Govt rejigs Cabinet committees; Sarbananda Sonowal part of panel on political affairs

Union ministers Smriti Irani, Bhupender Yadav and Sarbananda Sonowal made part of all-important Cabinet Committee on Political Affairs headed by PM Narendra Modi

New Delhi: The government has reconstituted the powerful cabinet committees under which Union ministers Smriti Irani, Bhupender Yadav and Sarbananda Sonowal have been made part of the all-important Cabinet Committee on Political Affairs headed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Union ministers Virendra Kumar, Kiren Rijiju and Anurag Singh Thakur have been included in the rejigged Cabinet Committee on Parliamentary Affairs headed by Defence Minister Rajnath Singh, according to a notification issued by the Cabinet Secretariate last night.

However, there has been no change in the composition of the country’s highest decision making body on security affairs — the Cabinet Committee on Security — and the Appointments Committee of the Cabinet, which takes call on all important appointments in the government in the rank of Joint Secretary and above.

The members of the Cabinet Committee on Security are the Prime Minister, the Defence Minister, Home Minister Amit Shah, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman and External Affairs Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar.

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The two-member Appointments Committee of the Cabinet comprises the Prime Minister and the Home Minister.

The new members of the Cabinet Committee on Investment and Growth headed by the PM are Union Minister Narayan Rane, Jyotiraditya M. Scindia and Ashwini Vaishnaw.

The Cabinet Committee on Employment and Skill Development, headed by the PM, has new members in Union ministers Ashwini Vaishnaw, Bhupender Yadav, Ramchandra Prasad Singh and G. Kishan Reddy.

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PM Modi to hold meeting on COVID situation

New Delhi, Apr 19  Prime Minister Narendra Modi will chair an important meeting on the COVID-19 situation at 11:30 am on Monday, officials said.

The meeting comes amid a massive surge in coronavirus cases across the country, with several chief ministers complaining of a shortage of essentials like oxygen supply and medicines like Remdesivir, and seeking the Centre's intervention.

Modi has been holding regular meetings to deal with the emerging pandemic situation.

India's total tally of COVID-19 cases crossed the 1.50-crore mark with a record single-day rise of 2,73,810, while the active cases surpassed the 19-lakh mark, according to the latest Union Health Ministry data.

Declare a national health emergency: Sibal to PM

New Delhi, Apr 18  Amid a steep rise in coronavirus cases, senior Congress leader Kapil Sibal on Sunday urged Prime Minister Narendra Modi to declare a national health emergency.

The former Union minister also called on the Election Commission to declare a moratorium on election rallies in view of the sharp rise in COVID-19 cases.

"COVID-19 infections faster than recoveries. Modi ji: Declare a National Health Emergency. Election Commission: Declare a moratorium on election rallies. Courts: Protect people's lives," Sibal tweeted.

A record single-day rise of 2,61,500 coronavirus infections has taken India's total tally of COVID-19 cases to 1,47,88,109, while active cases have surpassed the 18-lakh mark, according to Union Health Ministry data updated on Sunday.

The country has recorded over 2 lakh cases consecutively for the last four days.

Input: PTI

Anupam Kher receives heartwarming letter from PM Narendra Modi on his book

Actor Anupam Kher has said he is hon-oured and humbled to receive a letter from Prime Minister Narendra Modi, on his latest book titled Your Best Day Is Today.

“Honourable Prime Minister @narendramodi ji ! Thank you for this beautiful, generous and full of warmth letter to me about my book #YourBestDayIsToday. It really touched my heart! I feel honoured and humbled that you actually took the time out to go through my book. You are an amazingly inspirational leader! With you as our PM I am confident that India will be the #JagatGuru of the world very soon! May you continue to lead us for years. My mother, your biggest admirer sends her blessings! Thank you once again sir! Your letter is my treasure!” Anupam Kher wrote in an Instagram post.

The actor also shared the letter signed by the Prime Minister and addressed to him. The letter has been sent by the Prime Minister after he read Kher’s book.

The letter reads: “Shri Anupam Kher Ji, I was delighted to receive your book Your Best Day Is Today. It is a timely book given the recent developments over the past year.”

“Right at the beginning of the book, I read that the title of the book is a phrase that your mother used to tell you every day as a child. The wisdom of your mother, Smt Dulari Ji, in filling such positivity and spirit of purpose in her child each day has clearly paid off in your achievements.”

“Individuals and families with such fortitude make up our nation. This is why we have been able to put up a united and resolute fight against Covid-19 and the disruption induced by it.”

“Your book also reminds me of something I wrote in Exam Warriors. A mantra I gave to my young friends was that the ‘present’ is God’s greatest present.”

“It is interesting that you have analysed the ‘new normal’ that we could see in the post-Covid world from many angles. Whatever the structure of this ‘new normal’, I am positive that the role of India and Indians in the future of our planet will only become more and more crucial. This is where the call for Aatmanirbhar Bharat originates from.”

“Your book is a message to humanity to be ever prepared for any challenge that life throws at us, to adopt a positive outlook and stay firmly rooted in the present,” the letter added.

Kher published his first book The Best Thing About You Is You! in 2011, and his biographical work, Lessons Life Taught Me Unknowingly, in 2019. He wrote Your Best Day Is Today! last year, accounting his experiences during the Covid pandemic.

(Source: IANS)

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Previous govts drafted Budget with eye on vote bank: PM

Gorakhpur (UP), Feb 4 Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Thursday said the previous governments drafted the Union budgets with an eye on their vote banks and made them just a medium of announcements they could not fulfil.

For decades in our country, the meaning of the Budget was restricted to what announcements were made in whose name. The Budget was turned into an account of the vote bank, Modi said.

The prime minister was launching a year-long commemoration of the centenary of Chauri Chaura incident, an outbreak of violence that forced Mahatma Gandhi to call off his non-cooperation movement against the British.

Paying tributes to the 19 people who were sent to the gallows for burning down a police station and killing 23 policemen, Modi said the Chauri Chaura martyrs had not got the place in history that they deserved.

He released a postage stamp to mark the beginning of the centenary year of the incident.

In an address delivered through video conference, Modi hailed India's power of unity and said this will help the country become a world power.

The prime minister listed features in his government's recent Budget that he said will help farmers. But he stopped short of mentioning the continuing protest over the agri-marketing laws enacted in September.

"A lot of initiatives have also been taken to empower farmers. Over 1,000 markets were connected with farmers so that they can sell their crops anywhere. Over Rs 40,000 crore for rural infrastructure will help farmers," he said.

He said the government is also focusing on creating healthcare facilities in rural areas so that people do not have to go to cities for better treatment. .

Modi said even household make their budgets on the basis on their current needs and future responsibilities. But our earlier governments made budgets a medium of announcements that they could not fulfil. The country has now changed that approach.

On the 1922 episode, Modi said, "Whatever happened in Chauri Chaura 100 years ago was seen as a simple incident of arson at a police station.

The fire was not only at the police station but in the hearts of Indians as well," he said.

The prime minister did not refer to Mahatma Gandhi's decision to call off the non-cooperation movement over the violence by his followers.

"Chauri Chaura was a self-motivated struggle of the common people. It is unfortunate that martyrs in this incident were not given a prominent place in the pages of history, he said, appreciating the Uttar Pradesh government's plan to commemorate it.

The prime minister said there were few instances in the history of the independence movement in which as many as 19 freedom fighters were given the capital punishment for one incident.

He said young people should write research papers and bring new facts to light about the incident.

The prime minister said the country's unity broke the barriers of slavery. This strength will make us a world power and this is the base of 'atamanirbharta'.

"We are making vaccines ourselves and supplying them to other countries. The souls of freedom fighters must be feeling proud," he said on the fight against coronavirus.

Modi said the Budget will help meet the coronavirus challenge.

Many veterans were saying the government will have to raise taxes and pass on the burden to the people, he said, adding that this did not happen.

The Budget focused on spending on roads, schools and railway lines. Spending on infrastructure will lead to jobs for the youth, he added.

He said farmers have achieved record production despite the pandemic.

Highlighting an Uttar Pradesh initiative to provide farmers with ownership papers for their land, Modi said the move will help them get easy bank loans.

Ninety-nine descendants of those involved in the incident are being honoured as part of the Chauri Chaura commemoration, which began Thursday with 'prabhat pheris', or morning processions, in all Uttar Pradesh districts.

It will continue till February 4 next year, the centenary of the event.

The Chauri Chaura Shaheed Sthal in Gorakhpur is being spruced up and will be developed on the lines of India Gate, Jallianawala Bagh and Cellular Jail, an official said.

Input. PTI

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Amit Shah to lay foundation stone for Govt Schemes in Assam

Union Home Minister Amit Shah received a grand welcome at the Guwahati Airport in the mid-night hours on Saturday. He was received by CM Sarbananda Sonowal and Assam Cabinet Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma among other dignitaries.

Amit Shah will be distributing a financial grant to 8000 Namghars under Asom Darshan.

Later, he will be attending the foundation stone laying Ceremony of Guwahati’s 2nd Medical College and then he will head to Batadrava for the foundation stone laying ceremony of development and beautification of the Batadrava Than.

Lastly, Amit Shah will lay the foundation stone for 9 law colleges.

Shah will also meet Assam's regional political party, Asom Gana Parishad (AGP), United People's Party Liberal (UPPL), Gana Shakti, and Rabha Joutha Mancha.

Amit Shah is scheduled to meet Assam state BJP core committee members. During his visit to Guwahati, Amit Shah will take stock of the party's poll preparedness ahead of assembly polls in the state.

On Sunday, Amit Shah will visit Kamakhya temple and leave for Manipur and in Imphal where he will lay the foundation stone of various projects. The home minister is also expected to meet civil society groups of Manipur.

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India-Bangladesh Virtual Summit held

India, Bangladesh sign seven agreements

Prime Minister of India Narendra Modi and Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina held a Summit in a virtual format on Friday. Both sides held comprehensive discussions on all aspects of bilateral relations and exchanged views on regional and international issues.

India-Bangladesh partnership

Both Prime Ministers expressed satisfaction over the current state of bilateral relations based on shared bonds of history, culture, language, and other unique commonalities that characterize the partnership. They emphasized that relations between Bangladesh and India are based on fraternal ties and reflective of an all-encompassing partnership based on sovereignty, equality, trust and understanding that transcends a strategic partnership. They paid solemn tribute to the martyrs of the Liberation War of Bangladesh, the Muktijoddhas and the Indian soldiers, for their great sacrifices in 1971. They vowed to uphold and protect the cherished values of democracy and equality in line with the aspirations of the people of the two friendly countries.

The two leaders expressed satisfaction on the progress of various decisions taken during the official visit of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina to Delhi in October 2019. Both sides also recalled the successful holding of the Sixth Meeting of the Joint Consultative Commission held in September 2020.

Cooperation in Health Sector- addressing the global public health challenge

Both sides exchanged views on the situation of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic in their respective countries and expressed satisfaction at the manner in which sustained engagement between the two countries has been maintained during this ongoing crisis. Reiterating the highest priority India attaches to Bangladesh under India’s Neighbourhood First policy, Prime Minister Narendra Modi assured that vaccines would be made available to Bangladesh as and when produced in India. Both leaders also noted the ongoing bilateral collaboration between the private sector in this area.

India also offered collaboration in therapeutics and partnership in vaccine production. Bangladesh appreciated India’s conducting capacity building courses for medical professionals in Bangla language.

Cultural Cooperation - Joint Celebration of Historical Links

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina deeply appreciated the warm gesture of India in organizing various events on the occasion of ongoing ‘Mujib Borsho’. The two Prime Ministers jointly unveiled a commemorative postal stamp issued by the Government of India on the occasion of birth centenary of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman. Prime Minister Narendra Modi thanked the Government of Bangladesh for issuing a stamp in honour of Mahatma Gandhi on the occasion of Gandhiji’s 150th birth anniversary celebrations earlier in September 2020.

An introductory video on the digital exhibition to commemorate the two great leaders of the 20th century, Mahatma Gandhi and Bangabandhu, was also screened on this occasion. Both leaders expressed hope that the exhibition, to be mounted in various cities of Bangladesh and India and in selected cities worldwide, as well as at the United Nations, will inspire values of justice, equality and non-violence, particularly amongst the youth.

Both sides noted that the filming of the biopic on Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, under the direction of Indian film director Shyam Benegal will commence in January 2021.

Noting that the year 2021 will be historic in India Bangladesh bilateral relations as they would be commemorating the fiftieth anniversary of the Liberation War and the establishment of diplomatic relations between India and Bangladesh, it was agreed to jointly organize several activities to commemorate these two epochal events in India, Bangladesh and third countries.

Bangladesh Prime Minister requested the Indian side to consider Bangladesh’s proposal to name the historic road from Mujib Nagar to Nodia on Bangladesh-India border as "Shadhinota Shorok” commemorating the historic significance of the road during Bangladesh’s Liberation War.

Both sides reiterated to continue regular exchanges of groups to promote culture, education, science and technology, youth and sports and mass media.

Border Management and Security Cooperation

Both sides agreed to hold an early meeting of the Joint Boundary Conference to prepare a new set of strip maps along the stretch of Icchamati, Kalindi, Raimongol and the Hariabhanga Rivers from Main Pillar 1 to Land Boundary terminus, with a view to finalizing the delineation of the boundaries as fixed. It was agreed to carry out necessary work to convert the International Boundary along Kuhsiyara river into a fixed boundary.

Bangladesh side reiterated the request for 1.3 km Innocent Passage through river route along River Padma near Rajshahi District. The Indian side assured to consider the request.

Both leaders agreed to facilitate completion of border fencing at all pending sectors at the international border between both the countries at the earliest beginning from the Tripura (India)- Bangladesh sector. Both leaders also agreed that the loss of civilian lives at the border is a matter of concern and directed the border forces concerned to enhance coordinate measures to work towards bringing such border incidents to zero. The leaders stressed on the full implementation of the ongoing Coordinated Border Management Plan. Both sides noted with satisfaction the recent stepped-up efforts of the two border guarding forces against smuggling of arms, narcotics and fake currency and to prevent trafficking, particularly of women and children.

Noting that Bangladesh and India were prone to frequent natural disasters, the two leaders directed officials on both sides to expeditiously conclude the MoU in the area of disaster management cooperation.

Recognizing that terrorism remains a threat to global peace and security, both sides reiterated their strong commitment to eliminating terrorism in all its forms and manifestations.

Both sides emphasized simplifying people to people movement between the two countries. Bangladesh side requested for early implementation of India’s commitment to remove remaining restrictions on entry/ exit from land ports in India for Bangladeshis travelling on valid documents in a phased manner, beginning with checkpoints at Akhaura (Tripura) and Ghojadanga (West Bengal).

Trade Partnership for Growth

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina appreciated the Duty Free and Quota Free access given to Bangladeshi exports to India under SAFTA since 2011. Both Prime Ministers emphasized on addressing issues of non-tariff barriers and trade facilitation including port restrictions, procedural bottlenecks and quarantine restrictions so that both countries can take full advantage of SAFTA flexibility. The Bangladesh side requested that as India’s export of essential commodities to Bangladesh is an important factor influencing their domestic market, any amendments in the export-import policy of the Government of India may be conveyed in advance. The Indian side took note of this request.

Both the leaders commended trade and railway officials for the cooperation shown in maintaining uninterrupted supply chains during COVID-19, including facilitating bilateral trade through existing rail routes, using side-door container and parcel trains.

Recognizing the immense potential of bilateral economic and commercial ties, both Prime Ministers directed the officials to expeditiously conclude the ongoing joint study on the prospects of entering into a bilateral Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA).

Welcoming the first meeting of the India-Bangladesh Textile Industry Forum, earlier this year, the leaders emphasized the importance of increased linkages and collaboration in the textile sector and directed the officials to conclude the ongoing negotiations on the MOU between Ministry of Textiles, Government of India and Ministry of Textiles and Jute, Government of Bangladesh at the earliest. They welcomed the consultations on anti-dumping/anti-circumvention duties imposed on export of jute products from Bangladesh to India held recently and expressed hope that the issues related to ADD will be resolved expeditiously.

Connectivity for Prosperity

The two Prime Ministers noted with satisfaction the continued progress made towards the restoration of pre-1965 railway linkages between both nations. They jointly inaugurated the newly restored railway link between Haldibari (India) and Chilahati (Bangladesh) and noted that this rail link will further strengthen trade and people to people ties between the two sides. It was decided to operationalize the train as and when the COVID situation improves.

The two leaders took stock of the ongoing bilateral connectivity measures and welcomed the recent initiatives including the signing of the second addendum to the Protocol on Inland Water Transit and Trade (PIWTT), trial run of trans-shipment of Indian goods from Kolkata to Agartala via Chattogram and operationalization of Sonamura-Daudkandi Protocol route under the PIWTT. Both the leaders agreed to expeditiously operationalise trans-shipment of Indian goods through Chattogram and Mongla Ports.

To facilitate better connectivity and simplify the movement of passengers and goods between both the countries, both leaders agreed to an early operationalization of the BBIN Motor Vehicles Agreement through the expeditious signing of the Enabling MoU for Bangladesh, India and Nepal to commence the movement of goods and passengers, with provision for Bhutan to join at a later date.

Bangladesh Prime Minister expressed keen interest in the ongoing India Myanmar Thailand trilateral highway project and sought the support of India for enabling Bangladesh to connect with this project with a view to enhance connectivity between the regions of South and South-East Asia. In the same spirit, the Indian side requested Bangladesh to allow connectivity from West Bengal (Hilli) to Meghalaya (Mahendraganj) via Bangladesh.

India reiterated its request to the Government of Bangladesh of having at least one Land Port with minimal negative list between each neighbouring states of India and Bangladesh, beginning with Agartala-Akhaura. Bangladesh side proposed that Bangladeshi trucks avail of the Feni Bridge, once completed, for transportation of goods from Chattogram port to the North East of India.

Acknowledging the vibrant development partnership between the two countries, both sides stressed on active operationalization of the recently-constituted High-Level Monitoring Committee headed by Secretary, Economic Relations Division from Bangladesh and the High Commissioner of India in Dhaka to regularly review the progress of the LOC Projects for their early completion.

Both sides noted with satisfaction the commencement of a temporary Air Travel Bubble between the two sides to facilitate the urgent requirements of travellers on both sides during the COVID-19 pandemic. Bangladesh side also requested the Indian side to resume regular travel through land ports at the earliest

Cooperation in Water Resources, Power and Energy:

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina highlighted the need for early signing of an interim agreement for sharing of the Teesta waters, as agreed upon by both the governments in 2011. Prime Minister Narendra Modi reiterated India’s sincere commitment and continued efforts of the Government of India in that regard.

The two leaders underscored the need for early conclusion of Framework of Interim Agreement on sharing of waters of six joint rivers, namely, Manu, Muhuri, Khowai, Gumti, Dharla and Dudhkumar.

Bangladesh side requested the Indian side to inform its concerned border authorities to allow excavation work of the remaining portion of the Rahimpur Khal for utilization of Kushiyara River waters for irrigation purposes. The Indian side was also requested to provide early concurrence on the proposed MoU to be signed between the two countries for monitoring the withdrawal of water from the Kushiyara River by both the sides, pending signing of the Treaty/Agreement regarding sharing of water of the Kushiyara River. The two leaders recalled the positive contribution of the Joint Rivers Commission and looked forward to the next round of Secretarial level JRC meeting at the earliest.

Both sides expressed satisfaction at the robust cooperation in the power and energy sector, including between the private sector. It was agreed to expedite implementation of projects including India-Bangladesh Friendship Pipeline, Maitree Super Thermal Power Project as well as other projects. Both sides welcomed the signing of the Framework of Understanding on Cooperation in the Hydrocarbon Sector which would further augment energy linkages by streamlining investments, technology transfer, joint studies, training and promoting hydrocarbon connectivity. It was also agreed to enhance cooperation in energy efficiency and clean energy, including in biofuels. In line with the commitment of both countries to move towards green, clean, renewable sources of energy, it was agreed to strengthen subregional cooperation including with Nepal and Bhutan. Both sides also agreed to strengthen cooperation in the area of power and energy connectivity.

Forcibly Displaced Persons from the Rakhine State of Myanmar

Prime Minister Narendra Modi appreciated the generosity of Bangladesh in sheltering and providing humanitarian assistance to the 1.1 million forcibly displaced persons from the Rakhine State of Myanmar. Both Prime Ministers reiterated the importance of their safe, speedy and sustainable return. Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina congratulated India on its election as a member of the United Nations Security Council. She expressed Bangladesh’s expectation to see India assist in the repatriation of the forcibly displaced Rohingyas back to Myanmar.

Partners in the Region and the World

Prime Minister Narendra Modi thanked Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina for supporting India in its election to the United Nations Security Council. Both countries agreed to continue working together towards achieving early reforms of the UN Security Council, combating climate change, attainment of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and protection of the rights of migrants. Both Prime Ministers reaffirmed the need for developed countries to fulfill their commitments under the Global Partnership for ensuring the means of implementation of the SDGs as enshrined in the Agenda 2030.

Both leaders highlighted that given the regional and global economic scenarios following the outbreak of COVID 19, regional organisations, such as SAARC and BIMSTEC have an important role to play. Bangladesh Prime Minister thanked the Indian Prime Minister for convening the SAARC leaders Video Conference in March 2020 in the outbreak of COVID-19. She also thanked the Indian Prime Minister for proposing creation of the SAARC Emergency Response Fund to counter effects of the global pandemic in the South Asian region. Bangladesh Prime Minister also reiterated the proposal for establishment of a SAARC Medical and Public Health Research Institute and sought support in this regard. Bangladesh will assume chairmanship of the IORA in 2021 and requested the support of India for working towards greater maritime safety and security. Prime Minister Modi appreciated the Presidency of Bangladesh at the Climate Vulnerable Forum in the current tenure.

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina appreciated the work of the New Development Bank and thanked India for inviting Bangladesh to join the Institution. She welcomed the work of the Bank in multiple sectors including infrastructure development and expressed Bangladesh’s willingness to be a part of the initiative.

Signing of Bilateral Documents and Inauguration of Projects

On this occasion, the following bilateral documents were signed and exchanged by the officials of the Governments of India and Bangladesh:

▪ Framework of Understanding (FOU) on Cooperation in Hydrocarbon Sector;
▪ Protocol on Trans-boundary Elephant Conservation;
▪ MOU regarding Indian Grant Assistance for Implementation of High Impact Community Development Projects (HICDPs) through Local Bodies and other Public Sector Institutions;
▪ MOU on Supply of Equipment and Improvement of Garbage / Solid Waste Disposal Ground at Lamchori Area for Barishal City Corporation;
▪ Terms of Reference of India-Bangladesh CEOs Forum;
▪ MoU between Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman Memorial Museum, Dhaka, Bangladesh and the National Museum, New Delhi, India; and
▪ MoU on Cooperation in the field of Agriculture.

The following bilateral development partnership projects were also inaugurated:

• Beautification and city development project in Rajshahi City;
• Construction of Khalishpur Collegiate Girl’s School in Khulna;

Both the Prime Ministers thanked each other for making this arrangement amidst the new normal.

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina thanked Prime Minister Narendra Modi for accepting her invitation to visit Bangladesh in person in March 2021 to join the celebrations on the occasion of 50th anniversary of Bangladesh’s Independence and 50 years of Bangladesh-India diplomatic relations.

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