BHUBANESWAR WEDNESDAY FEBRUARY 24, 2021 `7.00 PAGES 14 LATE CITY EDITION FACEBOOK KISSES AND MAKES UP WITH AUSTRALIAN GOVT The social media giant said talks were held with the Australian government to amend the proposed media bargaining laws LAST-MINUTE FACE-SAVING COMPROMISE According to reports, the face-saving compromise will see Facebook as well as internet search giant Google plunge tens of millions of dollars into the struggling local news sector. In return, the US digital firms will not be subjected to mandatory payments that could cost them vastly more and create what they see as an alarming global precedent ■ $28 bn NEW LAW LIKELY TO BE PASSED THIS WEEK ■ ■ Facebook had blocked news feed in Australia last week following dispute on paying news organisations for sharing content Inadvertently, some government pages and announcements on Covid-19 were blocked too, drawing backlash Australian Parliament is expected to pass the law this week FACEBOOK’S REVENUE IN THE OCTOBER-DECEMBER 2020 QUARTER 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 Can’t afford to reduce VAT on fuel: FM Minister Niranjan Pujari says welfare measures will take a hit if tax reduced; Oppn demands urgent measures to curb price rise EXPRESS NEWS SERVICE @ Bhubaneswar FINANCE Minister Niranjan Pujari on Tuesday expressed reluctance to slash VAT on petrol and diesel even as members cutting across party lines expressed concern over the unprecedented rise in fuel prices and demanded immediate steps to bring it back to the normal range. The issue cropped up for discussion in the Assembly through an adjournment motion notice given by the Opposition Congress and BJP members. Earlier, three Congress MLAs - Tara Prasad Bahinipati, Suresh Kumar Routray and Adhiraj Panigrahi - came to the Assembly from the Congress Bhavan riding bicycles to register their protest on skyrocketing fuel prices. Making a statement in response to the demand by the BJP and Congress to reduce VAT on petrol and diesel, the Finance Minister expressed his reluctance by stating that the State government collects less revenue from petrol and diesel compared to the Centre. Besides, revenue collected from petrol and diesel by the State governm e n t i s s p e n t o n we l f a re measures, he said, making it clear that the government is not ready to accede to their demands. The price of petrol in Bhubaneswar on February 23 was `91.66 per litre. Of this, the basic price fixed by the petroleum companies is `33.68 per litre. Excise duty additional excise duty infra, , structure cess and agriculture infrastructure development cess is `1.40, `11, `18 and `2.50 per litre re s p e c t ive ly, t h e M i n i s t e r informed. This way, the Centre collects `32.9 from one litre of petrol while the State government collects `21.4 per litre of petrol by imposing 40 per cent VAT, he said and added that in a similar way, Centre collects `31.80 from a litre of diesel while the State government gets `18.9 by imposing 28 per cent VAT. Diesel price at Bhubaneswar on Tuesday was `88.63 per litre. The basic price, excise duty, additional excise duty, infrastructure cess and agriculture infrastructure development cess was `1.80, `8, `18 and `4 per litre respectively . Stating that the fuel price hike has affected common people severely, Bahinipati demanded that both the Centre and State should slash taxes imposed on petrol and diesel. Deputy Leader of the Opposition Bishnu Charan Sethi, however, demanded that the Odisha government should reduce VAT on petrol and diesel as has been done by some other states to reduce prices in the interest of common people. PRICE BREAKUP Price of petrol in Bhubaneswar on February 23, `91.66 per litre Of this, basic price fixed by the petroleum companies is `33.68 per litre Centre collects `32.9 from one litre of petrol while the State takes `21.4 by imposing 40 % VAT Diesel price at Bhubaneswar on Tuesday was `88.63 per litre Centre collects `31.80 from diesel while the State gets `18.9 by imposing 28 % VAT Hike temporary, will ease soon: Dharmendra EXPRESS NEWS SERVICE @ Bhubaneswar WITH fuel price touching new highs and mounting pressure from opposition parties for urgent measures to stem the hike, Union Minister for Petroleum and Natural Gas Dharmendra Pradhan on Tuesday said that the price rise is temporary . Attributing the price rise to factors beyond the control of Central government, Pradhan said there was a demand destruction dur- ing the Covid-19 pandemic leading to restricted production by oil producing countries. Though the oil producing countries had assured to restore normal supply by January-February, they have not done this so far. The situation in Iran has also made the matter worse. The United States is yet to step up oil production. All these factors have contributed to the hike in fuel prices. “India recently urg ed the OPEC (Organisation of the Petroleum Exporting Countries) and OPEC plus countries to not Efforts are being made to bring petrol and diesel under GST. If a consensus emerges and petroleum products are brought under the GST regime, the consumers will be benefited Dharmendra Pradhan, Union Minister go for a production cut as it is impacting the fuel price in the consumer-driven country,” he said. While there is a surge in the price of crude oil in the international market, other currencies of the world have weakened in comparison to the dollar, which also has an impact on the Indian currency All this is temporary . and the situation will normalise soon, Pradhan told the media. “The price hike of petrol and diesel is a temporary phenomenon and we are hopeful that the prices will recede gradually he ,” said. Responding to a query, the Union Minister said efforts are being made to bring petrol and diesel under GST. However, everything depends on the GST Council. If a consensus emerges and petroleum products are brought under the GST regime, the consumers will be benefited, he said. Delhi court grants bail to activist Disha Ravi, says proof sketchy K A N U S A R D A @ New Delhi A Delhi court on Tuesday granted bail to 22-year-old climate change activist Disha Ravi, who was arrested in connection with the toolkit case, citing scanty and sketchy investigation. Additional Sessions Judge Dhar mendra Rana said, “Citizens are conscience keepers of government in any democratic nation. They cannot be put behind bars simply because they choose to disagree with the state policies. The offence of sedition cannot be invoked to minister to the wounded vanity of the governments.” The 18-page bail order said, “Even our founding fathers accorded due respect to divergence of opinion by recognising the freedom of speech and expression as an inviolable fundamental right.” Shortly after bail was granted, Disha Ravi (C) arrives at Patiala House Court, in Delhi on Tuesday | SHEKHAR YADAV another judge, Pankaj Sharma, the Chief Metropolitan Magistrate of the Patiala House Court, disposed of a Delhi Police application seeking Disha’s extended custody. The police had sought four more days of custody . While citing a couplet from Rig Veda, which says ‘let noble thoughts come to me from all directions,’ the judge said, “Difference of opinion, disagreement, divergence, dissent, or for that matter even disapprobation, are recognised legitimate tools to infuse objectivity in state policies. An aware and assertive citizenry , in contradistinction with an indifferent or docile citizenry, is indisputably a sign of a healthy and vibrant democracy .” Expressing concern over the sketchy probe, th court said, “Considering the scanty and sketchy evidence available on record, I do not find any palpable reasons to breach the general rule of ‘Bail’ against a 22-year-old young lady with absolutely blem, ish-free criminal antecedents and having firm roots in the society and send her to jail.” , He also said the police are in the process of collecting more evidence and so they cannot be allowed to further restrict the liberty of a citizen on the basis of propitious anticipations. “The resistance to bail plea seems to be more ornamental in nature,” said the judge. CONTINUED ON: P9 WHEN LORD TAKES A FORM An artist from Puri colouring idols of Lord Jagannath at a stall in the ongoing Khadi Bazar in Bhubaneswar on Monday | BISWANATH SWAIN Surge in cases not due to Blow to Oli as Nepal SC revives House new Covid variants: Govt EXPRESS NEWS SERVICE S U M I S U K A N YA D U T TA @ New Delhi THE Centre on Tuesday clarified that the recent spurt in Covid-19 cases in some states is not due to the mutated versions of the coronavirus. “Based on information available to us, yes these variants are there but there’s no reason to believe that these are responsible for the upsurge of the outbreak in some districts of Maharashtra and Kerala,” said V K Paul, member (health), Niti Aayog. Paul, who also heads the national Covid-19 task force, added two variants of SARS CoV 2 — N440K and E484K — have been detected in Maharashtra, Kerala and Telangana. Kerala has 38% of the total active cases of the country while Maharashtra has 37%. The other states showing an upward trend in daily Covid-19 cases are Punjab, Chhattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh. So far, 200 cases of the UK variant, six cases of the South African variant and one case of Brazilian variant of SARS CoV 2 have been found out of the 3,500-genome sequencing carried out in India since December. At least five states in India have reported a gradual rise in active Covid cases over the past several days. The active coronavirus cases in the country have crawled up to over 1.5 lakh after touching a low of 1.3 lakh cases earlier this month. IN a major setback for Nepal Prime Minister K P Sharma Oli, the country’s Supreme Court has reinstated Parliament, which was dissolved in December last year. In a landmark ruling on Tuesday A five-member Constitutional bench led by Chief Justice Cholendra Shumsher annulled the Oli government’s ‘unconstitutional’ decision to dissolve the 275-member lower house of Parliament. The court also ordered the government to summon the House session within the next 13 days. Nepal plunged into a political crisis on December 20 after President Bidya Dev Bhandari dissolved the House and announced fresh elections on April 30 and May 10 at the recommendation of PM Oli, amidst a tussle for power within the ruling Nepal Communist Party . In his letter recommending House dissolution, Oli said he controlled 64% majority in the House and the country needed a fresh mandate of the people to ensure stability . Oli’s move to dissolve the House sparked protests from a large section of the NCP led by his rival Pushpa Kamal Dahal ‘Prachanda’, also a co-chair of the ruling party . As many as 13 writ petitions including the one by the ruling party’s Chief Whip Dev Prasad Gurung were filed in the apex court seeking the restoration of the lower house parliament. EXPRESS READ Former Phulbani MLA held for loot Berhampur: Phulbani Town police on Tuesday arrested former MLA Debendra Kanhar and India Reserve Battalion (IRB) constable Srinivas Kanhar on charges of dacoity and loot. Sub-divisional police officer (SDPO), Phulbani M N Murmu said the duo was arrested on basis of the complaint lodged by one Kamakhya Behera of Parjang in Dhenkanal district | P4 EC meet today to decide poll dates New Delhi: The Election Commission will hold a meeting on Wednesday to finalise the election schedule for five states — Assam, West Bengal, Tamil Nadu, Puducherry and Kerala. Sources said polls in West Bengal will be held in six to eight phases while Assam is likely to vote in two to three phases. The results of all the states are likely to be declared on the same day Cong swept out by BJP in Guj local body polls S U D H I R S U R YA W A N S H I A listless Congress found itself whipped by the electorate in Gujarat, as results of the local body polls came in on Tuesday While there was no surprise in the BJP . sweeping the municipal corporation elections, the Congress was forced to cede a part of its opposition space to Arvind Kejriwal’s Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) and to a lesser extent to Asaduddin Owasi’s Majlis-e-Ittehad-ulMuslimeen. Of the six municipal corporations that went to polls, the Congress drew a blank in Surat and trailed way behind the BJP in the other five. In contrast, the AAP won 27 seats in Surat while the BJP got 93 of the 120 that were up for grabs. In the Ahmadabad Municipal Corporation, out of 192 seats, the BJP was way ahead of the Cong ress, while MIM opened account with 7 seats. In the Jamnagar Municipal Corporation, the BJP won 50 while Congress got 11 and the BSP 3. BJP workers celebrate after winning In Bhavnagar, Va- civic body elections in Ahmedabad | PTI dodara and Rajkot municipal corporations, the Congress could not even reach double figures, winning 8, 7 and 4 respectively as , against the BJP’s 44, 69 and 68. The Congress has been out of power in the Gujarat for 25 years. In the 2017 state polls under Rahul Gandhi’s leadership, it gave the BJP a scare, scoring 87 as against the BJP’s 96 in a 182-member Assembly Subsequent de. fections weakened the party and reduced it to 61. The Gujarat blow comes a day after the Congress lost power in Puducherry According to an analyst, consecu. tive Congress losses in all major elections has forced people to look for an alternative. “In 2017, people of Gujarat wanted to vote out BJP but the Congress failed to , capitalise on it. Continuingnfighting in its Gujarat unit, too, is a factor in the poor performance,” he added. Prime Minister Narendra Modi hailed the verdict. “Thank you Gujarat! Results... clearly show the unwavering faith people have towards politics of development and good governance,” he tweeted. | P9 PM PITCHES FOR PRIVATE SECTOR ROLE IN HEALTHCARE Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday pushed for involvement of the private sector in healthcare saying India is now preparing to be self-reliant with focus on the public-private-partnership (PPP) model | P9 GRAND AND GRANDEUR The gigantic Motera stadium is all set to host its first international match after renovation when India face England in 3rd Test from Wednesday No floodlights but LED lights fitted on the roof will illuminate the stadium 63 acres SIX 1,10,000 CAPACITY MAKES IT THE LARGEST CRICKET STADIUM IN THE WORLD FOUR The total area NUMBER Dressing in which the OF rooms Sardar Patel INDOOR with Stadium has PRACTICE modern been built PITCHES facilities 3 OUTDOOR PRACTICE FIELDS Third Test live on Hotstar/Star Sports: 2.30pm | P13
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