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K’taka clears 60 new industrial projects

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Th e K a r n a t a k a g o v e r n m e n t h a s approved 60 industrial projects worth ~2,465.94 crore that would generate over 8,575 jobs in the state. The 131st State Level Single Window Clearance Committee (SLSWCC) meeting was held under the chairmanship of Minister for Large and Medium Scale Industries Murugesh R Nirani on Saturday. The committee has considered and approved 10 important large and medium-size industrial projects with investments of more than ~50 crore. These projects worth ~1,522.33 are expected to create employment opportunities for 3,190 persons in the state. As many as 49 new projects with investments of more than INR 15 crore and less than INR 50 crore were cleared at the 131st SLSWCC meeting. And these projects worth ~938.61 crore would generate jobs for 5,385 people in the state. One more project worth Rs 5 crore investment was also approved. A total of 60 projects with investments of ~ 2 ,4 6 5 .9 4 c r o r e with employment potential for 8,575 people were cleared. Earlier on March 5, the Karnataka Minister headed SLSWCC in its 130th meeting and had cleared 48 industrial projects worth ~2,062.21 crore with employment potential for 6,393 people. The State government had also cleared industrial projects worth ~11,495.4 crore with the potential of creating over 46,984 jobs during the 58th State HighLevel Clearance Committee meeting held under the chairmanship of Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai and vice chairmanship of Nirani on April 18, 2022. 

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Tackling stubble burning to clear Delhi’s air

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Punit Renjen, the Deputy Chair of German software firm SAP and renowned Indian-American business leader, has unveiled promising solutions to tackle the pervasive issue of stubble burning, a significant contributor to the alarming air pollution levels in northern India. Renjen, also the Global CEO Emeritus of Deloitte, has initiated two pilot projects in Haryana and Punjab, shedding light on the potential for substantial improvement.

In a recent interview with PTI, Renjen highlighted the severity of the problem, citing statistics that underscored the substantial environmental impact. He pointed out that stubble burning, responsible for emitting 25 to 30 per cent of pollutants affecting Delhi’s air quality, leads to approximately 80,000 fire incidents in northern India annually, releasing about 19 million tonnes of harmful gases and carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. Renjen stressed the staggering human toll, equating 15 million adjusted life years to an annual loss equivalent to 2 lakh lives due to stubble burning.

With a firm belief that this issue is solvable, Renjen outlined the progress made through collaborative efforts with the government of Haryana. Over the past two years, the initiatives have successfully mitigated stubble burning, achieving a remarkable 58 per cent reduction in fire incidents across 660 villages in nine districts. He emphasized the essential elements of the program, including farmer engagement, technological integration via the Krishi Yantra Sathi app, and the orchestration of an ecosystem involving equipment manufacturers and end users like bioenergy plants and gaushalas.

Renjen emphasized the role of government support, highlighting schemes like the Fasal Bima Yojana program and urging businesses to allocate Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) funds to bolster these efforts. The pilot projects have garnered a positive response, with significant farmer engagement, equipment registrations, and stubble clearance.

Buoyed by the success in Haryana, Renjen has expanded the project to Punjab’s Patiala district and intends to replicate it in Uttar Pradesh. He has personally invested USD 10 million, encouraging other companies to contribute CSR funds toward this cause.

While acknowledging multiple factors contributing to northern India’s air pollution, Renjen reiterated that addressing stubble burning could significantly alleviate the problem, emphasizing the need for collective action from farmers, government bodies, businesses, and individuals.

Renjen’s initiatives stand as promising steps toward resolving a longstanding environmental challenge, offering hope for cleaner air and a healthier future in the region.

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CM Dhami hails breakthrough in pipeline insertion work

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Chief Minister Pushkar Singh Dhami expressed optimism as communication was re-established with the 41 workers trapped in Uttarakhand’s Silkyara tunnel. A breakthrough emerged when officials successfully communicated through a 6-inch pipeline, providing relief and hope for the workers’ safe rescue.

Dhami lauded the collective efforts of agencies, engineers, and experts tirelessly working on the rescue operation. He highlighted the significant milestone of sending food through the pipeline, affirming it as an encouraging development. Acknowledging Prime Minister Modi’s continuous involvement, Dhami assured comprehensive assistance and provided detailed updates to the Prime Minister on the situation.

In a significant development, the rescue team managed to communicate with the trapped workers via an endoscopic flexi-camera inserted through the pipeline. The workers assembled near the camera, allowing identification, and interacted with the rescue team. The team guided them on cleaning the camera’s screen and assured them of forthcoming food supply once the pipeline is cleaned.

The trapped workers, seen in a stable mental state, were provided with walkie-talkies through the pipeline for communication. The rescue team prepared breakfast for the workers, ensuring its delivery through the 6-inch pipeline. This followed a successful effort where solid food and mobile chargers were sent into the collapsed tunnel section through the same pipeline.

The tunnel collapse occurred on November 12 during construction, trapping workers due to a muck fall in a 60-meter stretch. The workers, trapped in a 2 km-built tunnel portion with concrete safety measures, have access to electricity and water. Multiple agencies, including NHIDCL and RVNL, continue their relentless efforts for rescue, drilling, and establishing supply pipelines, aiming for the safe evacuation of the trapped workers from the Silkyara tunnel.

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Delhi HC to decide on defamation case

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The Delhi High Court has kept its decision pending on an interim application in Chief Secretary Naresh Kumar’s defamation lawsuit against ‘The Wire’, which demanded the news portal take down a contentious article. The article purportedly suggested a connection between the Chief Secretary’s son and a family that purportedly gained from an inflated land deal during the acquisition for the Dwarka Expressway project by the National Highway Authority of India (NHAI).

Justice Sachin Dutta, presiding over the case, heard arguments from both sides before reserving judgment on the plea for interim relief to remove the article. Simultaneously, the court has issued summons in the primary suit, scheduling the next hearing for March 2024.

Chief Secretary Naresh Kumar’s defamation claim contends that the article, published on November 6, contained defamatory content, inaccuracies, and misleading information. Senior Advocate Maninder Singh, representing Kumar, highlighted that the article’s intent seemed to activate social media targeting his client’s reputation. He underscored his client’s non-political role and his efforts in overseeing inquiries into the excise policy, aiming for trustworthy profits.

Advocate Sarim Naved, appearing for the defendants, argued that the article raised valid questions and did not aim at defaming anyone. He pointed out that the allegations were based on reports from Delhi government sources.

The lawsuit further stressed that the article’s allegations were false, baseless, and detached from factual accuracy. A legal notice was sent to the news portal by Naresh Kumar’s lawyer, Bani Dikshit, emphasizing the misleading nature of the article’s headline, which painted an erroneous perception of guilt.

The notice accused the news portal of publishing misleading information, despite access to all relevant facts and statements provided by Kumar. It argued that Kumar’s involvement actually helped prevent wrongful losses to the public treasury, emphasizing that any implication of wrongdoing was unfounded.

The lawsuit, while acknowledging the lack of direct association between Kumar and the disputed land deal, criticized the article for intentionally disregarding crucial information, asserting that Kumar’s intervention had forestalled potential financial losses.

The case underscores the intricacies of media responsibility and the duty to thoroughly investigate before publishing potentially damaging information, with both sides presenting their arguments before the court, awaiting its subsequent decision.

The legal tussle between Chief Secretary Naresh Kumar and ‘The Wire’ illuminates the complexities of media responsibility and the repercussions of alleged defamatory content. The High Court’s reservation of judgment regarding the removal of the contentious article reflects the gravity of the situation, delving into the intricacies of journalistic accountability and freedom of expression.

The dispute unveils contrasting perspectives, with Kumar’s legal representatives underscoring the perceived threat to their client’s reputation and the article’s purportedly misleading nature. On the other hand, the defendants’ assertion revolves around the article’s basis in reports from government sources, emphasizing the validity of the raised queries while refuting any intentions of defamatory content.

The prolonged legal battle, scheduled for a subsequent hearing in 2024, signifies the gravity of the matter and its potential ramifications for journalistic standards and the protection of individual reputations. The court’s impending decision and the subsequent proceedings are expected to shed light on the balance between media scrutiny and ensuring accuracy while safeguarding individuals’ rights against potential defamation.

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India expects MDB reform momentum to continue, green energy, climate in focus

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Ahead of the virtual G20 Leaders’ Summit and prior to the conclusion of India’s Presidency year, which saw the G20 Finance Track achieving a major global resolve on strengthening multilateral development banks (MDB)s, India is confident that the momentum will be sustained going ahead, given the conversations that stakeholders are holding on “how they can work as a system towards this goal. “The World Bank came out with the report proposing more than USD 100 billion in annual lending capacity over the next decade. There has been very good appreciation and we expect this will be further carried on,” Economic Affairs Secretary Ajay Seth told the Daily Guardian, on the sidelines of a briefing on the virtual G20 Leaders’ Summit to be chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on 22 November.

The goal of this fund is to promote a more inclusive agenda for climate change and poverty alleviation and is a recommendation of the volume 2 of the Report of the G20 Independent Expert Group (IEG) on Strengthening MDBs which was welcomed by the fourth G20 Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governors (FMCBG) Meeting on 12-13 October, 2023, in Marrakech, Morocco. This is expected to be a key agenda of the virtual summit to which leaders of all G20 Members including the Chair of the African Union, as well as nine guest countries and heads of 11 international organizations, have been invited, according to a statement by the Ministry of External Affairs. India holds the G20 Presidency until 30 November 2023. The G20 Troika during the Brazilian G20 Presidency in 2024 will comprise India, Brazil, and South Africa.

The continuity on the MDB reform is seen as critical as India’s Presidency has been successful in prioritising the strengthening of MDBs to address the global challenges of the 21st century. A panel discussion of eminent persons working in this area and the G20 Ministers was held prior to the G20 ministerial discussion on the subject of strengthening MDBs to deliberate on the progress made by the G20 on the agenda of strengthening MDBs and to discuss the recommendations of the IEG. This priority of the Indian G20 Presidency has generated significant interest and discussion in the global economic discourse.

The key elements of the IEG recommendations that India’s Presidency has highlighted are, encouraging MDBs to enhance private capital mobilisation through supporting enabling conditions, innovative risk-sharing instruments, and new partnerships, exploring options to boost MDBs financial capacity including the option of capital increase if and when needed, and encouraging MDBs to work together as a system. The FMCBGs also gave a call for further deliberations on the IEG recommendations to suggest way forward on strengthening MDBs by their meeting in April 2024. Accordingly, India will work with Brazil under its 2024 Presidency to progress towards implementation of IEG’s recommendations. Already, on financing of MDBs, the US administration has asked US Congress for funding to unlock USD 25 billion in IBRD and Germany has pledged Euro 35 million of hybrid capital that will enable the World Bank to have additional IBRD lending of USD 2.5 billion over next 10 years.

On 7 November, 2023, the IMF Executive Board proposed a quota increase to the Board of Governors. India’s G20 Sherpa Amitabh Kant had, earlier this month, flagged the need for fast-tracking reform of global financial architecture and asserted that multilateral financial institutions, including the IMF, are heavily tilted in favour of the developed world. “Inflation in America leads to a rise in interest rates and this leads to resources flowing from the developing world to the developed world rather than resources flowing from the developed world to the developing world. If you look at the last two years, resources have flowed from India to the developed world and not vice versa. That is the flaw of the international financial architecture,” Kant said at a G20 seminar organised by India Writes Network Centre, Centre for Global India Insights (CGII) and the School of International Relations, JNU.

The Virtual G20 Summit is also expected to push for effective implementation of various G20 decisions, including through relevant national and international platforms, the MEA said, highlighting the substantive progress on key priorities/outcomes of G20 achieved over the past two months, since the G20 New Delhi Leaders’ Summit on 9-10 September 2023. Among these milestones is the G20 consensus on tripling of renewable energy capacity globally by 2030 and doubling the global rate of energy efficiency improvement by 2030, which was committed to by G20 leaders in Delhi for the first time. The first steering committee meeting of the green hydrogen innovation centre would be held during COP 28.

Besides, as a result of India’s advocacy, the Global Initiative on Digital Health (GIDH) was able to garner commitment for contribution of USD 44.5 million. Based on G20 AI Principles (2019), UNESCO’s ethical AI guidelines and India’s responsible “AI for All” Principle, work on creation of a framework has been initiated by MEITY. Co-design process of One Future Alliance (OFA) for DPI has been initiated with interested countries (UK, France, US, EU, Brazil, Canada, Italy) by MEITY.

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IAF aircraft departs with emergency aid for Gaza via El-Arish

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 A second Indian Air Force (IAF) C17 aircraft, carrying 32 tonnes of aid for civilians in Gaza caught up in the ongoing Israel-Hamas war, on Sunday departed for the El-Arish Airport in Egypt.
Taking to his official handle on X, External Affairs Minister S Jaishanker reaffirmed New Delhi’s commitment to extend humanitarian assistance to Gazans, posting, “We continue to deliver humanitarian assistance to the people of Palestine. Second @IAF_MCC C17 aircraft carrying 32 tonnes of aid departs for the El-Arish Airport in Egypt.”
Earlier, India sent 38 tonnes of humanitarian relief for civilians caught up in the ongoing ground offensive by the Israeli forces in the Strip.
The aid package comprised fluids and painkillers. The disaster relief material, weighing approximately 32 tonnes, also included tents, sleeping bags, tarpaulins, basic sanitary utilities, and water purification tablets, among other items.
Taking to X, Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) Official Spokesperson Arindam Bagchi posted after India shipped emergency aid for Gazans earlier, “India sends humanitarian aid to the people of Palestine! An IAF C-17 flight carrying nearly 6.5 tonnes of medical aid and 32 tonnes of disaster relief material for the people of Palestine departs for El-Arish airport in Egypt. The material includes essential life-saving medicines, surgical items, tents, sleeping bags, tarpaulins, sanitary utilities, and water purification tablets, among other necessary items.”
The spokesperson for the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) said recently that India was planning to send more humanitarian assistance to the affected civilians in the region.
He said India has always stressed the need to avoid civilian casualties in the ongoing military operations in Gaza.
“This is not about one specific facility,” Bagchi said, adding, “India has always underlined the need for civilian casualties to be avoided, for humanitarian law to be observed, and to encourage any effort to provide humanitarian relief to those caught in the conflict.”
Prime Minister Narendra Modi, in his opening address at the Voice of Global South Summit on Friday, said new challenges are emerging from the events in West Asia.
He reiterated India’s condemnation of the Hamas terror attacks in southern Israel on October 7 while underlining that New Delhi has also sent humanitarian aid to the people of Palestine.
PM Modi said, “For global prosperity, sabka saath and sabka vikas is parmount. We all are seeing that new challenges are emerging from the events in the West Asia region.”
“India has condemned the terrorist attack in Israel on October 7. We have laid emphasis on exercising restraint, dialogue and diplomacy,” PM Modi said in his address.
He added that India has also sent humanitarian aid to the people of Palestine.
“We also strongly condemn the deaths of civilians in the conflict between Israel and Hamas. After talking to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, we have also sent humanitarian aid to the people of Palestine,” PM Modi added.
“This is the time when the countries of the Global South should unite for the greater global good,” he stated further.
The ongoing military operations in Gaza is in response to the Hamas terror attacks in southern Israel on October 7, which left over 1,400 dead. Over 2,500 terrorists crossed over into Israel from the Gaza Strip, unleashing mayhem on civilians.
They later sneaked back into Gaza with over 200 hostages, the majority of whom are believed to be civilians.
Israel has stated that its objective behind the Gaza offensive is to target Hamas’ infrastructure with the goal of eliminating the entire terror group while making efforts to minimise civilian casualties

 

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Delhi breathes easier as GRAP-4 lifted, vigilance emphasized: Minister Rai

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A day after restrictions under the Graded Response Action Plan (GRAP) – 4 were lifted in Delhi following improvement in the air quality, Environment Minister Gopal Rai on Sunday urged people to be careful and continue to follow the rules as stages 1, 2, and 3 of GRAP are still in place to tackle air pollution in the national capital.
While addressing a press conference, Gopal Rai said, “Though there has been a constant improvement in air quality, people still need to be aware in order to maintain this improvement.”
“There has been constant improvement in pollution levels over the last two days. The AQI as of today has reached 290. I want to request the people of Delhi and North India to remain vigilant. Although there has been improvement in pollution, we still need to be cautious. Before Diwali, the AQI had reached 215, but the carelessness that followed led to an increase in the AQI after Diwali,” he said.
With an improvement in the air quality in Delhi, the CAQM (Commission for Air Quality Management) on Saturday revoked the restrictions that were imposed under GRAP 4, permitting trucks and buses except for BS-3 and BS-4 petrol and diesel vehicles to enter the city and lifting the ban on ongoing construction activities.
Gopal Rai, during the press conference, emphasised that all three phases of GRAP 1, GRAP 2 and GRAP 3 are still to be implemented in Delhi. Once there is further improvement in pollution levels, the withdrawal of these restrictions will also be considered, he added.
Speaking about the restrictions related to vehicles, Gopal Rai said, “The ban on the entry of trucks has been revoked but the ban is still in place on the BS3 petrol vehicles and BS4 diesel vehicles. So the ban has been revoked only on trucks or vehicles that are above BS 4.”
During the press conference, he also mentioned that the linear projects, including Raj Marg, roads, flyovers, foot-over bridges and other similar projects that were stopped under GRAP 4, have been granted permission to resume their work now.
Listing out the areas where construction work can be carried out, Gopal Rai mentioned railway, metro, station projects, airports, international bus terminals, procedures related to national security, projects of national importance, hospitals, linear projects, and cleanliness projects.
“The activities that are still prohibited include boring and digging, structural construction, demolition and loading or unloading of construction material at project sites,” he said.
Further enlisting the prohibited activities, he mentioned vehicles on unmetalled roads, benching plant operation, cutting and work related to tiles and other flooring material cutting and mining activities.
“We have to ensure that we do not get confused between GRAP 4 and GRAP 3 restrictions, as GRAP-4 restrictions have been removed but GRAP 3 restrictions are still in place,” Rai said.
Earlier on Thursday, Rai said that a 6-member special task force has been formed under the leadership of the Environment Special Secretary for proper implementation and monitoring of GRAP rules.

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