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It points to grand scale of Trump-Modi Motera rally as ‘key deliverable’ of visit

Welcome sign: A hoarding featuring U.S. President Donald Trump, wife Melania and Prime Minister Narendra Modi in Ahmedabad on Wednesday. Vijay Soneji

An Indo-U.S. trade deal has been delayed but is not “stuck”, the government said on Wednesday, hours after President Donald Trump confirmed that negotiations will not be completed in time for his visit next week.

However, government sources said expectations on trade would not overshadow the larger context of the visit, which will be a massive roadshow for Mr. Trump and his wife Melania from the Ahmedabad airport to Motera as well as a joint rally with Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the stadium (billed as the world’s biggest cricket stadium), the “key deliverable” of the visit.

“From the moment of their arrival at the airport, [Mr. and Mrs. Trump] will be treated to a display of famed Indian hospitality and India’s Unity in Diversity,” Foreign Secretary Harsh Shringla told reporters.

‘Big deal later’

Speaking in Washington DC, Mr. Trump spoke in a similar vein. “We can have a trade deal with India but I am saving the big deal for later on. We’re doing a very big trade deal with India…we’ll have it. I don’t know if it’ll be done before the elections but we’ll have a very big deal with India,” he told reporters on Tuesday.

The comments come days after U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer cancelled a trip to India — as reported in The Hindu — to finalise a mini-trade deal that the two countries were hoping to finalise during the visit.

“We’re not treated very well by India but I happen to like Prime Minister Modi a lot. And he told me we’ll have seven million people between the airport and the event. And the stadium, I understand, is sort of semi under-construction but it’s going to be the largest stadium in the world. So it’s going to be very exciting,” Mr. Trump said.

Performing arts

“The route of their travel to the stadium is expected to have tens of thousands of ordinary citizens as well as artistes showcasing the performing arts from different States and Union Territories,” Mr. Shringla said, adding that Mr. Trump’s motorcade would pass through an “India roadshow” along the way, with 28 stages representing various parts of the country on display.

The figures represent a considerable contrast to the U.S. President’s repeated reference to crowds of “7 million” that he expects will come out to greet him but the government feels that rather than the figure being taken literally, the “spirit” of the grandness of the event is important.

Civic bodies told to give incentives to establishments for not using plastic

Following initial success after the State government banned use of single-use plastic in March 2018, the drive lost momentum. File photoThulasi Kakkat

In another step towards curbing use of single-use plastic in the State from May 1, the Environment department and the Maharashtra Pollution Control Board have asked municipal corporations across the State to give incentives to establishments, prepare squads similar to Mumbai’s to confiscate plastic, and hold review meetings every month.

The Maharashtra government had in March 2018 issued a notification banning the manufacture, sale and use of single-use plastic bags. It also banned an array of plastic products including cutlery, straws and containers. The ban imposes a penalty between ₹5,000 and ₹25,000 for those violating the rules.

The government had given people time till June 23 to dispose of their banned items, following which municipal corporations started drives to confiscate banned plastic and the MPCB conducted drives to ensure manufacturing units were shut down. However, after about a year, the drive lost momentum and single-use plastic is now freely available in the market. The ban was the brainchild of Sena leader Aaditya Thackeray, and was implemented by the then Environment Minister Ramdas Kadam.

After becoming Environment Minister himself, Mr. Thackeray conducted a review of the ban in January, and spoke to various stakeholders regarding hurdles faced in its implementation. He also held a meeting via video conference on February 5 with municipal commissioners, district collectors and divisional commissioners. He has now asked the civic bodies in the State to submit plans on how they will become single-use plastic free.

Following the meeting, MPCB has also planned several measures that can be undertaken.

E Ravendiran, member secretary of MPCB said, “We want organisations like offices, municipal councils, gram panchayats to come forward and give self-declaration on being plastic free. Their claims will then be verified and we are considering giving them incentives like certificates or prizes. We might even hold competitions for these prizes through the local body. Let us see how many come forward. Local bodies have been asked to submit their action plan. A draft proposal is ready, we will discuss it with the Minister and then declare it.” MPCB is hopeful that organisations will come forward to become single use plastic free.

Besides, MPCB is also encouraging municipal corporations to set up team of inspectors along the lines of BMC’s blue squads for confiscating banned plastic. District collectors are supposed to hold monthly review of the implementation of the ban. A State-wide meeting will be held in March and the department will kick off its awareness campaign. Students will be involved in the drive and various competitions will be held at school, college level to sensitise them.

Anil Diggikar, principal secretary, Environment Department, said, “Corporations can individually decide how to motivate all establishments. The department will do State-wide publicity while the local bodies will be responsible for the execution.”

Officers attributed the slowdown in the implementation of the ban to the two elections in 2019.

The other challenge for the department will be preventing import of single use plastic from other States.

“If you look at the larger impact, single use plastic has reduced by 50-60% in the State. But it is possible that it comes from other States. We are looking at ways to prevent that. By May 1, we hope to put an end to that also,” said an MPCB official.

Meanwhile, environmentalist Afroz Shah said, “Implementation of the notification is fine but there are two stages of plastic — pre-litter and post-litter. Pre-litter means counselling the consumer about avoiding a lifestyle that stresses on largescale plastic consumption, especially multi-layered plastic. It is the responsibility of both producers and consumers to avoid products that use non-recyclable plastic. If citizens can achieve that level of lifestyle changes, it could take care of a large part of the problem. We cannot say at this stage if people can or cannot do this, it depends on factors. Even post-litter, which means when plastic hits the streets, is important.”

Board will formulate minimum standards for labs and lay down code of conduct for personnel

The Union Cabinet on Wednesday approved the Assisted Reproductive Technology Regulation Bill, 2020 to monitor medical procedures used to assist people to achieve pregnancy.

The Bill provides for a national Board which will lay down a code of conduct to be observed by those operating clinics.

It will also formulate minimum standards for laboratory and diagnostic equipment and practices to be followed by human resources employed by clinics and banks. The States and Union Territories will also have to form State Boards and State authorities within three months of the notification of the proposed legislation.

Under the proposed law, a national registry and registration authority will maintain a database to assist the national Board to perform its functions, according to a statement issued by the Health and Family Welfare Ministry.

Strict punishment

The Bill also proposes stringent punishment for those who practise sex selection, indulge in sale of human embryos or gametes and those who operate rackets.

“India has one of the highest growths in the number ART centres and ART cycles performed every year. India has become one of the major centres of this global fertility industry, with reproductive medical tourism becoming a significant activity. This has also introduced a plethora of legal, ethical and social issues; yet, there is no standardisation of protocols and reporting is still very inadequate,” the Ministry added.

Confidentiality clause

“The Bill will also ensure confidentiality of intending couples and protect the rights of the child,” Union Minister Smriti Irani said at a media conference on Wednesday. She also said that in the Surrogacy Regulation Bill 2020, the government was looking to restrict the maximum age of surrogates from “above the marriageable age” to 50 years.

$2.4 billion agreement to buy 24 MH-60Rs is one among the various defence deals

Timely buy: MH-60R will help to partially ease the Navy’s shortage of helicopters. AFPAFP

Days before U.S. President Donald Trump’s visit to India, the Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS), headed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, met on Wednesday and cleared the procurement of 24 MH-60R multi-role helicopters for the Navy worth around $2.4 billion.

While other defence deals are expected to be announced, they are in various stages of procurement.

“The MH-60R helicopter deal has been approved by the CCS,” a defence source said, adding it was ready to be signed after crossing hurdles. The deal is expected to be announced during Mr. Trump’s visit and will help to partially ease the Navy’s shortage of helicopters on its front-line warships.

MH-60R was earlier selected through a competitive process for 16 helicopters, with an option for eight more. But the deal fell through owing to pricing issues and other developments. Thereafter, the tender was cancelled. A fresh tender for 24 MH-60R helicopters was floated later and processed through the Foreign Military Sales (FMS) route of the U.S. government.

Another deal close to conclusion is of six additional AH-64E Apache attack helicopters for the Army. They will cost around $930 million. The Apaches from Boeing are being sourced through the direct commercial sale and the Foreign Military Sales route from the U.S. side.

Also under discussion is the sale of Large Aircraft Infrared Counter Measure (LAIRCM), a missile defence system for large aircraft (such as those used by VIPs).

A missile defence system, Integrated Air Defence Weapon System (IADWS), which was approved last week by the U.S. State Department and which is now with the U.S. Congress for its consideration for up to 30 days, is also in the works. That potential sale, which could be valued up to $1.867 billion, is likely to be taken up during U.S. Secretary of Defense Mark Esper’s visit to India, which will likely happen in March.

It is understood that Mr. Trump will push for U.S. solutions to fighter jet competitions of the Indian Army and Navy during his trip.

(With inputs from

Sriram Lakshman

in Washington, DC)

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