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Daily Briefing: UP govt orders probe into Ayodhya land deals; WHO sets stage for booster

The WHO’s statement on booster doses comes after its Strategic Advisory Group of Experts on Immunisation (SAGE) said evidence till date indicates “a minimal to modest reduction” of vaccine protection against severe disease over six months after the second dose.

By: Express Web Desk | New Delhi |
Updated: December 23, 2021 9:04:35 am
A look at the top news today, December 23, 2021.

Good morning, 

The Big Story

Express impact: Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath ordered an inquiry into land deals in Ayodhya after The Indian Express published an investigative report that elected public representatives and relatives of state government officials bought land parcels in Ayodhya after the November 9, 2019, Supreme Court verdict clearing construction of a Ram temple in the district. 

Hours before the probe was ordered into the land deals, the Opposition raised the matter in Parliament. Holding a copy of The Indian Express, Leader of the  Opposition in the Rajya Sabha Mallikarjun Kharge asked Chairman Venkaiah Naidu to take note of the issue, saying “it is a very important newspaper”. However, the chairman turned down the request and said: “I also like that newspaper like you and many other people. But the procedure in the House is that newspapers cannot be read. You have to give notice.”

Meanwhile, records investigated by The Indian Express show that former Ayodhya District Magistrate Anuj Jha’s father also bought a plot measuring 320.631 sq m in Mughalpura in Ayodhya, barely 1 km from the Ram temple site, at a cost of Rs 23.40 lakh. 

Only in the Express

Former chief election commissioner SY Quraishi writes in today’s Express: “Government must take up all pending electoral reform proposals, instead of only going for politically motivated reforms like simultaneous elections and electoral bonds.” 

From the Front Page 

In what could potentially set the ball rolling for countries to look at booster shots, the World Health Organisation said that their introduction must be  “firmly evidence-driven” and “targeted” at population groups at highest risk of serious disease, and frontline healthcare workers. The statement from WHO has significant implications for India: first, because India closely follows the recommendations of the WHO; and second, India began vaccinating healthcare workers from January 16 this year.

Just when the Congress appears to have weathered the political storm in Punjab, it seems to be heading for turbulence in Uttarakhand where elections are due in a couple of months. On Wednesday, the party’s campaign chief and former chief minister Harish Rawat hinted at dissatisfaction with the organisation and even retirement from politics.  Sources close to Rawat told The Indian Express that he is unhappy with the style of functioning of AICC state in charge Devender Yadav and suspects an attempt to sideline him.

Must Read

The violence that trailed Sunday’s Kolkata Municipal Corporation polls, where the ruling TMC flexed its muscles to ensure a comprehensive win, has left several Opposition candidates and polling agents scarred — in mind and body. CPM leader Faiyaz Ahmed Khan, who alleged he was severely assaulted outside a polling booth, filed a petition before the High Court and demanded a court-monitored probe. But he says the police are yet to even record his statement. Meanwhile, police officials said that two men have been arrested and an investigation is on. 

In a first for the country, the Central Reserve Police Force will be deploying women commandos for the protection of VIPs, including Amit Shah, Manmohan Singh and members of the Gandhi family. Sources said given the small size of the contingent, these women commandos will be initially deployed at the residence of the protectees. They will be given proximate security duties in the future as more women join the VIP security wing of the force.

With the Uttarakhand polls quickly approaching, parties are vying for the support of the hilly state’s large population in the defence forces. And a common feature in all three campaigns is a deep reverence for late CDS Gen Bipin Rawat. While the Congress held a three-day-long ‘Veer Gram Pranam Yatra’ starting from his ancestral village, the chief ministerial face of the AAP, ex-army officer Colonel Ajay Kothiyal, called Rawat his mentor. The BJP, too, held a ‘Shaheed Samman Yatra’ — during which it collected soil from villages of 1,734 “martyrs”.

When Kohima-based English professor Theyie Keditsu first heard about the Army ambush in Oting village, in which six men were killed, rage swept over her. A passionate cook, Keditsu was invigilating an exam in college at the time. With no kitchen to let off steam, she turned to the written word instead. And so her poem ‘Recipe For Peace’ was conceived. Keditsu is not alone. Across Nagaland, there has been an outpouring of grief through stories and poems. 

And Finally 

“I have never run away from pressure, it brings the best out of me as a person.” Being South Africa Test captain is far from easy, but Dean Elgar tells The Indian Express that the best way to deal with pressure both on and off the field is by seeing it as a privilege, rather than a curse or burden. He reflects on the unique aspects of the leadership role in his country, and how he sees the upcoming series against India unfolding.

Delhi Confidential: Once close allies, the BJP and Shiv Sena may be on rival sides now – but PM Modi does not appear to be in a mood to snap personal ties with leaders of Shiv Sena. On Wednesday, after Lok Sabha was adjourned sine die, the PM walked up to Shiv Sena leader Vinayak Raut and asked him about Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray’s health.

In today’s episode of the ‘3 Things’ podcast, we take a look at The Indian Express report on the rush for land in Uttar Pradesh’s Ayodhya where elected public representatives and relatives of state government officials bought plots, including an illegal transfer of Dalit land.

Until tomorrow, 

Leela Prasad G and Rahel Philipose 

Express Photo by EP Unny

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