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West Bengal assembly elections: Over 79% voter turnout recorded till 5 pm | India News

West Bengal assembly elections: Over 79% voter turnout recorded till 5 pm | India News

NEW DELHI: The sixth phase of the West Bengal assembly election held on Thursday for 43 seats recorded a voter turnout of 79.09 per cent till 5 pm, the Election Commission (EC) said.
A total of 7,466 out of the 14,480 polling stations across the constituencies were monitored live through webcasting, even as drones were used to keep a watch over the vote proceedings, the EC said in a statement.
During the ongoing elections in West Bengal, a record seizure of Rs 316.47 crore has already been reported till Thursday.
It includes seizure of cash, liquor, narcotics, freebies, and it is over seven times the total seizure of Rs 44.33 crore made in the 2016 assembly polls, the statement said.
A total of 14,480 Ballot Units (BUs), and as many Control Units (CUs) and VVPATs were used during this phase.
“Non-functioning rate of EVMs and VVPATs during the poll is comparable to what was experienced in the last few polls,” the statement said.
A CU, at least one BU and a VVPAT makes for one EVM.

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India eases rules to encourage ministries to spend to aid economy

India eases rules to encourage ministries to spend to aid economy

The finance ministry has eased the expenditure management rules to boost the government’s capital spending amid the second wave of the pandemic raging across India.

The monthly and quarterly expenditure curbs on ministries and departments, put in place in 2017, would not apply for capital expenditure, the finance ministry said in a memorandum on Thursday.

“To enable Ministries/Departments expedite capital expenditure, the cash management guidelines issued by the Ministry…stands relaxed,” the memorandum said.

The relaxation will remain in place until further orders, it said.

“The decision will give the central government the freedom on spending money where it is required and ensure that it continues fostering investments,” said Madan Sabnavis, chief economist at


The guidelines had stipulated that any expenditure exceeding the monthly or quarterly expenditure plan of ministries and departments or expenditures exceeding Rs 5,000 crore would need prior approval from the finance ministry.

Further, any expenditure exceeding Rs 200 crore falling on dates outside the pre-defined spending calendar would require prior approval.

The move was aimed at incentivising central government departments to spend more on creating assets which would make them eligible for further capex funds.

The order highlighted excerpts from finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman’s budget speech earlier in February where she said, “I have kept a sum of more that Rs 44,000 crore in the Budget head of the Department of Economic Affairs to be provided for projects/programmes/departments that show good progress in Capital Expenditure and are in need of further funds.”

The increased capex will help to absorb a portion of the impact of the latest restrictions and the hit to consumer sentiment, according to Aditi Nayar, chief economist at ICRA.

Last year, the government had capped quarterly expenditure on certain ministries to 15-20% of their budget allocations to prioritise health and pandemic-related spending.

The Union Budget 2021-22 had set a capital expenditure target of Rs 5.54 lakh crore, representing a 26% increase from the FY21 revised estimate of capex at Rs 4.39 lakh crore.

The Centre expected its fiscal deficit to cool down to 6.8% of GDP or Rs 15 lakh crore from the elevated 9.5% in the previous fiscal.

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‘The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It’ trailer: Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga face the biggest and darkest entity as they help solve a murder case | English Movie News

‘The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It’ trailer: Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga face the biggest and darkest entity as they help solve a murder case | English Movie News

Everyone’s favourite paranormal investigators, Ed and Lorraine Warren, played by Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga, are back with another chilling tale, based on a sensational true story – ‘The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It’.

On Thursday, the makers of the hit horror franchise, that gave us multiple spin-offs of our nightmares, dropped the trailer of the long-delayed film. Packed with jump-scares, eerie soundtracks, haunting visuals and glimpses of an entity that may be the devil himself, the trailer has plenty of hair-raising moments.

According to reports, the film takes a page out of Ed and Lorraine’s files to narrate one of the most sensational cases they investigated of a young boy involved in a gruesome murder. The film takes us through the first time in US courtroom history that a murder suspect claimed demonic possession as his defence to plead his innocence.

Originally slated for a September 2020 release, the film is expected to hit theatres in the coming months.

The first two films of the ‘Conjuring’ franchise included the Enfield poltergeist in ‘The Conjuring 2’ while ‘Conjuring’ was based on the possessed doll Annabelle.

‘The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It’ is the seventh film in the ‘Conjuring’ Universe, that includes the spinoffs – ‘Annabelle’ and ‘Annabelle: Creation’, ‘The Nun’, and ‘Annabelle Comes Home’.

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Auger-Aliassime defeats Shapovalov in all-Canadian match at Barcelona Open

Auger-Aliassime defeats Shapovalov in all-Canadian match at Barcelona Open

Felix Auger-Aliassime beat Denis Shapovalov 6-2, 6-3 in an all-Canadian third-round match at the Barcelona Open on Thursday.

The 10th-seeded Auger-Aliassime, from Montreal, saved the only break point he faced on the clay court.

The seventh-seeded Shapovalov, from Richmond Hill, Ont., could save only five of nine break points.

Shapovalov didn’t appear to be at full health as a trainer looked at his shoulder during the match.

Canada’s Denis Shapovalov receives medical treatment in his third round match against Felix Auger-Aliassime on Thursday in Barcelona. (Alex Caparros/Getty Images)

It was the third win in five career meetings against Shapovalov at the top level for the 20-year-old Auger-Aliassime. The Montrealer is now 2-0 on clay against the 22-year-old Shapovalov.

Auger-Aliassime was far more effective on serve. He won 78 per cent of points when he got his first serve in, 15 percentage points better than Shapovalov.

WATCH | Auger-Aliassime takes win against Shapovalov at Barcelona Open:

Montreal’s Felix Auger-Aliassime advanced to the quarterfinals Thursday by defeating Richmond Hill’s Denis Shapovalov 6-2, 6-3 in third round action at the Barcelona Open. 2:30

The two players are longtime friends after coming up through the junior ranks. Shapovalov stayed at Auger-Aliassime’s family’s house during his improbable run to the Rogers Cup semifinals in 2017.

Auger-Aliassime will face No. 2 seed Stefanos Tsitsipas of Greece in the quarterfinals on Friday. Tsitsipas beat No. 14 seed Alex de Minaur of Australia 7-5, 6-3 on Thursday.

Auger-Aliassime is 2-3 against Tsitsipas lifetime, having lost the past three matches.

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Israel says it strikes targets in Syria after missile attack

Israel says it strikes targets in Syria after missile attack

A missile launched from Syria struck southern Israel early Thursday, setting off air raid sirens near the country’s top-secret nuclear reactor, the Israeli military said. In response, it said it attacked the missile launcher and air-defense systems in neighboring Syria.

The incident, marking the most serious violence between Israel and Syria in years, pointed to likely Iranian involvement. Iran, which maintains troops and proxies in Syria, has accused Israel of a series of attacks on its nuclear facilities, including sabotage at its Natanz nuclear facility on April 11, and vowed revenge. It also threatened to complicate U.S.-led attempts to revive the international nuclear deal with Iran.

The Israeli army said the missile landed in the Negev region and the air raid sirens were sounded in Abu Krinat, a village just a few kilometers (miles) from Dimona, where Israel’s nuclear reactor is located, and explosions were reported across Israel. The army later said the incoming missile had caused no damage.

The Israeli military initially described the weapon fired as a surface-to-air missile, which is usually used for air defense against warplanes or other missiles. That could suggest the Syrian missile had targeted Israeli warplanes but missed and flown off errantly. However, Dimona is some 300 kilometers (185 miles) south of Damascus, a long range for an errantly fired surface-to-air missile.

Syria’s state-run SANA news agency said four soldiers had been wounded in an Israeli strike near Damascus, which also caused some damage. The agency did not elaborate other than to claim its air defense intercepted “most of the enemy missiles,” which it said were fired from the Israeli-annexed Golan Heights.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the missile strike or comment from Iran. But on Saturday, Iran’s hard-line Kayhan newspaper published an opinion piece by Iranian analyst Sadollah Zarei suggesting Israel’s Dimona facility be targeted after the attack on Natanz. Zarei cited the idea of “an eye for an eye” in his remarks.

Action should be taken “against the nuclear facility in Dimona,” he wrote. “This is because no other action is at the same level as the Natanz incident.”

The Dimona reactor is widely believed to be the centerpiece of an undeclared nuclear weapons program. Israel neither confirms nor denies having a nuclear arsenal.


While Kayhan is a small circulation newspaper, its editor-in-chief, Hossein Shariatmadari, was appointed by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and has been described as an adviser to him in the past.

Zarei has demanded retaliatory strikes on Israel in the past. In November, he suggested Iran strike the Israeli port city of Haifa over Israel’s suspected involvement in the killing of a scientist who founded Iran’s military nuclear program decades earlier. However, Iran did not retaliate then.

Israel and Iran are arch-enemies. Israel accuses Iran of trying to develop nuclear weapons and has opposed U.S.-led efforts to revive the international nuclear deal with Iran. With Israel’s encouragement, then-President Donald Trump withdrew from the deal in 2018.

Iran recently began enriching a small amount of uranium up to 60% purity, the highest level ever for its program that edges even closer to weapons-grade levels. However, Iran insists its program is for peaceful purposes. It also has called for more international scrutiny of the Dimona facility.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has repeatedly said Israel will not allow Iran to develop a nuclear weapons capability, and defense officials have acknowledged preparing possible attack missions on Iranian targets. Israel has twice bombed other Mideast nations to target their nuclear programs.

All the incidents come as Iran negotiates in Vienna with world powers over the U.S. potentially re-entering its tattered nuclear deal with world powers. Negotiators there have described the talks as constructive so far, though they acknowledge the Natanz sabotage could strain the talks.


Israel’s government says the deal will not prevent Iran from developing a nuclear weapons capability. It also says it does not address Iran’s long-range missile program and its support for hostile proxies in Lebanon, Syria and Gaza.

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Hugh Jackman issues statement about Scott Rudin’s bullying allegations

Hugh Jackman issues statement about Scott Rudin’s bullying allegations

Well, ya got trouble, my friend — right here.

Hugh Jackman, who is set to star in the upcoming revival of “The Music Man” — to be produced by Scott Rudin — has finally spoken up about the infamous producer.

“I want to say how much I respect and applaud the people that have spoken up about their experience working with Scott Rudin,” Jackman, 52, wrote in an all-caps statement shared by New York Times theater reporter Michael Paulson.

“It takes an enormous amount of courage and strength to stand up and state your truth. This has started a conversation that is long overdue, not just on Broadway, and the entertainment industry, but across all workforce. 


 Producer Scott Rudin accepts the award for best revival of a play for "Skylight" at the 69th annual Tony Awards in New York on June 7, 2015. Rudin, one of the most successful and powerful producers, with a heap of Oscars and Tonys to show for it, has long been known for his torturous treatment of an ever-churning parade of assistants. 

 Producer Scott Rudin accepts the award for best revival of a play for “Skylight” at the 69th annual Tony Awards in New York on June 7, 2015. Rudin, one of the most successful and powerful producers, with a heap of Oscars and Tonys to show for it, has long been known for his torturous treatment of an ever-churning parade of assistants. 
(Charles Sykes/Invision/AP, File)

“The most important voice we needed to hear from was Scott Rudin, he has now spoken up and stepped away from ‘The Music Man.’ I hope and pray this is a journey of healing for all the victims and the community,” Jackman’s statement continued.

“We are currently rebuilding the ‘Music Man’ team and are aspiring to create an environment that is not only safe, but ensures that everyone is seen, heard and valued. This is something that is and has always been very important to me,” the Tony winner concluded.

Earlier this month, the Hollywood Reporter published a damning report on Rudin, detailing myriad claims of workplace abuse that including smashing a computer console on an assistant’s hand and hurling a baked potato at another.


Days later, Rudin issued a statement, apologizing for his alleged behavior. 

“Much has been written about my history of troubling interactions with colleagues, and I am profoundly sorry for the pain my behavior caused to individuals, directly and indirectly,” said Rudin, whose big-screen productions include the Oscar-winning Cormac McCarthy adaptation “No Country for Old Men” and eight of Wes Anderson’s films.


“After a period of reflection, I’ve made the decision to step back from active participation on our Broadway productions, effective immediately,” he added. 

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Biden opening summit with ambitious new U.S. climate pledge

Biden opening summit with ambitious new U.S. climate pledge

President Joe Biden will open a global climate summit with a pledge to cut at least in half the climate-wrecking coal and petroleum fumes that the U.S. pumps out, a commitment he hopes will spur China and other big polluters to speed up efforts of their own.

Biden is offering Americans and the world a vision of a prosperous, clean-energy United States where factories churn out cutting-edge batteries for export, line workers re-lay an efficient national electrical grid and crews cap abandoned oil and gas rigs and coal mines.

His commitment to cut U.S. fossil fuel emissions up to 52 per cent by 2030 — similar to pledges from allies — will come at the launch Thursday of an all-virtual climate summit for 40 world leaders, marking a return by the U.S. to global climate efforts after four years of withdrawal under President Donald Trump.

The Biden administration’s pledge would require by far the most ambitious U.S. climate effort ever undertaken, nearly doubling the reductions that the Obama administration had committed to in the landmark 2015 Paris climate accord.

The new urgency comes as scientists say that climate change caused by coal plants, car engines and other fossil fuel use is already worsening droughts, floods, hurricanes, wildfires and other disasters and that humans are running out of time to stave off most catastrophic extremes of global warming.

‘Not waiting’

“The United States is not waiting, the costs of delay are too great, and our nation is resolved to act now,” the Biden administration said in a statement. “Climate change poses an existential threat, but responding to this threat offers an opportunity to support good-paying, union jobs, strengthen America’s working communities, protect public health, and advance environmental justice.”

But Biden administration officials, in previewing the new target, disclosed aspirations and vignettes rather than specific plans, budget lines or legislative proposals for getting there. Administration officials briefing reporters in advance of Biden’s announcement made no direct mention of politically tricky moves to wean the U.S. from oil, natural gas and coal. They emphasized the role of technology, including carbon capture and hydrogen power, which have yet to be affordably developed to scale.

Biden and Vice-President Kamala Harris were scheduled to open the Earth Day summit from the White House East Room before world leaders, including the heads of China, Russia, India, Gulf oil states, European and Asian allies and island and coastal nations already struggling against the effects of climate change. Pope Francis will also take part.

Biden planned to join a second session of the live streamed summit later in the morning on financing poorer countries’ efforts to remake and protect their economies against global warming.

Due to the coronavirus pandemic, the summit will play out as a climate telethon-style live stream, limiting opportunities for spontaneous interaction and negotiation.

With the pledge from the United States and other emissions-cutting announcements from Japan, Canada, the European Union and the United Kingdom, countries representing more than half the world’s economy will have now committed to cutting fossil fuel fumes enough to keep the Earth’s climate from warming, disastrously, more than 1.5 degrees Celsius, the Biden administration said.

Biden, a Democrat, campaigned partly on a pledge to confront climate change. He has sketched out some elements of his $2 trillion approach for transforming U.S. transportation systems and electrical grids in his campaign climate plan and in his infrastructure proposals for Congress.

His administration insists the transformation will mean millions of well-paying jobs. Republicans say the effort will throw oil, gas and coal workers off the job. They call his infrastructure proposal too costly.

“The summit is not necessarily about everyone else bringing something new to the table — it’s really about the U.S. bringing their target to the world,” said Joanna Lewis, an expert in China energy and environment at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C.

It’s an urgent but hardly perfect time for the U.S. to try to spur action.

China, Russia to participate

The world’s top two climate offenders, China and the United States, are feuding over non-climate issues. Chinese President Xi Jinping waited until Wednesday to confirm he would even take part.

India, the world’s third-biggest emitter of fossil fuel fumes, is pressing the United States and other wealthier nations to come through on billions of dollars they’ve promised to help poorer nations build alternatives to coal plants and energy-sucking power grids.

“Where is this money? There is no money in sight,” Environment Minister Prakash Javadekar said earlier this month, after a visit from Biden climate envoy John Kerry.

Russian President Vladimir Putin, whose nation by some assessments is the world’s fourth-worst climate polluter, also accepted the U.S. invitation but is fuming over Biden calling him a “killer,” as part of high tensions over Putin’s aggressiveness abroad and U.S. sanctions.

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Bank of Canada offers fresh hints that interest rates will rise next year as economy surges

Bank of Canada offers fresh hints that interest rates will rise next year as economy surges

A reassurance from the Bank of Canada that “interest rates will be low for a long time,” as the bank’s governor, Tiff Macklem, told us last year, appears to have been revised.

New signs of a strong recovery — including the bank’s prediction of a stunning global growth rate of nearly seven per cent this year — plus indications that the underlying foundation of the Canadian economy has not suffered serious damage from the COVID-19 pandemic, mean the central bank is scaling back on monetary stimulus.

Not only did Macklem reveal that he is slowing the rate of bond purchases, but rock-bottom interest rates — what the bank calls “the effective lower bound” — are forecast to come to an end sooner than expected.

“We remain committed to holding the policy interest rate at the effective lower bound until economic slack is absorbed so that the two per cent inflation target is sustainably achieved,” the Bank of Canada said in its Wednesday statement. “Based on the bank’s latest projection, this is now expected to happen some time in the second half of 2022.

Ending low-rate commitment

Scaling back bond purchases — this time from $4 billion to $3 billion a week — tends to affect longer-term rates, while a hike in the Bank of Canada’s overnight rate affects variable mortgages and things like lines of credit. While the bank did not officially announce an increase in so many words, ending a commitment to hold rates down was seen by economists and financial reporters as exactly that.

“Can someone please ask Governor Macklem if he means to expressly state they expect a 2022 rate hike with this statement?” tweeted Frances Donald, global chief economist at Manulife Investment Management, “because that’s a reasonable interpretation, but I can’t believe it’s the intention.”

Asked by reporters more than once at Wednesday’s news conference to clarify the statement, Macklem did not withdraw it, although he underlined the uncertainty and said the bank would be guided by a broad analysis of economic conditions, not by any predetermined date.

While economists and borrowers may have been surprised by the possibility of a Bank of Canada rate hike as soon as 2022, clearly Macklem saw the prospect of reduced stimulus as a reason for celebration, not anxiety, because it was just one more indicator that the economy was on the mend.

Bank of Canada governor Tiff Macklem is optimistic about the economy, projecting 6.75 per cent growth globally this year and 6.5 per cent in Canada. ‘We’re looking for a complete recovery,’ he said at Wednesday’s remote meeting with reporters. (Blair Gable/Reuters)

“There are brighter days ahead,” Macklem told reporters at Wednesday’s news conference, projecting 6.75  per cent growth globally this year and 6.5 per cent in Canada. “Canadians and Canadian businesses have been impressively resilient to the pandemic.”

An economic growth rate of nearly seven per cent is seen as unusually high for an advanced economy and will reflect roaring consumer demand as restrictions lift this autumn, plus a new wave of fiscal stimulus from Ottawa, the provinces and from south of the border.

Macklem said there remained many uncertainties as he and the bank’s Governing Council, which advises him, struggle to understand a recession unlike any other they have seen.

They have been fooled before. Last year, the central bank warned of a deep recession that would lead to “scarring” — in other words, long-term damage to the underlying economy.

Growth despite lockdown

But that’s not the way things turned out, Macklem said. Instead, an expansion into the digital space — the growing use of computers and software in new areas of the economy — means economic growth continued, even as many traditional face-to-face businesses were in lockdown due to the pandemic.

Following the 2008 recession, many government handouts and much stimulus went directly to business, but this time fiscal spending on things such as child care and further digital expansion will actually boost productivity, working its way up through the wider economy.

Repeatedly asked about Canada’s overheated real estate market, Macklem warned once again that buyers should not count on the idea that prices will continue to go up at current extraordinary rates.

The central banker suggested that new higher stress tests imposed two weeks ago, as well as a new federal tax on vacant properties, will slow the market. Others have suggested that rising interest rates would have an even stronger impact on many Canadians who have taken on mortgages and other loans that are very high compared with their incomes.

Jobs for low-wage workers are still well below pre-pandemic levels, while the job market for everyone else has recovered, and more. (Monetary Policy Report Apr 2021/Bank of Canada)

One of the indicators Macklem said the central bank would use to finally decide whether to cut back on monetary stimulus was whether people at the lowest end of the income ladder had been able to find work in a divided, K-shaped, recovery.

“There’s a chart in the Monetary Policy Report that shows low-wage workers … are about 20 per cent below their pre-pandemic levels,” he said. The chart shows that higher-wage workers have already exceeded pre-pandemic employment.

WATCH | Bank of Canada governor Tiff Macklem’s forecast for Canada’s economy:

CBC’s senior business correspondent, Peter Armstrong, talks with Tiff Macklem, governor of the Bank of Canada, about the bank’s projections for Canada’s economy in the coming months. 3:21

As with any forecast, there are many unknowns. Will the economy triumph over the third wave of the pandemic as well as it did over the second? Will vaccine take-up allow us to reach herd immunity?

“We’re looking for a complete recovery,” Macklem said. “We’re not going to count our chickens before they hatch.”

Follow Don Pittis on Twitter @don_pittis

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Biden to set new target to achieve a 50-52 per cent reduction in greenhouse gas pollution by 2030

Biden to set new target to achieve a 50-52 per cent reduction in greenhouse gas pollution by 2030

US President Joe Biden on Thursday will announce a new target for his country to achieve a 50-52 per cent reduction from 2005 levels in economy-wide net greenhouse gas pollution in 2030, officials said.

President Biden will host the Leaders Summit on Climate on April 22 and 23. Prime Minister Narendra Modi is among the 40 world leaders invited by Biden to address the first-ever summit on climate change by the US.

The announcement to be made during the virtual Leaders’ Summit on Climate that Biden is holding to challenge the world on increased ambition in combating climate change – is part of his focus on building back better in a way that will create millions of good-paying, union jobs, ensure economic competitiveness, advance environmental justice, and improve the health and security of communities across America, the White House said.

“America’s 2030 target picks up the pace of emissions reductions in the United States, compared to historical levels, while supporting President Biden’s existing goals to create a carbon pollution-free power sector by 2035 and net zero emissions economy by no later than 2050,” it said.

According to the White House, the Biden administration has set a goal to reach 100 per cent carbon pollution-free electricity by 2035, which can be achieved through multiple cost-effective pathways each resulting in meaningful emissions reductions in this decade.

“The health of our communities, well-being of our workers, and competitiveness of our economy requires this quick and bold action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions,” officials said.

The US must invest in infrastructure and innovation. America must lead the critical industries that produce and deploy the clean technologies that we can harness today – and the ones that will improve and invent tomorrow, officials said.

“The US must fuel an economic recovery that creates jobs. We have the opportunity to fuel an equitable recovery, expand supply chains and bolster manufacturing, create millions of good-paying, union jobs, and build a more sustainable, resilient future,” they said.

The new target is consistent with the President’s goal of achieving net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by no later than 2050 and of limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius, as the science demands.

According to the officials, the US will also reduce non-CO2 greenhouse gases, including methane, hydrofluorocarbons and other potent short-lived climate pollutants. Reducing these pollutants delivers fast climate benefits, officials said.

In addition, the country will invest in innovation to improve and broaden the set of solutions as a critical complement to deploying the affordable, reliable, and resilient clean technologies and infrastructure available today, they said.

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SC terms Covid-19 situation ‘national emergency’, agrees to hear Vedanta plea of free oxygen supply | India News

SC terms Covid-19 situation ‘national emergency’, agrees to hear Vedanta plea of free oxygen supply | India News

NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court Thursday termed the Covid-19 situation as almost a “national emergency” while agreeing to hear Vedanta”s plea for opening of its Sterlite copper unit at Tuticorin in Tamil Nadu on the ground that it would produce thousand tonnes of oxygen and give it free of cost to treat patients.
A bench headed by Chief Justice S A Bobde was unimpressed with the objection of Tamil Nadu government which initially sought hearing of Vedanta’s plea on Monday and opposed its opening on various grounds including that it has been rejected by the apex court earlier.
“We understand all this. We will ensure compliance of all environmental norms by the plant and its oxygen producing facility would be allowed to operate. We are on the oxygen plant,” the bench, also comprising Justices L Nageswara Rao and S Ravindra Bhat, said when senior advocate C S Vaidyanathan, appearing for Tamil Nadu, objected to the plea of the company.
“There is almost a national emergency and you (Tamil Nadu) don”t put spokes in the solution. We will hear it (plea of Vedanta) tomorrow,” the bench said in the hearing conducted through video conferencing.
“The country is in dire need of oxygen and the Centre is augmenting oxygen from whichever source. Vedanta wants to make its plant operational, but let Vedanta only make it operational to manufacture oxygen for health purposes,” Solicitor General Tushar Mehta said.
Between protecting environment and protecting human life, we must lean in favour of protecting human life, Mehta said.
Senior advocate Harish Salve, appearing for Vedanta, sought urgent hearing of the plea during the day itself and said people are dying on daily basis and we can produce and supply oxygen to treat Covid-19 patients.
“We can start in five to six days if you give a go ahead today. The company can manufacture tonnes of oxygen there everyday and is ready to supply them free of cost,” Salve said.
The Tamil Nadu government, however referred to the records and said no oxygen production can be started by the company before two to four weeks.
The bench would hear the interim application on Friday.
The top court had earlier refused to accord early hearing to the plea related to mining major Vedanta’s Sterlite copper unit at Tuticorin in Tamil Nadu which is closed since May 2018 over pollution concerns.
The apex court on December 2 last year had rejected the interim plea of Vedanta Ltd that it be permitted to inspect its Sterlite copper plant and to operate it for a month to assess the pollution level.
Vedanta had sought handing over of the plant for three months saying it requires two months to start the unit and the company should be allowed to run it for four weeks to ascertain whether its polluting or not.
While holding that interim plea of Vedanta for opening of the plant for four weeks cannot be allowed, the bench had made clear that the final hearing in the matter can be heard after physical hearing starts in the apex court.
Earlier, the interim plea by Vedanta was opposed by Tamil Nadu government which had claimed that the plant had been polluting consistently.
In August last year, Vedanta had moved the apex court challenging the Madras High Court order refusing to allow reopening of the Tuticorin plant.
The high court had upheld the orders of Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board (TNPCB) directing closure of the unit in May 2018.
Vedanta had approached the high court in February 2019, seeking to reopen Sterlite plant which was closed following a May 23, 2018 order issued by the TNPCB in the backdrop of violent protests against the unit which left 13 people dead in police firing on May 21 and 22, 2018.
It had filed the petition in the high court as suggested by the Supreme Court, which had on February 18, 2019 set aside the National Green Tribunal order that allowed opening of Sterlite plant.

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