At their first meeting after an unprecedented faceoff between the ruling Aam Aadmi Party government and Delhi's bureaucrats, Lieutenant Governor Anil Baijal advised Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal to "take steps to remove mistrust" with government employees so that Delhi's development activities are "not affected".

In the middle of a bitter tussle for power with Lieutenant Governor that had reached the Supreme Court, Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal on Thursday received unusual support from several opposition parties in the Rajya Sabha. Leaders of four parties called for an end to the turf war in Delhi, with the Samajwadi Party accusing the centre's nominee of treating the Chief Minister like a peon.

"The Delhi government has no powers. The Lieutenant Governor treats Delhi's Chief Minister like a chaparasi (peon). This is an insult to the Chief Minister," Samajwadi Party's Naresh Agarwal told the Rajya Sabha, seeking more powers for the Aam Aadmi Party government in the national capital.

The Arvind Kejriwal-led Aam Aadmi Party has repeatedly accused Lieutenant Governors - first Najeeb Jung and then his successor Anil Baijal -- of overstepping their limits and blocking the Delhi government's moves on the orders of the BJP-led Central Government. A petition filed by Chief Minister Kejriwal is also pending before the Supreme Court's Constitution Bench.

Arvind Kejriwal has blamed the Lt Governor for trying to block initiatives taken by the elected government on several occasions. Just this week, Mr Kejriwal had accused Lt Governor Anil Baijal for vetoing his plan to start home delivery of public services such as birth certificates and ration cards to residents.

The Samajwadi Party leader had come to the AAP government's defence in the Rajya Sabha on Wednesday, when during a debate on regularizing unauthorized constructions in Delhi, Union Minister Vijay Goel blamed the elected government for failing to act against illegal constructions and asked the government to dismiss the elected government.

The Aam Aadmi Party does not have a seat in the Rajya Sabha yet. That is set to change when elections are held for three Rajya Sabha seats from Delhi next month.

Mr Agarwal, whose concerns were later echoed by speakers from the Mamata Banerjee-led Trinamool Congress and two of her bitter rivals, CPI and the CPM, countered attacks on the elected government.

But it is Delhi's three municipal corporations, where the BJP is in power, that are mandated to check unauthorized constructions, Mr Agarwal said, rebutting Union Minister Goel, also a BJP leader from Delhi. "In any case, you can level allegations against the Delhi government when it has some power," he asserted.

With several lawmakers seeking an end to the turf war in Delhi, Deputy Chairman PJ Kurian later asked Union Urban Development Minister Hardee Singh Puri to do something about it.

The former diplomat accepted the suggestion, promising to try to broker peace between the Chief Minister and Lieutenant Governor but conceded that it was not going to be easy.

"In four decades of public life, I have faced many challenges. I tried to negotiate with terrorists. This is going to be a difficult one, but I accept your challenge and I will try and negotiate," the minister told the House.

The Arvind Kejriwal government scrapped its plan to implement the Odd-Even road rationing scheme from Monday that was meant to help lift the noxious blanket of smog that has enveloped Delhi for the last six days. The decision was announced after an emergency cabinet meeting within hours of the National Green Tribunal's scathing criticism of the government's efforts.

The Green Court had approved the Odd-Even Rule this morning but with a number of riders. The chief among them was a scrapping of exemptions for officials, VIPs, woman and two-wheelers. Pulling up the government for delayed implementation of the Odd-Even Rule, the court had said, "It seems you just want to reduce vehicles from roads... What is the basis of exemptions if you want to improve air quality".

The Delhi government had announced the relaunch of the Odd-Even Scheme -- under which cars with license plates ending in an odd number and even-number are allowed to ply on alternate days - last week after pollution levels in the city far outstripped Beijing and doctors said it was a public health emergency. The scheme was to be re-launched on Monday for five days.

Today, Delhi Transport Minister Kailash Gahlot said the Delhi the government could not compromise on the safety of women. The government, he added, also did not have enough public transport alternatives to accommodate over 60 lakh two-wheeler riders.

"At the moment we are calling it off. We will again approach the NGT and will ask them to allow exemptions to women and two-wheelers," he added.

Sources said on Monday, the government would file an appeal in the Green Court to reconsider its "no exemption" for women and two-wheelers.

The other component in the decision to withdraw the plan was low pollution levels. The Central Pollution Control Board has told the Green Court that the level of Particulate Matter 10 is below 500 and Particulate Matter 2.5 is below 300.

The court had said the Odd-Even Rule should be implemented every time Particulate Matter 10 exceeds the level of 500 and PM 2.5 rises above 300 for 48 hours.

 

NOIDA: 

 

 Angry villagers threw stones and broke into a housing society in Noida near Delhi this morning alleging that a young woman employed as domestic help in one of the apartments was held captive overnight and beaten up by her employers because they suspected her of stealing money.

The husband of the 26-year-old woman, Zohra Bibi, has filed a First Information Report or FIR with the Noida police against the employers, a couple who live in the apartment with their seven-year-old daughter. Her family said she did not return home all day yesterday and in the night; this morning they arrived with other villagers at the housing society Mahagun Moderne in Sector 78 of Noida.

t is not clear where the woman, who was taken to hospital this morning, was in the night. "We waited all night outside the society for her. We went to the apartment but they said she wasn't there. We even took the police. This morning we saw her come out of the society, " a relative of the women said. 

The employers have alleged in a statement that the domestic help, who works in several other apartments in the complex too, stole 10,000 rupees and admitted that she had taken the money. They alleged that when they threatened to inform the housing society's office she ran away, leaving behind her mobile phone. 

Other residents of the complex have told the police that Zohra was not held captive but had in fact spent the night at the apartment of an elderly woman where she works too. 

In the morning, the villagers attacked the society. "They entered in my house by breaking the door glass. It was terrifying. It's about our life and I am afraid about the safety of my family and kid," Mitul Sethi, who runs a play school in the area, said in the statement. Her husband Harshu runs a real estate business.

More than 200 people, many of who also work as domestic help in housing complexes near their village, engaged in a scuffle with security guards who attempted to keep them out. Carrying stones and sticks, they broke open the society gate and attacked the facility office, witnesses said. 

The Sethis were escorted out of the housing complex by security guards and have been moved to an undisclosed location with permission from the police.

The protests ended after police pacified the crowd and appealed for peace.

 

NEW DELHI:  Teachers gathered under the banner of Delhi University Teachers Association (DUTA) for a Candle Light Vigil at Parliament Street today 'to protest against a host of measures that constitute an assault against public funded education in the country'.

NEW DELHI:  The Delhi Metro Rail Corporation (DMRC) today moved the Supreme Court against the Delhi High Court's order directing it to pay Rs. 60 crore as three months interest to a lender of its former concessionaire for airport express line.

Chief Editor: Gurcharan Singh Babbar
Associate Editor: Rajesh Mangal

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