YK MYK SELF-RELIANCE IN DEFENCE IS STRATEGIC NECESSITY: ARMY CHIEF THAILAND OPEN: PV SINDHU THROUGH TO QUARTER-FINALS NATION SPORTS Morning India Rs. 3 KOLKATA FRIDAY, 22 JAN, 2021 PG-12, YEAR—7, ISSUE—246 (RNI NO: WBENG / 2014 / 56803) WEATHER TODAY MAX 25 C MIN 13 C Furfura Sharif cleric Abbas Siddiqui takes political plunge; floats party to contest polls May damage TMC prospects in Muslim-majority seats SUPROTIM MUKHERJEE Sky will be clear. AT A GLANCE SC ISSUES NOTICE TO MAKERS OF ‘MIRZAPUR’ AND AMAZON PRIME VIDEO NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court on Thursday issued notices to the makers and producers of the web-series ‘Mirzapur’ and Amazon Prime Video. A Bench headed by the CJI, SA Bobde, admitted the plea and sought a response from the makers of the web-series and OTT platform Amazon Prime Video. The petition sought a direction that the government of India set up a core screening committee for web series, films, or other programmes which are directly released online platforms. PG 5 COVID-19: NEARLY 10 LAKHS VACCINATED, COWIN SOFTWARE ENHANCED NEW DELHI: As many as 1,92,581 beneficiaries were vaccinated against COVID-19 on Thursday during inoculation drive in 27 states and UTs, taking the total number of beneficiaries who received jab to nearly 10 lakh, said Union Health Ministry. The Ministry also said that enhancement has been made in CoWIN software (COVID Vaccine Intelligence Network) to strengthen the process of vaccination. "The provisional figures for today, up to 6 pm - vaccination sessions were organised in 27 states and UTs and a total of 1,92,581 beneficiaries were vaccinated. CORONA METER INDIA TOTAL CASES: 1,06,11,728 TOTAL DEATH: 152,906 WORLD TOTAL CASES: 97,421,975 TOTAL DEATH: 2,086,148 KOLKATA: Abbas Siddiqui, an influential cleric of Furfura Sharif Dargah in West Bengal's Hooghly district, on Thursday floated a new political outfit – Indian Secular Front (ISF) – ahead of the upcoming Assembly polls in the State. The pirzada said that the newly launched outfit might contest State elections from all 294 Assembly seats. "We have formed this party to ensure that constitutional democracy is protected, everybody gets social justice and all of us live with dignity," Mr. Siddiqui, the head of the prominent Sufi mazar, said at the launch of his political outfit at the Kolkata Press Club. “In the days ahead, we shall organise several programmes to reach out to the masses,” he said. Sources close to Siddiqui said the new party was likely to contest 60 to 80 seats where it has a good chance of winning. The All India Majlise - I t t e h a d u l Muslimeen(AIMIM), led by Asaduddin Owaisi, too plans to contest about 70 seats. Bengal has 125-odd seats where Muslims votes are in sizeable numbers and are enough to influence the final result. Of these 125 seats, 41 have a minority population of more than 50 per cent and 80-plus seats have Muslims votes of around 30 per cent. Siddiqui’s entry into politics may damage Mamata Banerjee’s TMC, which had Pirzada of Furfura Sharif, Abbas Siddiqui (RIGHT), hands over the flag of a new political party 'Indian Secular Front' to his brother Md. Naushad Siddique who has appointed Chairman, in Kolkata on Thursday. PRABIR BHATTACHARYA won 90 of these Muslim-dominated seats. Now, the cleric is expected to eat into majority of these seats considering his influence and anti-incumbency factor against Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee Asked if his move to float a new outfit and contest the polls would lead to a split in minority votes -- a factor that might be disadvantageous for the Trinamool Congress-- Mr. Siddiqui said that it was not his job to worry about the ruling party's election prospects. To a question about the possibility of forging an alliance with the Trinamool, he said,"It is the duty of Mamata Banerjee as the Chief Minister of the State to take everybody along to stop the march of the BJP, not mine." Elections to the 294-member Bengal Assembly are likely to be held in April-May. For the last few months, Abbas Siddiqui had been deliberating on options on whether he should form a political party and go solo or support other political parties. Last month, AIMIM’s Asaduddin Owaisi met Siddiqui to discuss the upcoming elections and a possible alliance. Sources close to Siddiqui said the new party was likely to contest 60 to 80 seats where it has a good chance of winning. Owaisi too plans to contest over 70 seats. Bengal has 125-odd seats where Muslims votes are in sizeable numbers and are enough to influence the result. Of these 125 seats, 41 have a minority population of more than 50 per cent and 80-plus seats have Muslims votes of around 30 per cent. Siddiqui’s entry into poli- tics may damage Mamata Banerjee’s TMC, which had won 90 of these Muslim-dominated seats. Now, the cleric is expected to eat into majority of these seats considering his influence and anti-incumbency factor against Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee. Siddiqui alleged that the Congress, CPM and Trinamool had done nothing for the Muslims or the poor in Bengal over the years. He said he was speaking not only for Muslims but also for the poor tribals and the downtrodden. The cleric said that it was the NRC and CAA which first made him shift from giving sermons to working towards a political platform. He said he was convinced that they needed to send their people to the Assembly, raising the right issues and objecting to the wrongs. “The BJP is an enemy of the country,” he said. The cleric said that when he was not in politics, even then the BJP won seats in Bengal. In 2019, the BJP won 18 of 42 Lok Sabha seats with 40.7 per cent vote share. In 2014, it had just two seats and about 20 per cent votes. Siddiqui accused the Trinamool and other parties of playing with the votes of minorities that allowed the BJP to gain ground in Bengal. He also refuted the charge that his entry into politics would divide the minority votes thereby helping the BJP, like it did in 2019. 5 killed in SII complex fire, but Covishield plant safe PUNE: At least five persons suffocated to death in a major fire that engulfed an underconstruction building in a plant of global vaccine giant, Serum Institute of India (SII), here on Thursday afternoon, triggering nationwide anxiety. Health Minister Rajesh Tope and Pune Mayor Murlidhar Mohol announced that five persons, believed to be labourers, had perished in the blaze and their bodies were recovered during the sweeping and cooling operations. As the state government ordered a high-level inquiry into the tragedy, another four persons were rescued safely from the blaze which erupted on two or three upper floors of the SII building which was being readied for a BCG vaccine plant. Allaying nationwide concerns over the fate of the Covid-19 vaccines being man- Smoke billows out of Serum Institute of India in Pune on Thursday. ufactured by the company, Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray held a press conference while SII CEO Adar Poonawalla issued a personal statement of reassurance. "I would like to reassure all governments and the public that there would no loss of Covishield production due to multiple production buildings that I had kept in reserve to deal with such contingencies at SII," Poonawalla said, ANI seeking to quell anxieties among the company’s global clientele. Thackeray discussed and reviewed the situation with top officials and said the SII had informed that the Covid-19 vaccine produc- tion was not affected in any manner, and the priority was to bring the blaze under control and save people. Similarly, Union Minister Prakash Javadekar, Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar, Health Minister Tope, FDA Minister Rajendra Shingne, and others spoke with the SII top brass to apprise themselves of the exact scenario. Though sabotage has been ruled out, in view of the national and global concerns the tragedy evoked, Pawar said that a thorough probe would be conducted into the incident, while reiterating that the Covidshield line facility was unaffected. Visiting the site, Shiv Sena workers’ wing Bharatiya Kamgar Sena’s General Secretary Raghunath Kuchik, accorded a MoS rank, termed the tragedy as "shocking and accidental" and hoped that there are no more casualties. Joe Biden’s Day One in office Signs order to end Trump’s Muslim travel ban; halts US withdrawal from WHO WASHINGTON: In a blow to his predecessor Donald Trump’s actions to limit immigration, US President Joe Biden on Wednesday has ended the ‘Muslim travel ban’, which blocked travel to the United States from several predominantly Muslim and African countries. Hours after taking the office, Biden on Wednesday signed 17 executive orders memorandums and proclamations including ending the Muslim travel ban. He has directed the State Department to restart visa processing for individuals from the affected countries and to develop ways to address the harm caused to those who were prevented from coming to the United States because of the ban, The New York Times reported. Implemented in 2017 during Trump’s first week in office, the Muslim Ban initially restricted travel from seven Muslim-majority nations: Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen. The ban faced several legal challenges, but the Farmers body rejects govt proposal to suspend farm laws NEW DELHI: Farmer leaders on Thursday rejected the government’s offer to suspend the three farm laws for 12 to 16 months. At a full general body meeting of the Sanyukta Kisan Morcha, a complete repeal of three central farm laws and enacting a legislation for remunerative MSP for every farmer were again reiterated as the outstanding demands of the farmers movement. "The Morcha pays homage to more than 140 farmers who have lost their lives in the agitation. These companions are separated from us while fighting this mass movement. Their sacrifice will not go in vain and we will not go back without the repeal of these farm laws," said a statement released by the Sanyukta Kisan Morcha. 92 countries post request for Made-in-India vaccines N inety-two countries have approached India for Covid-19 vaccines, bolstering New Delhis credentials as the vaccine hub of the world. Highly placed sources said that scores of countries are approaching India, as the word spreads that Indian vaccines are showing negligible side-effects, since the immunization drive in the country began on Saturday. India is sending its domestically developed vaccines to several neighbouring countries including Nepal, Bangladesh, Myanmar. In a letter to PM Modi on Tuesday, Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit of the Dominican Republic, has also requested for inoculation, signally that the demand for Indian jabs has acquired a transcontinental appeal. "As we enter 2021 and persevere in our fight against Covid-19, Dominica’s population of 72,100 is in urgent need of enough doses of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine. I, therefore, request, with great humility and respect, that you assist us by donating the doses we need to make our population safe (optimally 70,000 first and second doses)," wrote Skerrit. In other parts of Latin America, Brazil, which has the second highest number of coronavirus cases in the world next only to the United States, has sent a special plane to pick up Indian vaccines from Pune. A Brazilian plane is expected to fly the first 2 million doses of a Covid-19 vaccine purchased by the government’s Fiocruz biomedical institute. According to a Reuters report from Sao Paulo, Health Minister Eduardo Pazuello said the documentation is ready for bringing the AstraZeneca-Oxford University vaccine being produced at the Serum Institute of India. Brazil’s Anvisa has scheduled a meeting for next Sunday to decide on the emergency use of the vaccine developed by AstraZeneca and Oxford as well as one by developed by China’s Sinovac Biotec. Meanwhile the Bolivian government had also signed a contract with India’s Serum Institute for the supply of 5 million doses of AstraZeneca’s Covid-19 vaccine. President Luis Arce said that combined with a recent deal to buy 5.2 million Sputnik V vaccine doses from Russia, Bolivia now expected to be able to inoculate all of its vaccinable population. The sources said that in tune with Prime Minister Modi’s message that India’s vaccine approach are intended to heal humanity, India would not be averse to provide vaccines to Pakistan, as part of a drive to eliminate the virus globally. And in the course of time if the Chinese vaccine does not work, India would not hesitate to supply jabs to Beijing as well. The sources pointed out that India’s vaccine exports to China may go a long way in addressing India’s adverse trade balance with the Middle Kingdom. So far, China’s vaccine has shown patchy results. For instance, after Thailand has discovered that the efficacy of the two million doses of the Chinese Sinovac Biotech Covid-19 vaccine, has dropped dramatically. The Bangkok Post said that the Thai Ministry of Public Health has requested further information about the vaccine it has ordered from China following a report "it might not be as effective as first thought" even as it goes ahead with its plan to receive and administer the vaccine CORONAVIRUS PANDEMIC from Sinovac Biotech. "We are asking for information directly from Sinovac, so we are waiting for their response to get all the facts," Supakit Sirilak, Thailand’s Director-General of Medical Science Department, was quoted as saying by the newspaper. Singapore too has confirmed that the vaccine developed by China’s Sinovac Biotech will have to go through regulatory scrutiny and authorisation by the country’s Health Sciences Authority (HSA) before being rolled out for the public. "We will go through the data carefully when it comes, rather than depending on reported numbers. It’s better to rely on official data that we receive from Sinovac itself," said Singapore’s Health Minister Gan Kim Yong according to a report in The Straits Times. Supreme Court in 2018 upheld the final version of the measure. The Muslim travel ban so far restricts citizens from 12 countries -Iran, Libya, Syria, Yemen, Somalia, Nigeria, Myanmar, Eritrea, Kyrgyzstan, Sudan, Tanzania and North Korea -and some Venezuelan officials and their relatives from obtaining a broad range of US visas, NPR reported. With another executive order, Biden has bolstered the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program that protects from deportation immigrants brought to the United States as children, often called Dreamers. He informed United Nations Director-General Antonio Guterres about the US’ decision to re-join the World Health Organisation. Walking back on the former administration’s plan to withdraw the US from the WHO, Biden said: "This letter constitutes a retraction by the Government of the United States of the letter dated July 6, 2020, notifying you that the Government. COS HAVE TO PAY GST ON REMUNERATION OF INDEPENDENT DIRECTORS NEW DELHI: A company is liable to pay GST on remunerations paid to Independent Directors on a reverse charge basis. The Rajasthan Appellate Authority on Advance Ruling (AAR) has also clarified that the parts of Director’s remuneration which are declared as ‘salaries’ in the books of a company and subjected to TDS under Section 192 of the IT Act, are not taxable, being consideration for services by an employee to the employer. The Central Board of Indirect Taxes and Customs (CBIC) also clarified through circular that in respect of such Directors who are not the employees of the said company, the services provided by them to the company, in lieu of remuneration as the consideration for the said services, are clearly outside the scope of Schedule III of the CGST Act and are therefore taxable. As per the CBIC circular, service tax liability arises for the company only in respect of payments made to non-whole time Directors. Further, the development would not bring revenue to the government as any GST paid on salary to the Director under reverse charge mechanism would be available to any company as input tax credit and the whole exercise would revenue neutral.