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Approve and allocate funds for Chennai Metro Rail Phase 2 project: TN Finance Minister

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Approve and allocate funds for Chennai Metro Rail Phase 2 project: TN Finance Minister

Chennai, June 22 (IANS) Approval of the Union government for the second phase of the Metro rail project, allocation of more infrastructure projects and funds to the state, permission to borrow more, and release of funds towards disaster relief are what Tamil Nadu Finance Minister Thangam Thennarasu urged the Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Saturday.

Thennarasu speaking at the pre-budget meeting of the State Finance Ministers called by Sitharaman in Delhi said the Chennai Metro Rail Phase 2 was announced by the Union Finance Minister in her Budget speech of 2021-22 as a Central sector project for Rs 63,246 crore.

“While this project has been recommended by the Public Investment Board (PIB) on August 17, 2021, it is awaiting approval of the Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs for the last three years. Pending this approval, the entire expenditure is being borne by the state from its funds. The delay in approval is making a severe impact on our state finances and has slowed the pace of implementation of this project, causing hardships to the people of Chennai,” the State Finance Minister said.

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He urged the Union government to immediately give its sanction for the project as originally envisaged and provide adequate funds in the Union Budget 2024-25.

Referring to the two memoranda submitted to the Union government seeking Rs 37,906 crore as disaster relief, Thennarasu said the Union government has released a meagre Rs 276 crore.

He said the releases from the National Disaster Relief Fund are legitimate dues to the states and requested an allocation of Rs 3,000 crore in the upcoming budget to Tamil Nadu to undertake necessary restoration works.

Thennarasu also said the Union government’s various cesses and surcharges, as a percentage of gross tax revenue, have increased from 10.4 per cent in 2011-12 to 20.28 per cent in 2022-23.

He requested the Union government to merge them into the basic rates of taxation so that the states receive their legitimate share in devolution.

Thennarasu also urged the Union government to provide 50 per cent of the cost for centrally sponsored schemes as the unit cost has gone up and the state governments have to bear the remaining cost.

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The Tamil Nadu Finance Minister also said the Union government should exclude the loans taken by state governments for taking over losses of state power distribution companies from the calculation of fiscal deficit and borrowing ceilings of the state, similar to the UDAY scheme of 2015.

According to him, the calculation of Gross State Domestic Product (GSDP) to fix the borrowing ceiling is repeatedly underestimated resulting in a loss of borrowing space of around Rs 8,500 crore in the last four years.

Amid a situation where the fiscal autonomy of states to raise resources through taxes is curtailed after GST and when the burden of expenditure is being shifted onto states, restrictive control over borrowing can have a debilitating impact on state finances, Thennarasu said.

According to him, the Union government should make suitable adjustments for any underestimation or overestimation in the calculation of GSDP in the subsequent year.

–IANS

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Hushing up NEET leaks is alarming, how can we close our eyes: Priyank Kharge

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Hushing up NEET leaks is alarming, how can we close our eyes: Priyank Kharge

Hushing up NEET leaks is alarming, how can we close our eyes: Priyank Kharge

Bengaluru, July 25 (IANS) Defending the passing of resolutions against NEET and ‘One Nation, One Election’ by the Congress government on Thursday, Minister for IT/BT, RDPR Priyank Kharge stated that hushing up of the NEET paper leaks was alarming and Karnataka can’t close its eyes.

Speaking to reporters, Priyank Kharge stated, “We have moved a resolution like other states on safe, secure and transparent ways of conducting exams in the interest of students. How are they going to justify what has happened?

“The student who fails in 12th class in Gujarat gets 704 marks. How is the government defending it? How can we close our eyes? Seat blocking is resulting in people who do not pass class 12, becoming doctors.”

Asserting that Karnataka has the highest number of medical colleges, Priyank Kharge said, “We have been churning out medical professionals year on year. Even before NEET, we had our own entrance exam. In terms of conducting transparent examination, it had become a model.”

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Priyank Kharge maintained that what was happening in NEET was unfortunate and the way it had been pushed under the carpet was quite alarming.

Commenting on the Centre’s delimitation proposal, Kharge stated, “If delimitation is going to be what the Centre wants, the southern states which are good governing states will get punished. We are going to get punished for being good citizens. It is not acceptable.”

“We are economic growth engines for the country. You can’t have a skewed representation in the Parliament in future. You can get any resolution favouring certain states, it will be passed because of numerical strength,” he stated.

“More importantly, the BJP should explain how they will implement ‘One Nation, One Election’, when they are the ones who are orchestrating ‘Operation Lotus’ everywhere.

“Whenever, they don’t have majority, they buy MLAs. Who is forcing bye-elections? Have you ever thought about it? What about panchayat, municipal and corporation elections? They happen at different times for various reasons and how will you ensure decentralisation?” Priyank Kharge questioned.

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The Karnataka Assembly passed the resolutions against NEET, ‘One Nation, One Election’ and proposal for delimitation of Assembly and Parliamentary constituencies on Thursday.

–IANS

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India on the cusp of launching U-WIN platform to monitor kids' health records: Health Secy

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India on the cusp of launching U-WIN platform to monitor kids' health records: Health Secy

India on the cusp of launching U-WIN platform to monitor kids' health records: Health Secy

New Delhi, July 25 (IANS) India is unequivocally committed to the well-being of its adolescents — the highest in the world — and is soon set to launch a Co-WIN-like platform for monitoring and identifying health records of children, Union Health Secretary Apurva Chandra said on Thursday.

“India is on the cusp of launching the U-WIN platform which is modelled after the Co-WIN platform,” said Chandra, while speaking at the launch of the “Economic Case for Investment in the Well-being of Adolescents in India” report in the national capital.

The platform “would lead to a transformative impact on not just storing the health records of every child but also in digitising these records as well as in monitoring, identifying and rectifying the challenges that arise”, he added.

The report highlights significant improvements in adolescent well-being in India over recent decades, showcasing the government’s extensive policies and programmes aimed at promoting the health and well-being of adolescents.

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The Health Secretary noted that “India has and will continue to remain steadfast in its commitment to nurturing adolescents’ talents”.

“India has the largest population of adolescents in the world, 253 million strong, and growing. Our adolescents are the backbone of our future, embodying the promise of a vibrant and progressive nation,” Chandra said, noting that the country is “the first to launch the Rashtriya Kishor Swasthya Karyakram (RKSK)”.

RKSK is a dedicated programme to “reach out to the 253 million adolescents — male and female, rural and urban, married and unmarried, in and out-of-school adolescents with special focus on marginalised and under-served groups”.

Further, the Health Secretary pointed out several programmes for the well-being of adolescents, such as the School Health and Wellness Programme under Ayushman Bharat and the Scheme for Promotion of Menstrual Hygiene.

–IANS

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Kerala govt should not intrude into matters beyond its constitutional jurisdiction: MEA

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Kerala govt should not intrude into matters beyond its constitutional
 jurisdiction: MEA

Kerala govt should not intrude into matters beyond its constitutional
 jurisdiction: MEA

New Delhi, July 25 (IANS) Reacting strongly to Kerala government’s recent order to appoint a senior IAS officer as a ‘Foreign Secretary’, the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) on Thursday made it clear that the Indian Constitution clearly states that ‘Foreign Affairs’ are not ‘Concurrent’, “and definitely not a State subject”.

In an order dated July 15, the Kerala government led by Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan appointed senior bureaucrat K. Vasuki as Foreign Secretary in matters concerning external cooperation.

“Let’s be very clear, the Constitution of India under the Seventh Schedule, List I, which is a Union List, clearly specifies that foreign affairs and all matters which bring the Union into the relation with any foreign country are the sole prerogative of the Union government.

“Foreign affairs is not a concurrent subject and definitely not a State subject. So, our position is that state governments should not intrude into matters that are beyond their constitutional jurisdiction,” MEA spokesperson Randhir Jaiswal said on Thursday.

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Meanwhile, the Kerala government continues to receive criticism from several quarters for its decision.

“The appointment of an IAS officer as Foreign Secretary in Kerala by CM Pinarayi Vijayan is a blatant overreach and a violation of the Union List of the Constitution. The LDF government has no mandate in foreign affairs,” said K. Surendran, BJP’s Kerala unit chief.

“This unconstitutional move sets a dangerous precedent. Is CM Pinarayi Vijayan trying to establish Kerala as a separate nation,” Surendran asked.

He added that if things continue like this, the Chief Minister would be asking for a separate consulate and a Foreign Affairs Minister very soon.

“In the larger interest of the country, CM Vijayan should immediately cancel the appointment of Vasuki to the new post as it’s not in tune with national interest,” Surendran said.

–IANS

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Manish Tewari questions govt on carbon emissions, Power Minister says 'target achieved before time'

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Manish Tewari questions govt on carbon emissions, Power Minister says 'target achieved before time'

Manish Tewari questions govt on carbon emissions, Power Minister says 'target achieved before time'

New Delhi, July 25 (IANS) Congress MP Manish Tewari on Thursday questioned the government over issues of carbon emissions and global warming, while citing the global consensus of the 1992 Earth Summit.

He said that this issue also found its mention in the Economic Survey, to which Union Power Minister Manohar Lal Khattar replied that the government was not only serious and forthcoming in achieving the climate goal objectives, rather it has achieved “targets before time”.

Speaking in the Lok Sabha, Tewari said that the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro (1992) reached a consensus that global warming must be limited to 1.5 degrees of pre-industrial temperatures that prevailed during the 1500s, before the first industrial revolution took place. He further said that the two chapters of the Economic Survey also talked about the sacrosanct 1.5 degrees and asked whether the government agreed with the assertion made in the document.

Replying to this, Union Minister Khattar said that the government was taking proactive steps towards this and it is also yielding results. “We have some commitments to the world community to achieve. We had set a target to reduce emissions by 30-35 per cent but we achieved it before time,” Khattar told the House.

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He further said that by 2030, the government expects to cut it further by 40-45 per cent.

The Union Minister further said that the carbon emission targets are set up every year. All sectors and industries are given targets with a motive to spur competition. Those who accomplish the carbon emission target will be issued a certificate.

Lok Sabha Speaker Om Birla also made an intervening remark and said that it’s a matter of pride that India is the only country to achieve the carbon emission targets before time.

Notably, the government has already declared its intent to roll out a carbon credit Trading Scheme by 2026. Those adhering to norms will also be issued a carbon certificate. A single carbon credit represents the removal or avoided emission of one ton of carbon dioxide – or another greenhouse gas like methane of equivalent volume. These credits can be sold at a cost to an entity that can then claim that credit as a reduction in its own carbon emissions.

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–IANS

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Ex-J&K Dy CM says Omar Abdullah 'frustrated', unable to see change

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Ex-J&K Dy CM says Omar Abdullah 'frustrated', unable to see change

Ex-J&K Dy CM says Omar Abdullah 'frustrated', unable to see change

Jammu, July 25 (IANS) Former J&K Deputy Chief Minister and senior BJP leader Kavinder Gupta said on Thursday that remaining out of power and losing the Lok Sabha election has created ‘frustration’ in former CM Omar Abdullah.

Talking to IANS, Gupta said, “These people have ruled J&K for 65 years. They were born and have lived in security protection and still, they are unable to see the change in the overall situation in the UT.”

He said Omar Abdullah has started disputing even the official figures about the militancy-related incidents.

“They have been sympathisers of the Jamaati-e-Islami and other separatist organisations. They are unable to live with the idea of the change that J&K has undergone during the last five years,” Gupta said.

He was criticising the statement of Omar Abdullah in which the latter had attacked the Centre over the US advisory to its citizens on the J&K situation.

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Earlier in the day, Abdullah posted on X “In asking US citizens to not visit Jammu and Kashmir, the advisory points to ‘terrorist attacks’ and ‘violent civil unrest,’ as well as ‘sporadic violence’ between the Indian and Pakistani forces along the Line of Control (LoC). So much for ‘naya J&K’. For all the talk of normalcy, peace, tourism & the G-20 tamasha in Srinagar, J&K continues to be the target of US state department travel advisories. The Modi government has been able to change nothing.”

“The Indian government says that violence has reduced since 2019, when it revoked a constitutional provision that gave the region special autonomy. Since 2021, there have been 33 militant-related attacks in Jammu, according to official data. In 2024 alone, the region has seen eight attacks, in which 11 soldiers have been killed and 18 injured. Civilian deaths in Jammu in the first six months of this year were 12, the same number as the whole of 2023,” Abdullah further posted.

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–IANS

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