On a day when the key rival of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) had an overwhelming victory in Uttar Pradesh, leaders of the CPI(M) said that the party was planning to remove 16 % of its present members in West Bengal for being “inactive.” The measure is aimed at strengthening the party. The decision to “remove inactive party members” was initiated by the party’s State Secretary Surjya Kanta Mishra, senior officials of the CPI(M) told The Hindu. The decision was taken in view of the party’s election debacle in the previous Assembly elections in West Bengal.“As per our current estimates the number of such inactive party members is about 40,000 [16%]. Currently our party has 2.50 lakh members in Bengal of which these members [40,000] are inactive,” a CPI(M) State Committee member said. He added that the State leadership will rather have “fewer members” than to be “overburdened with inactive ones.” “Our aim is to remove all kinds of inactivity from the party,” a member of the State Secretariat, the highest decision-making body in the State, said. According to senior party officials, members who do not fulfil the “five criteria” — adopted in the Kolkata Plenum of 2015 — will be considered “inactive.” The Plenum report observed that a member has to pay “membership fee and levy”, “regularly” attend branch meetings, participate in “party classes, political campaigns…agitations and struggles.” Besides, it was also made mandatory to participate in “mass work” unless the member is “exempted” by the party. Finally, a member was instructed to read and subscribe to party organs. CPI(M) insiders said the screening process is continuing and the number of party members to be removed may increase. It was decided in the last State-level Plenum that the process for membership renewal will continue till March 31.
Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath on Thursday announced financial assistance of ₹5 lakh to the kin of a man who was killed in the recent Jewar ambush, where four women were also allegedly gangraped.Mr. Adityanath has said that the State government would provide educational aid, financial support and security to the women of the victim’s family, a government spokesperson stated after two of the women met the Chief Minister here. “He [Mr. Adityanath] said that strict action should be taken against those who carried out this incident, so that no criminal would dare repeat it in the future,” the spokesperson said.Last week, a scrap dealer was allegedly shot dead and four women from his family gangraped in Jewar, after half-a-dozen men brought their car to a halt near the Yamuna Expressway. The U.P. police’s special task force is probing the case.“We want the accused to be punished…hang them. Why is the police delaying in arresting them? We want justice,” Shafiq, one of the family, told The Hindu after the meeting with Mr. Adityanath.
A special CBI court in Panchkula on Tuesday granted bail to former Haryana Chief Minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda, who is facing the charges of criminal conspiracy and cheating in a land scam case.S.P.S Parmar, counsel for Mr. Hooda, said the court granted Mr. Hooda bail on two sureties of ₹5 lakh each. The next hearing is scheduled for May 31.Citing health reasons, Mr. Hooda did not appear before the court at the last hearing on April 19, when the co-accused, including former IAS officers Chattar Singh, M.L. Tayal and S.S. Dhillon, were granted bail. In February this year, the CBI filed a charge sheet against Mr. Hooda and 33 others. The agency registered the case in 2015 on allegations that private builders, in conspiracy with some officials, had bought 400 acres in and around Manesar at throwaway prices, causing the owners a loss of ₹1,500 crore. “This is a politically motivated case. I have total faith in the judiciary. The truth will prevail. While I fight the legal battle, a political battle will be fought in the public domain and those trying to defame me will be exposed,” Mr. Hooda told journalists later. Accusing the BJP government of failure in all areas, Mr. Hooda said: “The BJP has failed to fulfil even a single election promise. All sections are suffering because of the government’s anti-people policies.” He would start the next phase of ‘Jan Kranti Yatra’ from Panipat on June 3 to expose the government’s “misdeeds,” he said.
The deteriorating law and order situation in Jammu and Kashmir was the main reason for the BJP to pull out from the coalition government and pave the way for Governor’s rule to ensure the restoration of peace and normalcy, State party chief Ravinder Raina said on Wednesday. The decision was not abrupt and was taken after three-month long deliberations in the larger interest of the nation, he asserted. He denied any politics behind the decision.“The main issue was the fast deteriorating law and order situation in the Valley. The only alternative was Governor’s rule because there will be a single line administration,” he said. “There might be political compulsions for parties in handling such a tough situation but during Governor’s rule, we are of the opinion that anti-terror operations and operations against anti-social elements will easily be carried out.” ‘Army given a free hand’Mr. Raina, who was flanked by several top BJP leaders, including former Deputy Chief Minister Kavinder Gupta, said restoration of law and order was the need of the hour. The Army was given a free hand in the last three years, resulting in the elimination of 619 terrorists. As many as 23 Pakistan terrorists were also neutralised by the forces during the Ramzan ceasefire, which was part of many initiatives taken to restore peace. Also Read Omar demands immediate dissolution of J&K Assembly, fresh polls Mr. Raina said the government was not able to carry out anti-terror operations as the BJP wanted. “We wanted terrorist-free Kashmir to allow people to live their lives with honour and dignity and without any fear.” Referring to the suspension of operations during Ramzan, he said Pakistan responded to the initiative by activating the entire International Border and parts of the Line of Control on the same day the Centre announced it. Infiltrators were pushed and innocents were targeted, including a renowned journalist who was killed in the broad daylight. “The Jammu bus stand was attacked with a grenade, while Army jawan sepoy Choudhary Aurangzeb was shot dead after abduction,” he said defending the BJP’s decision. He also referred to the killing of police officers, including DSP Mohammad Ayoub Pandit, who was lynched by a mob at Jamia Masjid in Srinagar in 2017.Asked whether the Army would be given a free hand to deal with the situation under Governor’s rule, he said the Army always enjoyed free hand and was fully capable to deal with any challenge. He denied that the BJP was not waiting for any opportunity. “We believe nation stands first and the Tricolour is our priority. The BJP is not for power. Had it been our aim, there were still three more years left to govern the State,” he said.’Difficulty in implementing developmental projects’In response to another question whether it was a mistake on the part of the BJP to ally with the PDP, Mr. Raina said his party tried its best to form a government on its own but fell short of its mission 44 plus seats. The BJP faced some difficulty in implementing developmental projects as some Ministries were not with the party.On National Conference vice president Omar Abdullah’s demand for the dissolution of the Assembly due to apprehensions of horse-trading, he said, “It is his personal view. Those who indulge in such practice speak such things. The BJP never talks about it and we don’t have this motive.” He avoided answering questions on Article 370, which gives special status to the State.Asked about former Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti’s statement that her party acted according to its agenda and ensured protection of Article 370, ceasefire and withdrawal of cases against pelters of stones, Mr. Gupta said nothing was possible without the support of the BJP. “We supported the PDP in restoration of normalcy. We felt that some Ministries, including the Home Ministry (which was under the Chief Minister) failed to take tough decisions and demonstrated soft approach and registered FIRs against security personnel,” he said.
They are visually impaired children. But they need not be deprived of the joy of watching a movie. The 49th International Film Festival of India (IFFI), as part of its commitment to ensure inclusiveness, accessibility and to spread the joy of cinema through all sections of the society, will screen Sholay and Hichki for visually impaired children. One of Indian cinema’s greatest movies, Sholay follows the adventures of Jai and Veeru (played by Amitabh Bachchan and Dharmendra respectively) in search of the notorious bandit, Gabbar (Amjad Khan). The film also starred Sanjeev Kumar, Hema Malini and Jaya Bachchan in what are now iconic roles. Hichki chronicles the inspiring life of Naina Mathur (played by Rani Mukherji) who suffers from Tourette syndrome. The movies will be equipped with audio descriptions. These are visual explanations intended to help the visually impaired enjoy cinema or any of the arts. A special presentation of Tunisian films will bring the children up close to international cinema.Two years ago, the 47th edition set a benchmark by becoming the first Indian film festival to screen audio descriptive movies. The section is a joint collaboration with UNESCO and Delhi-based NGO Saksham under the Accessible India Campaign and Sugamaya Bharat Abhiyan. Mahadev Sawant, computer teacher at the Goa-branch of the National Association of Blind, said that visually impaired children and adults enjoy the films like anybody else, especially as the ‘action’ part is described. “IFFI has been having this section since 2016 and we (at the NAB) are invited to watch the films. This year too we are looking forward to taking our students to watch these films,” said Mr. Sawant, himself partially visually impaired.
The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) on Friday issued a notice to the Maharashtra government over the alleged molestation of a 14-year-old seizure patient by a sanitation staff inside the ICU ward of a municipal hospital in Thane. The NHRC has send the notice to the chief secretary and asked as to whether such incidents have occurred in the past in other government hospitals. The commission has also sought a detailed report in the matter, including action taken against the accused, and relief, rehabilitation and counselling provided to the girl. The rights panel has also asked what steps have been taken by authorities to ensure the safety and security of in-patients at government-run hospitals. The response is expected within four weeks, the NHRC said.“The commission has taken suo motu cognisance of media reports that a 39-year-old sweeper tied the hand of a 14-year-old seizure patient to the bed and molested her inside the ICU of Thane Municipal Corporation (TMC)-run Kalwa hospital. He was subsequently arrested,” the rights panel said in a statement.The minor girl was admitted to the hospital on December 19 as she was suffering seizures. During treatment, one of her hands was tied to the bed to administer saline, the police said. On Saturday, the accused came to the ICU ward and tied the girl’s other hand to the bed and allegedly touched her inappropriately, as per the First Information Report. A patient on an adjacent bed saw the girl panicking and raised an alarm, after which the cleaner was caught, the police said.Based on a complaint lodged by the girl’s father, the cleaner was arrested by the Kalwa police on Monday and booked under Indian Penal Code’s Section 354 (assault or criminal force on woman with an intent to outrage her modesty) and relevant provisions of the Prevention of Children from Sexual Offences Act, police said. The NHRC has observed that the contents of the media reports, if true, amount to gross human rights violation of the victim. The victim was in lawful custody of the hospital and it was obligatory on the part of the hospital to provide her proper safety during the indoor treatment, it said.“It is necessary for the employer authorities to check credentials of workers deputed in sensitive areas. The shameful incident occurring at a government-run facility raises a question mark on the safety of the patients, particularly the female patients in the hospital,” the commission said.
A retired IPS officer, who committed suicide last week, blamed West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee for his death, a charge dismissed by the ruling Trinamool Congress as “baseless”.In a six-page letter to the chief minister, Gaurav Chandra Dutt, who retired earlier this year, accused her of abetting his suicide by keeping him in “compulsory waiting” for a posting. The 1986-batch IPS officer also alleged he was “harassed and tortured in devious ways” by various State institutions at the behest of the chief Minister.
A draft student start-up up policy has been prepared in Rajasthan to support innovations by the students and create an environment to facilitate their creative pursuits. Governor Kalyan Singh, who is the Chancellor of the State’s skill development and technical universities, is likely to approve the policy shortly which was submitted to him on Wednesday.A prudent integration of skills in education and the bilateral exchange of students for skills training has also been planned in a memorandum of understanding signed between the Rajasthan-ILD Skills University and Bharatiya Skill Development University here earlier this month. The MoU will facilitate preparation and updating of curriculum for various courses offered.Rajasthan-ILD Skills University V-C Lalit K. Panwar, who heads the committee for framing the policy, said that the students would be encouraged to become self-sufficient by taking up self-employment initiatives. “For this, we need to create a conducive environment and make the resources available to the youths,” he said.BSDU V-C Surjit Singh Pabla said the students would benefit from the updated information on potential opportunities which the two universities would share while carrying out exchange of students for training.
In another boost to the Congress in Uttar Pradesh, former Bahujan Samaj Party MP Kaisar Jahan joined the party on Monday.Ms. Jahan won the 2009 Lok Sabha election from Sitapur seat and was the runner-up in 2014 as a BSP candidate. Her husband Jasmir Ansari, a former MLA from Laharpur, was also inducted into the Congress.Before joining the party here in presence of State Congress president Raj Babbar, the couple met the party’s general secretary in-charge of East UP Priyanka Gandhi Vadra in Delhi. This comes days after Bahraich MP Savitri Bai Phule, who resigned from the BJP on December 6 last year, and former Samajwadi Party MP from Fatehpur Rakesh Sachan were welcomed into the grand old party.In 2014, Ms. Jahan had secured 3.56 lakh votes, 35.69 % of the votes, trailing the BJP’s Rajesh Verma who secured the seat with 40.66%.
The Gauhati High Court on Monday dismissed charges of rape and sexual harassment against Union Minister of State for Railway Rajen Gohain, a four-time MP from the Nagaon Lok Sabha constituency.The BJP had proposed the name of MLA Rupak Sarmah for the seat after Mr. Gohain declined to contest the poll because of the case filed against him.Hearing the case, Justice Suman Shyam said there was no evidence to support the charges against Mr. Gohain while the alleged victim and her husband “have sworn affidavits denying the occurrence of the incident” on the basis of which an FIR was lodged on August 1 last year.After the verdict, Mr. Gohain said he was made a victim of a political conspiracy within the party. “A few party insiders tried to tarnish my image,” he said.
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The water crisis in Maharashtra is a “policy-induced failure”, according to economists and water academics who have specifically warned of the ‘desertification’ of the parched Marathwada region in the near future.“It is the ecological illiteracy of policy-makers and the selfishness of the power elite in inducing farmers across Marathwada to adopt a crop pattern that is not congruent with the agro-climatic characteristics of this region,” said Prof. H.M. Desarda, economist and former member of the Maharashtra State Planning Board. Mismanagement of water resources by successive governments, coupled with four decades of incessant ‘water mining’, had led the groundwater table across the Marathwada region to decline precipitously to the point where rejuvenating it had become impossible, he said.“Of the 76 talukas in eight districts that comprise Marathwada, 50 received around 300 mm rainfall last year. This translates to three million litres of water per hectare. Given that the average population density in Marathwada is 300 per sq. km., this is more than enough to meet the basic drinking water and household needs of the populace besides leaving enough water for one crop. So, while there is a rainfall deficit in this region, it certainly does not warrant a grave water scarcity situation currently prevalent,” he said.According to data by the Groundwater Surveys and Development Agency, the water table had dropped alarmingly in 70 of the 76 talukas, with more than 25 reporting a drop of more than two metres.Arid climateProf. Desarda said the crop pattern in the region had drastically changed over the past decades. “Earlier, the main crops cultivated here used to be cereal and oilseeds. These crops were not only conducive to Marathwada’s arid climate, but were drought-resistant and led to moisture harvesting,” he said. But now, the predominant crops here are soybean and Bt Cotton, which dominate more than 80% of Marathwada’s 50 lakh hectares of cultivable land.“These crops, coupled with the lure of easy profits from sugarcane, have led the farmers and the citizens to the edge of the current hydrological disaster. Sugarcane, which is only grown in 4% of the total cultivable land, guzzles 80% of the water resources. As a result, today, a slight change in the meteorological cycle is enough to cause a full-blown water crisis here,” he said.Water expert Pradeep Purandare painted a grim scenario for Marathwada in the near future, stating the process of desertification had already begun here. “The only way out of this ecological mess is to prohibit the cultivation of sugarcane,” said Mr. Purandare, a former associate professor at the Aurangabad-based Water and Land Management Institute. He said there are provisions within the Maharashtra Irrigation Act of 1976 wherein the government can notify people in the command area not to go in for water-intensive crops like sugarcane in the case of acute water scarcity.“However, there is no effort on the government’s part to wean farmers away from cultivating sugarcane and switching to drought-resistant ones like oilseeds and pulses. Despite the water position being clear in October, the powers-that-be made no move to curtail water supply to industries,” he said.In October 2014, Mr. Puranadare filed a public interest litigation before the Aurangabad bench of the Bombay High Court about the integrated State water plan and operationalisation of the legal framework of the Maharashtra Water Resource Regulatory Authority Act, in an attempt to make the government accountable to the people over water resources. “Yet, the authorities have not taken any concrete steps to strengthen the law. Moreover, there has been no significant effort at harvesting water nor any thought of replenishment of the groundwater table,” he said.Political cropAccording to Prof. Desarda, sugarcane was a ‘political crop’ and was a tried-and-tested method of becoming a politician in Maharashtra. “The political elite, from Yashwantrao Chavan to Sharad Pawar, has used the crop as a powerful instrument for building and retaining its voter base. Of the 200-odd sugar factories in the State, nearly 50 are located in Marathwada,” he said.Mr. Purandare said the 46 sugar factories in Marathwada were operational despite the mounting water crisis. “To produce 1 kg of sugar, 2,500 litres of water are required. This is tantamount to diverting water for human beings and livestock to maintain the sugar factories of the political elite. These mills have sucked the dams dry,” said Mr. Purandare.An acute water scarcity had drained several parts of Latur district in January itself. Today, this has snowballed into a catastrophe with Latur receiving water supply once in 12 days. “To slake Latur’s thirst, you [authorities and government] bring water from other areas while diverting resources from the Manjara dam — the district’s chief water source — to the district’s sugar mills. What kind of a cruel joke is this?” asked Mr. Purandare. While there was seething discontent among the people in the region, it was only a matter of time before the anger was organised, he said.
Incessant rain and flooding over the past eight days have disrupted normal life in north Bengal. The district of Cooch Behar has received nearly 200 mm of rainfall over the weekend. Floods have inundated 100 tea gardens in Darjeeling and tourists are stranded at many places. The Regional Meteorological Centre has forecast light to moderate rain over the next week. Highways floodedConnectivity between Bengal and Assam has been disrupted. Floodwaters have inundated portions of National Highway 31 at Maruganj in Cooch Behar. National Highway 55, which connects Darjeeling and Siliguri, is closed. A landslide caused NH-10, connecting Kalimpong to Sikkim, to be closed again on Saturday after being reopened. A control room to monitor the situation has been set up in Kolkata. The worst-affected districts are Alipurduar, Jalpaiguri, Cooch Behar and North Dinajpur, all in north Bengal. As many as 32 rivers in Cooch Behar are overflowing including Torsa, Teesta, Raidak, Damodar and Kaljani. The government has set up 43 shelters in the affected areas.
The Aligarh Muslim University has invited the President of India to inaugurate its centenary celebrations on December 17, 2020.AMU Vice-Chancellor Tariq Mansoor, while chairing a consultative meeting to chalk out the detailed programme of centenary celebrations, said that a formal invitation to the President of India for inaugurating the celebrations has already been extended. UGC grant Prof. Mansoor also informed that University Grants Commission will be requested to grant ₹20 crore for holding various programmes to mark the occasion.The university came into being on December 1, 1920, by virtue of a government notification. However, the inaugural function of the university was held on December 17, 1920.The V-C has appealed to university staff and its alumni to generate funds for this purpose. To begin with, he directed the finance officer to deduct ₹50,000 from his salary to begin the contribution drive for the centenary endowment.“We are also contacting other funding agencies and other organisations for providing funds towards centenary celebrations,” Prof. Mansoor said during the meeting.To make the occasion memorable, the university has decided to publish a coffee table book on notable achievements of the institution over the last 100 years. A series of lectures will be held by various departments of studies and eminent scholars will be invited to speak on the historical evolution of the institution. AMU has also mooted plans to construct a centenary gate at its Purani Chungi entrance.
Nash Racela throws shade at ‘perfectly officiated ball game’ Things got heated in the second quarter between TNT import Glen Rice Jr. and Ginebra rookie Kevin Ferrer and this altercation led to the Racela-Chua beef behind the Big Dome’s curtains.READ: TNT pulls even, turns back Ginebra in semis game 2Tenorio, who also tried to calm things down between Racela and Chua, was seen trying to pacify any potential outbursts in the second half, talking to both his teammates and Racela to prevent any more arguments.“I just kept on reminding the players that they have to be smart and that they can’t complain too much about the officiating because it’s beyond our control,” said Tenorio who finished with 16 points, nine rebounds, and eight assists.“The officials are just doing their job, and us players should also do our job. We have to defend, be physical, but be smart.”ADVERTISEMENT Read Next MOST READ Fire hits houses in Mandaluyong City LATEST STORIES Trending Articles PLAY LIST 00:50Trending Articles00:59Sports venues to be ready in time for SEA Games01:27Filipino athletes get grand send-off ahead of SEA Games01:37Protesters burn down Iran consulate in Najaf01:47Panelo casts doubts on Robredo’s drug war ‘discoveries’01:29Police teams find crossbows, bows in HK university01:35Panelo suggests discounted SEA Games tickets for students02:49Robredo: True leaders perform well despite having ‘uninspiring’ boss02:42PH underwater hockey team aims to make waves in SEA Games Frontrow holds fun run to raise funds for young cancer patients BSP sees higher prices in November, but expects stronger peso, low rice costs to put up fight And with emotions running high between both camps, Ginebra point guard LA Tenorio just reminded his teammates to calm down and just play their game.READ: Ginebra routs TNT in Game 1 of PBA semis FEATURED STORIESSPORTSWATCH: Drones light up sky in final leg of SEA Games torch runSPORTSSEA Games: Philippines picks up 1st win in men’s water poloSPORTSMalditas save PH from shutout“I kept on reminding the players, especially during the halftime break, that we’re not going to back down but we’re going to play smart,” said Tenorio Friday as his Gin Kings escaped the KaTropa 106-103 to take a 2-1 series lead.Physicality has been an encompassing theme of the game with Ginebra and TNT combining for 59 fouls, two more than the total free throw attempts between the two teams. Typhoon Kammuri accelerates, gains strength en route to PH PBA IMAGESA deluge of emotions poured over the noisy Smart Araneta Coliseum in Game 3 of the semifinals series between TNT and Barangay Ginebra.As the predominantly Ginebra crowd shouted the deafening “Gi-Ne-Bra” chant, TNT head coach Nash Racela exchanged barbs with Gin Kings governor Alfrancis Chua in the halftime break.ADVERTISEMENT LOOK: Loisa Andalio, Ronnie Alonte unwind in Amanpulo for 3rd anniversary View comments Nonong Araneta re-elected as PFF president Don’t miss out on the latest news and information. Brace for potentially devastating typhoon approaching PH – NDRRMC Fire hits houses in Mandaluyong City
Argentina’s Lionel Messi celebrates after scoring against Ecuador during their 2018 World Cup qualifier football match in Quito, on October 10, 2017. / AFP PHOTO / Juan RuizArgentina was in trouble until the final round of South American qualifying for the World Cup, and needed Lionel Messi to seal his country’s place at soccer’s global showcase.Now comes the really difficult part.ADVERTISEMENT Nonong Araneta re-elected as PFF president Don’t miss out on the latest news and information. Trending Articles PLAY LIST 00:50Trending Articles00:50Trending Articles00:50Trending Articles01:37Protesters burn down Iran consulate in Najaf01:47Panelo casts doubts on Robredo’s drug war ‘discoveries’01:29Police teams find crossbows, bows in HK university01:35Panelo suggests discounted SEA Games tickets for students02:49Robredo: True leaders perform well despite having ‘uninspiring’ boss02:42PH underwater hockey team aims to make waves in SEA Games LOOK: Loisa Andalio, Ronnie Alonte unwind in Amanpulo for 3rd anniversary Read Next Given Argentina’s World Cup tradition, the 3-1 win earned against Ecuador with Messi’s hat trick was little short of mandatory. But coach Jorge Sampaoli still has a lot to fix in a squad that almost made Argentina miss a World Cup for the first time in 48 years.Here is a look at the issues facing the team:FEATURED STORIESSPORTSWATCH: Drones light up sky in final leg of SEA Games torch runSPORTSSEA Games: Philippines picks up 1st win in men’s water poloSPORTSMalditas save PH from shutoutDependence on MessiAt a crucial moment, Argentina needed Messi to step in and avoid what could have been a humiliating exit. And he certainly delivered, with his three goals against Ecuador worth a place at next year’s finals. Goalkeeper Sergio Romero is also on good form despite being a reserve at Manchester United. Defenders Nicolas Otamendi, Gabriel Mercado and Marcos Acuna have similarly earned praised for their performances.Coaching changesSampaoli was the team’s third coach during qualifying, with the former Chile and Sevilla manager taking over four months ago after Edgardo Bauza was fired. Bauza stayed on the job for only eight matches, after succeeding Gerardo Martino.Argentina never used the same starting lineup twice in its 18 matches, a statistic which many believe has made it less effective as a team and more reliant on the individual talent of Messi.Now Sampaoli has eight months to find the right partners for Messi and help him claim soccer’s most coveted trophy. Fire hits houses in Mandaluyong City Russia might be Messi’s last World Cup, and it will definitely be his final attempt at the peak of his powers. At the 2022 tournament in Qatar, the Argentine will be 35 years old.Regardless of his numerous titles with Barcelona, he has still to win a major one for Argentina.“The nationality of the best player in the world is luckily Argentine”, Sampaoli told reporters. “Messi does not owe a World Cup to Argentina, it is football that owes a World Cup to him. We have the chance to help, he is the best player ever.”The dependence on Messi has been proportional to the lack of goals from other players.Goal droughtADVERTISEMENT LATEST STORIES Argentina scored only 19 goals in its 18 games in South American qualifying, tying with Paraguay for the second-worst record. Messi scored seven, and no other player added more than two goals.In the standings, South American leader Brazil and second-place Uruguay scored 41 and 32 goals, respectively.Messi’s hat trick in Quito gave Argentina its first goals in open play since a 3-0 victory over Colombia in November 2016.Sampaoli replaced veteran striker Gonzalo Higuain for Boca Juniors’ target man Dario Benedetto, and he has also brought in players that had been overlooked, like Mauro Icardi and Alejandro Gomez.None of them did any better.Sergio Aguero missed the last two rounds due to injury. He and Angel Di Maria will have to step up in Russia, while Sampaoli will also have to find a way to use Juventus starlet Paulo Dybala.Doubts about MacheranoArgentina also faces problems in defense, despite conceding only 16 goals, the second-lowest number in South American qualifying. Veteran defender Javier Mascherano seems to be at the end of his impressive run at 33 years of age.It was a mistake by Mascherano that allowed Ecuador to open the scoring on Tuesday and he has been frequently replaced by Sampaoli.Moving Mascherano back to a midfield role seems unlikely, as Enzo Perez, Lucas Biglia and Ever Banega have all done well in recent games. LiAngelo Ball center of attention at UCLA media day Frontrow holds fun run to raise funds for young cancer patients Brace for potentially devastating typhoon approaching PH – NDRRMC BSP sees higher prices in November, but expects stronger peso, low rice costs to put up fight Typhoon Kammuri accelerates, gains strength en route to PH MOST READ Kammuri turning to super typhoon less likely but possible — Pagasa View comments