There’s plenty of variety in today’s leads — Shaheen Bagh, the Uphaar fire case finally reaching closure and different angles to CAA developments. The telecom industries’ crisis continues to concern Mint and Economic Times as the government tries to look at bail out options.
The Times of India leads with Shaheen Bagh mediation where “the protesters claimed they were not the ones blocking the road and alternative routes could ease the situation.” However, “At the end of the day, there was no breakthrough and the mediators will return on Friday.”
The coronavirus scare takes a toll on airline traffic: Air India cancels flights to China. “The national airline has a daily flight on the Delhi-Hong Kong route and six times a week from Delhi to Shanghai.”
The anchor piece is on the RSS chief’s latest controversial statement that the term ‘nationalism’ is not viewed positively these days because of “its association with Hitler, Nazism and fascism”.
Meanwhile, better sense prevails as the Sunni board accepts the five acre land for a mosque in Ayodhya. It said that “it never had the liberty to reject it”.
A US Congress body has expressed concern regarding the Citizenship Amendment Act, says TOI, quoting from their statement — “Muslims alone would suffer from the National Register of Citizens (NRC) as non-Muslims would be ensured protection by CAA.”
With just days left for US President Donald Trump’s visit, The Indian Express focuses on “at least five pacts on homeland security, trade facilitation and intellectual property rights” that are being readied ahead of the bilateral talks. The report also lists out Trump’s programme which includes a roadshow to Motera stadium, an address to the ‘Namaste Trump’ event and a visit to Rajghat.
An exclusive, based on an RTI indicates that funds received from “foreign sources” for the Swachch Bharat Kosh from 2015-2017 was “nil”, and in the subsequent years till 2020 amounted to only Rs 13.79 crore. The report begins by highlighting the significance of this data — “at a time when the diaspora is increasingly becoming a part of public diplomacy…” this sum is rather paltry.
The shocking news of two Dalit youths “allegedly assaulted and tortured” in Rajasthan’s Nagaur is a must read: “Videos of a group of men thrashing them and inserting a screwdriver dipped in petrol into their anus went viral,” the report reads.
Also, the government “is planning to revive old drug manufacturing units” in order to “wean away the Indian pharmaceuticals industry from its heavy dependence on Chinese imports” amid the coronavirus outbreak.
Hindustan Times leads with the Supreme Court verdict on the tragic Uphaar fire crimes as “A 23-year-old legal battle over the 1997 fire at New Delhi’s Uphaar cinema that killed 59 people has come to an end.”
Telcos’ dues to the government make an appearance where “A review of the calculation of the amount owed by telecommunication companies (telcos) and allowing them to pay in instalments” is underway.
And HT says US First Lady, Melania Trump will visit a Delhi government school where “the ‘happiness curriculum’ introduced by the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) government” is being taught.
Amit Shah returns to page 1 after a short break: the Home Minister’s statement in Arunachal Pradesh that the “Centre will not scrap Article 371 of the Constitution, which contains special provisions for most states in the North-east to preserve their tribal culture and seeks to protect the rights of local people in employment and education”, at least sounds reassuring.
The Hindu‘s lead story is on the US Commission on International Religious Freedom’s factsheet on the CAA, which comes days before Trump’s visit to India. The report adds, “This purpose is evident from BJP politicians’ rhetoric. With the CAA in place, Muslims would primarily bear the punitive consequences of exclusion from the NRC which could include ‘statelessness, deportation, or prolonged detention.”
Meanwhile, adding insult to injury, anti-CAA protesters in Lucknow “have been asked to pay around ₹64 lakh as recovery for damage to private and public property during the protests.” These include “retired IPS officer S.R. Darapuri, lawyer and activist Mohammad Shoaib, Congress member Sadaf Jafar, teacher Robin Verma and cultural activist Deepak Kabir.”
Note the terrible accident in Kerala where 19 people were killed “when a 30-tonne truck hit the central median of the National Highway and the container it was carrying fell on the bus.”
The anchor story is a gruesome account of the torture of two Dalits in Rajasthan who were under the “suspicion of stealing money from the cash box of an automobile service agency.” The report adds, “The police on Thursday arrested seven persons accused of committing the crime after several videos of the assault went viral on social media.”
A fatal shooting in Germany killed 9, reports Hindu. It adds, “Federal counter-terror prosecutors said they were investigating the case, which showed ‘signs of a xenophobic motive’.”
The Telegraph has little to offer with a half page advertisement. Shaheen Bagh mediation is the lead story: “Many protesters, who were earlier under the misconception that the interlocutors have a say on the fate of the CAA, have hardened their resolve not to vacate the road until the law is repealed,” the report adds.
The second lead is an investigative story on “a study that surveyed 3,901 households in 10 districts of Jharkhand has found that nearly 88 per cent of ration cards cancelled around three years ago belonged to genuine households.”
The Uphaar case makes it to the front page of the Kolkata daily. “The Supreme Court delivers justice only when there is a public outrage or a media campaign,” said Neelam Krishnamoorthy, who lost her two children in the fire.
The New Indian Express dwells on a tragic accident — a collision between a Kerala State Transport bus and a lorry that left 19 dead in Tirupur. The report highlights the condolence messages from PM Modi and Chief Minister Edappadi Palaniswami.
The other main story is about the Tamil Nadu State Assembly passing a bill which declares the Cauvery Delta region a protected zone — a long-time demand of farmers. The move will ban a “host of hazardous industries from setting up shop,” according to the report.
In an ironic turn of events, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh is “coming under attack” after its chief Mohan Bhagwat said that the word ‘Nationalism’ should not be used as it is synonymous with ‘Nazism and Fascism’.
Mumbai Mirror finds the city is in for a bumpy ride: the city’s roads need repair or reconstruction. Citing a report, the paper notes, “A first-time study of the ‘roughness index’ of 950 roads in Mumbai has revealed that only 39 per cent can be categorised as ‘good’ and that the majority – 61 per cent – are either ‘average’ or ‘poor’.”
An interesting lead for The Tribune is on the government trying to “wash its hands off” the ‘Namaste Trump’ event since its organiser — one Donald Trump Nagrik Abhinandan Samiti— “has neither an address nor a website”.
The paper also highlights Army Chief General M.M. Naravane’s statement terming the recent Supreme Court order making all women soldiers eligible for Permanent Commission and commanding position as “enabling”. “The Army has taken the initiative to induct the first batch of women in rank and file, and the first batch of women soldiers is undergoing training,” he is quoted by the report as saying.
The crisis in the telecom industry sees the government is “working on all options, including deferring carrier dues other than adjusted gross revenue (AGR) liabilities” to prevent Vodafone Idea from shutting shop. Economic Times’ report highlights the dichotomous situation that has arisen from the Supreme Court order mandating a payment from Vodafone and Airtel although the government “doesn’t want a monopoly in the country”.
The other interesting piece is about the jump in average salaries and recruiters for “business schools other than the top six IIMs (Ahmedabad, Bangalore, Calcutta, Kozhikode, Lucknow and Indore)” because of the “sluggish job market”.
Mint takes a different look at the Vodafone and Airtel crisis saying that the government is “is exploring the possibility of roping in third-party audit firms to reconcile dues payable”. “The exercise, if successful, could result in the two parties reaching a middle ground on payment of adjusted gross revenue (AGR) dues,” the report notes.
Like Express, the paper focuses on the five pacts that India and US are likely to seal during Donald Trump’s visit and emphasises that the one about the intellectual property would be essential as “India was among 10 countries placed on a Priority Watch List” for IP violations.
Read the interesting anchor story about how amidst a lockdown because of the coronavirus outbreak, people in China are “turning to mobile games and apps to break the monotony”. The piece highlights some surprising statistics: “China recorded 222 million downloads of various games and apps from Apple’s App Store since 2 February”.
Business Standard leads with the GMR selling 49 per cent of its stake in its airport holding company to French firm Group ADP for Rs 10,780 crore.
There’s another important report about how the government is likely to defer the 78th socio-economic survey as the “surveyors are facing the wrath of the people who see it as a data collection exercise to determine citizenship”. Meanwhile, GST officers are “making every penny count” and demand interests of Rs 5.9858630140000004 from companies. This comes after the Central Board of Indirect Taxes and Customs directions “to recover goods and service tax interests”, the report notes.