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The Union government’s decision to ‘restructure’ central Delhi makes headlines Friday. Also finding space – amid tensions over revocation of Article 370 – is Pakistan calling off consular access for Kulbhushan Jadhav. And the front pages are crowded with advertisements, curtailing space for the news of the day.

Central Delhi’s ‘makeover’

Hindustan Times says, “Central Delhi set to get mega makeover”, while The Hindu highlights, “Capital’s power skyline set to change and The Times of India gives details – “Govt to ‘redevelop’ Rajpath, Parliament and secretariat.” The Indian Express doesn’t feature this on Page 1.

The Centre is “planning on changing the skyline of the historic seat of power” in New Delhi, with a “new or retrofitted Parliament building, one common Central Secretariat for all Ministries” after the “demolition of existing office buildings and redevelopment of the 3 km Central Vista that stretches from Rashtrapati Bhavan to India Gate,” writes The Hindu.

HT notes that the “plan includes razing buildings such as Shastri Bhawan, Udyog Bhawan and Krishi Bhawan that house important government ministries” to build a “common secretariat for roughly 70,000 central government employees.” The “deadline for construction is March 2024,” HT adds.

TOI examines these ‘mega plans’ and says they will “explore options that include constructing a new Parliament building close to the present one or modernising the existing building to meet future needs” and “… upgrading the central vista to make it a major tourist attraction.”

Consular Access for Jadhav: Express writes that “Pakistan takes hard line on Jadhav: No plan for consular access again”; HT adds that “Pak goes back on pledge to give access to Jadhav.” TOI reduces this news to a brief item while The Hindu makes no mention of it on Page 1.

On Thursday, Pakistan “said there was no plan to give consular access for a second time to Kulbhushan Jadhav, a former naval officer currently on death row,” and “insisted that Indian pilgrims using the Kartarpur Corridor will have to pay a service fee of $20,” reports HT.

Express, in its Explained box, explains that “granting of consular access was an obligation under the International Court of Justice’s ruling.” It says: “Now that it has been adhered to once, Islamabad has hardened its position in the wake of the strained relationship with India over the J&K situation.”

J&K

Jammu and Kashmir makes headlines in HT, TOI and Express for different reasons. HT and TOI report that J&K Police “thwarted a major terrorist plot to disrupt peace in the Valley” after “arresting three Jaish-e-Mohammed militants and recovering arms, including assault rifles and ammunition from a truck in the Jammu region’s Kathua district” (HT).

Express is more concerned with, “Locked down, Srinagar NIT students camp in NCR for job interviews.” It underlines, “Hit by an unprecedented communication blockade,” a group of final year students from NIT Srinagar “decided to take matters into their own hands” and organise “their own placement drive” in New Delhi.

The Hindus choice of lead highlights that the Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court, led by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi, “which is hearing the Ayodhya dispute appeals” took “a serious view of the comment reportedly made by an Uttar Pradesh minister that the Ram temple would be built on the disputed land as the ‘Supreme Court is ours’.”

Hindu is the only one to report this on the front page.

Opinion

The Hindu: In ‘Futile fines”, Hindu debates whether steep fines introduced by the Motor Vehicles (Amendment) Act, 2019 can ensure road safety while administrative reforms “remain untouched”. So far, states like Gujarat, West Bengal, Karnataka and Kerala plan to reduce the quantum of fines, some even “reject[ing] the new provisions” altogether. Until infrastructure meets legal criteria, fines can be “challenged in courts”, Hindu explains, and therefore, better enforcement and improved road conditions are the only way to quell the backlash over hiked fines. On the bright side, the baton has been passed on to the states to not only deter road incivility and improve road standards, but also reform their Regional Transport Authorities – “offices [that] are generally steeped in corruption”.

The Indian Express: The newspaper addresses the political vendetta between Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Y.S. Jagan Mohan Reddy and Chandrababu Naidu, former CM and TDP supremo, in ‘Andhra Spectres’. The most recent incident was when Naidu and his son were put under house arrest ahead of a TDP rally, proving that Reddy and his government have truly “lost the plot”. Ever since Reddy was elected, he has been committed to undoing the work of the previous Naidu government like putting power purchase agreements on hold and stalling the building of capital city, Amaravati. These decisions have had serious economic costs and “spooked industry and financiers”, writes Express. The recent introduction of a bill reserving employment for locals has further depleted “entrepreneurial energy” in the state. Instead of erasing Naidu’s work, Reddy should pave his legacy “by building a stronger economy and ensuring political freedoms”, writes Express.

Prime Time

Various subjects dominated prime time debates across channels.

CNN News 18 asked, “Does Nirmala Sitharaman’s millennial row give beleaguered Congress an opening?”

India Today, Mirror Now and Aaj Tak brought up the Motors Vehicle Act 2019.

Times Now, Republic TV and Zee News debated the latest Jamiat Ulema-e-Hind’s resolution which says the welfare of Kashmiris lie in integration with India. “From Article 370 move to the NRC exercise, India’s largest Muslim group backs PM Modi’s vision and mission. But Mamata Banerjee and Sonia Gandhi echo Pakistan and warn Muslims against PM Modi,” declared Times Now.

Mirror Now: On `The Urban Debate’, the panel discussed the new traffic rules, which have resulted in steep fines for road safety. Anchor Faye D’Souza said, “Taxi drivers are earning Rs 500 a day, they won’t be able to pay the fine.’’

AIMTC Chairman Bal Malkit Singh added, “We have been warning the government since 2014 that a higher fine will only backfire. There will be no improvement and as you have seen, in the last 10 days – 13 states have refused to implement it…”

Maxwell Pereira, former senior police officer, thought the problem lay elsewhere: “Why don’t people understand the fact that this new fine will lead to discipline on the road?”

Aaj Tak: Anchor Rohit Sardana also led a debate on the new Motor Vehicle Act on `Dangal’.

BJP spokesperson Sambit Patra said: “We prepared the draft with the World Bank Corporation and 20 transport ministers…. The draft then went to the joint committee and got passed in the Rajya Sabha. We are not doing it for revenue generation but to save the lives of youth… who are the biggest victims of road accidents.”

Congress’ Shubhranshu Rai countered Patra by saying that first the basic road connectivity structure of our country should be improved. “Why is the process of getting a driving license so complicated? A villager would prefer not to go through such complex process,” he added.

Academician and Trinamool Congress member Manojit Mandal also opposed the new act. “Why is the government not paying attention to the poor? A common man who rides a bike would not be able to pay such a hefty amount of fine,” he said.

Republic TV: `Article 370 Is History’ was the topic for anchor Arnab Goswami. He cattily commented that “anti-nationals” must learn from the Jamiat.

“Whatever we did was for our country, it is nothing big. We can give our life for the nation,” boasted Maulana Mahmood Madani, general secretary of the Jamiat Ulema-e-Hind. “Pakistan is trying to portray that Indian Muslims as being suppressed. Religion is being exploited…(but) Kashmir has nothing to do with religion,” he added.

Syed Asad Abbas questioned the Jamiat’s stand: “Did Jamiat Ulema-E-Hind listen to the Kashmiris and despite that support the government’s stand?”

Both these questions were dodged by Madani.

“All Muslim countries are standing with India on Article 370,” insisted BJP spokesperson Shazia Ilmi.

Zee News: #AkhandHindustanKeSaathMusalmaan was the running hashtag on `Taal Thok Ke’ which also discussed the Jamiat resolution.

“We have always been in support of an undivided India,’’ said Qasmi, general secretary of the Jamiat. “But it is important to understand that along with Kashmir, Kashmiris are also our own”.

Political analyst Pankaj Sharma questioned the resolution: “….under what circumstances (has) an organisation which is soon going to complete 100 years, which took part in the Khilafat Movement, and was against the partition of India in 1947, issued such a statement? Why do they have to prove their nationalism?”

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