YK MYK BJP STEPS UP POLL PREPAREDNESS FOR UTTAR PRADESH ELECTIONS OPINION Rs. 3 KOLKATA THURSDAY, 3 JUNE, 2021 PG-08, YEAR—8, ISSUE—19 (RNI NO: WBENG / 2014 / 56803) THAROOR BATS FOR UNIVERSAL AND FREE VACCINATION NATION Morning India ‘Arbitrary, irrational’ SC ON CENTRE’S VACCINATION POLICY FOR 18-44 YEARS Conditions ripe for onset of monsoon over Kerala on June 3 NEW DELHI: Conditions are ripe for the southwest monsoon to make an onset over Kerala on June 3 after missing its normal onset date, the India Meteorological Department (IMD) said on Wednesday. It said spatial rainfall distribution has increased over Kerala and the westerly winds have strengthened in the lower levels over the south Arabian Sea. According to the satellite imagery, there is an increase in cloudiness over the Kerala coast and adjoining southeast Arabian Sea. "The conditions are likely to favour in further enhancement in rainfall activity over Kerala during next 24 hours. Hence, the monsoon onset over Kerala is likely to take place during the same period," the IMD said. The normal date for arrival for monsoon over Kerala is June 1. The IMD had predicted that monsoon would hit Kerala on May 31 with an error margin of plus or minus four days. But on May 30, it said conditions were not ripe for the monsoon to hit Kerala the next day. Monsoon is expected to be normal this year, the IMD said. CORONA METER INDIA TOTAL CASES: 2,83,21,991 TOTAL DEATH: 3,35,389 WORLD TOTAL CASES: 172,044,522 TOTAL DEATH: 3,578,202 NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court on Wednesday made scathing remarks on Centre's vaccination policy against Covid-19, terming the replacement of free vaccination in the first two phases with paid vaccination for persons between 18-44 years as prima facie as "arbitrary and irrational". In a 32-page ruling, a bench comprising Justices D.Y. Chandrachud, L. Nageswara Rao and S. Ravindra Bhat said: "Due to the importance of vaccinating individuals in the 18-44 age group, the policy of the Central government for conducting free vaccination themselves for groups under the first 2 phases, and replacing it with paid vaccination by the state/UT governments and private hospitals for the persons between 18-44 years is, prima facie, arbitrary and irrational." The court noted that persons between 18-44 years of age have not only been infected by Covid-19 but have also suffered from severe effects of the infection, including prolonged hospitalisation and, in unfortunate cases, death. "Due to the changing nature of the pandemic, we are now faced with a situation where the 18-44 age group also needs to be vaccinated, although priority may be retained between different age groups on a scientific basis," it said. Healthcare workers (HCWs), frontline workers (FLWs) and persons above the age of 45 years, were prioritised in Phases 1 and 2 for obtaining Covid-19 vaccines. The vaccination policy was substantially changed for persons between 18-44 years of age. The liberalised vaccination policy requires some of these persons to pay for the vaccines, limited vaccines were made available for this category with the state/UT governments/private hospitals, and an additional requirement of mandatory digital registration through CoWIN. The top court noted vaccination of the nation's entire eligible population is the singular most important task in effectively combating the pandemic in the long run. Citing issues with vaccination poli- cy, the amicus curiae, in the matter, said states and municipal bodies unsuccessfully negotiated with foreign manufacturers to procure vaccines and the Centre is better placed to use its monopoly as a buyer to bargain for higher quantities of vaccines at reasonable prices. "We find that the submissions urged by the Amici are extremely pertinent and have indicated that in practice, the liberalised vaccination policy may not be able to yield the desired results of spurring competitive prices and higher quantities of vaccines," the bench noted. The Centre said the Union Budget for financial year 20212022 had earmarked Rs 3,5000 crore for procuring vaccines. However, the top court said in light of the liberalised vaccination policy, the Centre is directed to clarify how these funds have been spent so far and why they cannot be utilised for vaccinating persons aged 18-44 years. Justifying its intervention on vaccine policy, the top court said judicial review and soliciting constitutional justification for policies formulated by the executive is an essential function, which the courts are entrusted to perform. "Our Constitution does not envisage courts to be silent spectators MUST FIND WAYS TO ENSURE AFFORDABLE ACCESS TO KEY DRUGS AMID PANDEMIC: HARSH VARDHAN As Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan completed his tenure as the Chairman of the World Health Organization (WHO) Executive Board, he said that there is no scope for industries to stick to intellectual property rights (IPR) of COVID-19 vaccines and that organizations must find ways to ensure affordable access to key drugs. PG 7 when constitutional rights of citizens are infringed by executive policies," it said. The top court added that the current vaccine policy enables state/UT governments and private hospitals to procure 50 percent of the monthly Central Drugs Laboratory approved doses in the country at a pre-fixed price. "The justification for this policy has been adduced in a bid to spur competition which would attract more private manufacturers that could eventually drive down prices. Prima facie, the only room for negotiation with the two vaccine manufacturers (Bharat Biotech and Serum Insititute of India) was on price and quantity, both of which have been pre-fixed by the Central government. This casts serious doubts on UoI's justification for enabling higher prices as a competitive measure," it said. The bench contended that if the Centre's unique monopolistic buyer position is the only reason for it receiving vaccines at a much lower rate from manufacturers, it is important for the court to examine the rationality of the existing liberalised vaccination policy against Article 14 of the Constitution, since it could place severe burdens, particularly on states/UTs suffering from financial distress. The judgment was passed in the suo motu case initiated by top court to deal with issues relating to Covid-19 management in the country. On May 31, the Supreme Court had shot a volley of tough questions at Centre in connection with its Covid vaccine policy, and flagged various flaws: shortage of vaccine doses, pricing issues, registration for vaccination, and lack of vaccine, especially for the rural areas in the country. SC DIRECTS CENTRE TO SUBMIT COMPLETE DATA ON PURCHASE HISTORY OF COVID-19 VACCINES PAGE 7 Abhishek Banerjee defends Alapan Bandyopadhyay MI NEWS SERVICE SOUTH 24 PARGANAS: Hitting out at the Centre for issuing a show-cause notice to Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee's Chief Adviser Alapan Bandyopadhyay under the Disaster Management Act, 2005, Trinamool Congress (TMC) leader Abhishek Banerjee on Wednesday questioned why are Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Union Home Minister Amit Shah not prosecuted for the same. Earlier on Wednesday, TMC leader Banerjee visited Patharpratima and Sandeshkhali in the Sunderbans of South 24 Parganas district to assess the devastation left behind by cyclone 'Yaas' on river embankment and the surrounding area. Speaking to the media after the visit, the TMC MP from Diamond Harbour said the Disaster Management Act should be applied to the Election Commissioner for conducting the Bengal Assembly elections in eight phases. "Those who are protesting under the pretext of dealing with the disaster are responsible first. The Disaster Management Act should be enforced by the officials in charge of elections. It should be enforced against the Home Minister and the Prime Minister (for campaigning during a pandemic). It should also be applied against all political parties including us. The Disaster Management Act should be applied to the Election Commissioner," said Banerjee. TMC MP questioned why Disaster Management laws were not applied to politicians for conducting road shows amid pandemic. "Delhi leaders have held road shows. Then why the disaster management law will not be applied against them? Look at your face in the mirror first. As a result of the eight-phase elections in Bengal, many people have died due to Coronavirus. When the Prime Minister should have asked the people to stay at home, he came here and said, 'I have never seen so many people before, it feels good'. This is our misfortune as countrymen," he said. On Tuesday, just a day after being appointed as Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee's Chief Adviser, Bandyopadhyay was issued a show-cause notice by the Central Government under the Disaster Management Act, 2005 asking him to write within three days. On Monday also, a show-cause notice was served to Alapan Bandyopadhyay for failing to report to the Department of Personnel and Training (DOPT) as directed by the Central Government. Centre rubbishes charges levelled by Mamata defends action on ex-Bengal Chief Secretary MI NEWS SERVICE NEW DELHI/KOLKATA: The Central Government on Tuesday defended its move to summon former Bengal Chief Secretary Alapan Bandyopadhyay and called its transfer order 'Constitutional', according to sources. "The order is perfectly Constitutional since Chief Secretary is an All India Services officer. He chose to ignore his Constitutional duties, as a result of which no presentation was given to Prime Minister and no officer of Bengal Government attended the Prime Minister's review meeting," Central Government sources said. The former Chief Secretary was summoned for Central deputation after he reportedly failed to give a presentation to Prime Minister Narendra Modi in the cyclone Yaas review meeting last week. According to sources, he left the meet along with Chief Minister without giving a proper reason. A day after Chief Secretary Alapan Bandyopadhyay was asked to report to the Department of Personnel and Training (DOPT), New Delhi, Bandyopadhyay opted for retirement from his position as Chief Secretary and joined the Mamata Banerjee-led Government as her Chief Adviser. The Centre then accused Mamata of protecting Bandyopadhyay from disciplinary action. "Chief Secretary's retirement shows that Mamata Banerjee is on the back foot. She knows that facts of the matter are against the Chief Secretary and his behaviour was such that it will invite strict disciplinary action as he is an All India Services Officer and it was his duty to ensure that the review meeting takes place as scheduled. All India Officers are not expected to be part of politics. Mamata knows all this and his retirement is the last bid to save him," said sources. "Mamata Banerjee has done a big U-turn in a matter of hours, from requesting Prime Minister to confirm the extension of Chief Secretary for three months to retiring him now," added sources. Earlier, Bengal Chief Minister called the Centre's move regarding Chief Secretary a unilateral order without prior consultation with the State and argued that the order is legally "untenable, unprecedented, unconstitutional". The Union Ministry of Personnel also issued Bandyopadhyay a show-cause notice for not reporting to the Department of Personnel and Training (DOPT). Mamata also raised questions on the Union Government's decision to move the Chief Secretary to Central deputation as he recently got an extension of three months. Central Government sources further said, "The fact that GoI had agreed to extend the service of Chief Secretary shows that it is acting in full co-operation and without malice against Bengal." Government sources also countered other allegations levelled by Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee that she was not informed about Prime Miniter's meeting on time. Sources also said the Prime Minister did not give permission to Mamata Banerjee to leave the meeting as she claimed. "Mamata Banerjee had agreed to attend the meeting. However, she changed her mind after coming to know that the Leader of Opposition (LoP) was going to be part of the meeting, which she also mentions in her letter. Hence it is clear that her pre-decided schedule was not an issue at all. This was also confirmed by the Governor of Bengal who has tweeted that Mamata told him that she would boycott the meeting if LoP attends the meeting," added sources. Prime Minister Narendra Modi had held a review meeting at Kalaikunda in Paschim Medinipur district to take stock of the post-cyclonic situation. Mamata Banerjee was supposed to attend the meeting. However, she arrived late by 30 minutes and handed him over reports of damage caused by the impact of cyclone Yaas. Following this, she and the State Chief Secretary left for her "prescheduled" meeting at Digha. Kolkata Police personnel checking vehicles at a Naka Point during lockdown on Wednesday. Bengal forms expert committee to decide on Madhyamik, HS exams KOLKATA: Though Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee had earlier announced that there will be Madhyamik and Higher Secondary examinations this year but the State Government on Wednesday formed an expert committee to decide whether the board exams are possible in this pandemic situation. The expert committee has been asked to give its report within 72 hours. On Wednesday, the day when the exam schedule for Madhyamik and Higher Secondary was supposed to be announced, the State Government postponed the announcement and formed an expert committee to review the entire situation and submit a report within 72 hours on the possibility and mechanism of conducting the exams in this Corona situa- tion. Sources in the board said the committee will give its opinion on several things including whether exams are possible and if it is possible then what will be the mechanism of conducting them without exposing students to the infection. The committee will also look into the aspects of evaluating the students if there are no exams at all. Sources in the board indicated that top board officials including President of West Bengal Board of Secondary Examination (WBBSE) Kalyanmoy Ganguly, President of West Bengal Council for Higher Secondary Examination (WBCHSE) Mohua Das and Chairperson of West Bengal Commission for the Protection of Child Rights Ananya Chakraborty will be a part of the expert committee. Apart from that there will be doctors who are working with Covid patients, child psychologists and mem- bers of different NGOs who work mainly with the children and teenagers. "The expert committee has been asked to submit their report within 72 hours. The State Government will evaluate the whole thing in the light of the report submitted by the expert committee and then the final decision will be taken. However, it will not take long because the board is keen to ease out the tension of the students," a senior board official said. The board officials are of the opinion that after the cancellation of the class XII exams of the CBSE and ISC, the formation of an expert committee is very significant because the health of the students is the most important thing for the boards as well as the State Government.