The Indian Express | 1 week ago | 18-03-2023 | 01:45 pm
Shiv Sena leader and MLA Aaditya Thackeray Saturday wrote a letter to Union Minister Bhupinder Yadav over the issue of poor quality of air in Mumbai and increasing air pollution across Maharashtra.In the letter Thackeray said in the past six months, the air quality in Mumbai has consistently been rated as ‘Poor’ and ‘Very Poor’ on the AQI. He added that other cities in Maharashtra are also posting concerning air quality numbers and sought intervention of the Union government.Thackeray also alleged that the Ekanath Shinde and Devendra Fadnavis government is monetising the green spaces and has compromised the Aarey forest in vengeance and against the will of Mumbaikars for the Mumbai Metro 3 carshed.“I’ve written to Union Minister Bhupinder Yadav ji about Maharashtra’s worsening air pollution crisis, also focusing on Mumbai’s AQI. The absence of a full time environment minister and lack of sensitivity towards public issues in the state’s illegal Govt has worsened this crisis, as there is no action on ground. @mybmc’s act of study committee and smog towers is only delay tactics to benefit its contractors. I hope this letter finds resonance and intervention,” Thackeray tweeted.His letter further added, “I write to bring to your attention the dire situation of worsening air quality across Maharashtra, particularly in its cities. This problem continues to affect the lives of our fellow citizens on a daily basis, with little progress at the policy level to address the challenges. As a result, our cities and towns are short of fresh air and oxygen. Given that the state of Maharashtra currently does not have an Environment Minister with independent charge. I have no choice but to escalate this issue to the Union Government through you.”Citing reasons for pollution, the letter states that construction activities, refineries and fertilizer plants in eastern Mumbai pockets like Mahul or Wadala are major reasons for the pollution and demanded relocation of these plants away from the city.“Construction activity in Mumbai is widespread and lacks effective supervision. The entire city is undergoing construction, causing a large amount of dust and debris, much of which is left unattended and unchecked. Measures are needed to help the Urban Development Department and local bodies understand the consolidated impact construction has on the city’s environment. After this impact has been assessed, the ‘polluter pays’ principle should be applied. The city has refineries and fertilizer plants on its eastern coast, and the round-the- clock industrial activity there is having a direct impact on the air quality in the city. Residents in the vicinity of places like Mahul or Wadala are feeling the impact of the poor air quality and foul smell. The Government of India should evaluate and relocate these plants away from the city,” the letter states.“The current administration in Maharashtra is focused on monetizing the city’s green spaces. The healthy Aarey forest has been compromised against the city’s will and with vengeance. This has not helped the city’s development discourse and it certainly does not align with the Prime Minister’s vision of LIFE (Lifestyle for Environment),” the letter said.He also wrote, “In 2022, Mumbai launched its Climate Action Plan, which was heralded by the climate policy community and covered by acclaimed journals worldwide. I request that you direct relevant stakeholders in the administration to establish a climate cell as was suggested by the policy plan. With G20 events being held in the city. its global reputation is at stake. Most importantly, the health of the citizens should take precedence over political differences.”“Climate change has had a serious impact on the city’s weather patterns, changing the speed and direction of winds, and causing polluted air to remain within the city instead of flowing towards the coast. I request you direct the relevant authorities to install mobile sensors across the city, as the existing sensors do not cover the entire city. This would provide more insights for addressing the air quality problem and help reconcile data authenticity of AQI currently measured,” the letter said.
Union Home Minister Amit Shah on Wednesday said the CBI was “putting pressure” on him to “frame” Prime Minister Narendra Modi in an alleged fake encounter case in Gujarat when he was being questioned by the probe agency during the Congress-led UPA government.Shah said this at the ‘News 18 Rising India’ programme in New Delhi in response to a question on Opposition’s charge that the Narendra Modi government is “misusing’ central agencies to target them.The CBI “was putting pressure” on me to “frame Modi ji” (when he was Gujarat CM) in an alleged fake encounter case during the Congress government,” he said, adding that the BJP never raised a ruckus despite this.On Rahul Gandhi’s conviction in a criminal defamation case by a court in Surat, the home minister said the Congress leader was not the only politician who was convicted by a court and lost membership of the legislature.Instead of moving to a higher court, Rahul has been trying to create hue and cry and blaming Prime Minister Narendra Modi for his fate, he said.Shah said Rahul Gandhi should go to a higher court to fight his case, instead of trying to put the blame on Prime Minister Narendra Modi.He said the Congress is spreading misconception; conviction can’t be stayed. “The sentence can be stayed if the court decides,” he said.“He has not appealed to take stay on his conviction. What kind of arrogance is this? You want a favour. You want to continue to be MP and will also not go before the Court,” Shah said.Where does such arrogance gets generated, he said.Shah said 17 prominent leaders, including Lalu Prasad, J Jayalalitha and Raashid Alvi, had lost their membership because of a 2013 Supreme Court order during the UPA government, which said an elected representative would lose his seat immediately after conviction. Still, no one protested wearing black clothes because it is the “law of the land”, he said.“Listen to the full speech of Rahul Gandhi, he has not only spoken abusive words for Modi ji. He has spoken abusive words for the entire Modi community and OBC society,” he said.“The law of the land is clear. There is no question of vendetta politics. It is the judgment of the Supreme Court of India, which had come during their government,” Shah said.Asked about the notice to vacate his bungalow, Shah asked why should there be “special favour” when the Supreme Court had said to act as soon as the conviction comes into effect.“It was a deliberate statement by Rahul Gandhi. If Rahul Gandhi did not want to apologise, then he should not have applied for bail. Let him not apologise,” Shah said.“This gentleman is not the first one. Politicians who held much bigger positions and with much more experience have lost their membership because of this provision,” the Home minister said.He said India’s democracy wasn’t threatened when Lalu ji was disqualified but it is endangered only when a person from the Gandhi family is disqualified.“Now it has come on him, so they are saying make a separate law for the Gandhi family. I want to ask the people of this country whether there should be a separate law for a single family. What kind of mentality is this? Whatever happens, they start blaming Modi ji and the Lok Sabha Speaker,” Shah said.He said senior lawyers who are Congress MPs in Rajya Sabha should tell their colleagues that Lok Sabha Speaker has no role in the disqualification.“It is the law of the country that all his speeches in Parliament would have to be erased from the records from the moment of his conviction. Even if his disqualification notice were served a few days later, it would have no purpose,” he said.Shah said BJP did not want changes in the Supreme Court order. The Manmohan Singh government brought an Ordinance to blunt the apex court order, but Rahul Gandhi tore it apart, calling it “nonsense”.“Once he tore it apart, who in his government would have dared to turn it into law? It was vetoed. Had that ordinance become a law, he could have been saved,” Shah said.Asked about Rahul’s comment on Savarkar, the Home Minister said Veer Savarkar was the only freedom fighter who was sentenced to two life terms in Andaman prison. “Such language for such a freedom fighter should not have been used,” he said.He (Rahul) should read his grandmother’s speech on Veer Savarkar. His own party people are advising him to not speak against Savarkar, he said.In the general election of 2024, Shah said Modi would again be PM with a larger majority. BJP will get more seats in the 2024 elections than 2019 elections, he said, adding that there is no unity among the opposition, he said.On the upcoming Karnataka elections, Shah said BJP would comfortably cross the halfway mark and form a government with a clear majority in the state.Ruling out any alliance in Karnataka, Shah said, “The BJP will definitely cross the halfway mark and form the government with an absolute majority in Karnataka. We will win record mandate.” Referring to recent Karnataka government’s decision to end quota on the basis of religion, he said reservation based on religion is unconstitutional.“Karnataka’s Congress government did it due to polarisation, and we have just rectified it. It should have done earlier,” he said.The Home minister rejected the allegations on the misuse of investigative agencies against the opposition leaders. Shah said we never blamed the opposition for anything, innocent police officers were put behind bars during Congress government.Shah said the BJP had won the 2014 and 2019 elections on the plank of anti-corruption. He said Enforcement Directorate had seized 1.10 lakh crore of assets, of which not even five per cent are of political leaders.“Shall we stop the fight against corruption? Should we not act if the accused is a politician,” Shah asked. The Home minister asked who had filed cases against Lalu Prasad Yadav and who had sent a plane full of officials from Delhi to arrest Shaikh Abdullah.Citing the misuse of agencies, Shah said thousands of innocent persons were imprisoned for 19 months of Emergency and questioned whose doing it was. It was his grandmother Indira Gandhi, he said.On the Maharashtra question, Shah said people wanted Shiv Sena and BJP government and now the real Shiv Sena is with BJP. “I also accept that BJP on its own could have formed the government in Maharashtra. There is no question of the merger of Shiv Sena,” he said.He said the Congress should introspect about its contribution to corruption. There is a strong resentment against Congress governments in Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh. We will definitely win elections in Madhya Pradesh, he said.Shah said we have not taken any decision on the face in Rajasthan elections. People want to change the CM of Rajasthan, he said.On Amritpal Singh, Shah said he meets Punjab Chief Minister every three months, irrespective of the government and stand with the party when it comes to the security of the country.“Many people have been arrested in connection with Amritpal case, police and intelligence agencies are working on the case,” he said.On attacks on Indian missions abroad, Shah said it was an attack on India. “We will take action against those involved in the attack, FIR already lodged in Delhi,” he said. Shah said the contribution of Sikhs to India’s freedom has been immense; every Sikh wants to be with India.The Home minister ruled out any confrontation between the judiciary and the government. “Both are working within their limits,” he said. The government’s duty to make law now and the Parliament will think over it, he said
Shiv Sena (UBT) MP Sanjay Raut on Thursday blamed the Eknath Shinde-Devendra Fadnavis government in Maharashtra for the clashes that broke out in Sambhaji Nagar (previously Aurangabad) on Wednesday evening and alleged that the government was “working to ensure that there would be riots in the state”.Hitting out at Deputy Chief Minister Fadnavis, who holds the Home portfolio, Raut said that the home minister and home ministry are “invisible” in the state and alleged that Fadnavis was looking “frustrated and depressed”.“This (the Aurangabad clashes) is a failure of the government. The government wants to have such a situation in different places. The Shinde group is working for this. This government has only one intention, that is to create disturbance in the state and to ensure that riots take place,” Raut said. A clash had broken out between two groups in Sambhaji Nagar’s Kiradpura area on Wednesday midnight with stone pelting and several police vehicles being set on fire.“The government is working to ensure that there are riots in the state and communal disharmony…This is their politics,” Raut alleged.Taking a dig at Fadnavis, Raut said, “In fact, there is a question if the home minister or home ministry exists in the state. I am saying again and again, Fadnavis is not visible anywhere. He looks depressed and frustrated. We should find out the reasons for that. It is not something I can disclose openly.”
All drugs and food for special medical purposes, imported for personal use for the treatment of all rare diseases listed under the National Policy for Rare Diseases 2021, have been exempted from basic customs duty by the central government. The government has also fully exempted Pembrolizumab (Keytruda) used in the treatment of various types of cancer from basic customs duty.On March 28, Congress leader and Thiruvananthapuram MP Shashi Tharoor shared the story of a young couple who had approached him for an exemption of duty for a drug. It was imported for their young daughter who was suffering from cancer, and they said they were unable to pay a high duty for it.“They had scrounged and saved and borrowed and crowd-funded to raise the money required but when they imported the drug, they needed an additional Rs 7 lakhs for GST that they could not afford. When they approached me I wrote to Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on March 15 asking her help to exempt them from the GST on humanitarian grounds. When there was no reply they approached me again on Sunday (March 26th); the injection was stuck at Mumbai airport but Customs would not release it without the GST payment.I called Mrs Sitharaman directly this time. I told her this baby depended on her exercising her authority immediately because the drug was perishable and would expire while in the custody of Customs. She was instantly sympathetic. She hadn’t seen my letter so I re-sent it. Within half an hour her PS, Sernya Bhutia, called to tell me she had spoken to the Chairman of the Board of Indirect Taxes and Customs. Within ten minutes Chairman Vivek Johri called me asking for more documentation. By 7 pm today the exemption was granted,” Tharoor had posted on Twitter on March 28.In a notification which came into effect on March 30, the exemption has been granted by the Central Board of Indirect Taxes and Customs (CBIC) by substituting “Drugs, Medicines or Food for Special Medical Purposes (FSMP)” instead of “drugs or medicines”.Now, in order to avail of this exemption, the individual importer has to produce a certificate from the central or state director health services or district medical officer/civil surgeon of the district, a finance ministry release said.“While exemptions have already been provided to specified drugs for treatment of spinal muscular atrophy or duchenne muscular dystrophy, the government has been receiving many representations seeking customs duty relief for drugs and medicines used in treatment of other rare diseases. Drugs or special foods required for the treatment of these diseases are expensive and need to be imported. It is estimated that for a child weighing 10 kg, the annual cost of treatment for some rare diseases, may vary from Rs 10 lakh to more than Rs 1 crore per year with treatment being lifelong and drug dose and cost, increasing with age and weight. This exemption will result in substantial cost savings and provide much needed relief to the patients,” it said.Drugs/medicines generally attract basic customs duty of 10 per cent, while some categories of lifesaving drugs/vaccines attract a concessional rate of 5 per cent or nil.In its meeting in September 2021, the GST Council had reduced tax rates for several life-saving drugs. Life-saving drugs Zolgensma and Viltepso used in the treatment of spinal muscular atrophy were exempted from GST when imported for personal use. At that time, the GST rate for Keytruda was cut to 5 per cent from 12 per cent.
The second leg of the Budget session began March 13 but both Houses of Parliament have failed to transact any significant business as the government-Opposition slugfest has intensified over Congress leader Rahul Gandhi’s recent remarks in London and the Adani-Hindenburg row.This impasse has brought back the spotlight on repeated adjournments and disruptions in Parliament over the years, which has obstructed the passage of key bills.According to PRS Legislative Research Data, the number of Parliament sittings has halved since the 1950s-60s, and for the last eight consecutive sessions, both Houses of Parliament have been adjourned ahead of their schedule.We take a look at Parliamentary adjournments in the Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha since the Narendra Modi-led BJP government returned to power in 2019.The Winter Session of Parliament concluded on December 23 — a week ahead of its schedule amid protests by the Opposition over the clash between India and China troops in Arunachal Pradesh’s Tawang on December 9.Hours lost and productivity: Out of the 68.9 hours during which the Lok Sabha functioned, 2.42 hours were lost due to interruptions. The Rajya Sabha functioned for 72 hours, with 1.46 hours lost due to disruptions. According to PRS, Lok Sabha logged productivity of 88%, and Rajya Sabha 94%.Legislative business: The government planned to introduce 16 Bills in this session, but only seven were introduced. While Lok Sabha passed seven bills, nine were passed by Rajya Sabha.This is the second least number of sittings in a session during the 17th Lok Sabha term, according to PRS.The Monsoon Session of Parliament ended on August 8, four days ahead of its schedule. In 16 sittings against the scheduled 18, the Parliament functioned for less than 50% of the allotted time as multiple adjournments disrupted proceedings over several issues, including the suspension of MPs, the alleged misuse of central investigating agencies, and protests over inflation and price rise.Hours lost & productivity: This session was one of the least productive since 2014. According to PRS, Lok Sabha recorded a productivity of 47% and Rajya Sabha 42%.Legislative business: The Government planned to introduce 24 new Bills. However, owing to protests, only six bills were introduced and five were passed, PRS data showed.The Budget session of Parliament was scheduled to be held from January 31-April 8, 2022, with a recess from February 12-March 13, but was adjourned sine die on April 7, a day ahead of its schedule.Hours lost and productivity: According to PRS, Lok Sabha functioned for 177 hours and registered a productivity of 129%. The Rajya Sabha discharged business for 127.6 hours and registered a productivity of 99.8%.Legislative business: According to PRS data, 13 Bills (including Finance and Appropriation Bills) were introduced in this session, and 11 were passed, of which one was pending from the 2021 Winter Session.The Winter Session of Parliament began on a stormy note, with the passage of Farm Laws Repeal Bill without any discussion and the suspension of 12 Rajya Sabha MPs for the rest of the session on the first day. The Parliament adjourned sine die on December 22, a day ahead of schedule. In the 18 sittings in 24 days, the House witnessed protests by the Opposition over a number of issues, including the Lakhimpur Kheri violence and the farmers’ demand for a legislation on Minimum Support Price (MSP).Hours lost and productivity: The Lok Sabha worked for 77% of its scheduled time, while the Rajya Sabha worked for 43%, according to PRS data. The Lok Sabha lost 18 hours and 48 minutes due to interruptions. Rajya Sabha, however, saw more adjournments. Out of a total scheduled sitting time of 95 hours and 6 minutes, the House discharged business only for 45 hours and 6 minutes, a press note from the Rajya Sabha secretariat showed. A total of 49 hours and 32 minutes was lost due to disruptions and adjournments.Legislative business: The government had listed 26 Bills, however, only 13 were introduced, while 11 were passed, including one Appropriation Bill.Parliament’s Monsoon Session ended two days ahead of schedule after being regularly disrupted by protests by the Opposition parties over Pegasus row, farm laws, and rise in prices. The Monsoon session of Parliament had 19 sittings scheduled from July 19 to August 13, for both the Lower and the Upper Houses, of which 17 were held.Hours lost and productivity: According to PRS, the sixth term of the 17th Lower House worked for only 21.3 hours — which is just 21% of the total scheduled time — while losing 77 hours 48 minutes to adjournments, logging the least number of hours of functioning in the entire 10 sessions held since the Modi government returned to power in May 2019. Meanwhile, out of the total 112 hours Rajya Sabha discharged business for only 29 hours – which is 26% of the scheduled time. The productivity logged by the Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha this session was 21% and 29%, respectively.Legislative business: Of the 38 Bills pending in Parliament, 17 were introduced and 22, including two Appropriation Bills, were passed.The 2021 Budget session was scheduled to be held from January 29- April 8, with a recess period from February 16-March 7. However, both Houses were adjourned sine die on March 25. Due to a rise in Covid cases, the Parliament functioned in two shifts from February 2, with the Rajya Sabha sitting from 10 am to 3 pm and Lok Sabha from 4 pm to 5 pm.Hours lost and productivity: Despite the session being curtailed, there was no loss of working hours for Lok Sabha, with the House sitting till late on multiple days. According to PRS, Rajya Sabha sat for 104.4 hours, registering a productivity of 90%. The total sitting hours for Lok Sabha were 131.8, with a productivity of 107%.Legislative business: According to PRS, of the 36 pending Bills, 20 were listed for introduction, 30 for passage, and four for withdrawal. A total of 18 Bills were passed by both Houses of Parliament.The Winter Session of 2020 was cancelled due to the Covid pandemic.In the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, the Monsoon session of Parliament functioned for only 10 days — September 14-23. The session, initially scheduled for October 1, was cut short by eight days because of the public health emergency and several MPs testing positive.Hours lost and productivity: Despite a curtailed session and early adjournment of the House on certain days, the Lok Sabha worked for 60 hours, including 23 hours of late sittings. The time lost for early adjournments due to disruptions was 3.51 hours, according to the Lok Sabha Secretariat. The Rajya Sabha discharged business for 39.5 hours and Lok Sabha for 58.1 hours, according to PRS. According to the Parliamentary Affairs Ministry Annual Report 2020-2021, the time lost due to adjournments was 3 hours 15 minutes.Legislative business: A total of 46 Bills were pending in the Monsoon session of Parliament. Of these, 23 Bills were listed for introduction, 40 for passage, and six for withdrawal. By the end of the session, the House introduced 22 Bills, passed 27 (including two Appropriation Bills), and withdrew five Bills.The Budget Session of Parliament was held for 23 days, from January 31 to March 23, with a recess from February 12 to March 1. Originally planned to have 31 sittings till April 3, the House was adjourned sine die after completing just 23 sittings on March 23 — a day after ‘Janta Curfew’.Hours lost and productivity: According to PRS, Lok Sabha discharged business for 111.2 hours, registering a productivity of 86%. The Rajya Sabha discharged business for 93.8 hours and registered a productivity of 74%.Legislative business: As many as 41 Bills were pending before the Session. A total of 19 Bills were introduced, 12 were passed, and two were withdrawn.This session of Parliament witnessed uproar over Congress leader Rahul Gandhi’s ‘rape in India’ remark, and protests in Northeast over the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill.Hours lost and productivity: The Lok Sabha registered a productivity of 111%, and Rajya Sabha 92%, shows PRS data. Over 55 hours (approximately) were spent by both Houses to discuss legislations.Legislative business: Seventeen bills were introduced and 14 were passed, including one Appropriation Bill. While the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2019, the Prohibition of Electronic Cigarettes Bill, 2019, and the Taxation Laws (Amendment) Bill, 2019, were passed, the Personal Data Protection Bill was sent to a joint parliamentary committee for scrutiny.The first session of the 17th Lok Sabha began on June 17 and was scheduled to conclude on July 26, but it was extended till August 7, with the Lok Sabha sitting for 37 days and Rajya Sabha for 35 days.Hours lost and productivity: According to the Parliamentary Affairs Ministry Annual report 2019-2020, no hours were lost in the entire Lok Sabha session, while Rajya Sabha lost 19 hours 34 minutes. According to PRS, the Lok Sabha worked for 280.7 hours, and Rajya Sabha for 195.5 hours. The productivity of this Lok Sabha session was clocked at 135% and of Rajya Sabha at 100%.Legislative business: A total of 33 Bills were pending before the session. By the end of the session, 40 bills were introduced and 30 were passed by both Houses of the Parliament.
Trying to stage a comeback in Andhra Pradesh and revive in Telangana, the Telugu Desam Party (TDP) has decided to raise the issue of non-fulfilment of promises made to both states when the Andhra Pradesh Reorganisation Act, 2014, was passed. The decision was taken at the two-day TDP Politburo meeting that concluded on Wednesday.The meeting of the Politburo was held at the party office in Hyderabad after eight years. After the bifurcation of Andhra Pradesh, the TDP built a new headquarters in Guntur district’s Mangalgiri, near Vijayawada, and the Politburo meetings were held there in the last eight years.TDP’s Andhra Pradesh president Kinjerapu Atchen Naidu said the Centre failed to implement the promises made to both the states during the reorganisation, including the construction of a steel plant in Bayyaram, a railway coach factory in Kazipet in Telangana, a Girijan University, and funds for backward regions. He said the Politburo focused on 17 topics of which 13 are issues from Andhra Pradesh and the rest from Telangana.The party said it had resolved to organise its “Mahanadu” conclave in Rajahmundry in May. Naidu said the Politburo had decided to set up three committees: one for overseeing arrangements for “Mahanadu”, the second to work on a manifesto, and the third, for making arrangements for the centenary celebrations. Atchen Naidu said these panels would tour the two states to gather public opinion on the functioning of the party.The TDP leader said the party would demand both the governments of Andhra and Telangana to erect statues of Dr Babu Jagjivan Ram and would hit the streets if the government does not respond positively.“The party has resolved several problems that were haunting the Telugu people for decades and there is every need that the present-day youth should know how the TDP was formed and its 41-year-long journey,” Naidu said, adding that its main aim was to see people be treated equally irrespective of their economic status. The Politburo, he said, had decided to allocate 40 per cent of its seats in both states to the youth.The TDP said the party was in an upbeat mood since its victories in the Andhra Legislative Council polls for graduates’ constituencies and MLA-quota Council seats, Naidu said. Chief Minister Y S Jagan Mohan Reddy and other leaders of the ruling YSR Congress Party (YSRCP) were hitting out at the TDP in frustration, he added. Naidu asked ruling party leaders how much the YSRCP had offered to the four MLAs who joined the YSRCP after getting elected from the TDP.The TDP’s Andhra chief said farmers are the worst-affected in both the Telugu-speaking states and appealed to the ruling parties in both states not to ignore the farming sector. Observing that the TDP’s demands that some outdated guidelines be ignored for the welfare of farmers, Naidu said the Politburo had decided to demand amendments to certain pieces of legislation. The Politburo also discussed the promises the Telangana government made to the people, including two-bedroom houses, unemployment allowance of Rs 3,000 per month, reservations and three-acre land for the landless, according to Naidu.