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NEW DELHI: To arrest declining air quality in Delhi and National capital Region, the Supreme Court on Friday tasked its former Judge Madan Lokur to monitor and energise ground-level preparations to stop the stubble burning in Punjab, Haryana and western Uttar Pradesh.

Solicitor general Tushar Mehta and additional solicitor general Aishwarya Bhati registered strong protest and said appointment of a retired judge to monitor preparations for prevention of stubble burning will undermine statutory authorities, like Environment Pollution Control Authority (EPCA), and other agencies. “We may have to file an application to seek modification of this order,” the SG said.

A bench of Chief Justice S A Bobde and Justices A S Bopanna and V Ramasubramanian, who appointed Justice Lokur on the suggestion of senior advocate Vikas Singh who also consulted and took the ex-judge’s consent for the assignment, was quick to clarify that “the appointment of this Committee and the directions in this order are not intended to dilute the powers, functions and the authority of any authorities such as EPCA, already created.”

“The object of appointing a Committee is more to facilitate and coordinate the activities of different authorities so that the problem is resolved. The different authorities created by the States/Centre, shall also be free to carry on their own activities, without feeling muted by the appointment of the Committee,” it said.

This order was passed on a petition filed by a student Aditya Dubey, through counsel Nikhil Jain and Meenesh Dubey, who had complained that despite assurances given by the chief secretaries of three states about adequate measures being in place on ground to prevent stubble burning this year, NASA photographs show that stubble burning this year is five times that of last year during this period. It would have a choking effect on the residents of NCR and Delhi and could spike the coronavirus case fatality rate, the petitioner apprehended.

Senior advocate P S Narsimha for Punjab and additional advocate general of Haryana Anil Grover pointed out that several steps have been taken by the states to stop stubble burning including deployment of an android mobile phone application for detection and notification of a particular field in which stubble is being burnt. But, Singh insisted that in spite of the so-called measures taken by the states, the air pollution is on the rise.

However, the court said at this juncture it was not inclined to assess the effectiveness of the measures taken by the states. “We are confident that each measure has been taken by the authorities with the intention of alleviating the problem of pollution. Nonetheless, it is necessary that there must be some monitoring of stubble burning with a view to its prevention before it assumes abnormal proportions,” it said.

Accepting Singh’s proposal for appointment of Justice Lokur as one-man committee, the bench directed the chief secretaries of the three states to assist the ex-Judge in carrying out physical surveillance of fields where stubble is likely to be burnt and devise additional means and methods for preventing it.

“We find that it would be fitting, if services of National Cadet Corps, National Service Scheme volunteers and Bharat Scouts and Guides, wherever available, are deployed for assisting in the monitoring of stubble burning in the agricultural fields in these states. We trust that the authorities in-charge of these forces shall enlist their services to the extent possible, to assist the Justice Lokur committee for this purpose,” it said.

“If so found necessary by the Committee, the states shall provide adequate transportation to those whose services are enlisted by the Justice Lokur Committee for patrolling the highways and surveying the stubble burning in the fields or in any other manner. The Committee shall submit a fortnightly report to this Court at the initial stages or as and when found necessary,” the bench said and posted the matter for further hearing on October 26.

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

India calls for complete ceasing of support to terrorist forces in Middle East

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UNITED NATIONS: India has called on all concerned parties to completely stop supporting terrorist forces, like the ISIS, while urging all stakeholders in the Middle East to work constructively for peace, stability and development.

India underscored that it has invested considerably in the peace and stability of the region by deploying its personnel as part of UN peacekeeping forces, through humanitarian assistance, development cooperation, capacity building, and will continue contributing towards peace-building in the Middle East.

“India calls on concerned parties to completely stop support to terrorist forces, like ISIL (Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant) and others. India also urges all parties in the region to work constructively and in good faith to promote peace, stability and development for the benefit of all people in the Middle East,” India said in a written statement on Monday on the Security Council’s open debate on ‘The Situation in the Middle East’.

India said the truce between Israel and the Hamas has eased the humanitarian situation in Gaza and expressed hope that the temporary truce is converted into a permanent ceasefire, which can save precious human lives on both sides and create a conducive environment for talks.

“It is an unfortunate reality that the interlinked and mutually reinforcing challenges faced by the people of the Middle East have not yet been resolved. Political instability, long-festering conflicts, sectarian divides, issue of refugees and terrorism continue to plague the region. The COVID-pandemic has only exacerbated the threats posed by these challenges,” India said.

The statement made India’s permanent representative to the UN, Ambassador T S Tirumurti, will go as part of the official record of the Council.

India said it appreciates the agreement between Fatah and Hamas for holding Parliamentary and Presidential elections and also elections for the Palestinian National Council, which will help fulfill the democratic aspirations of the Palestinian people.

India also welcomed the agreements for normalisation of relations between Israel and the UAE and Bahrain. “India has always supported peace and stability in West Asia, which is our extended neighbourhood,” India said.

Further, India said the commencement of discussions on the disputed border between Israel and Lebanon is a significant development, expressing hope that this will provide an opportunity to resolve the longstanding issue between the two countries.

India highlighted that Palestinian aspirations for a sovereign and independent state are yet to be fulfilled and stressed that New Delhi has been unwavering in its commitment to the Palestinian cause and continues to remain supportive of a peaceful negotiated resolution of the Palestinian issue.

“India has supported the two-state solution as a just and acceptable solution to the conflict. Establishment of a Palestinian State living side-by-side in peace and security with Israel, within mutually agreed borders should be achieved through negotiations directly by the two parties,” India said adding that any stalemate could strengthen the hands of extremists and shut the door to cooperation thereby jeopardising the security, stability and prosperity of the people on both sides and the region.

Accordingly, India urged Israel and Palestine to resume direct negotiations at the earliest and called upon the international community to take concrete steps towards resuming and facilitating these negotiations quickly.

India noted that the decade-long armed conflict in Syria has claimed over 400,000 lives, displaced 6.2 million people internally and compelled another 6.3 million people to seek shelter in neighbouring countries.

“While we are heartened to see return of normalcy to major parts of the country, we are also reminded of the enormous resources that would be required to provide urgent humanitarian aid, rebuild infrastructure, enable return of the refugees and restore a normal and dignified life of all Syrians,” the statement said.

India said in the statement that it is not only contributing to the return of normalcy and rebuilding of Syria, but has also consistently called for a comprehensive and peaceful resolution of the Syrian conflict through a Syrian-led dialogue, taking into account the legitimate aspirations of the people of Syria.

India voiced concern over the security and humanitarian situation in Yemen and said the recent exchange of prisoners by the Government of Yemen and Ansar Allah, who had been detained in connection with the conflict, is a welcome development.

“India hopes that the parties will take more confidence building measures to provide the necessary impetus for the full implementation of the Stockholm Agreement,” the statement read.

India also hopes for peace and stability in Iraq with full respect for Iraq’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.

India noted that in the aftermath of the August blast that brought destruction to vast swathes of Beirut and inflicted heavy loss of lives, India stood in solidarity with Lebanon.

New Delhi sent emergency humanitarian aid of over 58 metric tons to Beirut. “We look forward to the swift formation of a new government that can offer political stability and also tackle the grave socio-economic challenges being faced by the people of Lebanon,” the statement said.

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US, India must focus on threat posed by China: Secretary of state Mike Pompeo

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NEW DELHI: US secretary of state Mike Pompeo on Tuesday stressed on the need for Washington and New Delhi to work together to counter the threat posed by Beijing to “security and freedom”

Pompeo’s comment came during the crucial 2+2 dialogue between India and the US, which saw the signing of a crucial defence agreement between the two countries.

“There is much more work to do for sure. We have a lot to discuss today: Our cooperation on the pandemic that originated in Wuhan, to confronting the Chinese Communist Party’s threats to security and freedom to promoting peace and stability throughout the region,” Pompeo said during talks with defence minister Rajnath Singh and external affairs minister S Jaishankar. Pompeo was joined by defence secretary Mark Esper.

Esper too focussed on the apparent threat posed by China, specifically in the Indo-Pacific region.

“Our focus now must be on institutionalising and regularising our cooperation to meet the challenges of the day and uphold the principles of a free and open Indo-Pacific well into the future,” Esper said.

The comments assume significance as India is locked in a border standoff with China in eastern Ladakh.

In June this year, 20 Indian soldiers and an unspecified number of PLA soldiers were killed in a clash with Chinese troops in Galwan Valley in eastern Ladakh, hardening the mood in India against China and driving Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government to seek closer military ties with the United States.

In the US, President Donald Trump has made being tough on China a key part of his campaign to secure a second term in next week’s presidential election and Pompeo has been trying to bolster allies to counter China’s growing influence in the Indo-Pacific region.

This month, India invited Australia to join naval drills it holds each year with the United States and Japan, brushing off Chinese concerns that the exercises destabilise the region.

(With inputs from agencies)

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US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Defence Secretary Mark Esper meet NSA Doval

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NEW DELHI: US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Defence Secretary Mark T Esper on Tuesday held talks with National Security Advisor Ajit Doval, covering key aspects of growing strategic ties between the two countries.

Issues of strategic importance were discussed at the meeting, sources said.

The meeting took place ahead of the third edition of 2+2 ministerial dialogue. Esper and Pompeo arrived here on Monday for the crucial talks aimed at further boosting the defence and security ties between the two countries.

Defence Minister Rajnath Singh and External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar held separate talks with their US counterparts on Monday.

Earlier on Tuesday, both the top US administration officials visited the National War Memorial and paid tributes to India’s fallen heroes.

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