Daily briefing: SC to decide on 50% quota cap; disquiet in Uttarakhand BJP; and more


The Big Story

India is finally at the table with five other countries to decide on the roadmap for peace in Afghanistan, after six months of hectic behind-the-scenes diplomacy, sources told The Indian Express. This mechanism has been suggested by the United States even as Russia is learnt to have suggested a plan — apparently at the behest of Pakistan, which has never wanted India to be part of the roadmap for the region — that kept New Delhi out.

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Its current director Anju Seth at the centre of a controversy, the Indian Institute of Management (IIM)-Calcutta has initiated its search for her successor. Board chairman Shrikrishna Kulkarni is learned to have sought nominations of suitable candidates for the post, even though the process is to begin, as per the IIM Act 2017, only in June.

Serum Institute of India is not producing the Covishield vaccine doses at its full capacity due to “bottlenecks” in supplies of some raw materials. Those in the know said the company could produce many more than the 50 million doses a month that it is doing right now. “The production capacities cannot be scaled up in the absence of smooth access to all the raw materials,” the person quoted above said.

Is there about to be a change in leadership in Uttarakhand? Sources say Chief Minister Trivendra Singh Rawat was summoned to New Delhi on Monday to meet the central leadership amid “unrest among a major section of party functionaries and MLAs”. The names in the race to replace Rawat are Ajay Bhatt, Dhan Singh Rawat and Anil Baluni, sources added.

From the Front Page

Legendary director Shyam Benegal is shooting Bangabandhu, an ambitious biopic on Mujibur Rahman, the founding father and first Prime Minister of Bangladesh. While the film is slated to release mid-April, production has picked up at a time when Prime Minister Narendra Modi is scheduled to visit Bangladesh on March 26 — his first trip abroad since the pandemic broke out.

The government’s gazette notification last week imposing restrictions on Overseas Citizens of India (OCI) from practising journalism or research, and engaging in Tabligh or missionary activities, has effectively granted legal sanction to what was earlier only a set of guidelines. These restrictions made their first appearance in an OCI brochure issued in November 2019.

Women farmers turned up in strength at Delhi’s Tikri border to mark International Women’s Day. (Express Photo: Abhinav Saha)

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Nearly three decades after it capped reservations at 50 per cent in the Mandal Commission case, the Supreme Court on Monday decided to examine whether that historic verdict by a nine-judge Constitution Bench needed to be referred to a larger Bench in view of the changes that have since taken place in law and society. A five-judge Constitution Bench issued notice to all states seeking their views.

The second leg of the Budget session of Parliament began on a stormy note Monday with both Rajya Sabha and Lok Sabha witnessing sloganeering and protests by Opposition parties. Amid the disruption, it was announced that both Houses will revert to the usual timing, 11 am, from Tuesday. Meanwhile, the session may be curtailed due to the upcoming Assembly elections.

With speeches and songs against the farm laws, thousands of women from Punjab and Haryana took the lead at Tikri border on the occasion of International Women’s Day on Monday. While some came for the day, quite a few women said they would stay for longer while the men in their families head home for the harvest season.

Election Wrap

Himanta Biswa Sarma is back in the Assam election race, having got a ticket from the BJP to contest from his constituency Jalukbari. Can the party he almost single-handedly hauled to power in 2016 deny him the CM prize he has long sought, in case of a win?

The former No. 2 of Mamata Banerjee, 66-year-old Mukul Roy is among the chief architects of the BJP’s slow and steady build-up in West Bengal. The man dubbed “Chanakya” of Bengal politics has been working on the ground helping the BJP build base, and has played a key role in the party’s success in wooing over Trinamool stars.

TTV Dhinakaran’s decision to contest the Tamil Nadu elections, despite aunt V K Sasikala withdrawing, is set to give the AIADMK sleepless nights. On Monday, he compared his camp to the Pandavas and said the battle would be the real “dharma yudham” — the exact words used by O Panneerselvam in 2017 when he declared a revolt against Sasikala. Dhinakaran’s decision to ally with Asaduddin Owaisi’s AIMIM, on the other hand, could hurt the DMK by splitting the Muslim vote.

In an unusual development, hundreds of CPI(M) workers and sympathisers took to the streets in Kerala in protest against probable candidates named by the party. At Ponnani, locals demanded T M Siddique be made party candidate. At Kuttiyadi, cadres protested against the seat being given to Kerala Congress (M). Meanwhile, a section is irked over exclusion of senior party leader P Jayarajan.

And Finally…

A massive fire at the Eastern Railway headquarters on Strand Road in Kolkata claimed seven lives on Monday. Firefighters, and railway and police officials were among those dead. According to Fire Minister Sujit Bose, those who died were going up in an elevator for search and rescue.

Delhi Confidential: At a lunch hosted by Lok Sabha Speaker Om Birla for women MPs and mediapersons on International Women’s Day, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman was candid in admitting she is where she is because the BJP decided to provide a quota for women in the party.

Until tomorrow,

Leela Murali

Express Cartoon by E P Unny

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