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Centre seeks to reach its clean air goal one year ahead of national target, asks states to step up efforts

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NEW DELHI: The

Centre

on the occasion of the first International Day of ‘Clean Air for Blue Skies’ on Monday sought to bring down

pollution level

of over 100 polluted cities in next three years and appealed to states to increase budgetary provisions for this purpose and join hands with the central government to achieve this goal one year ahead of what it was planned earlier.

The way forward to achieve this goal was discussed in a review meeting of the existing National Clean Air Programme (NCAP) which has target to reduce minimum 20-30%

air pollution

(level of key pollutants such as PM2.5 and PM10) in 122 non-attainment cities by 2024 from the 2017 level.

“I am confident that if we all work together, we can do it in the next three years,” said Union environment minister Prakash Javadekar, appealing to states and urban local bodies to work on this goal by taking city-specific air pollution abatement measures.

Javadekar, who chaired the review meeting, referred to the Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s announcement in his Independence Day speech from Red Fort where he had highlighted the need of “holistic improvement in air quality” in 100 cities.

The meeting was attended by representatives from 28 states and eight UTs to discuss a road map to mitigate air pollution in 122 most polluted cities including Delhi, Mumbai, Pune, Kolkata, Bengaluru, Varanasi, Chandigarh and Patna among others. These are the cities which do not meet the air quality standards as per 2015 levels. The Centre has already allocated additional Rs 4,400 crore in the 2020-21 Union budget for implementation of the NCAP in these cities for ensuring cleaner air.

Underlining the issue of air pollution as a global problem, the General Assembly of the United Nations had on December 19 last year adopted a resolution to observe the International Day of ‘Clean Air for Blue Skies’ on September 7 every year starting from 2020.

Idea was to create awareness and bring all stakeholders together to find a solution to this menace of air pollution which, as per the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) estimates, takes the lives of 7 million people globally every year.

Many countries globally witnessed multiple pledges on the occasion to reduce air pollution through cleaner actions. In south Asia, 38 cities from India, Nepal, Bangladesh, Bhutan and Sri Lanka took a pledge to fight the menace through greater action under an initiative driven by the ICLEI

South Asia

– a global network of 1,750 local and regional governments for sustainable urban development.

Twenty Indian cities which made the pledges include Kanpur, Lucknow, Surat, Mandi, Nagpur, Bhuj, Patna, Udaipur and Jamnagar.

The Times of India is an Indian English-language daily newspaper owned by The Times Group. It is the third-largest newspaper in India by circulation and largest selling English-language daily in the world. according to Audit Bureau of Circulations.

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INDIA

Govt will need 80,000 crore for Covid vaccine, says Serum CEO

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MUMBAI: The government may need Rs 80,000 crore over the next one year for distribution of Covid-19 vaccine and immunization of the country’s population, Adar Poonawalla, CEO and promoter of the world’s largest vaccine producer, Serum Institute, said on Saturday.

Calling it the “next concerning challenge”, which needs to be tackled, Poonawalla posted a tweet tagging the Prime Minister’s Office, which read: “We need to plan and guide vaccine manufacturers both in India and overseas to service the needs of our country in terms of procurement and distribution.”

Serum has tie ups with global manufacturers AstraZeneca and Novavax for potential Covid-19 vaccines, which are currently undergoing clinical trials. The tweet, perceived by many as alarming, also raised concerns over the government’s ability to fund the massive vaccine programme.

“The government has assured that there will be plenty of funds available for vaccines. We have now been assured by the highest levels in the government that enough funds will be available for vaccine procurement, supply and logistics. This is good news,” Poonawalla told TOI, when contacted.

While addressing the United Nations General Assembly on Saturday PM Modi said that as the world’s largest vaccine producing country, India’s vaccine production and delivery capacity will be used to help people across the world.

Although further details on Poonawala’s calculations were not immediately available, sources said, it could be assuming the benchmark price of $3-5 per dose, and including two doses for the over 1.3 billion population.

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INDIA

Congress may rope in Prashant Kishor for 2022 Punjab election

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NEW DELHI: Pollster Prashant Kishor may get to manage Congress in the Punjab elections scheduled for early 2022. Party sources said CM Amarinder Singh is in talks with the former JD(U) member and election strategist, and a decision may be announced soon.

While Kishor is likely to get the contract for advance poll planning in the state, Congress members said he could even get an official perch to manage the affairs. Kishor had widely been credited with helping Congress ride back to power in the state in 2017. A senior AICC manager said the talks are being held by the chief minister and that the party is not involved in the negotiations.

While speculations about Kishor coming on board the Congress campaign in Punjab have been on for a while, it is only now it appears to be reaching a finality. Having been expelled from JD(U) following a scrap with Bihar CM Nitish Kumar, Kishor is said to be on the lookout for a new political platform – a reason why there are also speculations that he is looking for an entry in Congress.

Well-placed sources in Congress said Kishor has a direct line with the Gandhi siblings, a reason why not many are willing to hazard a guess about the pollster. There is some confusion in Congress ranks about Kishor.

Sources said a possible reason for CM Singh to get Kishor on board in Punjab would be to ensure that he does not work for Arvind Kejriwal’s AAP, which is set to make a strong pitch in the state in the next polls.

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INDIA

India slams Pakistan PM at UNGA for terror export

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NEW DELHI: After Pakistan PM Imran Khan again raised the Kashmir issue at UNGA, India slammed Pakistan saying terrorism was its only crowning glory. Exercising its Right of Reply, the Indian mission also accused Khan of warmongering and of using the multilateral forum to spread lies, misinformation and malice.

“This august forum witnessed a new low on its 75th anniversary. The leader of Pakistan today called for those who incite hate and violence to be outlawed. But as he went on, we were left wondering, was he referring to himself?” said Mijito Vinito, the first secretary in the permanent mission of India to the UN, Mijito Vinito, exercising India’s Right of Reply.

The only crowning glory, he said, that this country has to show to the world for the last 70 years is terrorism, ethnic cleansing, majoritarian fundamentalism and clandestine nuclear trade. “This hall heard the incessant rant of someone who had nothing to show for himself, who had no achievements to speak of and no reasonable suggestion to offer to the world. Instead, we saw lies, misinformation, war mongering and malice spread through this Assembly,” he added.

Pakistan later exercised its right of reply too, in which it claimed that Jammu & Kashmir was never a part of India. Alluding to the “stellar record” of Pakistan, Vinito said this is the country that has the “dubious distinction” of hosting the largest number of terrorists proscribed by the United Nations, a reference to terror masterminds such as Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) founder Hafiz Saeed and Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) head Masood Azhar.

“This is the same country that provides pensions for dreaded and listed terrorists out of state funds. The leader whom we heard today is the same person who referred to terrorist Osama Bin Laden as a ‘martyr’ in the Pakistani Parliament in July,” Vinito said.

He added that it is Pakistan that brought genocide to south Asia 39 years ago when it killed its own people and it is also the country that is “shameless enough” not to offer a sincere apology for the horrors it perpetratedeven after so many years. India asserted in its Right of Reply that Khan, “who spewed venom today”, admitted in 2019 in public in the US that his country still has about 30,000-40,000 terrorists, who have been trained by Pakistan and have fought in Afghanistan and in the Indian Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir.

“This is the country that has systematically cleansed its minorities , including Hindus, Christians, Sikhs and others, through the abuse of its blasphemy laws and through forced religious conversions,” Vinito said.

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