thrissur l friday l October 23, 2020 l `7.00 l PAGES 12 l city EDITION Women are symbol of Durga, must be respected: PM Modi Invoking Goddess Durga, the prime minister on Thursday reaffirmed his govt’s commitment to women’s empowerment With an eye on Bengal assembly elections Addressing the people of West Bengal at the start of Durga puja, Modi said the Goddess is also worshipped as a daughter in the state, and emphasised that women must be respected. In his address, ahead of next year’s Assembly elections, Modi also highlighted the Centre’s various schemes for the state and the initiatives taken for women empowerment ■ 78,000 Low footfalls at Puja pandals ■ Due to Covid-19 restrictions, Kolkata’s streets were bereft of the crowd of revellers normally seen on Mahasasthi, which marks the beginning of the five-day Durga puja festivities In many big-ticket pandals, only a handful of organisers and locals were allowed due to restrictions imposed by Calcutta HC polling booths across West Bengal televised the PM’s address CHENNAI ■ MADURAI ■ VIJAYAWADA ■ BENGALURU ■ KOCHI ■ HYDERABAD ■ VISAKHAPATNAM ■ COIMBATORE ■ KOZHIKODE ■ THIRUVANANTHAPURAM ■ BELAGAVI ■ BHUBANESWAR ■ SHIVAMOgGA ■ MANGALURU ■ TIRUPATI ■ TIRUCHY ■ TIRUNELVELI ■ SAMBALPUR ■ HUBBALLI ■ DHARMAPURI ■ KOTTAYAM ■ KANNUR ■ VILLUPURAM ■ KOLLAM ■ WARANGAL ■ TADEPALLIGUDEM ■ NAGAPATTINAM ■ THRISSUR ■ KALABURAGI Whenever available, the doses would be given to all states at a nominal cost. It’s up to the chief ministers to decide how it would be administered, as healthcare is a state subject, says BJP Politics of vaccine Outrage as Bihar BJP plays the free shot for all card to keep mandate nounced India’s Covid access strategy Kindly refer to the state. wise election schedule to know In what was read as the politics of when you will get it, along with a vaccine, the BJP’s manifesto in hoard of false promises.” Bihar promised to provide free RJD’s chief ministerial candiCovid-19 shots to all people in the date Tejashwi Yadav hit out at the state if it retains power in the BJP for playing politics in the forthcoming Assembly elections. time of pandemic by asking the The party perhaps saw people to vote for the as it as a trump card, as $7 billion vaccine. Access to a vacthe universal free vacset aside cine is the fundamental cine in the state was the for India’s right of every citizen of first promise on its poll vaccination India and making it a manifesto released by vote issue is electoral A Bloomberg Finance Minister Nirblackmail, he said. report quoting mala Sitharaman. Leaders from other unnamed sources “As soon as the vacnon-NDA parties also said the Centre has cine is available for prolashed out at the “blaalready set aside duction at a mass scale, tant populism” and acabout $7 billion for every person in Bihar cused the BJP of exploitCovid vaccination will get free vaccination. ing Covid-19 fears for across the country. This is the first promise electoral mileage. Each person needs mentioned in our poll The BJP defended its two injections, manifesto,” she emphaannouncement with with each shot sised, adding: “Bihar is party general secretary costing $2. The a politically sensitive Bhupender Yadav sayestimated cost per state. Here people caning the promise has been person, including not be fobbed off with made as part of its pubinfrastructure and empty promises.” lic policy. The BJP’s IT storage, is $6-7, the Amid a barrage of department head Amit report said criticism, the BJP Malviya said the Centre sought to justify the anwould provide the vacnouncement saying the vaccine cine to all states at a nominal cost. would be made available at a nom- “It will be up to the state governinal cost and it’s up to the state ments to decide the distribution governments to decide on provid- of the vaccines.” ing it to the people free of cost Meanwhile, activist Saket since health is a state subject. Gokhale filed a complaint with In a tweet dripping with sar- the Election Commission, saying casm, Congress leader Rahul Gan- the announcement violated the dhi said: “Government just an- model code of conduct. E X P R E S S N E W S S E R V I C E @T’Puram amit bandre Expr e ss N e ws S e rv i c e Not in sync with govt’s policy of vaccine prioritisation @ New Delhi/Patna S u m i S u kan ya D u t ta @ New Delhi The promise of a free Covid-19 vaccine for every individual in Bihar in the BJP’s poll manifesto is not in line with the Centre’s own stated vaccine policy so far. Top functionaries of the government, including Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan had thus far said once the vaccine is available, it will be prioritised and be given to the most vulnerable groups first. The National Expert Group on Vaccine Administration has already recommended a serosurvey-assisted vaccine policy, which means leaving out those with antibodies. The group has chalked out a plan to make the vaccine available to 30-40 crore people in the first phase, covering healthcare workers, frontline workers, the elderly and those with co-morbidities. Earlier this month, Vardhan had said the government is hoping and planning to receive and utilise 400 to 500 million doses covering approximately 25 crore people by July 2021. Experts meanwhile pointed out that vaccines should not be a poll issue. “I think vaccines should be free for everyone and part of universal health coverage,” said Dr Gagandeep Kang, a senior medical scientist. “For SARS-COV2 vaccines, since supply will be limited, they should be provided to those at highest need of protection using an open transparent allocation strategy .” TN will provide free Covid-19 vaccine to all people, says Chief Minister Palaniswami Pudukkottai: THE BJP kicked off a vaccine-populism of sorts in its manifesto released for the poll-bound Bihar. Hours later, Tamil Nadu and Madhya Pradesh followed suit by promising free universal vaccination drive against the Covid pandemic. “The Tamil Nadu government will bear the entire cost of the vaccination drive,” Chief Minister Edappadi K Palaniswami announced on Thursday, after reviewing the Covid preparedness measures in Pudukkottai. Attempting to extricate the UDF from a Catch 22 situation after Rahul Gandhi’s comments were construed as an endorsement of the state government’s Covid management efforts, Opposition Leader Ramesh Chennithala said on Thursday that Rahul Gandhi need not comment on local issues. There are people in the state who can comment on such matters, Chennithala said in reply to questions over Rahul Gandhi’s remarks, which came at a time when the Opposition has been blaming the LDF Government for its failure to combat the coronavirus pandemic. Later, Chennithala clarified in a press release that he meant to say that Rahul Gandhi, being a senior national leader, comments mostly on national issues. Meanwhile, Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan expressed happiness in the way a national e x p ress rea d KC(M) officially in Left front T’Puram: The LDF on Thursday inducted the Kerala Congress (M) Jose K Mani faction as its 11th constituent in the hope that the move would ensure its continuity in office in the coming Assembly polls. With its latest acquisition, the LDF is hopeful of raking in Christian votes of Central Travancore. P5 Kummanam named accused Pathanamthitta: The Aranmula police have registered a case against BJP leader Kummanam Rajasekharan for allegedly cheating a person of D28.75 lakh. Kummanam has been named the fifth accused in the case. A special team has been set up for detailed investigation into the incident. P4. US proposes to halt issuing of B-1 visas for H-1B jobs Expr e ss N e ws S e rv i c e @ New Delhi The US State Department on Thursday proposed to halt the issuing of temporary business visas (B-1) for H-1B specialty occupation. If implemented, the proposed plan could affect thousands of Indian IT workers and their employers. The temporary B-1 visa allowed IT companies to send professionals to the US for a short stay to complete on-site work. “The proposal, if finalised, will eliminate any misconception that the B-1 in lieu of H policy provides an alternative avenue for foreign professionals to enter the US for skilled labour,” the State Department said in a statement. VISA It noted that issuing of temporary business visas “potentially India encourages the workers and restores all their employers, to circumvent existing the restrictions and requirevisas ments relating to the H non-imThe Centre has migrant classification, estabdecided to lished by the US Congress to restore all the protect American workers.” “The resulting transparency existing Indian visas would reduce the impact on the suspended US workforce of aliens performdue to the ing activities in a specialty ocpandemic. The cupation without the procedurhome ministry al protections attendant to the announced it’s H-1B classification,” the State giving Department added. permission to Last December, California atall Overseas torney general announced a setCitizen of India tlement with Infosys in a lawand Person of suit that involved allegations of Indian Origin 500 of its employees working in card holders the US on B-1 visa rather than and all other the H1-B visa. foreign The proposal comes just two nationals to weeks ahead of the presidential visit India. election in the US. Rahul need not comment on local issues: Chennithala Sprinklr: Panel finds irregularities Rescue work Fire and Rescue Services personnel carry a person who was trapped under the debris after a decade-old two-storey building collapsed at Kannanchery in Kozhikode on Thursday night. One person died while three other persons were injured in the accident | Manu R Mavelil | P4 Boy who lost his pet wild boar to get rabbits Nine-year-old Unni, a tribal boy from Wayanad, was inconsolable after forest staff took away his pet wild boar, Chiku, over complaints. Forest team has now promised Unni to give rabbit kittens in lieu of his pet. P4 T’Puram: In a setback to the LDF government, the findings by the panel probing the Sprinklr deal has found that procedural formalities were not followed in the agreement. It said the Law secretary’s opinion was not sought on the matter. P4 Rahul’s remarks put Cong state unit in spot During his three-day tour to his constituency — Wayanad — earlier this week, Rahul Gandhi told mediapersons that the state and central governments were playing a “blame game”. He also appreciated the state’s job so far. leader like Rahul Gandhi had commented on the state government’s activities. During his three-day tour to his constituency — Wayanad — earlier this week, Rahul Gandhi told reporters that the state and central governments are on a “blame game”. On Thursday, Chennithala, said, “My opinion is that, a leader like Rahul Gandhi should not comment on local issues. We are here to comment on such issues. We all have the same opinion in this matter. What he said was that there should not be a blame game and that included ● More on P4 everything.” A leader like Rahul Gandhi shouldn’t comment on local issues. We’re here to comment on such issues Ramesh Chennithala Rahul Gandhi knows how things are done to combat the pandemic at a pan-India level. Chennnithala may not agree to it and it’s an issue between them. Pinarayi Vijayan, CM CM clean chit to MCH, patients’ kin lodge plaint E X P R E S S N E W S S E R V I C E @ T’Puram/Kochi CHIEF Minister Pinarayi Vijayan on Thursday gave clean chit to the Ernakulam Government Medical College Hospital (MCH), which has been facing a barrage of criticism in recent days over “gross negligence” that allegedly led to the death of at least three Covid-19 patients. “The Ernakulam MCH has done a stupendous effort in managing Covid-19. But unfortunately, a baseless report Police start came against it. The hospital au- probe thorities as well as those who are The police on technically sound in these mat- Thursday ters have contested this. Society launched a now knows that the allegation detailed inquiry raised against the MCH is un- into the alleged founded,” the chief minister incidents of said in his evening news medical briefing. negligence at Pinarayi said some quarters the MCH after were spreading the erroneous relatives of three information against the MCH. Covid patients, “Unfortunately, some health who died while workers, even those in service, undergoing are spreading wrong informa- treatment, tion. The government considers lodged it seriously he said. ,” complaints. Experts, however, said the allegations against the MCH are serious and called for a detailed probe to unearth the truth. “Only a detailed and impartial investigation can bring out the truth,” said Dr M I Junaid Rahman, former president of the Kerala Government Medi● More on P4 cal Officers Association. EDIT: THE ROT IN KERALA’S GOVT MEDICAL COLLEGE HOSPITALS | P6 Kerala case diary 7,482 Positive cases on Thursday 7,593 Recoveries 6,448 56,093 Local contact cases 3,69,323 Total cases Samples tested 93,291 Active cases 1,255 Death toll RAISING WOMEN’S AGE FOR MARRIAGE IUML women’s wing worried, urges Modi to drop plan A m i ya M e e t h a l @ Kozhikode THE Central government’s plan to raise the legal age for marriage of women from 18 to 21 has not gone down well with the Indian Union Muslim League’s women’s wing which said such a decision would cause social issues leading to “live-in relationship” and “illegitimate children”. Peeved at the move, the Indian Union Women League (IUWL) has sent a petition to Prime Minister Naren- dra Modi, seeking to scrap it. The Central government had set up a 10-member task force headed by Jaya Jaitly to look into raising the age for marriage of women. “The IUWL has sent a petition to the prime minister demanding that such a move should be dropped,” said the body’s general secretary P K Noorbeena Rasheed, a former state women’s commission member. Noorbeena said many developing countries had brought down the women’s marriage age from 21 to 18 considering their biological and social needs. “We’ve the Prohibition of Child Marriage Act 2006 with strong penal provisions including rigorous imprisonment. What is the point in raising the marriage age of women instead of implementing the existing law more effectively?,” she asked. “I’ve heard that the Centre found that around 30 per cent of women are getting married before they turn 18. Does raising the age bar in any way prevent such child marriages?” asked Noorbeena, who added that the IUWL did not discuss the issue with the Muslim League. The party sources confirmed that the women’s wing’s stance was independent. Kerala reported 266 complaints of child marriage between January 2019 and July 2020. I’ve heard that the Centre found that around 30 per cent of women are getting married before they turn 18. Does raising the age bar in any way prevent such child marriages P K Noorbeena Rasheed, general secretary, IUWL
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