Mamata Writes To Oppn Leaders To Unite Against BJP

Amid campaign for assembly elections, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee has written a letter to opposition leaders including Congress president Sonia Gandhi “for a united and effective struggle against the BJP’s attacks on democracy and constitution” and suggested that a meeting should be held after the assembly polls to “deliberate the issues and chart a plan of action”.

The letter has been sent to several opposition leaders including NCP chief Sharad Pawar, Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray, Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik, Jharkhand Chief Minister Hemant Soren, Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Jagan Mohan Reddy, DMK leader MK Stalin, RJD leader Tejashwi Yadav, Samajwadi Party leader Akhilesh Yadav, CPI (ML) leader Dipankar Bhattacharya, National Conference leader Farooq Abdullah, and PDP leader Mehbooba Mufti.

The Trinamool Congress chief said that there is a need to present a credible alternative to the people of India.

“The BJP wants to make it impossible for non-BJP parties to exercise their constitutional rights and freedoms. It wants to dilute the power of state governments and downgrade them to mere municipalities. It wants to establish a one-party authoritarian rule in India. I strongly believe that the time has come for a united and effective struggle against BJP’s attacks on democracy and the Constitution,” she said.

“Therefore, I strongly believe that the time has come for a united and effective struggle against BJP’s attacks on democracy and the Constitution. As the chairperson of the All India Trinamool Congress, I shall work wholeheartedly with you and other like-minded political parties in this battle. We can win this battle only with unity of hearts and minds and by presenting a credible alternative to the people of India,” she added.

Mamata Banerjee alleged that the BJP government at the Centre has snatched away all powers of the democratically elected government of Delhi and vested them in the hands of centre-nominated Lt Governor through the National Capital Territory of Delhi (Amendment) Act.

The Trinamool Congress leader said she was writing the letter to several leaders of non-BJP parties to convey her serious concerns over a series of “assaults by the BJP and its government at the Centre on democracy and constitutional federalism in India”.

“After the conclusion of the ongoing assembly elections, I suggest that we deliberate on these issues and chart a plan of action,” she said.

Mamata Banerjee said the passage of the National Capital Territory of Delhi (Amendment) Bill by Parliament was “an extremely grave development”.

“The Lt Governor has been made the undeclared viceroy of Delhi, acting as a proxy for Home Minister and the Prime Minister,” she said.

Mamata Banerjee said that AAP under the leadership of Kejriwal defeated BJP in two consecutive assembly polls. She alleged that BJP was unwilling to accept the people’s mandate and has made the Chief Minister “subservient to the Lt Governor”.

She said the Act was “a direct attack on the federal structure of Indian Republic”, ” disempowers the people of national capital” and was in violation of Supreme Court verdict.

The TMC leader alleged that in state after state governed by non-BJP parties, the Centre “has been creating problems for the duly elected governments by misusing the office of the Governor”.

“In many states, including in West Bengal, Governors have been functioning like BJP’s office bearers, and not as neutral constitutional authorities,” the letter said.

She said the BJP has amassed “unlimited resources from questionable sources, which it is using to topple duly elected non-BJP governments and to engineer defections in non-BJP parties”.

The TMC leader also said that the Centre-State relations and also relations between the ruling party at the Centre and Opposition parties, “have never been as bad in the history of independent India as they are now and the blame for this rests squarely with the Prime Minister’s authoritarian conduct”.

She said the Modi government’s policy of “reckless and wholesale privatisation of the nation’s assets is also an attack on democracy because these assets belong to the people of India”.

She also accused the Centre of “brazenly and vindictively misusing the CBI, ED and other institutions against leaders and functionaries of non-BJP parties.

Mamata Banerjee said both in West Bengal and Tamil Nadu, where assembly polls are being held, “Modi government has unleashed ED to conduct raids” on functionaries of TMC and DMK.

She also accused the Centre of “deliberately withholding the transfer of funds to state governments, especially those ruled by non-BJP parties”. She alleged the BJP-led government has “disbanded National Development Council, Inter-State Council and Planning Commission and said the Niti Aayog was a “toothless think tank”.

Farmers To Take Out March To Parliament In May

The Samyukta Kisan Morcha (SKM), the umbrella body of protesting farmer unions against central farm laws, has announced a ‘Parliament March’ in the first fortnight of May.

“SKM has announced a Parliament March in the first fortnight of May. Other than farmers and labourers, here women, Dalit-Adivasi-Bahujans, unemployed youth and every section of society will be part of this march. This program will be completely peaceful,” read a release by the SKM on Wednesday.
The farmers’ body said people will come in their vehicles from their villages to the borders of Delhi.

“After this, a Paidal March will be done from the borders of Delhi. The exact date will be announced in the coming days,” read the release.

The SKM further said that “FCI Bachao Divas” will be marked by gherao of offices of FCI across the country on April 5.

It also announced to block the KMP expressway for 24 hours on April 10 and Savindan Bachao Divas on April 14 on the birth anniversary of Dr Bhim Rao Ambedkar.

The SKM had earlier given a call for Bharat bandh on March 26.

Farmers have been continuing their protest against the three newly enacted farm laws — Farmers’ Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Act, 2020; the Farmers Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Act 2020 and the Essential Commodities (Amendment) Act, 2020 at different borders in the national capital. (ANI)

India’s Active Covid-19 Cases Surpass 5.5Lakh-Mark

As India recorded 53,480 fresh COVID-19 cases in the last 24-hours, the total active cases in the country crossed the 5.5 lakh mark.

The union health ministry on Wednesday informed that eight states accounted for 84.73 per cent of the COVID-19 cases registered in the country in the last 24 hours. Maharashtra continued to report the highest number of daily cases with 39,544.
India witnessed 354 deaths due to COVID-19 in the last 24 hours taking the death toll to 1,62,468. Six states accounted for 82.20 per cent of the new 354 deaths. With 227, Maharashtra saw the maximum casualties.

Furthermore, 41,280 recovered from the disease taking the nationwide recovery tally to 1,14,34,301. There are 5,52,566 active cases in the nation as of now.

According to the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), 10,22,915 samples were tested on Tuesday. A total of 24,36,72,940 samples have been tested so far.

Maharashtra reported 39,544 new COVID-19 cases, 23,600 discharges and 227 deaths in the last 24 hours, according to the state health department.

5,394 COVID-19 cases were recorded in Mumbai, taking the cumulative count to 4,14,714. At present, there are 51,411 active cases in Mumbai.

According to the Delhi health department, the national capital reported 1,819 new coronavirus cases, 399 recoveries and 11 deaths. There are 8,838 active cases in Delhi.

Karanataka reported 4,225 new COVID-19 cases including 2,928 cases from Bengaluru Urban, 1492 discharges and 26 deaths.

Kerala reported 2653 COVID-19 cases today. The number of active cases now at 25,249, while, so far 10,94,404 patients have recovered.

Gujarat reported 2360 new COVID-19 cases, 2004 discharges and 9 deaths in the last 24 hours.

As many as 2,579 new COVID-19 cases, 1,527 recoveries and 19 deaths were recorded in Tamil Nadu today.

Active cases in Madhya Pradesh reached 17,096 after the state witnessed a spike of 2,332 cases.

Uttarakhand reported 293 new COVID-19 cases, taking the total number of cases to 1,00,411.

Andhra Pradesh reported 1184 new cases of COVID-19 and 4 deaths in the last 24 hours.

A total of 6,43,58,765 vaccine doses have been given, as per the provisional report till 7 pm today, the 75th day of nationwide COVID-19 vaccination.

As many as 11,07,413 beneficiaries were vaccinated for 1st dose and 1,96,999 beneficiaries received 2nd dose of the vaccine as per the provisional report.

The vaccination drive in the country for those above 45 years will begin from April 1.

The Centre has urged the states and the union territories (UTs) to maintain vaccine wastage at less than one per cent. (ANI)

Guru Granth Sahib Stanza In UN Video On Gender Parity

By Reena Bhardwaj

On the 4th Anniversary of the United Nations Faith for Rights declaration, the UN Office of the High commissioner on Human Rights has issued a short video on gender equality which contains a stanza from Guru Granth Sahib read by renowned scholar and human rights activist Dr Iqtidar Cheema.

The video was launched at a United Nations conference on March 30, 2021. The conference heard from Michelle Bachelet, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights and various UN special rapporteurs and civil society organisations.

Speaking at the conference, Cheema said that Guru Granth sahib carries a universal message. He said that the condition of women at the time of Guru Nanak was very deplorable as under the Brahmanical caste system, women were given a low status in life. But Guru Nanak strongly voiced for equal status of women, he added.

“Honoured to contribute to @UNshort video with readings from #Interfaith core texts,” Cheema wrote in a tweet while sharing the video on the micro-blogging site.

According to an official statement, he said that he was honoured to get three stanzas of Guru Granth Sahib included in the UN faith for rights declaration and also to read the stanza about women rights in the UN official video. (ANI)

Need To Keep Vaccine Wastage Below 1%: Health Secy

Union Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushan has urged the states and the union territories (UTs) to maintain vaccine wastage at less than one per cent.

His remarks came a day before the vaccination drive in the country is set to be extended for people above 45 years from April 1.
Bhushan held a high-level meeting through video conference with Health Secretaries, State Mission Directors of National Health Mission (NHM) and State Immunization officers of all states and UTs to review the status, pace and issues regarding COVID vaccination across the country as well as the preparations from April 1 when vaccination would be extended to all persons above the age of 45.

During the review meeting, the Health Secretary urged the officials to ensure timely utilisation of available stocks of the COVID-19 vaccine.

He asked officials “to maintain the vaccine wastage at less than one per cent and regularly review vaccine wastage across all levels”. Currently, the wastage percentage of the COVID-19 vaccine in the country is six per cent.

Bhushan also said that there should not be sedimentation of vaccine stocks at any level of storage.

A total of 6.24 crore vaccine doses have been given across the country as on 7 pm on Tuesday, which marked the 74th day of vaccination.

India reported 53,480 new COVID-19 cases and 354 related deaths in the last 24 hours, according to Union Health Ministry.

With these additional cases, the total number of infections in the country has reached 1,21,49,335.

Eight states accounted for 84.73 per cent of the 53,480 COVID-19 cases registered in the country in the last 24 hours. (ANI)

Free Bus Travel For Women In Punjab From April 1

The Punjab Cabinet on Wednesday passed a scheme that will allow women to travel for free in all government-run buses within the state.

As per a statement, Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh had announced the free travel scheme in the Vidhan Sabha on March 5. It will benefit over 1.31 crore women/girls across the state.
Women will now be able to avail free bus travel in government-owned buses, including Punjab Roadways Transport Corporation (PRTC), Punjab Roadways Buses (PUNBUS) and City Bus Services operated by local bodies.

However, the scheme is not applicable to government-owned AC buses, Volvo buses and HVAC buses.

Documents like Aadhaar Card, Voter Card or any other proof of residence in Punjab would be required to avail the facility.

Additionally, all women who are family members of the state government employees and residing in Chandigarh, or are themselves employees of the state government but live in Chandigarh, can avail the benefit, irrespective of age and income criteria.

“This scheme is expected to not only reduce female drop-out in schools because of the high cost of daily transport but also facilitate working women, who have to travel considerable distances to their workplace. It will ensure access to safe, cheap and reliable travel for women to engage in any economic activity,” the statement said.

Earlier in 2019, the Arvind Kejriwal government in Delhi had announced a similar scheme for women on DTC buses as well as its cluster buses on the occasion. (ANI)

Deepika Reveals Her Favourite Song

Bollywood actor Deepika Padukone on Wednesday posted a quirky video for fans, in which she talks about her favourite song and her playlist, which she said she is very possessive.

In a recent video clip on Instagram, Bollywood’s ‘queen of hearts’ disclosed her love for Justin Bieber’s chartbuster hit song ‘Peaches’.
In the witty video, Padukone can be seen getting ready in her vanity van as she says “I am very possessive about my playlist”. When asked to reveal her favourite song, she replied, “Can I play it for you?” and starts playing Justin Bieber’s ‘Peaches’ from his latest album ‘Justice’.

“This is my favourite song!” she added while grooving to the track.

Alongside the video that accumulated more than 3 lakh views within an hour of being posted, she wrote, “What are you listening to…!”

Around the same time, Bollywood actor Alia Bhatt also shared the track ‘Peaches’ on her Instagram story along with a peach emoji.

Alongside the video that accumulated more than 3 lakh views within an hour of being posted, she wrote, “What are you listening to…!”

Around the same time, Bollywood actor Alia Bhatt also shared the track ‘Peaches’ on her Instagram story along with a peach emoji.

Bieber’s ‘Peaches’ from his 2021 release, ‘Justice’ currently sits atop several charts on both Spotify and Apple Music.

Billboard also noted that Justin has debuted at No. 1 on Hot 100 With ‘Peaches,’ becoming the first solo male to open atop Hot 100 and Billboard 200 in the same week.

Meanwhile, on the work front, Deepika has an impressive line-up of projects in the pipeline including ’83’, ‘Baiju Bawra’, ‘Fighter’, ‘Sanki’, ‘Pathan’, and Indian adaptation of Nancy Meyers’s 2015 hit Hollywood film ‘The Intern’. (ANI)

Akshay Turns Lensman For Nushrratt

Showcasing the photography skills of her ‘Ram Setu’ co-actor and Bollywood superstar Akshay Kumar, actor Nushrratt Bharuccha on Wednesday treated fans to a stunning monochromatic picture of herself.

‘Dream Girl’ star who is currently shooting for Abhishek Sharma’s ‘Ram Setu’ in Ayodhya, hopped on to Instagram and shared a stunning close-up picture of herself from the sets of her forthcoming movie. She also shared that it was clicked by the ‘Khiladi’ star.
In the picture, the ‘Chhalaang’ actor is seen sporting a no make-up look. Nushrratt looks alluring as she donned dark mascara eyes and some accessories while she effortlessly poses for the lens.

She captioned the post, “Classic… captured by @akshaykumar #RamSetu,” using a smiling face emoticon.

With the post hitting the photo-sharing platform, it garnered more than one lakh likes while scores of the 35-year-old star’s fans chimed into the comments section and left fire and lovestruck emoticons.

Nushrratt keeps on sharing BTS pictures from the sets of her upcoming film ‘Ram Setu’.

Earlier, she has also announced that she has joined the star cast of Karan Johar’s next production venture ‘Ajeeb Daastaans’.The collection of four short films will stream on Netflix on April 16, this year.

Meanwhile, her upcoming film ‘Ram Setu’, which also stars Jacqueline Fernandez, is being helmed by Abhishek Sharma and produced by Aruna Bhatia and Vikram Malhotra.

The film had been announced on Diwali last year. It will be an action-adventure drama that will bring to light a story that is deeply rooted in Indian cultural and historical heritage.

Following the film’s theatrical release, ‘Ram Setu’ will soon be also available for Prime members in India, along with more than 240 countries and territories. Amazon Prime will also be the worldwide exclusive streaming partner for the film. (ANI)

Kangana Wraps Up ‘Tejas’ Rajasthan Shoot

Bollywood actor Kangana Ranaut, who was busy shooting for her upcoming outing ‘Tejas’, recently revealed that she has completed the Rajasthan schedule of the film. Kangana also shared that they shot very close to the Pakistan border.

The actor took to Instagram on Friday to share a behind-the-scenes picture from the shoot of her forthcoming film. An elated Kangana wrote, “Team #Tejas successfully completed Rajasthan schedule today, also shot very close to Pakistan border.”

She also shared that the crew faced many obstacles like extreme weather conditions while shooting close to the Pakistan border.

“It seemed as if our commander in chief @sarveshmewara was driven by otherworldly force. Salutations team #Tejas,” she added.

Kangana will be seen playing an air force pilot in the movie, which has been written and directed by Sarvesh Mewara. The film is being bankrolled by RSVP Movies, the production house that had also produced the blockbuster military drama ‘Uri: The Surgical Strike’.

The Indian Air Force was the first of the country’s defence forces to induct women into combat roles in 2016. The film takes inspiration from this landmark event.

The ‘Panga’ actor who feels honoured to play the character of a fighter pilot had earlier stated, “Very often the sacrifices made by our brave women in uniform go unnoticed by the nation. Tejas’ is a film where I have the honour of playing the role of one such Air Force pilot who puts country before self. I hope we instill a sense of patriotism and pride in the youth of today with this film. I am looking forward to the journey with Sarvesh and Ronnie on this one.”

Apart from ‘Tejas’, Kangana will also be seen in ‘Thalaivi’, a biopic on actor-turned-politician Jayalalithaa. Apart from this she also has ‘Dhaakad’ and ‘Manikarnika Returns: The Legend Of Didda’ in the pipeline.

Kangana has also signed up to play the role of former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi in an upcoming political drama. (ANI)

Pakistan Allows Import Of Cotton, Yarn From India

A special Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) court on Wednesday acquitted three cops accused in the Ishrat Jahan encounter case.

The three police officials – IPS officer GL Singhal, retired police officer Tarun Barot, and Anaju Chaudhari – filed discharge applications on March 20.
With the proceedings against the three officers dropped, the trial has practically come to an end unless the CBI appeals against the same.

The CBI court said the officers acted within the law and limits. According to intelligence input, the officers joined in to arrest Jahan and it cannot be accepted that Jahan was not a terrorist.

The court said that the Crime Branch had discharged their duty at the time of the incident and the three officers have been acquitted in the case.

Jahan, a 19-year-old girl of Mumbai, and three others – Javed Shaikh alias Pranesh Pillai, Amjadali Akbarali Rana and Zeeshan Johar were killed in an encounter with the police on the outskirts of Ahmedabad on June 15, 2004.

It was claimed by the Gujarat Police, that the four had terror links and had conspired to kill the then Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi. (ANI)