Morning Digest: Roads to be freed of toll booths in a year, says Nitin Gadkari; EU drug regulator backs AstraZeneca vaccine against COVID-19 after safety investigation, and more

A select list of stories to read before you start your day

Parliament proceedings | Roads to be freed of toll booths in a year: Nitin Gadkari

India will implement a GPS-based toll collection system and do away with all toll booths within a year, Union Minister for Road Transport and Highways Nitin Gadkari informed the Lok Sabha on Thursday. He also shared details of the vehicle scrapping policy, first announced in the Union Budget for 2021-22, according to which the automobile industry in India will see a jump in turnover to ₹10 lakh crore from ₹4.5 lakh crore.

Supreme Court to hear on March 24 plea against sale of electoral bonds

Chief Justice of India Sharad A. Bobde agreed with advocate Prashant Bhushan on Thursday to urgently hear a plea by NGO Association for Democratic Reforms to stay the sale of a new set of electoral bonds on April 1, before Assembly elections in crucial States such as West Bengal and Tamil Nadu.

U.S., China spar in first face-to-face meeting of Biden admin

Top U.S. and Chinese officials offered sharply different views of the world on March 18 as the two sides met face-to-face for the first time since President Joe Biden took office. In unusually pointed remarks for a staid diplomatic meeting, Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Chinese Communist Party foreign affairs chief Yang Jiechi took aim at each other’s policies at the start of two days of talks in Alaska.

EU drug regulator backs AstraZeneca vaccine after safety investigation

The EU’s drug watchdog said on March 18 it is still convinced the benefits of AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine outweigh the risks following an investigation into reports of blood disorders that prompted more than a dozen nations to suspend its use.

Parliament Proceedings | Rajya Sabha passes Insurance Amendment Bill to increase FDI limit to 74%

The Rajya Sabha on Wednesday passed the Insurance Amendment Bill 2021 that increases the maximum foreign investment allowed in an insurance company from 49% to 74%, amid criticism from the Opposition parties on the clause enabling “control and ownership” by foreign investors.

Supreme Court forbids courts from making gender stereotypical comments

The Supreme Court on Wednesday forbade judges from making gender stereotypical comments like “’good women are sexually chaste”, women who drink and smoke ‘ask’ for sexual advances or presume that a sexually active woman consented to rape while hearing cases of sexual offence.

Parliament proceedings | Government welcomes criticism on social media, says Prasad

Union Communications and Information Technology Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said on Thursday that climate activist Disha Ravi’s arrest was based on law and order and it is under judicial process. He added that the House should consider “should some people abuse social media internationally to defame India to promote secessionism.”

Arvind Subramanian resigns from Ashoka University after P.B. Mehta’s exit

Former Chief Economic Advisor (CEA) Arvind Subramanian resigned from Ashoka University on Thursday, days after noted columnist and political commentator Pratap Bhanu Mehta’s exit. In his resignation letter, Dr. Subramanian, said he had been “devastated” by “the circumstances involving the ‘resignation’ of Professor Pratap Bhanu Mehta” two days earlier.

West Bengal Assembly polls | Two BJP candidates decline nomination

In a major embarrassment to the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), two candidates announced by the party on Thursday for the Assembly polls from Kolkata have refused to contest on the party’s ticket.

COVID-19 vaccine: SC stays proceedings before Delhi HC, transfers case to itself

The Supreme Court on Thursday stayed suo motu proceedings before the Delhi High Court on the administration of COVID-19 vaccine and transferred the case to itself. A Bench led by Chief Justice of India Sharad A. Bobde said a similar case concerning the vaccination drive was already pending in the Supreme Court, and the case from the Delhi High Court could be heard along with it.

Rohingya refugees: SC agrees to urgently hear plea on 150 members ‘detained’ in Jammu

The Supreme Court on Thursday agreed to urgently hear a plea to release and protect over 150 Rohingya refugees reportedly “detained” in Jammu. Chief Justice of India S.A. Bobde agreed to hear the application filed by a member of the Rohingya community, Mohammad Salimullah, represented by advocates Prashant Bhushan and Cheryl d’Souza, on April 25 (Thursday). Mr. Bhushan made an oral mention before the CJI for an early hearing.

Parliament proceedings | Lok Sabha passes supplementary demand for grants

The Lok Sabha on Thursday passed the supplementary demand for grants (second batch for 2020-21) but not before significant concerns raised by Opposition leaders on the government’s disinvestment and asset monetisation plans, and rising fuel prices.

Ind vs Eng 4th T20 | Suryakumar, bowlers help India buck ‘chasing’ trend and stay alive

If Ishan Kishan was unfortunate to be ruled out of the fourth T20I due to a groin strain, lady luck smiled on his replacement Suryakumar Yadav. The Mumbai cricketer, dropped for the previous outing after not having faced a ball on his debut in the second T20I, grabbed his chance and made it count.

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