern Syria, spokesman John Kirby said in a statement. These strikes were authorised in response to recent attacks against American and coalition personnel in Iraq, and to ongoing threats to those personnel, he said. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said at least 22 fighters were killed when the strike hit three trucks loaded with munitions near Albu Kamal. Militia border posts were also destroyed, the war monitor said. It said all the dead were from Iraq’s state-sponsored Hashed al-Shaabi paramilitary force, a group that includes many small militias with ties to Iran. Syria condemned the strike as cowardly American aggression.