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President, PM, political leaders condole stalwart’s demise

Former Union Finance Minister and senior BJP leader Arun Jaitley passed away on Saturday at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) at 12.07 p.m. He was 66 and is survived by wife and two children.

Mr. Jaitley had been admitted on August 9 with complaints of uneasiness and breathlessness and was under the care of a multi-disciplinary team of senior doctors. He was put on prolonged cardiac and respiratory support after his condition deteriorated days after he was admitted.

In a statement, AIIMS said: “It is with profound grief that we inform about the sad demise of Arun Jaitley, former Finance Minister of Government of India, at 12.07 p.m. on August 24.”

The former Minister had been unwell for a larger part of the past two years. In 2014, he underwent a bariatric surgery to correct the weight he had gained because of a long-standing diabetic condition. In 2018, he underwent a kidney transplant surgery at AIIMS. Earlier this year, in January, he was diagnosed with a rare form of soft tissue sarcoma, a form of cancer.

Later in the afternoon, Mr. Jaitley’s mortal remains were shifted to his Kailash Colony residence where several leaders, including BJP president Amit Shah, Union Ministers Harsh Vardhan and Jitendra Singh and party working president J.P. Nadda, offered floral tributes.

Mr. Jaitley will be cremated on Sunday afternoon at the Nigambodh Ghat, BJP leader Sudhanshu Mittal said.

‘Valuable friend’

In a tribute to Mr. Jaitley, Prime Minister Narendra Modi described him as a “valued friend” whose insights and nuanced understanding of matters had “very few parallels”. Mr. Modi, who is in the UAE on an official tour, said the former Finance Minister was full of life, blessed with wit, a great sense of humour and charisma.

In a series of tweets, Mr. Modi said Mr. Jaitley was admired by people across all sections of society, adding that he was multi-faceted, and had impeccable knowledge of India’s Constitution, history, public policy, governance and administration. “With the demise of Arun Jaitley Ji, I have lost a valued friend, whom I have had the honour of knowing for decades,” Mr. Modi said.

The BJP lost several of its leaders, including former External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj, former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, former Goa Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar and Union Minister Ananth Kumar, in the past one year. Mr. Jaitley died 18 days after Sushma Swaraj.

Arun Jaitley 1952-2019

12-member team wanted to take stock of situation

No entry: Rahul Gandhi and other Opposition leaders at the Delhi airport on their return from Srinagar. Sandeep SaxenaThe Hindu

A delegation of Opposition leaders, led by former Congress president Rahul Gandhi, which landed in Srinagar on Saturday afternoon to take stock of the situation after the suspension of Article 370, was not allowed to enter the city and was sent back to Delhi from the Srinagar airport.

The 12-member delegation was detained and taken to the VIP lounge of the airport as soon as the leaders disembarked from the aircraft.

A video clip, filmed at the VIP lounge and released by the Congress, showed Mr. Gandhi trying to reason with officials of the Jammu and Kashmir administration to let them out of the airport.

“The government has invited me. The Governor has said I am invited. Now that I have come, you are telling me I can’t go out. The government has said everything is normal. Now, if everything is normal, why am I not allowed out? This is a bit surprising. We want to go to any area and talk to five, ten, 15 people,” Mr. Gandhi told the officials who read out a government order that the delegation couldn’t step out of the airport building.

AAMSU cautions against excluding genuine citizens, including foreigners

The final National Register of Citizens is to be published on August 31. file photo: Ritu Raj Konwar

The All Assam Minority Students’ Union (AAMSU) has threatened to launch an “intense agitation” if any genuine Indian citizen is excluded and a “single foreigner” included in the final National Register of Citizens to be published on August 31.

The threat follows the general apprehension that the final NRC would not be error-free.

The students’ body has also warned against any move to change or amend Clause 6 of the Assam Accord of 1985 that seeks to provide “constitutional, legislative and administrative safeguards” and “protect, preserve and promote the cultural, social, linguistic identity and heritage of the Assamese people”.

The accord also fixed March 24, 1971, as the cut-off date for detection and deportation of all illegal immigrants irrespective of their religion.

“A force is trying to derail the NRC process and there are speculations that many illegal immigrants have been included while genuine Indians have been left out. We will be compelled to launch a democratic movement against the NRC authority if we find any discrepancies,” AAMSU adviser Azizur Rahman told media persons on Saturday.

He questioned the “motive” behind forcing thousands of people already included in the NRC to reverify their documents ahead of the publication of the citizens’ list. “The NRC authority would be solely responsible for any untoward incident that might happen,” he added.

‘Deliberate exclusion’

“The religious and linguistic minorities of Assam have cooperated in the exercise monitored by the Supreme Court. No one disputes the cut-off date, and the apex court has often told State NRC Coordinator Prateek Hajela to ensure nobody with valid citizenship documents is harassed,” AAMSU general secretary Abdur Rahman Biswas said on Saturday. “But deliberately excluding people with citizenship documents prior to March 25, 1971 or including foreigners who came to Assam after that date will not be tolerated.”

The AAMSU advised against provocative statements and asked the government to crack down on forces that might try to create communal tension.

The minority students’ body welcomed the constitution of a high-level committee for the implementation of Clause 6 of the Assam Accord. But it asked the committee to not be partisan and go by the Assam Accord cut-off date while preparing its report.

Geotube shield to save 2,300 metres of the coast along the Kapil Muni shrine

Closing in: The temple is facing the threat of submersion in the next few years. Special Arrangement Special Arrangement

The Kapil Muni temple on Sagar Island in the Sunderbans, where a large number of devotees gather every year during the Gangasagar fair, is facing the threat of rising seas and will be submerged in the next few years.

Bankim Hazra, the local MLA and Gangasagar Bakkhali Development Authority (GBDA) chairperson, is campaigning to save the temple located 400 metres from the sea.

“The sea is advancing at the rate of 15 metres a year. If the trend continues, there will be a need to relocate the temple,” Mr. Hazra said, to a group of journalists at a media workshop on climate change in the Bay of Bengal region, organised by The Third Pole and the Earth Journalism Network.

The West Bengal government is taking steps to prevent further erosion of the coast. “The Finance Department has given in principle approval for the construction of sea walls using offshore submerged geotubes (sand-like material filled into geo-textile tube). The cost is ₹77 crore. The design is being made by IIT-Madras and the project will be implemented by Macktintosh Burn,” he said.

GBDA officials said the work would be completed in two phases.

The project involves a comprehensive plan for “beach protection and coastal erosion protection for 2,300 metres along the stretch of the Kapil Muni temple and the Gangasagar mela ground”.

This is not the first time that the temple is facing the problem of rising seas. It is believed that the existing temple is the seventh at the site, after six structures built earlier went into the sea. According to legend, King Bhagirath, after a long penance, brought the Ganga down from the Himalayas to liberate his ancestors, who were burnt to ashes in front of the Kapil Muni temple on Sagar Island. It is also believed that the temple is located at the point where the river meets the sea.

(The writer was in Sagar

Island as part of a trip

arranged by The Third Pole)

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