330c. 280c. Sunrise: 06:01 am Sunset: 07:11 pm covid wave To hiT crediT card spends in near Term Pg 7 Tisca chopra Talks abouT her iniTiaTives To help covid-affecTed people Pg 20 scienTific Temper versus ramdev Crisis is used to weed out people who are not desirable. People who are non-productive are eliminated automatically. They just fall off. Master ChoaKok Sui Vol. 65 No. 21 | FRIDAY | MAY 28, 2021 | 14 Pages | ` 4 | EDITIONS: MUMBAI*, Pune, Indore, Bhopal, E-Paper LOCKDOWN EXTENDED, EASING IN DISTRICTS SANJAY JOG Mumbai Notwithstanding the fall in daily Covid-19 cases, the Maharashtra Cabinet on Thursday unanimously decided to extend the statewide lockdown beyond June 1 while easing some restrictions in districts where there has been a continuous decline in the number of cases and the positivity rate. The government intends to lift the lockdown in a phased manner. The cabinet has authorised the Chief Minister to take a final decision based on the recommendations of the state’s Covid taskforce, led by Dr Sanjay Oak. The cabinet decision is important, as the rate of growth in Covid cases exceeds the state average rate of 0.47 per cent in 21 of its 36 districts, while the weekly positivity rate in 14 districts is more than the state average rate of 10.46 per cent. “ Although the growth rate is slowly declining overall, the number of patients is increasing rapidly in 10 to 15 districts and the risk of mucormycosis or black fungus is also rising. Therefore, Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray has directed not to lift the lockdown at one go but provide relaxations in few restrictions after June 1,” said the Chief Minister’s Office in a statement. CONTD. ON P11 BETWEEN THE LINES CENTRE JUNKS NYT CLAIM ON DEATHS The government has trashed as "baseless" a New York Times report that said India's Covid deaths were severely undercounted and underreported. "The NYT report is not backed by any evidence and is based on distorted estimates," said VK Paul, NITI Aayog member and the head of India's Covid task force. The New York Times said in an article published on Tuesday that India's death count was more likely three times the official 3 lakh, basing it on data from three nationwide sero surveys or antibody tests. The article offered various scenarios and estimated 42 lakh deaths in the worst case, as it said the official figures in India "grossly understate the true scale of the pandemic in the country". LOCAL TRIALS MAY BE SKIPPED FOR PFIZER The government indicated it has scrapped local trials for "well-established" foreign vaccines to fast-track imports, soon after Pfizer said it is ready to offer five crore doses this year but sought relaxations including indemnity from liability. In a statement, the government said it is in talks with Pfizer for "earliest possible" imports of its shots and that it had also had discussions with Johnson & Johnson and Moderna. "We reiterate our request to all international vaccine makers to come and make in India - for India and for the world," it said. RAMDEV ARREST DARE TO CRITICS The incorrigible Ramdev is at it again. Another video of the yoga guru has emerged on social media in which he is seen challenging the authorities to arrest him. “Khair, arrest toh unka baap bhi nahi kar sakta Swami Ramdev ko (Even their father can’t arrest Swami Ramdev). They keep creating such trends like ‘Thug Ramdev’, Mahathug Ramdev’, ‘Giraftar Ramdev’. Let them do it. Our people have become accustomed to such trends and our trends always reach the top,” Ramdev is seen as saying in the video. EDIT POLITICAL PLOY TO DEPICT GOVT ‘IN A CERTAIN WAY’ Pg 17 External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar tells America there is a glaring difference between the concocted political imagery and the actual governance on the ground YOSHITA SINGH New York External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar has said that there is "a political effort" to depict the current government in India in a certain way and there is a difference between the political imagery that has been "concocted" and the actual governance record. The remarks came even as the BJP dispensation in New Delhi trashed as "baseless" a New York Times report that said India's Covid deaths were severely undercounted and underreported and possibly three times the official 3 lakh count. During a conversation with former US National Security Advisor General HR McMaster, Jaishankar also said that India is going through "a very stressful time" because of the pandemic. "We are actually giving free food. Last year for multiple months and right now, again, because of the second wave we have resumed giving free food to as many as 800 million people. We also put money into the bank accounts of 400 million people. "This is what this government did. So, you are feeding more than two and a half times the population of the United States and you are funding more than the population of the US and you're doing this pretty much anonymously and impersonally Jaishankar, also a senior ," leader of the ruling BJP said. , "So, I think when you come down to real governance judgements, you find that there is a difference between the political imagery that has been concocted and actually the governance record out there. "So, I think you should take it for what it is, which is really politics at play. You can agree with it, you can disagree with it, but I would certainly see that very much as part of a political effort to depict our current government in a certain way and obviously I have a very profound difference with that," he added. CONTD. ON P11 Stop beating about the bush, simply fall in line, Twitter told OUR BUREAU / New Delhi With Twitter showing no sign of backing off and mouthing platitudes about the ‘‘potential threat to freedom of expression," the government continued to berate the social media giant, asking it to "stop beating around the bush and comply with the laws of the land" instead of "dictating terms" to the world's largest democracy . "Twitter needs to stop beating around the bush and comply with the laws of the land. Law-making and policy formulations is the sole prerogative of the sovereign and Twitter is just a social media platform and it has no locus in dictating what In- dia's legal policy framework should be," the Ministry of Electronics and IT said in a detailed statement, denouncing Twitter's statement as "totally baseless, false and an attempt to defame India". ‘‘India has a glorious tradition of free speech and democratic practices dating back centuries. Protecting free speech in India is not the prerogative of only a private, forprofit, foreign entity like Twitter, but it is the commitment of the world's largest democracy and its robust institutions," the government further said in the statement. CONTD. ON P11 Fake WhatsApp media rules FROM OUR BUREAU / New Delhi A message that appeared to be fake started spinning on WhatsApp Thursday night creating panic among users as it claimed that India's new communication rules for WhatsApp messages and calls (both voice and video) come into force from Friday , with an advisory to the users to take care. It says not only WhatsApp but Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and all social media are to be monitored. Inquiries with the government indicated it appeared to be fake. That impression further got reinforced after reading the bottom line of the message which said, "Be a responsible citizen and share with your friends." CONTD. ON P11 No ghar wapsi for Choksi, yet FPJ NEWS SERVICE / New Delhi Indian diplomatic channels were abuzz all day with chatter about possible repatriation of businessman Mehul Choksi from Dominica – a tiny island in the Caribbean – where he was apprehended after going ‘missing’ in Antigua. However, this is easier said than done because Choksi happens to be a citizen of Antigua and strictly speaking he can only be extradited to that country . In a statement, Dominica's Ministry of National Security and Home Affairs indicated as much when it said it is in touch with authorities of Antigua and Barbuda and possible arrangements will be made for him to be deported to the Caribbean island. The statement acknowledged that Choksi had entered the island illegally The Domini. Lawyer sniffs ‘plot’ in escape F ugitive diamond merchant Mehul Choksi was “forcefully picked up by various people" from Antigua’s Jolly Harbour and taken to Dominica, where he may have been “tortured", alleged his lawyer Vijay Aggarwal on Thursday, claiming that the 62year-old businessman has bruises on his body. “I have been told that there are marks of torture on the body. Now, we are trying our very best in Dominica for legal recourse so that he is sent back to Antigua," Aggarwal was quoted as saying by ANI. Choksi, who had recently fled from Antigua and Barbuda, was captured in neighbouring Dominica after an Interpol Yellow Notice was issued against him. The lawyer said that he thinks the diamantaire’s arrest is ‘fishy’, and no one is looking into how ca government, however added , that it is trying to "ascertain some facts, including the status of his (Mehul Choksi's) Antiguan citizenship". Earlier in the day Antigua and , Barbuda Prime Minister Gaston Browne, clearly keen to wash his hands of the fugitive diamond merchant, had said that Choksi, who was captured in Dominica after going missing for three days, "needs to return to India" where he can face the criminal charges levelled against him. However, Choksi's lawyer Vijay Agarwal pointed out Dominica that the moment his client, who is also the chairman of the Gitanjali group, acquired the citizenship of Antigua, he ceased to be a citizen of India. Hence legally as per Immigration and Passport Act Section 17 and 23, he can only be deported to Antigua. Choksi is already fighting two cases in Antigua, related to his citizenship and his extradition to India. He had fled to the Caribbean in 2017 after acquiring the citizenship of Antigua, in exchange for promised investments. CONTD. ON P11 PETROL ` 99.94 Per litre DIESEL ` 91.87 Per litre www.freepressjournal.in twitter.com/fpjindia Students going abroad for studies get their first shot Reg. No. Mcs/048/2018-20; RNI No. 1541/1957 M.p.c.s office Mumbai-400001 PRATIP ACHARYA Mumbai A special vaccination drive was arranged exclusively for students scheduled to travel abroad for higher studies, in south Mumbai on Thursday . Approximately 120 SoBo students who have confirmed admissions to foreign universities got their first dose of Covishield on Thursday Af. ter the Union ministry increased the gap between the first and second doses of this particular Covid vaccine, parents of these students had begun approaching public representatives to arrange a drive for their children. The drive was arranged at the B D Somani International School, Cuffe Parade. Alongside students of the host school, students from Bombay International School and Cathedral School too got their doses. A spokesperson for the school said that it had tied up with a private hospital in south Mumbai and the drive was arranged in the reception area adjacent to the school’s in-house polyclinic. “Only students 18 years and above were administered the vaccine. We tried to reach out to as many of them as we could after getting confirmation. Each of the students had to register themselves by submitting a copy of their admission letter,” the spokesperson told FPJ. “ All the universities in Europe and the UK start their session by the middle of August and they will not allow any student who has not been completely vaccinated. Hence, 10% target: Revving up e-vehicles SHASHANK RAO Mumbai As the world has known for a while, the future of mobility is electric, with e-vehicles considered the best bet to snuff out pollution. Accordingly, the government of Maharashtra has set a target --- 10 per cent of all new vehicles registered in 2025 should be electric vehicles (EVs). In fact, the Maharashtra Electric Vehicle Policy 2021 has also set a target for a certain percentage of all vehicles to be EV with inter-city , express highways to be EVfriendly . As per the draft EV policy , 10 per cent of two-wheelers, 20 per cent of three-wheelers and five per cent of fourwheelers newly registered at RTOs need to be electric vehicles. At least 25 per cent of the fleet of aggregator cabs, delivery services, e-commerce companies etc. will also have to be EVs. A separate policy on the recycling of lithium-ion batteries is also being proposed. CONTD. ON P11 Jab for seniors near home S enior citizens who are yet to take their first dose of Covid-19 vaccine or those who have taken the first dose, will now get the shots at a vaccination centre that is near to their home. The facility will also include differently abled people below the age of 60 years, the central government said on Thursday. However, this does not mean door to door vaccination. Accepting these recommendations, the ministry said they want to follow a "community-based, flexible and people-centric approach, bringing the Covid vaccination centres nearer to homes". CONTD. ON P11 it was important to vaccinate these students at the earliest or else their admissions would have stood cancelled or they would have had to attend the classes virtually the ,” spokesperson said. Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) corporator from Cuffe Parade, Harshita Narwekar, who had helped in arranging the drive and obtaining doses for students said many students from adjoining areas like Malabar Hills and Grant Road too came in to get their doses as word spread. “For the past few weeks, I have been getting calls from anxious parents in south Mumbai. With the passage of time, parents have been worrying because even a single day’s delay could mean their children’s admissions could be cancelled,” Narwekar told The Free Press Journal. CONTD. ON P11 For hsg societies, public areas Plug it in: Electric vehicle charging points to be norm SHASHANK RAO / Mumbai To engender a positive public perception of electric vehicles (EVs), the Maharashtra government’s draft policy is going to make compulsory the provision for EV charging points in housing societies, public parking lots, business and shopping complexes. Once it receives Cabinet approval, which is expected in June, this will become a reality . This plan was disclosed at a webinar called ‘Town Hall on Electric Mobility’, by the transport department au- thorities on Wednesday One . of the most primary concerns for EV owners would be the recharging of the vehicle’s lithium-ion batteries, which act as fuel. According to government officials, necessitating the provision of charging points in residential housing societies, office complexes shared by corporates and institutions, dedicated parking lots and government office buildings will surely change perception among people and could boost the demand for EVs. CONTD. ON P11 Sonu Sood, Zeeshan Jailhouse vax: Authorities’ request for inoculation centres ‘charity’ to be probed TAILPIECE NARSI BENWAL / Mumbai In what could spell serious trouble for actor Sonu Sood and Congress leader Zeeshan Siddiqui, the Maharashtra government on Thursday told the Bombay High Court that it would thoroughly probe from where the duo obtained huge supplies of Remdesivir and other essentials, which they passed on to needy citizens. The HC has said the two celebs cannot breach laws even if the intention is to help citizens. A bench of Justices Amjad Sayed and Girish Kulkarni was informed that the state has received responses from Sonu's Sood Foundation and Zeeshan, to the show cause notices issued to them earlier. "They have claimed that they haven't stocked any drugs, nor have they purchased any Advocate General Ashutosh Kumb," hakoni told the judges, adding, "They have only facilitated the help. And sometimes they have paid for the drugs, too." CONTD. ON P11 LAST WORD T FAISAL TANDEL / Mumbai he Superintendent of Mumbai Central Prison (Arthur Road Jail) and Thane Central Jails have written to the Municipal Commissioners of BrihanMumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) and Thane Municipal Corporation (TMC), demanding the setting up of a vaccination centre inside jail premises. The prison officials said such a move would eliminate the need for high-security prisoners having to travel outside and will also curb the threat of infection within jails. Also, the prison department has asked for speeding up the vaccination drive, as hardly 10 per cent vaccination has been carried out in jails in the more than two months. Meanwhile, Taloja Central Jail, under the jurisdiction Panvel Municipal Corporation and Yerwada Central Jail in Pune, along with five others jails across Maharashtra, have already started vaccination drives inside the jail. These jails have a proper camp, where daily doctors , stop by with vaccines and inoculate prisoners, in keeping with protocol. The letter of the superintendent of Arthur Road Jail points out to the state that those incarcerated here are bomb blast accused, terrorists, Naxalites, IS extremists, cybercriminals, economic offenders, those held under MCOCA (Maharashtra Control of Organised Crime Act), TADA (Terrorist and Disruptive activities (prevention) act), foreigners, members of political parties and members of various gangs. “Taking high security inmates out of jail is a high-security risk. If we were to bring them outside, high bandobast would be needed. With the second wave and lockdown imposed by the government, most police staff is busy in bandobast duty leading to delays. The vaccination drive , will take hours to complete. Also, prisoners could come in contact with police on bandobast and be infected and bring it inside the jail,” said jail sources. Similarly the Thane Central Jail authorities , too have sought a vaccination camp, claiming that daily only 20 inmates are being vaccinated, , which is a threat. “We first have to arrange a bandobast, then take updates of the inmates when they return. Later, we have to test them for the virus. Many a time, we are kept waiting due to shortage of vaccines,” said an official. The high-powered committee, in its minutes, has said prisoners, as well as the prison staff should be vaccinated at the earliest, by conducting vaccination drives as and when sufficient stocks are made available.