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Bhutan PM says China must maintain status quo on Doklam

No side should do anything near the trijunction point unilaterally, he says

Pitching for peace: Lotay Tshering says the boundary talks between Bhutan and China have made good progress.AFPAFP

Calling for China to maintain status quo in the Doklam region, Bhutan’s Prime Minister Lotay Tshering said “no side” should do anything near the trijunction point between India, China and Bhutan “unilaterally”.

In an exclusive interview to The Hindu and the first public comments by the Bhutanese leader on the Doklam issue, which had seen a near conflict between the Indian and Chinese armies in 2017, he said that as long as status quo was maintained, “there will be peace and tranquillity in the region.”

Mr. Tshering was reacting to a question about the recent reports of an unprecedented build-up of military infrastructure on the Chinese side of the Doklam plateau that has been part of a boundary dispute between Bhutan and China.

He said the boundary talks between the two sides had made good progress, however, with 25 rounds completed. Asked whether the talks could lead to diplomatic ties being established, he reiterated Bhutan’s policy of not establishing ties with any permanent member of the UN Security Council.

Mr. Tshering also called on India and Pakistan to work together for the growth of South Asia and said it was “too early” to call the SAARC unviable. His comments follow calls by Sri Lanka’s President Maithripala Sirisena and Nepal’s Prime Minister K. P. Sharma Oli to revive the SAARC, which hasn’t held a summit since 2014.

Doctors’ safety: IMA calls for nationwide agitation today

All non-essential services to be withdrawn

Junior doctors staging a protest at a hospital in Siliguri on Sunday. AFPAFP

The Indian Medical Association (IMA) announced on Sunday that all non-essential services, including out-patient services, will be withdrawn for 24 hours from 6 a.m. on Monday across India in support of the striking junior doctors in West Bengal.

Only emergency and casualty services will be offered, the IMA said.

The protesting junior doctors, who have been demanding better security following an assault on duty doctors on June 10 at the NRSMCH in Kolkata, agreed to meet Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee.

However, they said the meeting would have to be “in the full view of the media” and not “behind closed doors”.

Till late in the evening, the Chief Minister’s Office had not announced details of the proposed meeting.

IMA demand

The IMA has demanded a comprehensive central law to deal with violence against doctors, healthcare staff and hospitals.

Vardhan reviews situation as encephalitis toll touches 83

Two children died even as the Union Minister for Health was at the hospital in Muzaffarpur

Never-ending saga: Children with AES under treatment at the SKMCH in Muzaffarpur in Bihar on Sunday.PTI-

The toll of children suffering from Acute Encephalitis Syndrome (AES) in Muzaffarpur rose to 83 on Sunday even as Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan visited the State-run Sri Krishna Medical College and Hospital (SKMCH) in the district and announced several measures to tackle the disease.

Meanwhile, a severe heat wave in the southwestern districts of the State has claimed 56 lives.

Dr. Harsh Vardhan, his junior in the Cabinet Ashwani Kumar Choubey and State Health Minister Mangal Pandey visited the SKMCH to review the situation. Even as Dr. Vardhan was at the hospital, two children died.

The Minister, who spent over four hours talking to doctors and relatives of the sick children, lauded the efforts taken to ensure efficient treatment. “I appreciate the efforts put in by the doctors to ensure efficient treatment to everyone despite all odds and hurdles”, he told local journalists. For over four hours, Mr Vardhan was in the hospital speaking with the doctors and relatives of the sick children.

Stress on virology labs

“We are extremely shocked at the situation here. We’ve taken every effort to save the lives of the diagnosed children. It has now become necessary to set up well-equipped virology labs in five districts to ensure detection and prevention of the disease. One virology laboratory will start functioning in Muzaffarpur within a year,” Dr. Vardhan said, while speaking to reporters.

He added that there was “a need for starting research on AES”.

The Minister was met with black flag demonstrations in Patna and Muzaffarpur by supporters of the Jan Adhikar Party.

Chief Minister Nitish Kumar has announced an ex-gratia of ₹4 lakh to families of every person who died of encephalitis.

The Chief Minister also directed the Health Department, district officials and doctors to take all possible measures to tackle the spread of AES.

Record temperatures

Most parts of Bihar are reeling under a heat wave with 56 deaths from heat stroke reported as temperatures touched 45.8° Celsius on Saturday.

Most of the deaths were reported from Aurangabad, Gaya and Nawada districts of southwest Bihar.

“The toll may go up as more such people are coming to the hospital,” said Aurangabad civil surgeon Surendra Prasad Singh.

The district officials of Nawada and Gaya too have confirmed death of 7 and 17 in their respective areas.

Nervous officials pass the buck on Air India’s priceless collections

Many paintings await their new home in NGMA

Vignettes from Air India’s design manual. special arrangement

Even as the complex process to sell the beleaguered state-run Air India is under way, a cloud hangs over the airline’s massive art collection, which includes works by M.F. Husain and S.H. Raza and the iconic Salvador Dali ashtrays.

While the collection was to be transferred to the National Gallery of Modern Art (NGMA) before the national carrier is sold to a private player, the immense value of these works has made officials wary of participating in any procedure to do so, lest they face charges of mishandling or theft.

“We are working on chalking out a mechanism for handing over the paintings and other art works. We will gift them for free to NGMA in return for which there will be a public exhibition in the name of Air India,” said an airline official with direct knowledge of discussions on the matter .

Apart from Hussain and Raza, the collection of nearly 4,000 paintings includes works by many of India’s best known artists — V.S. Gaitonde, K.A. Ara, Anjolie Ela Menon, Arpana Caur and B. Prabha . There are also stone sculptures dating back to the ninth century, wood work, a collection of exquisite clocks and a costume collection.

Artefacts in the collection recall the heyday of the airline such as ashtrays designed by surrealist Salvador Dali which were meant to be gifted to first-class passengers.

Rich history

The art works were collected over a period of six decades between early 1950s and 2007 and started when the erstwhile Tata Airlines was expanding its global reach and needed to showcase “a little of India”, in the words of its founder J.R.D. Tata, in its booking offices across the world.

A 2017 proposal to set up a museum at the Air India building at Mumbai’s Nariman Point had to be abandoned when the Union Cabinet decided to privatise the airline. Subsequently, a decision was taken to donate these national treasures to the NGMA.

Two years on, most of the artworks remain stored in a godown in Mumbai, while some are yet to be retrieved from foreign offices abroad.

The task of preparing an inventory was initiated in 2016 and has not concluded yet.

Government decisions pertaining to Air India are currently being probed by several agencies, like the CBI and the Enforcement Directorate.

The Director General of NGMA, Adwaita Gadnayak. who has visited Air India's Mumbai office in the past to take stock of the collection said, “There is no progress so far (on transferring of artworks). There is a plan. If we get possession, we can do something. With elections over we expect this to happen soon.”

With airline officials playing safe, Air India headquarters has decided to put in place a foolproof procedure . “Officials are wary of facing allegations of pilferage. This will be a long-drawn procedure because of the sheer size of the collection,” said an official.

Now, eco-friendly flats for Members of Parliament

The buildings on North and South Avenues will be constructed using fly ash and waste bricks

Swanky pads: A view of the newly built flats on North Avenue in New Delhi. SHIV KUMAR PUSHPAKAR

With the first round of redevelopment of flats for MPs on North Avenue complete, the remaining flats on the North and South Avenues here are also likely to be demolished and reconstructed using fly ash and construction and demolition (C&D) waste bricks, Central Public Works Department officials said.

Around 400 flats on North Avenue and South Avenue are likely to be rebuilt along the lines of the 36 flats on North Avenue that have just been rebuilt after being demolished in 2017.

According to a CPWD official, the next phase is likely to include 144 flats on North Avenue, after the MPs vacate the spaces. With the 36 flats ready and another 76 under construction at a multi-storey complex on B.D. Marg, the newly elected parliamentarians could be accommodated in them, the official said.

The new flats have four bedrooms, offices for the MP and his or her secretary and parking spaces and are centrally air-conditioned. In addition, the flats have elevators that connect the basement parking, the ground floor office and living spaces and the first floor bedrooms.

The official said fly ash bricks were used for the construction of the structure, while C&D waste bricks were used for the external walls. There are also five rainwater harvesting pits on the premises, the official added. The project cost, according to the tender, was around ₹57.32 crore.

The next phase of redevelopment is likely to include similar features, the official said, adding that the Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha House Committees would allot the homes and finalise the plans.

With the first session of the 17th Lok Sabha starting on Monday, the allotment and the future plans would be decided by the new Speaker and the committees.

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