www.freepressjournal.in | twitter.com/fpjindia Reg. No. Mcs/048/2018-20; RNI No. 1541/1957 I M.p.c.s office Mumbai-400001 ‘AMAZON FAVOURED BIG SELLERS ON INDIA PLATFORM, DODGED RULES’ Pg 9 ADITI RAO HYDARI AND KONKONA SEN SHARMA TO STAR IN NETFLIX’S NEXT? Pg 24 SUPPORT TO FARM STIR WINS CONG PUNJAB CIVIC POLLS 290c. 220c. Sunrise: 07:05 am Sunset: 06:40 pm PETROL 100.13 NOT OUT ‘It’s never too late’ Vol. 64 No. 249 | THURSDAY | FEBRUARY 18, 2021 | 14 Pages | EDITIONS: Mumbai*, Pune, Indore, Bhopal, E-Paper P FPJ NEWS SERVICE New Delhi ossibly for the first time in Independent India, the price of petrol has crossed the Rs 100/litre threshold. The dubious distinction goes to Rajasthan’s Sriganganagar district (Rs 100.13). Diesel is agonisingly close at Rs 92.13 in the city . Apologists would, of course, point out that Rajasthan has one of the highest VAT rates on fuel despite the State government reducing it on both fuels by 2% last month. The denizens of Mumbai can take solace in the fact that the petrol price is yet to cross the physiological mark and despite the seemingly 25 paise per litre hike on Wednesday it is still hovering at Rs , 96. SIDELIGHTS COVID VARIANTS: TRAVEL NORMS The Centre has issued new guidelines for international arrivals with mutant variants of SARS-CoV-2 spreading across the world and also marking their presence in India. These will supersede all guidelines issued since August 2, 2020. As per these, all international travellers, except those coming through flights originating from the United Kingdom, Europe and Middle East, will be required to submit a self-declaration form on the online 'Air Suvidha' portal before the scheduled travel. They would also need to upload a negative Covid-19 RT-PCR test report. This test should have been conducted within 72 hours prior to undertaking the journey. "Each passenger shall also submit a declaration with respect to authenticity of the report and will be liable for criminal prosecution, if found otherwise," the guidelines said. According to the guidelines, they will be required to declare their travel history of the past 14 days and whether they plan to disembark at the arrival airport or take further flights to reach their final destination in India. JAB IN MARKET BY YEAR-END Coronavirus vaccines might be available in the open market by end of the year, once the targeted groups are covered and there is an equivalence of supply and demand, said Dr. Randeep Guleria, Director of All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), after receiving the second dose of COVID-19 vaccine on Wednesday. Sharing his experience of the past 28 days (the time duration for the second dose), Dr. Guleria said: "I didn't face any difficulty. I urge people not to fear the vaccine and it is totally safe. People should come out and take the vaccine. This is essential if we want to come out of the pandemic." Sahil Pandey/New Delhi INDIA: VIRUS RAN INTO BARRICADE? Pg 12 Owing to these seemingly marginal hikes in nine straight days, prices have gone up by Rs 2.59 per litre for petrol and 2.82 per litre for Rs CRICKET UTSAV HOTTEST BATSMEN/ALL-ROUNDERS: Australia’s Steve Smith, Marnus Labuschagne and Glenn Maxwell; England's Dawid Malan; Chris Morris of South Africa; and Bangladesh's Shakib Al Hasan. POTENTIAL BUYERS: Punjab Kings (PK), KKR, RCB or CSK, who are looking to reinforce their batting. UNCAPPED PLAYERS: Shahrukh Khan (Tamil Nadu), Vishnu Solanki (Baroda), and Mohammed Azheeruddin (Kerala). PRICE TAGS: Smith (Base price: Rs 2 crore); Labuschagne (Rs.1 crore); Maxwell (Rs 2 crore). IN SPOTLIGHT: Arjun Tendulkar (Base price: Rs 20 lakh). SPEEDSTERS: Up for grabs would be Kyle Jamieson of New Zealand; England's Mark Wood; and Umesh Yadav, who was released by RCB this season. PS: IPL auction starts at 3 pm. Live on Star Sports 1 and Star Sports 1 HD and Star Sports 3 and Star Sports 3 HD. Also available on Hotstar. DIPTI SINGH Mumbai Given the steady spike in the number of new Covid-19 cases reported daily in the city the Brihanmumbai Municipal Cor, poration (BMC) has turned its focus to four of the city wards. Areas that have come under the civic radar are Borivli, Andheri east, Andheri west and Mulund, where the spike has been noticed, senior civic officials have said. "Currently we are reviewing the situa, tion across the city asking assistant com, missioners of the respective administrative wards to take a call on the situation. However, we are focusing more on certain wards. Apart from M west ward (Govandi, Chembur), where the ward officer has stepped up the containment measures to curb the spread, we are also focusing on R central ward (Borivli, Charkop), K east ward (Andheri east, Vile Parle), K west (Andheri west, Juhu, Versova) and T ward (Mulund)," said Additional Municipal Commissioner (Health) Suresh Kakani. Mumbai city on Wednesday registered a sharp spike, with 721 new cases, the second highest single-day count in 2021. The city had reported 795 cases on January 6, 2021, after which the number of cases started sliding downward, to 600 and then even below 400 until the first week of February Mumbai’s Covid death toll stood at . 11,428, with three deaths being reported N FROM OUR BUREAU New Delhi Former editor M J Akbar (70), who was a minister in the first Modi government, on Wednesday lost his criminal defamation case against Priya Ramani, once his junior, with a city court holding that a woman has the right to put forth her grievances of rape and molestation "even after decades. "He had slapped a defamation case against Ramani for accusing him of sexual harassment during the #MeToo movement in 2018. After Ramani spoke out against Akbar, about 20 women journalists, who had worked under him as editor, also accused him of sexual harassment and molestation, often by calling them in his chamber.Additional Chief Metropolitan Magistrate Ravindra Kumar Pandey acquitted Ramani, holding that her revelations were made in the "interest of antisexual harassment at workplace" and that it took into consideration "systematic abuse at workplace. "The court's order held that sexual abuse takes away dignity and self-confidence. "Right of reputation can't be protected at the cost of right to dignity," it said, rejecting Akbar's plea for damages for destroying his sterling reputation. Ramani, who was present in the court at the time of the verdict, told reporters that "I hap- on Wednesday The city currently has . 5,943 active Covid-19 cases. Given the daily spike in cases, some civic wards have issued letters to housing societies under their jurisdiction and instructed them to follow Covid-19 guidelines, Kakani said. "Our SoP for turning an area into a containment zone and sealing a building is the same. We are sealing a building only when two or more cases are detected in a building. So far, we have got no cluster cases. But we are ready with our resources in such an eventuality We have . been appealing to the citizens to be alert and follow all the safety protocols," Kakani added. CONTD. ON P15 Cong sweeps Punjab civic polls In what is being touted as a referendum on Centre's farm laws, the ruling Congress dispensation led by Captain Amarinder Singh on Wednesday emerged as the largest party in the Punjab civic polls, winning six of the seven municipal corporations. All the three opposition parties – the Akalis, the AAP and the BJP – were not even a close second to the Congress and trailing even independent candidates in some wards. In the final count, the Congress won 1,199 of the 1,815 TAILPIECE wards in municipal councils and 281 of the 350 municipal corporation seats; SAD trailed at 289 and 33; and the BJP at 38 and 20, respectively . The plight of the BJP can be gauged from the fact that in saffron-dominated Pathankot, the Congress won 37 out of the 50 seats. Likewise, in Bathinda, the party is set to elect a mayor for the first time in 53 years; the Lok Sabha constituency is represented by Akali Dal’s Harsimrat Kaur Badal. The results have come as a shot in the arm for the Chief Minister with party in-charge TAKE YOUR COW SCIENCE EXAM The University Grants Commission has asked vice chancellors of varsities across the country to "encourage" students to take an online voluntary national-level exam to test their knowledge on 'gau vigyan' (cow science). The 'Kamdhenu Gau Vigyan Prachar-Prasar Examination', for which there is no registration fee, will be held on February 25, and students from primary, secondary and senior-secondary schools as well as colleges can take the test being conducted by the Rashtriya Kamdhenu Aayog. Besides them, anyone from the general public Sunil Jakhar not losing the opportunity to launch the "Captain for 2022" campaign. Amarinder Singh thanked and congratulated the people for defeating the "negative and vicious forces that are out to ruin Punjab and its future".The first major polls to be held in Punjab since the enactment of the 'draconian' farm laws had also underscored people's angst with the BJP which was responsible , for the anti-farmer legislation with the active support of its then ally SAD, and the , collusion of ruling AAP in Delhi, Amarinder Singh said. can also take the hour-long multiple choice question-based exam that will be held in 11 regional languages and English. The commission was constituted by the government for conservation, preservation, protection and development of cows. The exam on February 25 aims to "infuse curiosity in all Indians about cows and make them aware of the unexplored potential and business opportunities a cow can offer, even after it stops giving milk", the RKA had said in its notification for the exam on January 5. The exam will be conducted in English, Hindi, Gujarati, Sanskrit, Punjabi, Marathi, Kannada, Malayalam, Tamil, Marathi, Telugu and Odia. Revamp plans for 19 railway stations ineteen suburban railway stations are likely to undergo a transformation, with the Mumbai Rail Vikas Corporation MJ Akbar loses his defamation case accruing from #MeToo movement SOUNDBYTE Sexual harassment has got the attention it deserves despite the fact that it is me, being the victim, who had to stand up in court as the accused. I hope it will discourage powerful men from filing false cases against women who share their truths — Priya Ramani to NDTV. The court's order held that sexual abuse takes away dignity and self-confidence. "Right of reputation can't be protected at the cost of right to dignity," it said, rejecting Akbar's plea for damages for destroying his stellar reputation. pened to represent all the women who spoke up...the women who spoke up before me and the women who spoke up after me."Speaking specifically on the impact of the judgment on the #MeToo movement, Ramani said that the verdict will encourage more women to speak up and it will make “powerful men think twice before they take victims to court."She said this judgment will encourage more women to speak up and the powerful men will think twice before they take victims to court." The court referred to epics like Mahabharata and Ramayana while upholding the right of dignity of women, in general, and Ramani in particular. The court said it was shameful that crimes against women are taking place in a country where epics were written about respecting them. CONTD. ON P15 On Covid radar: Borivli, Andheri, Mulund Shabnam will be first KHAR, BHAYANDAR, GHATKOPAR AND MULUND FIRST IN LINE SHASHANK RAO Mumbai On the path of spirituality there are no impediments except the lack of our own desire. _ His Holiness Radhanath Swami WOMAN HAS THE RIGHT TO PUT FORTH HER GRIEVANCES OF RAPE AND MOLESTATION ‘EVEN AFTER DECADES’ diesel. Retail petrol rates have risen by Rs 19.95 per litre since mid-March 2020, after the government raised taxes by a record margin to mop up gains arising from fall in international oil prices. Diesel rates have gone up by 17.66. Rs Given the middle class sensitivities over what is perceived as a crushing burden in times of pandemic, India, the world's thirdbiggest oil consumer, on Wednesday urged Saudi Arabia and other global oil producers to ease production cuts, saying rising international oil prices are hurting economic recovery and demand. Demand recovery should take "primacy" over oil prices at least for the next few months, Oil Minister Dharmendra Pradhan said. CONTD. ON P15 FINISHER IN DEMAND: Both CSK and KKR are looking for a finisher; Maxwell and Morris could fit the bill. VISHAL GULATI / Chandigarh Given the falling rates of COVID-19 infection in India and surveys suggesting nearly 300 million people may already have antibodies, some experts believe the worst of the disease has passed, despite a recent uptick in two hard-hit states, especially Maharashtra. "There is a human barricade for the virus," said Bhramar Mukherjee, an epidemiologist at the University of Michigan, who with a team of researchers, has been modelling the trajectory of the outbreak in India. "By the end of March, we should see a very slow, steady decline (in cases)," she added. Cases that were rising by nearly 100,000 a day in September are now growing at just 10,000 a day. And India's official number of total infections, which was projected to surpass that of the United States in late 2020, now stands at 11 million, well behind the U.S. tally of about 28 million. Total deaths so far in India are just under 156,000, the world's fourth highest number of fatalities. "India suffered through a lot and because it suffered through a lot, it's reached the other shore now," said Ramanan Laxminarayan, an epidemiologist at the Center for Disease Dynamics, Economics & Policy, a research firm based in Washington, D.C. and New Delhi. "I don't see the prospect of a second wave in India. If it does happen, it will likely be a modest one." EDIT (MRVC) finalising plans for at least 13 railway stations, of which drawings have been finalised for four, namely Khar and Bhayandar on Western Railway and Ghatkopar and Mulund on Central Railway . "We have created a general arrangement drawings (GAD) for these stations and have also received approvals for some of them. We will soon call for tenders," said R Khurana, Chairman and Managing Di- rector, MRVC. As per the plans, these railway stations will undergo revamp at the floor and deck levels. For instance, at Khar station, the elevated portion will have a massive 12.5 metre-wide deck and another 22.5 metrewide deck that will connect all foot overbridges (FOBs). Existing FOBs will be widened and there will be new wider ones as well. CONTD. ON P15 Relief for Jacob, can seek pre-arrest bail in 3 weeks NARSI BENWAL / Mumbai In some respite for city-based advocate Nikita Jacob, one of the three accused of preparing and promoting the toolkit to instigate violence during the Republic Day tractor rally by farmers, the Bombay High Court on Wednesday granted her interim protection from arrest for three weeks. This will enable her to approach an appropriate court in Delhi and seek proper pre-arrest bail. CONTD. ON P15 POST-INDEPENDENCE… woman to be hanged She had axed to death seven of her family members, in collusion with her lover Salim SARWAN SHUKLA Lucknow She will be the first woman convict in independent India to face the gallows. The Mathura jail administration has started preparations for hanging Shabnam, who had axed to death seven of her family members, along with her lover Salim, on April 14/15 night in 2008. Both were awarded death sentences by the District and Sessions Court on July 14, 2010. Shabnam and Salim had challenged the lower court’s verdict in the Supreme Court but did not get any reprieve. Her death sentence was upheld by the apex court also. Later, both had sent a mercy petition to the President but it was rejected, too. After ten years of the pronouncement of death sentence, all doors for review and mercy are shut. The Mathura Jail administration is merely waiting for a fresh death warrant order to hang Shabnam and Salim to death. Shabnam is currently lodged in Bareilly jail while Salim is in Agra jail. CONTD. ON P15 After untimely rain, hailstorms in store DIPTI SINGH Mumbai likely to experience thunderstorm/ lightning/ hailstorm activities," an IMD official said. After untimely rains accompaPrivate weather agency Skymet nied by thunderstorm and lightsaid on its website: "The intensity ning, some areas of Vidarbha of rain by itself may not be harmand Marathwada regions in Maful to the crops but the combinaharashtra are likely to witness tion of wind and hailstorm does hailstorms in the next two days, prove detrimental, more often in view of the moisture-laden than not. As such any unseasonal winds from the Bay of epoch wields more probBengal, according to a ability of foul weather at forecast by the India Marathwada this time of the year. Meteorological DepartThis umbrella weather ment on Wednesday According . activity having a large span will to IMD officials, an alert has been be under the influence of multiissued for farmers in these reple systems acting in tandem and gions, as this weather occurence reinforcing support." could pose a threat to the standAs predicted by the IMD last ing rabi crops. week, Gondia and Nagpur dis"Due to likely southwestward tricts in the Vidarbha region reshifting of the wind discontinuceived thundershowers and ity zone, Vidarbha, Central Malightning on Tuesday . harashtra and Marathwada are CONTD. ON P15 Vidarbha, M Hangman waits eerut-based hangman Pawan Jallad is ready to execute the death warrant of Shabnam Salim and in Mathura jail. Pawan had inspected Mathura jail's hanging house six months ago and found it in a dilapidated state. He had even got the wooden platform and lever repaired. Pawan claims that he is ready for the task at hand and waiting for a call from the authorities. Fast News FORGIVEN, BUT FEEL PAIN: Nearly 30 years after his father and former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi was blown to pieces by a LTTE suicide bomber at an election rally in Sriperumbudur in Tamil Nadu, Congress leader Rahul Gandhi on Wednesday said he has forgiven those responsible for the barbaric crime. He still felt tremendous pain, though. ‘‘But I don’t feel angry. I don’t feel any hatred. I forgive.” SATISH SHARMA NO MORE: Former Union minister and Gandhi family loyalist Captain Satish Sharma passed away on Wednesday in Goa at the age of 73. Sharma, a three-time Lok Sabha MP who represented Rae Bareli and Amethi constituencies, was suffering from cancer and was ailing for some time. Sharma is survived by his wife, a son and a daughter.