* Front Page & Nation

Leaders who attended events with Kanika also met President

Bollywood singer Kanika Kapoor’s announcement on Friday that she had tested positive for COVID-19 triggered a scare among several top politicians who had attended a series of events with her in Lucknow recently as well as those who were in contact with them.

Many have since announced that they were going into quarantine.

Following Ms. Kapoor’s revelation on Instagram, BJP leader and former Rajasthan Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje stated that she, along with her son and MP Dushyant Singh had attended a dinner where Ms. Kapoor was present, and as a matter of “abundant self-caution” were immediately adopting self-quarantine.

Mr. Singh was among many MPs who attended a breakfast meeting hosted by President Ram Nath Kovind on March 18 as well as a parliamentary panel meeting attended by around 20 MPs later in the day.

While Rashtrapati Bhavan is yet to issue any statement, it is learnt that Mr. Kovind would follow all protocols prescribed. The Uttar Pradesh government has not revealed the names of politicians, bureaucrats and socialites who allegedly attended the event.

Late on Friday, an FIR was lodged against Ms. Kapoor for negligence. She was booked under Sections 188, 269 and 270 of the IPC.

Considered all 1,292 objections/suggestions: Housing Ministry

The Centre on Friday notified the change in land use for seven plots in the Master Plan for Delhi-2021, paving the way for the redevelopment of Rajpath and the construction of a new Parliament House and Prime Minister’s residence.

The government had announced in October 2019 its plan to revamp the 3-km-long Central Vista from Rashtrapati Bhavan till India Gate, construct a new Parliament and develop a new Central secretariat along the stretch.

In addition, the consultant hired for the project, Ahmedabad-based HCP Design, Planning and Management, has proposed to construct new residences for the Prime Minister and Vice-President near South and North Blocks.

According to the Union Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs’ notification, a total of 1,292 objections/suggestions had been received from the public after the Delhi Development Authority notified its intention to change the land use on December 21, 2019. The notification said the Board of Enquiry and Hearing set up by the DDA had considered these objections/suggestions. It added that the Central government had “after carefully considering all aspects of the matter” decided to modify the masterplan as well as the zonal development plans.

A 9.5-acre plot

Among the plots modified is a 9.5-acre plot opposite the existing Parliament that had earlier been earmarked for “recreational” use and will now be the site for the construction of a new triangle-shaped Parliament House. Four plots were changed from “public and semi-public” use to “government office”, which will become the sites for new office buildings for the Central government.

A 15-acre plot earlier meant for “government office” and “recreational” use near South Block was modified to be used for “residential” purposes, which according to the draft proposal by architect Bimal Patel, director of HCP, will be the site of the Prime Minister’s residence. The PM currently lives at 7, Lok Kalyan Marg.

While all the other modified plots are in the heart of Lutyens’ Delhi, a 3.9-acre plot in Timarpur was changed from recreational to district park.

Green areas

In a statement, the Ministry said: “This paves the way for the construction of new Parliament building and other projects in the prestigious Central Vista project. This decision will ensure that the green areas and public and semi-public spaces are adequately compensated or enhanced.”

Among those who had objected to the land-use change was the Indian Institute of Architects’ Northern Chapter, whose chairman Shamit Manchanda said the government’s decision was “saddening”.

“What is saddening is that there have been no answers given to all the hundreds of objections raised against the change of land use. No studies as to the environmental, traffic and ecological impact of this massive project, if done, have been shared. This is something the citizens of the country must get an answer to,” he said.

After feedback from industry, the norms will come into effect on April 1

Rajnath Singh

The Ministry of Defence (MoD) has for the first time introduced leasing of defence equipment as a new category for acquisition in the draft Defence Procurement Procedure (DPP) 2020.

The draft was released by Defence Minister Rajnath Singh on Friday for further suggestions from industry before being finalised for promulgation. It will come into effect from April 01, 2020, and supersede DPP 2016. “This DPP would remain in force till 31 March 2025,” the draft said.

Other proposed measures include making after-sales support part of the capital acquisition contract, higher indigenous content in acquisitions and incentives for local material and software and emphasis on product export under offsets. The draft was finalised by a committee headed by the Director General (Acquisition), which was set up in August 2019.

Leasing has been introduced as a new category for acquisition in addition to the existing ‘Buy’ and ‘Make’ categories to substitute huge initial capital outlays with periodical rental payments, the draft stated.

“Leasing is permitted under two categories, Lease [Indian] where Lessor is an Indian entity and is the owner of the assets and Lease [Global) where Lessor is a Global entity. This will be useful for military equipment not used in actual warfare like transport fleets, trainers, simulators, among others,” the draft stated.

The draft proposed increasing the indigenous content stipulated in various categories of procurement by about 10% to support the ‘Make in India’ and a simple and realistic methodology had been incorporated for verification of indigenous content for the first time, the MoD said.

It included “assurance of procurement on a single vendor basis from Aero Engine manufacturing unit and chips from FAB manufacturing units established in the country.”

New chapters have been introduced for procurement of software and systems related projects due to fast obsolescence, Post Contract Management to facilitate and provide clear guidelines, given long time of defence deals. Another new category introduced is ‘Buy’ (Global – Manufacture in India) with minimum 50% indigenous content on cost basis of total contract value.

The scope and options for product support have been widened to include contemporary concepts like Performance Based Logistics (PBL), Life Cycle Support Contract (LCSC) and Comprehensive Maintenance Contract (CMC) to optimise life cycle support for equipment. “The capital acquisition contract would normally also include support for five years beyond the warranty period,” it added.

‘People feel a sense of belonging, trust and enjoy each other’

Good cheer may feel in short supply as the world reels under a global pandemic, but experts at the UN on Friday declared Finland to be the world’s happiest nation for the third year running.

Researchers for the World Happiness Report asked people in 156 countries to evaluate their own levels of happiness, and took into account measures such as GDP, social support, personal freedom and levels of corruption to give each nation a happiness score.

As in each of the previous seven reports, Nordic states dominated the top 10, along with countries such as Switzerland, New Zealand and Austria.

Luxembourg also edged into the 10th spot for the first time this year.

The happiest countries are those “where people feel a sense of belonging, where they trust and enjoy each other and their shared institutions,” John Helliwell, one of the report’s authors, said in a statement.

Meanwhile, the countries at the bottom are those afflicted by violent conflicts and extreme poverty, with Zimbabwe, South Sudan and Afghanistan classified as the world’s least happy nations.

Finland’s top spot in the happiness list has previously been met with raised eyebrows in the country whose population of 5.5 million is said to shy away from spontaneous demonstrations of joy, valuing instead the quiet and solitude of the country’s vast forests and lakes.

The country’s long dark winters were reputed to be behind high levels of alcoholism and suicide, but a decade-long public health drive has helped cut rates by more than half.

Finland’s residents enjoy a high quality of life and security, with rates of inequality and poverty among the lowest of all OECD countries.

Pages ( 1 of 4 ): 1 234Next »