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It will have 15 trustees, including one Dalit, says Home Minister

Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Wednesday told the Lok Sabha that the Cabinet had approved a scheme for the construction of a grand Ram temple in Ayodhya by setting up an autonomous trust, the Shri Ram Janmabhoomi Teerth Kshetra, to take forward the process as per the Supreme Court’s orders.

The Supreme Court mandated three-month deadline to set up a trust was to end on February 9, a day after Delhi votes.

The Union Home Ministry notified the Trust and Home Minister Amit Shah said in a tweet that there would be 15 trustees, out of which one would always be from the Dalit society.

As soon as the Lok Sabha convened at 11 a.m., Mr. Modi said he wanted to share information on a “very important and historical subject”. He said, “This topic is close to my heart like millions of countrymen and I consider it my great fortune to talk about it.”

Mr. Modi announced that the government had decided to transfer the entire 67.703 acres to the trust. “This trust will be fully autonomous to take any decision regarding the construction of temple.”

The Prime Minister complimented the citizens for showing maturity in accepting the court verdict of November 9 last. “People of the country have shown great restraint and maturity in accepting the court order and this is indeed praiseworthy. I salute them for this maturity,” he said.

The Uttar Pradesh government had approved the Supreme Court’s direction to grant 5 acres to the Sunni Central Wakf Board, he said.

Against the backdrop of the ongoing protests against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act and the National Register of Citizens, Mr. Modi used the opportunity to reach out to different sections. “We believe in the philosophy that the world is one family [vasudhaivakutumbakam] and everyone should be happy [sukhinobahavonto]. People professing every sect and every religion, be they Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs, Christians, Jains and Parsis, they are all part of the larger Indian family. That’s why my government has followed the principle of Sabka Saath, Sabka Vikas and Sabka Vishwaas,” he said.

“Join me in support of the construction of a grand Ram temple in Ayodhya on this historic occasion and let us all speak in one voice,” he addressed the members, especially those on the Opposition benches by repeating the words, ‘aayeeye, aayeeye’ (come, come).

Responding to Mr. Modi’s call, several ruling MPs chanted ‘Jai Shri Ram’ amid thumping of desks.

Great Wall Motors showcasing its electric vehicle at the Auto Expo 2020 on Wednesday.Kamal Narang

Electric vehicles and new models of conventional SUVs are in the spotlight at this year’s Auto Expo, being held here under the shadow of a prolonged demand slowdown that has hit the industry.

Billboards greeting car buffs and industry professionals to the various pavilions feature the gleaming new motors, making it clear that these are the machines the big marques are placing their bets on. Industry data point to electric becoming the new buzzword, and SUVs, the major vehicle segment in top gear when it comes to sales.

The biggest biennial automotive extravaganza is evidently feeling the ripple effects of the demand slowdown, with the majority of two-wheeler makers and many car makers skipping the event. These include market leader Hero MotoCorp, Honda Motorcycles, TVS Motors, Royal Enfield, BMW, Audi, Toyota Kirloskar Motors, Honda Cars, Ford and Fiat.

Suzuki Motorcycle looked like a lone-warrior for the two-wheeler on day one of the expo, launching the BS6 versions of the Access 125, Gixxer series, Burgman Street and Intruder.

The mood is also dampened by the global coronavirus outbreak, with the top leadership of all Chinese participants staying away. Industry executives believe that this is likely to adversely affect the attendance at Auto Expo 2020, which will open for the public from February 7, until February 12.

The event was kick-started by the country’s largest car maker, Maruti Suzuki, globally premiering its Futuro-e concept — an electric SUV with nuances of a coupe and flexible swivel travel seats.

‘Start-ups and MSMEs will be given emphasis’

On target: Prime Minister Narendra Modi holding a rifle during a visit to the DefExpo at Lucknow.Press Information BureauPress Information Bureau

India became the world’s largest arms importer as it did not utilise its capacities to full potential after Independence, Prime Minister Narendra Modi stated on Wednesday and asserted that India was looking to achieve defence exports worth ₹35,000 crore in the next five years.

“Post Independence, we did not use our defence opportunities and abilities to the full potential. Our policies and strategies remained focused on import. India thus became the largest arms importer in the world,” Mr. Modi said at the inaugural of the 11th Defexpo. After 2014, the government had undertaken several policy reforms, he pointed out.

Mr. Modi talked about India turning into a manufacturing hub for military platforms and noted that defence manufacturing had found new energy. “In the last two years, defence exports worth ₹17,000 crore has been achieved; it is up from ₹2,000 crore in 2014,” he said.

A long-term integrated defence plan was being conceptualised with emphasis on start-ups and Micro, Medium and Small Enterprises (MSMEs). Two hundred defence start-ups were likely to come up to give a push to indigenisation. “Defence manufacturing will not only make us self-reliant but also ensure we are prepared to help friendly countries in the region if required,” he said.

Mr. Modi declared that India’s ambitions in the defence sector were not directed against anyone. “India has been a trustworthy partner of peace.”

Mr. Modi also spoke about the importance of Artificial Intelligence (AI).

He said his government had created a road map to increase its usage in the defence sector.

They have not complied with deadline to limit sulphur dioxide emissions

Air scare: Coal-fired plants have been directed to put in place pollution control measures by December 2022. File photo

The Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) has pulled up 14 thermal power plants for not complying with a December 31, 2019 deadline to limit sulphur dioxide emissions.

These are 5 plants in Haryana, 3 in Punjab, 2 in Uttar Pradesh, 2 in Andhra Pradesh, 2 in Telangana and 1 in Tamil Nadu with a total capacity of approx 15 GW that have missed the deadline.

Phased-approach

To limit particulate matter (PM), sulphur dioxide and nitrous oxide emission from thermal plants, India put in place a phased-approach that directs 440 coal-fired units — responsible for about 166,000 MW of power — to put in place measures to limit pollution by December 2022.

However, 11 plants in a 300 km radius of Delhi were to comply by December 31, 2019 because of the poor air quality in the city as well as the surrounding Gangetic plain.

Some of them claimed to have set in place the process for acquiring flu-gas desulphurisation technology where as others said they were yet to award tenders. Only one of these plants has actually implemented technology to limit emissions.

Plea in NGT

Non-compliance by the thermal power plants is an ongoing dispute being contested at the National Green Tribunal through a petition filed in April 2017.

There is an ongoing case in the Supreme Court regarding the extensions given to these plants.

The 14 plants have been given until the end of this month to explain to the CPCB why they have not complied with the norms and why action should not be taken.

The CPCB has the power to impose steep fines or shut a unit under the provisions of the Environment Protection Act. As per Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) estimates, these norms can help reduce PM emissions by about 35%, nitrogen oxide emissions by about 70%, and sulphur dioxide emissions by more than 85% by 2026-27 against a business-as-usual scenario with no pollution control technologies.

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