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Daily briefing: Kerala CM linked to gold smuggling; Quad grouping; and more

Top news today: Customs links Kerala CM to gold smuggling; Quad grouping may take place on March 12; Govt expected to retain medium term inflation target at 4 per cent; and more

New Delhi |
March 6, 2021 8:16:38 am
A look at the top news today, March 6, 2021.

Good morning,

The Big Story

Sending political temperatures soaring ahead of the elections, the Customs has informed the Kerala HC that Swapna Suresh, key accused in the gold smuggling case, “stated with clarity about smuggling of foreign currency at the instance of” CM Pinarayi Vijayan and Speaker P Sreeramakrishnan. On the other hand, the NIA, which is probing the case under the UAPA, has not found any evidence to suggest the same.

Only in the Express

The first-ever meeting of leaders from the Quadrilateral grouping may take place on March 12. It still, however, remains unclear whether the leaders of the US, Japan, Australia and India will meet in-person or virtually. If not this month, they have another opportunity for an in-person meeting in June, when they will gather in the UK at the G-7 summit.

The government is expected to retain the medium term inflation target at 4 per cent, with inflation band at 2-6 per cent, for the next five years. While the current medium term inflation target was set in August 2016 for a five-year period ending in March 2021, the pact between the government and the central bank for the next five-year period is expected to be signed soon.

Google has said it plans to wean itself off user-tracking “cookies” that, while allowing it to deliver personalised ads to users, has also triggered a strong pushback from privacy activists. The new approach signifies a change in track that broadly aligns with what the founders had espoused before Google was launched. A look at what’s changing on Google.

From the Front Page

A 97-page report by a Group of Ministers on how to improve “government communication” has a range of suggestions, from a strategy to “neutralise” those who set “false narratives” against the Government to roping in “right-wing parties” from other countries to seek “common ground;” from alleged “colour coding” of journalists depending on how close they are to the government to a “mix of truth and untruth” in news.

Triggering controversy, the Osho International Foundation, which owns the sprawling Osho Commune in Pune, has decided to sell two plots, each about 1.5 acres, to Rajiv Bajaj, MD and CEO of Bajaj Auto, for Rs 107 crore. The Zurich-based Foundation has cited “financial distress” induced by the pandemic.

As India marks 75 years of Independence in August, the government has formed a high-level national committee comprising political leaders and eminent citizens from all walks of life to “provide policy direction for formulation of programmes… at national and international levels”. The celebrations are proposed to be launched 75 weeks prior to the date, that is, on March 12 this year.

Must Read

On March 6, the farmers camping at Delhi’s border will reach a significant milestone — completing 100 days since they first launched their protest against the Centre and its contentious new agriculture laws. To mark the occasion they have a host of activities planned over the next few days — from a ‘chakka jam’ to International Women’s Day celebrations.

The owner of the vehicle that sparked a major security scare after it was found parked outside industrialist Mukesh Ambani’s South Mumbai home, was found dead by Mumbai police on Friday. The body of 47-year-old Mankush Hiren was recovered from Kalwa creek, just a day after his family reported him missing.

In a 11,700-page chargesheet filed against 33 people including actress Rhea Chakraborty in an alleged drug case, the NCB claimed that the Bollywood actress facilitated the purchase and consumption of drugs by late actor Sushant Singh Rajput. It stated that a packet of marijuana was delivered for Rajput at the Santacruz residence of Rhea in November 2019.

Election Wrap 

Following a complaint by the Trinamool Congress earlier this week, the Election Commission has directed the Union Government to stop using images of PM Narendra Modi on Covid-19 vaccination certificates in poll-bound states.

Mamata Banerjee has announced candidates for 291 of the 294 seats in the West Bengal Assembly. She herself will contest from Nandigram — keeping her promise of returning to the political theatre from where a key road to her march to power began almost a decade and a half ago.

The deadlock in the seat-sharing negotiations between DMK and Congress in Tamil Nadu appears to be clearing, and sources said the Congress could be offered at least 24 seats. A final understanding will be reached after a telephonic conversation between M K Stalin and Rahul Gandhi.

Is E Sreedharan the BJP’s CM candidate in Kerala, or not? Days after it made the announcement, the party made a U-turn on Friday, with state BJP chief K Surendran saying “the central leadership would decide after deliberations”.

In Assam, the BJP has released its first list of candidates who will be contesting in the first two phases of the upcoming elections. The party’s ally AGP will contest 26 seats and the UPPL will contest eight. Another ally, Rabha Joutha Manch, will contest one seat on BJP’s symbol.

And Finally…

T1C2, a three-year-old adult tigress, walked through the gates of a giant enclosure to the jungles of Pench Tiger Reserve on Friday. T1C2 was about a year old when her maneater mother, T1, nicknamed Avni, was shot dead in 2018. T1C2 was captured 50 days later and sent to a 5.11-hectare enclosure in the reserve. Now, she will have to fend for herself, fight the big battles.

Delhi Confidential: “Brightness badayiye (increase the brightness), Supreme Court can’t remain in the dark…” The CJI’s instruction to court staff during a virtual hearing had judges and lawyers grinning on Friday.

Until tomorrow,

Leela Murali and Rahel Philipose 

Business As Usual by E P Unny

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