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Centre takes stock of situation on heatwave & forest fires

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New Delhi, June 6 (IANS) Union Cabinet Secretary Rajiv Gauba on Thursday chaired a meeting of the National Crisis Management Committee (NCMC) to review the country’s preparedness to deal with heat wave conditions and forest fires.

He requested the Chief Secretaries of various states to regularly review and monitor the short term, medium term and long-term measures to ramp up preparedness to deal with heat waves.

He emphasised that efforts to maintain and augment sources of water supply should be stepped up and fire safety audit of all institutions be ensured regularly.

He observed that states and union territories need to be better prepared to meet the associated challenges related to heatwaves and forest fires to ensure that there was no loss of life and to minimise damage.

The Cabinet Secretary also assured the states that Central Ministries/ Departments are closely engaging with them to ensure optimum preparedness and for implementing timely mitigation and response measures.

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The National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) and Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEFCC) made detailed presentations on the current situation of the heat wave and forest fires respectively, including steps being taken to deal with them, across the country.

The India Meteorological Department (IMD) said that 10-22 above normal heatwave days were observed in different parts of the country between April to June 2024.

Above-normal heatwave days in June are likely over most areas of northwest India and neighbouring areas of north-central India.

This year, the monsoon is likely to be normal and above normal in most parts of the country. Regular alerts on heat waves are being sent, IMD said.

The NDMA also said that a series of preparatory meetings have been conducted, starting from October 2023, by Central Ministries/ Departments and state governments.

Advisories have been issued to states to activate Control Rooms, enforce SoPs for heatwave, ensure drinking water availability, preparedness of health facilities including availability of essential medicines and ORS and uninterrupted power supply.

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States have also been advised to conduct fire safety audits of schools, hospitals and other institutions regularly and reduce response time in incidents of fire.

State governments said that the situation is being reviewed and monitored closely by relevant departments and District Collectors.

On forest fire management, Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change made a presentation, outlining the action plan and preparedness to deal with the forest fires in various parts of the country.

It was informed that regular forest fire alerts are being disseminated through mobile SMS and emails.

A Forest Fire Alert System portal named VAN AGNI, which provides pre-fire and near real-time forest fire alerts, has also been developed by Forest Survey of India (FSI) to assist the states and other agencies.

The Cabinet Secretary also said that during the review meeting chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on June 2, it was emphasised that the issue of forest fires should be given greater attention.

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A regular system of preparatory measures and annual drills to deal with forest fires, as done in case of floods etc., may be put in place.

A comprehensive approach with a focus on prevention and quick and effective response should be adopted.

Chief Secretaries of Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Gujarat, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Jharkhand, Jammu and Kashmir, Odisha, Delhi, Maharashtra, Rajasthan and Uttarakhand, and senior officials from Andhra Pradesh, Punjab, Madhya Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Uttar Pradesh, also attended the meeting through video conferencing.

–IANS

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No land will be acquired for Vahavan Port, says JNPA Chairman Umesh Wagh

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Mumbai, June 20 (IANS) A day after the Union Cabinet approved the Rs 76,220 crore deep-water port at Vadhavan near Dahanu in Maharashtra, the Chairman of the Jawaharlal Nehru Port Authority (JNPA), Umesh Wagh, said on Thursday that the first phase will be commissioned in 2029 and the second phase during 2032 and 2037.

Wagh said the JNPA has held several interactions with the villagers and tried to address the various concerns with regard to damage to the environment, dip in fish catch, or the acquisition of land.

Wagh said there was no proposal for a crude oil refinery, saying that these are only rumours.

‘’Let me tell you, there is no proposal for import of crude, hence there’s no question of a refinery,” he said.

On concerns over land acquisition and displacement, Wagh said not an inch of land will be acquired for the port project.

“So there is no question of displacement. There is no doubt left in this particular aspect,’’ he said.

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The port infrastructure comprises nine container terminals, each 1 km in length, four multipurpose berths, four liquid cargo berths, a Ro-Ro berth, a coastal cargo berth, and a coast guard berth. The project involves the reclamation of 1,448 hectares in offshore areas and construction of 10.4 km of breakwater, container/cargo storage areas.

On the concern regarding flooding due to this big project, Wagh said the JNPA is going 6 km inside.

“Exhaustive scientific studies have been carried out which clearly said that as this is an offshore project, there will be no flooding due to the project development,’’ he added.

On concern regarding the livelihood of the fishermen, Wagh admitted that it is a very important aspect.

“Except for a 30 sq km of area, the fishermen can do fishing everywhere. If the fishermen need to shift from the 30 sq km area, we will provide compensation as per the Maharashtra government’s policy. While we have got all the clearances, it doesn’t mean that we will not talk to the fishermen and the villagers. Our offices are open for talks 24×7. Any demand of theirs is most welcome. We will address all their concerns,” he added.

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–IANS

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Time to work together to win upcoming Maha Assembly polls: Praful Patel

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Mumbai, June 20 (IANS) Amid the ongoing verbal duel among the ruling MahaYuti partners over its dismal performance in the Lok Sabha elections, Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) Working President Praful Patel on Thursday said that everyone should focus on contesting the upcoming Maharashtra Assembly elections together.

He downplayed the blame-game which is underway among the MahaYuti partners, saying that the alliance partners will have to collectively take all decisions and address the various issues faced during the general elections.

“It will be clear that there are many seats where none of the three parties, including BJP, Shiv Sena and NCP managed to give the lead to our candidate. It is futile to play the blame game, and it won’t be beneficial to anyone. The discussion on who won because of whom and who lost because of whom should stop now,” Patel said.

”Analyse the result and find out where we (NCP) have given lead to our allies. Also find where the candidate’s own party failed to give the lead. But that analysis won’t yield much now. We need to stay united and we must keep our entire focus on assembly elections,” he added.

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The NCP leader also sad the contest for the upcoming Assembly election would not be easy “unless all the differences are buried”.

“The farmers’ issue could not be solved. The fake narrative about reservations and the constitution could not be countered. These are the main factors for the defeat,” he said.

Patel, however, said that the MahaYuti government will solve the issues affecting people.

–IANS

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Yechury demands court-monitored SIT probe in NEET case

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Kolkata, June 20 (IANS) CPI-M General Secretary Sitaram Yechury on Thursday demanded a court-monitored probe by a special investigation team (SIT) in the UGC-NEET paper leak case.

“An entire system has been polluted. Many influential people are involved in the matter. What is required is a court-monitored probe by a SIT. The future of the youths is being played with. People have lost all hope in agencies like the CBI. Their only task is to hound the opposition parties,” he said while addressing a press conference here.

On the election disaster of the party in West Bengal where the party has once again reduced to zero, Yechury said that the defeat of his party was not just against the BJP or the Trinamool Congress, but also against “muscle power” and “money power”.

CPI-M Politburo member and state Secretary Mohammad Salim, who was also present, said that besides unleashing massive violence on the polling days, there had been massive irregularities in the counting of votes.

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However, Yechury has outlined a silver line even amid the party’s debacle. “Over the last elections, we have been able to bring new faces to the forefront. Our campaigning reached a different level in the state this time. It can be said that a completely new face of the party has evolved in West Bengal, which is not only good for the state but also for the entire country,” he said.

–IANS

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Vadhavan port will be a game changer for Maha; to help achieve $1 trillion economy: Minister

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Mumbai, June 20 (IANS) Maharashtra Ports Minister Sanjay Bansode has said that the proposed Vadhavan port cleared by the Union Cabinet will be a game changer for Maharashtra.

The Union Cabinet recently approved the Rs 76,220 crore port at Vadhavan in Palghar district of Maharashtra.

During an interaction with IANS, Sanjay Bansode said the project would boost industrial development and also generate employment opportunities.

“I sincerely thank Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the Union Cabinet as the development of Vadhavan port will provide huge employment opportunities for the local people during the construction phase as well as the operation phase. Many posts including driver, mechanic, painter, carpenter, electrician, watchman, computer operator will be created for those who are less educated. In addition, there will be tremendous opportunities for highly educated ones in the field of management, engineering and others,” the Minister said.

He said it will further boost industrial development due to multiple business opportunities in its surroundings and also in the adjoining areas of the state.

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“The Vadhavan port will be a game changer for Maharashtra, and it will help the state to achieve its ambitious target of a $1 trillion economy,” the Minister said.

Despite a series of talks by the Maharashtra government and Jawaharlal Nehru Port Authority and also the recent public hearing, a section of villagers and fishing community are strongly opposed to the port development. On being asked how he plans to address their concerns, Sanjay Bansode said: “There is no opposition to the port development. The Chief Minister, two Deputy Chief Ministers and myself have held several meetings with the farmers and fishing community.

“Those talks were quite positive. The project will certainly help Maharashtra’s growth scale to a new high. The government is committed to addressing the concerns raised by those opposing the project. I appeal to them to extend their cooperation in the development of the port at Vadhavan. The Central Marine Fisheries Research Institute has provided training for aspiring fishermen to enhance their skills. This is an ongoing programme as interested persons can avail this training,” he told IANS.

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The Minister also said that Shankhodhar Shrine, a place of worship of the locals, will be preserved. His assurance on the matter came after the villagers expressed concern that the Shankhodhar Shrine, dedicated to Lord Ram, would be damaged due to the port development project.

“It is far away from the port project site and there will be no risk to Shankhodhar Shrine,” he said.

“Also, let me make it clear that there is no proposal to set up a crude oil refinery in the master plan of the port project. In fact, crude oil refining was never thought of. It is requested that no one should take notice of such false propaganda in this regard,” the Minister said as it was learned that the villagers are opposed to the “proposed” crude oil refinery there.

(Sanjay Jog can be contacted at sanjay.j@ians.in)

–IANS

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Telangana demands Centre allot coal mines in the state to Singareni Collieries

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Hyderabad, June 20 (IANS) The Congress government in Telangana has urged the Centre not to auction coal mining blocks in the state and allot them to public sector miner Singareni Collieries Company Ltd (SCCL).

A day before the launch of the 10th tranche of auctions of coal mines by the Ministry of Coal in Hyderabad, Deputy Chief Minister and Finance and Energy Minister, Mallu Bhatti Vikramarka said all the mining blocks in the coal belt area of the state should be allotted to the SCCL.

A delegation of the state government led by Vikramarka will meet Union Coal and Mines Minister G. Kishan Reddy on Friday to make a representation in this regard.

Addressing a press conference along with Agriculture Minister Tummala Nageswara Rao in Khammam, the Deputy CM said the state would seek allotment of new mines through nomination, not auction, as SCCL was a public sector company.

They said if Singareni was not allotted new coal mines, its very existence would be at stake.

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The ministers urged Kishan Reddy, who hails from Telangana, to take the initiative in allotting mining blocks to SCCL. Vikramarka said the government, if necessary, would take an all-party delegation to Delhi to meet Prime Minister Narendra Modi to request him to allot mining blocks to SCCL for its needs beyond 2030. He mentioned that currently coal is extracted from 40 mines in the state but 22 of these mines are nearing depletion. These mines are likely to close by 2030 and this will affect 42,000 direct employees and 26,000 outsourced workers of the SCCL.

The current coal production of 70 million tonnes is likely to drop to 15 million tonnes.

The ministers demanded that the Koyagudem coal block of Sattupalli that was auctioned recently should also be allotted to the SCCL.

They alleged that the Bharat Rashtra Samithi (BRS) had supported a bill brought by the BJP government in the Parliament to deprive the public sector companies of coal mines. The BRS MPs had supported an amendment made to the Mines and Minerals Act mandating the auctioning of coal mines and now the same party was opposing the auction. They said the then BRS government did not allow SCCL to participate in the auction and ensured that mining rights of the Koyagudem block were given to the companies whose leaders were closely associated with the party. Alleging that Singareni suffered losses during the BRS rule, they said the closure of old blocks and the non-allocation of new blocks resulted in a steep decline in the workforce.

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–IANS

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