YK MYK US HOUSE PASSES BILLS GRANTING ‘DREAMERS’ PATH TO CITIZENSHIP WORLD Rs. 3 KOLKATA SATURDAY, 20 MARCH, 2021 PG-12, YEAR—7, ISSUE—303 (RNI NO: WBENG / 2014 / 56803) WEATHER TODAY MAX 36 C MIN 24 C MOUNI: BHAGWAT GEETA MUST BE PART OF SCHOOL CURRICULUM SCREEN & CINEMA Morning India Mamata extends support to Kejriwal MI NEWS SERVICE Sky will be partly cloudy. AT A GLANCE FINLAND WORLD’S HAPPIEST COUNTRY, INDIA AT 140TH HELSINKI: For a fourth consecutive year and despite the Covid-19 pandemic, Finland has been ranked the world’s happiest country, a UN report said on Friday. The researchers said this was “no surprise”, citing that Finland has “always ranked very high on the measures of mutual trust that have helped to protect lives and livelihoods during the pandemic”, reports Xinhua news agency. Finland was one of 23 surveyed countries that had a female head of government. They “have tended to favour making policy with overall wellbeing as the objective, and this makes suppressing community transmission an even more obvious choice for them”, according to the World Happiness Report. The report is based on three years of Gallup surveys of how happy citizens perceive themselves to be. The US ranked 20th, Russia 77th, China 85th, and India 140th. Trailing the 149-strong list were Rwanda, Zimbabwe, and Afghanistan. CORONA METER INDIA TOTAL CASES: 1,15,15,434 TOTAL DEATH: 159,414 WORLD TOTAL CASES: 122,507,465 TOTAL DEATH: 2,705,517 NEW DELHI/KOLKATA: Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee wrote to her Delhi counterpart Arvind Kejriwal to extend support to his 'struggle' against the introduction of the Government of National Capital Territory of Delhi (Amendment) Bill, 2021 in Lok Sabha and called the move as "surgical strike on federal structure". "The Government of National Capital Territory of Delhi (Amendment) Bill, 2021, which the BJP government at the Centre has introduced in the Lok Sabha, is a surgical strike on the federal structure of the Indian Republic," read the letter. Banerjee said the BJP, which suffered at the hands of the Aam Aadmi Party in Assembly elections, wants to govern Delhi by proxy, which is the real purpose of the proposed amendments to the GNCTD Act. "It is evident to all that both Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah have not been able to stomach the humiliating defeat the BJP suffered at the hands of the Aam Aadmi Party in Assembly elections. They want to govern Delhi by proxy, which is the real purpose of the proposed amendments to the GNCTD Act," she stated. Responding to her letter, Kejriwal tweeted: "Thank u Didi for ur solid support to the people of Delhi." The Bill was tabled by the Central government in Lok Sabha on March 15. Five states account for 80.63 pc of daily COVID-19 cases, says ministry Doctors warn EC against flouting of Covid norms by politicos SUPROTIM MUKHERJEE KOLKATA: Doctors’ organisations, representing more than 30,000 of them in Bengal, have written to the Election Commission of India (ECI) warning that the State faces a dire situation since political parties and activists are flouting Covid norms at will in election season. The Bengal chapter of the Joint Platform of Doctors, comprising of Association of Health Service Doctors, Doctors for Democracy, Health Service Association, Shramajibi Swasthya Udyog and the West Bengal Doctors Forum, wrote to the Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) on Friday, suggesting norms under which parties should carry out their poll campaigns and outreach programmes, said Dr Hiralal Konar and Dr Punyabrata Gun, Joint Conveners of the organisation. It said: “The number of Covid victims in Bengal has been increasing significantly over the last seven days. Mutant strains are also being found in the bodies of several patients in the State. It is to be noted that, the number of tests being regularly performed are much less than it was earlier. “The day before yesterday, 22841 new patients were detected across the country. This is for the first time since December 25, 2020 (22350) that so many patients have been infected in a single day. “A large number of patients are being admitted in Covid ICUs and HDUs in many hospitals again. Beds are not available in Covid ICUs or HDUs, free ventilators are also not available. “While it is not possible to conclude with certainty about the initiation of the second wave, this trend is quite alarming,” the forum wrote. It said that Covid-appropriate safety rules had completely disappeared in the process of holding rallies and meetings of all political parties on the occasion of the upcoming elections in the State. “Most of the participants are ordinary people, leaders, even the police in charge of security, and most of the guards do not have a mask on their face, or it has become customary to put it down below the chin, and there is no sign of obedience to social and physical distancing norms. In other words, every act of spreading the contagion is being observed and all the political parties are opposed to each other on various issues but all the parties agree to remain silent on this crucial issue of public health,” the letter said, adding: “As doctors, it is our duty and moral obligation to warn the people of the State about this. None of us want to see those terrible days of 2020 again.” The doctors cited facts and figures to buttress their warning. “Only one-fourth to one-third of the population has detectable antibodies against the Coronavirus. The rest of the people are not safe at all from Covid-19 yet. Out of 100 million people in the State, only 20.3 lakh have been vaccinated till date. This means that some of them received only one or two doses. And the total number of tests have been a little more than 6 million people. “Vaccine manufacturers claim that whether Covishield or Covaxin is given, after taking two doses at one month intervals, immunity will develop after one more month. The first dose was given to the election workers a few days ago. So they have to discharge their election related assignments before their resistance is formed.” The forum warned that political activists and a large number of people who will be inside the booths during the election campaign, preparation or on election day will be mostly at risk. It urged the Election Commission to ensure that in the rallies of political parties, safety and hygiene were observed in the gatherings. The Joint Forum also offered some concrete suggestions to the Election Commission. It recommended that “political processions should be long so that the participants are at least 3 feet apart”. If the meetings are being held in a big field, the distance rules are to be followed. If a big field is not available, the meeting should be in the open.It urged the Commission to make masks compulsory at election rallies and polling booths. “Wear two masks instead of one properly, with the nose, mouth and chin covered,” the forum wrote. It also suggested that political leaders should seek votes as well as campaign for the prevention of Covid19. They should inspire ordinary people by following the rules themselves, show appropriate and correct path, and set an example. At the same time, the number of Covid tests should be increased by the Government, the Forum recommended. The Joint Forum also asked the Election Commission to ensure strict administrative and legal measures regarding Covid-19 and take appropriate punitive measures against those who do not follow rules. Lion attacks man at Alipore Zoo KOLKATA: A man was seriously injured after being attacked by a lion after he entered the animal's enclosure at the Alipore Zoo here on Friday morning, an official said. The unidentified man is undergoing treatment at the SSKM Hospital and his condition is "critical", hospital sources said. The incident happened at around 11.30 am when the man after entering the zoo "somehow managed to climb the boundary wall before jumping over the two netted- boundaries to get inside the enclosure. The lion, which was out of its cage, attacked the man. He has been very badly injured," an official said. Alerted by the other visitors, security guards rescued the man and sent him to the SSKM Hospital after informing local police, the official added. "We are checking the CCTV footage to get a clear picture of the incident. We are trying to find out his identity," a policeman said. US Def Secy in Delhi to face Indo-Pacific ‘pressing challenges’ NEW DELHI: Maharashtra, Punjab, Karnataka, Gujarat and Chhattisgarh continue to report a surge in fresh COVID-19 cases and they account for 80.63 per cent of the daily new cases, the Union Health Ministry said on Friday. “Some states in the country are reporting a surge in the daily new COVID-19 cases. Maharashtra, Punjab, Karnataka, Gujarat and Chhattisgarh together account 80.63 per cent of the daily new cases,” according to a statement. As many as 39,726 new daily cases were reported in last 24 hours. Maharashtra continues to record the highest daily new cases at 25,833, 65 per cent of the daily cases, followed by Punjab with 2,369 while Kerala reported 1,899 new cases. In terms of response, the Centre is actively engaging with all state and Union Territories (UTs) governments, especially those showing an upsurge in daily new cases and with a high caseload of active cases. The government is regularly reviewing the status of COVID-19 containment and public health measures with them, as per the statement. States/UTs have been advised to improve testing in districts reporting reduction in testing and increase the overall share of RT-PCR tests (more MORE ON PG 5 than 70 per cent). NEW DELHI: US Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin arrived here on Friday for discussions on cooperating to face “most pressing challenges” in the Indo-Pacific. The first visit by a member of US President Joe Biden’s cabinet to India came as leaders of the US and China clashed at a meeting in Alaska symbolising the growing aggressiveness by China. It is particularly seen in the Indo-Pacific region and the US is responding by working closely with allies and partners. India has seen a year of violent attacks by Chinese military against India along the Line of Actual Control in the Himalayas. Austin tweeted: “Thrilled to be here in India. The breadth of cooperation between our two nations reflects the significance of our major defence partnership, as we work together to address the most pressing challenges facing the Indo-Pacific region.” He is scheduled to hold discussions with Defence Minister Rajnath Singh and National Security Advisor Ajit Doval. The Pentagon said that he will also be meeting Prime Minister Narendra Modi. BENGAL POLLS: SHAH TO RELEASE BJP MANIFESTO TOMORROW NEW DELHI: Union Home Minister Amit Shah will release the Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) manifesto for the West Bengal Assembly elections in Kolkata during his day-long visit to the poll-bound state on March 21. According to a statement issued by the BJP, Shah will hold a public meeting at Pallighai Scholl ground in Egra in Purba Medinipur district on March 21 (Sunday noon). Later, he will hold a meeting with district and divisional office bearers of the party at Mecheda. In the evening, the Union Home Minister will release BJP’s manifesto for the West Bengal Assembly elections. India’s middle class shrinks by 32 mn, poverty spreads due to Covid NEW DELHI: A new Pew Research Center analysis finds that the middle class in India is estimated to have shrunk by 32 million in 2020 as a consequence of the economic downturn, compared with the number it may have reached absent the Covid pandemic. This accounts for 60 per cent of the global retreat in the number of people in the middleincome tier defined here as people with incomes of $10.01-$20 a day. Meanwhile, the number of people who are poor in India (with incomes of $2 or less a day) is estimated to have increased by 75 million because of the Covid19 recession. This, too, accounts for nearly 60 per cent of the glob- al increase in poverty. Perhaps not surprisingly, media reports in India point to a spike in participation in its rural employment programme - originally intended to combat poverty in agricultural areas - as the many who have lost jobs in the reeling economy seek work. The number now participating is setting record highs in the programme’s 14-year history, Pew Research said. Prior to the pandemic, it was anticipated that 99 million people in India would belong in the global middle class in 2020. A year into the pandemic, this number is estimated to be have been 66 million, cut by a third. Meanwhile, the number of poor in India is projected to have reached 134 PEOPLE’S PLIGHT A new Pew Research Center analysis finds that the middle class in India is estimated to have shrunk by 32 million in 2020 as a consequence of the economic downturn, compared with the number it may have reached absent the Covid pandemic. This accounts for 60 per cent of the global retreat in the number of people in the middle-income tier defined here as people with incomes of $10.01-$20 a day. Prior to the pandemic, it was anticipated that 99 million people in India would belong in the global middle class in 2020. A year into the pandemic, this number is estimated to be have been 66 million, cut by a third. Meanwhile, the number of poor in India is projected to have reached 134 million, more than double the 59 million expected prior to the recession. The poverty rate in India likely rose to 9.7 per cent in 2020. million, more than double the 59 million expected prior to the recession. The poverty rate in India likely rose to 9.7 per cent in 2020, up sharply from the January 2020 forecast of 4.3 per cent. Most people in India were in the global low-income tier in 2020. Some 1.20 billion people in India were expected to be in this tier in 2020 prior to the pandemic, accounting for 30 per cent of the world’s low income population. This number is projected to have dropped to 1.16 billion as the Covid-19 downturn pushed more people into poverty. For both India and China, the drop in living standards in 2020 is a sharp departure from recent trends. From 2011 to 2019, the THE NUMBER OF PEOPLE WHO ARE POOR IN INDIA (WITH INCOMES OF $2 OR LESS A DAY) IS ESTIMATED TO HAVE INCREASED BY 75 MILLION BECAUSE OF THE COVID-19 RECESSION. New Pew Research Center number of poor in India is estimated to have decreased from 340 million to 78 million. The projected rise in poverty in 2020 when comparing pre-pandemic and revised figures - 75 million claws back several years of progress on this front for India. The retreat of India’s middle class in 2020 - by 32 million - also looms large in the context of the addition of 57 million to this income tier from 2011 to 2019. For Indian trade, 2020 was a year dominated by unprecedented challenges, irregular manufacturing and buying patterns, disrupted trade environments and lack of predictability, Maersk report said on Friday. With the Covid-19 pandemic spreading across the world in a staggered manner and in varying proportions, the impact on containerised trade was felt the most in Q2/2020 when exports contracted by 34 per cent.