Thu, 05 March 2020
Not received Cong MLA's resignation: Kamal Nath

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23:44   Not received Cong MLA's resignation: Kamal Nath
Madhya Pradesh chief minister Kamal Nath on Thursday said he has got news reports that Congress MLA Hardeep Singh Dang has resigned, but has not yet received any formal communication in this regard from him.
Dang's purported resignation letter is making rounds on social media and efforts to contact him for confirmation proved futile.
According to Congress sources, Dang is among four MLAs allegedly taken away by the Bharatiya Janata Party to Bengaluru. 

However, the BJP has denied the Congress charge of poaching its MLAs.
"Hardeep Singh Dang is an MLA of our party. I have received news reports about his resignation. However, till now I have not received any letter in this regard or held discussion with him or personally met him.
"Till I speak to him in this regard, it is not proper to say anything further," Nath was quoted as saying in a statement issued by his media coordinator Narendra Saluja.
Assembly Speaker N P Prajapati, too, said he has not received any resignation letter from Dang, the MLA from Suvasra in Mandsaur district.
I have received news of Hardeep Singh Dangs resignation. He has not handed over the resignation letter in person to me.
"Whenever he will do so personally, I will consider it as per the rules and take necessary action," Prajapati said.

In his purported resignation letter, Dang has alleged he is feeling neglected since the last 14 months and no minister is ready to do work related to his constituency.
The letter, dated March 5, is addressed to the Assembly Speaker.
The people of Suvasra have elected him twice. Fourteen months have passed and I have been neglected. No minister is ready to work.
"Middlemen and corrupt persons are sitting in the government. I have to make many rounds of Bhopal for peoples minor works, but nothing happens," the letter said.
"I am the only (Congress) MLA from the Ujjain division and from the Mandsaur parliamentary constituency, but neither I have been made a minister nor any development work is taking place in my area," it further said.
Reacting to the development, state BJP president V D Sharma said, "Not only public, but even Congress MLAs are suffering under the Kamal Nath government.
"MLA Hardeep Singh Dang has resigned because he was not able to get common people's work done by this government which is sunk deep into corruption."
The Congress has alleged that in order to topple the 14-month-old Nath government, the BJP has "abducted" MLAs of the ruling party and its allies. -- PTI
22:50   Nirav Modi asset auction fetches Rs 51 cr to ED
A Rolls Royce car, paintings of famous painters MF Hussain and Amrita Sher-Gil and a designer handbag belonging to fugitive diamond jeweller Nirav Modi garnered over Rs 51 crore in the second auction conducted on Thursday. 

As many as 40 items went under the hammer, marking the completion of auction of items seized by the Enforcement Directorate. PTI
22:44   Closely watching situation in Afghanistan: India
India on Thursday said it was closely watching the situation in Afghanistan following signing of a peace deal between the Taliban and the United States.
External Affairs Ministry Spokesperson Raveesh Kumar also said India will continue to extend all support to the government and the people of Afghanistan in realising their aspirations for a peaceful and prosperous future.
After months of negotiations, the US and Taliban signed a landmark peace deal in Qatari capital Doha on Saturday, effectively drawing curtains on the United States' 18-year war in Afghanistan since 2001.
"The deal has just been signed. We have noted that the entire political spectrum in Afghanistan has welcomed the opportunity for peace and stability," Kumar said when asked during a media briefing about the deal between the Taliban and the US.
"India has always supported the opportunities that can end violence and cut ties with international terrorism. We are all aware of what the agreement provides for. We are closely watching the situation," he added.
India has been a key stakeholder in Afghanistan as it had already spent around USD 2 billion in reconstruction of the war-ravaged country. 
"India will continue to extend all support to the government and the people of Afghanistan in realising their aspirations for a peaceful, democratic and prosperous future where the interests of all sections of Afghan society are protected," Kumar said.
Major powers such as the US, Russia and Iran have been reaching out to the Taliban as part of efforts to push the stalled Afghan peace process. 
India has also been maintaining that care should be taken to ensure that any such process does not lead to any "ungoverned spaces" where terrorists and their proxies can relocate. 
Ahead of the peace deal, India conveyed to the US that pressure on Pakistan to crack down on terror networks operating from its soil must be kept up though Islamabad's cooperation for peace in Afghanistan is crucial. -- PTI 
22:34   Imported food from Covid-19-hit nations safe: FSSAI
Food safety regulator, Food Safety and Standards Authority of India, on Thursday said imported food items, including those from coronavirus-affected nations, are "safe" for human consumption but cautioned people against eating raw or undercooked meat and unprocessed food products.
The FSSAI said a committee constituted to examine this issue has not found any "conclusive evidence" of the food-borne transmission of the deadly virus.
Coronavirus predominately affects the respiratory system and spread from human to human via droplets while sneezing, coughing, contaminated hands and surfaces.
The committee said meat from cooked livestock including poultry is safe to eat, it said in a statement.
As a precautionary measure, the committee advised to avoid consumption of raw or undercooked meat as well as unprocessed food products.
Frozen food items must be consumed only after cooking them properly. Good hygienic practices must be followed before consuming raw fruits and vegetables, the FSSAI added.
The committee agreed with the advisories of global organizations that the predominant routes of transmission of coronavirus appear to be human to human.
"FSSAI is keeping a close watch on the situation," the regulator said and added that it will continue to gather and monitor evidences from international agencies and scientific communities of any such transmission leading to coronavirus disease and will take appropriate steps to ensure the safety of food products.
There are 30 confirmed cases of coronavirus in India. -- PTI  
22:23   Pet dogs, cats not source of coronavirus: Pet practioners' body
Pet dogs and cats are not source of coronavirus, and there is no evidence that companion animals can be infected with the disease, according to Pet Practioners Association of Karnataka.
The media reports that coronavirus is transmitted by animals is a "rumour", "false statement" and "unauthenticated report", it said in a statement.
The Association said that coronavirus disease or Covid-19 infects humans and is transmitted from human to human by contact, by air or aerosol.
"The pet animals like dogs and cats are not source of the coronavirus as confirmed by specialists. There is no evidence that companion animals can be infected with or spread Covid-19," it said. -- PTI   
22:12   Riots: Delhi Cabinet enhances compensation for damage to residential units
The Delhi Cabinet on Thursday decided to enhance compensation for damage to residential units in the riots in northeastern part of the city.
According to a government statement, each floor of a multi-storey building will be treated as a residential unit for the purpose of providing compensation. 
A compensation of Rs 1 lakh will be provided for complete loot of household goods in residential units and Rs 50,000 for partial loot, the statement said.
Compensation up to Rs 10 lakh will be given to schools damaged during the riots in Northeast Delhi last week, which claimed over 40 lives and left more than 200 injured.
Earlier, the government announced a compensation of Rs 5 lakh for total damage of a house -- Rs 4 lakh to the owner and Rs one lakh to the tenant. 
Earlier, a compensation of Rs 50,000 was announced by chief minister Arvind Kejriwal for damage to e-rickshaws. The cabinet has now decided to provide the same amount as compensation for damage to e-scooty.
During disbursal of compensation on ground it was found that there were multiple owners and multiple tenants living in the same building. Therefore, the Delhi government has now decided to treat each floor as a different residential unit, the statement read.
"As per the decision, for total damage to a residential property, a compensation of Rs 4 lakh will be provided to the owner of each floor and Rs one lakh for loss of household items that to be divided among tenants of that floor."
Also, in case of substantial damage, earlier a compensation of Rs 2.5 lakh (Rs 2 lakh to the owner and Rs 50,000 to the tenant) was provided. Now the compensation amount of Rs 2 lakh for damage to structure will be divided among the owners of each floor, and Rs 50,000 for loss of household items will be divided among occupants of that floor.
The Cabinet also decided to enhance the compensation for minor damage to residential units from Rs 15,000 to Rs 25,000. 
Immediate relief of Rs 25,000 will also be released for each floor for the loss of household items and to be divided among the tenants, it added. -- PTI
21:37   RBI caps Yes Bank withdrawal limit at Rs 50k
The Reserve Bank on Thursday imposed a moratorium on the capital-starved Yes Bank and capped withdrawals at Rs 50,000 per account till further orders.
The board of Yes Bank has also been superseded with immediate effect, the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) said in a late evening statement.
Former SBI CFO Prashant Kumar has been appointed as administrator for Yes Bank.
The latest development comes six months after the regulator did the same with the city-based cooperative lender PMC Bank after a large scam was unearthed.
Yes Bank has been grappling with mounting bad loans.
Earlier in the day, sources said SBI along with some other financial institutions would bail out Yes Bank, with the government giving the go-ahead. -- PTI 
21:20   Indira Gandhi features in TIME's '100 Women of the Year'
Former prime minister Indira Gandhi and freedom fighter Amrit Kaur have been named by the TIME magazine among world's 100 powerful women who defined the last century in a new project that "spotlights influential women who were often overshadowed."
TIME named Kaur as 'Women of the Year' for 1947 and Gandhi for 1976 in special covers recreated by the publication.
The profile in TIME said that in 1976, Gandhi, "'Empress of India' had become India's great authoritarian."
Daughter of India's first prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru, Gandhi was "as ruthless as she was charismatic," the profile said, adding that by 1975, as a result of economic instability, Gandhi's government was "swamped by an avalanche of street protests, and after her election was deemed invalid, she declared an emergency."
Kaur's profile said that the young princess returned to India in 1918 after studying at Oxford and soon became fascinated by Mahatma Gandhi's teachings. Born into the royal family of Kapurthala, Rajkumari Kaur "decided her life's mission was to help India break free from its colonial ties and oppressive societal norms."
She tackled social issues, pushing for women's education and the right to vote and to divorce, and speaking out against child marriage.
After India got independence in 1947, Kaur became the first woman to join the Cabinet, serving as Health Minister for 10 years. In that position, she founded the Indian Council for Child Welfare; helped establish the country's top hospital and medical college; and campaigned to prevent malaria, likely saving hundreds of thousands of lives, the TIME profile said.
Outlining the reason for the 'Women of the Year' project, TIME said that for 72 years, it had named a Man of the Year, who "was almost always a man, usually a President or a Prime Minister or perhaps a titan of industry. Throughout history, these are the kinds of men who have wielded influence over the world."
The title of Man of the Year gave way to Person of the Year in 1999 to be more inclusive and gender sensitive but yet the choice was the same - a man.
"With this 100 Women of the Year project, we're spotlighting influential women who were often overshadowed. This includes women who occupied positions from which the men were often chosenbut far more who found their influence through activism or culture," the US publication said.
The project is an exercise in looking at the ways in which women held power due to systemic inequality. "Women," former TIME editor-in-chief Nancy Gibbs writes, "were wielding soft power long before the concept was defined."
To recognize these women, TIME created 89 new TIME covers, many of which were designed by prominent artists. The publication left intact the 11 covers for women who had been named Person of the Year. The 100 choices in this project are the result of a months-long process that began with more than 600 nominations submitted by TIME staff, experts in the field and a committee of notable women from various backgrounds. -- PTI
20:58   Sharad Pawar to file nomination for RS polls on March 11: NCP
Nationalist Congress Party chief Sharad Pawar will file his nomination for the March 26 Rajya Sabha polls on March 11, party sources said on Thursday.
The term of seven Rajya Sabha members from Maharashtra, including Pawar, is ending this year, which has necessitated the election.
Sources said NCP leader Fauzia Khan is also expected to file nomination on the sameday as Pawar.
"The Congress is seeking the seat that Khan will contest election from. But the NCP is unwilling to part with it," the sources said. -- PTI 

Image: Nationalist Congress Party chief Sharad Pawar poses for a photograph with visitors at Parliament during the ongoing budget session in New Delhi. Photograph: Atul Yadav/PTI Photo

20:50   Uddhav appoints cabinet panel to study CAA, NPR
Maharashtra chief minister Uddhav Thackeray on Thursday appointed a cabinet sub-committee to study issues related to the Citizenship (Amendment) Act and the National Population Register.
The committee will advise the cabinet as to what stand should be taken on these issues, he said in the Legislative Assembly.
There was a lot of "unrest" on these issues in the country, he said.
The six-member committee will be headed by parliamentary affairs minister and Shiv Sena leader Anil Parab.
Its other members will be housing minister Jitendra Awhad, relief and rehabilitation minister Vijay Wadettiwar, sports minister Sunil Kedar, minority affairs minister Nawab Malik and higher and technical education minister Uday Samant. -- PTI

20:38   COVID-19: Paytm shuts Gurugram office for 15 days
Paytm has shut its Gurugram office for up to a fortnight after one of its employees tested positive for coronavirus, the company said, as it looked to contain the spread of infection to other employees.
On Wednesday, Paytm had said one of its employee in Gurugram -- who recently returned from a vacation in Italy -- tested positive for novel coronavirus. 

It had also advised employees to work from home for the next couple of days.
"We are closely working with the health authorities to take preventive measures to ensure the safety of our colleagues. Our Gurgaon office will remain closed for up to 15 days while Noida offices will be operational from Monday onwards," a Paytm spokesperson said in an emailed query.
Paytm has advised its staff to take the necessary precautions and inform the company if they require medical attention, the spokesperson added.
India has reported 30 confirmed cases of coronavirus. 

The number of global COVID-19 cases have reached more than 90,000 across 66 countries, with over 3,000 deaths since it originated in the Chinese city Wuhan.
Iran, Italy and South Korea are among the worst affected countries outside of China.
The government has stepped up efforts to contain the situation.
Primary classes of all schools in the national capital will remain closed till March 31 to prevent a possibility of spread of coronavirus, Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia announced on Thursday.
Harshvendra Soin, Chief People Officer at Tech Mahindra, said the company has issued a detailed employee advisory and is undertaking various preventive measures.
"We have mobilised a panel of doctors on standby across all locations who are educating employees, sharing information, do's and don'ts etc. Restrictions have been imposed on domestic and international travel with immediate effect," Soin added.
He said the company has postponed all internal events which required large gatherings and everyone has been advised to adequately leverage technologies like telepresence and video conferencing.
"In case of COVID-19 symptoms, employees are being asked to avail work from home as well. All our office locations and guest houses are also being stocked with adequate supplies of sanitizers, emergency medicines, food ration etc," he said. -- PTI
20:32   Aurangabad airport now Chhatrapati Sambhaji Maharaj Airport
Maharashtra government on Thursday renamed the airport at Aurangabad as Chhatrapati Sambhaji Maharaj Airport. 

The decision was taken at a meeting of the state cabinet, chaired by chief minister Uddhav Thackeray, an official said. 

Industries Minister Subhash Desai, who belongs to Thackeray's Shiv Sena party, said the ruling Maha Vikas Aghadi alliance of the Sena, Congress and NCP is committed to fulfilling the promises made to the people of the state. -- PTI
20:25   No coronavirus in Maha, don't panic, but caution needed: CM
Maharashtra chief minister Uddhav Thackeray on Thursday said no case of coronavirus infection has been found in the state and there was no cause for panic, but caution was necessary for the next eight to ten days.
Addressing a press conference in Mumbai, he also said people should refrain from visiting crowded places.
"Extra precaution is needed to be taken during the next eight to ten days....people should celebrate the Holi festival in a restrained way," he said.
The medical staff at the airports will be increased for conducting thermal screening of all the passengers arriving from other countries, Thackeray said.

Thermal checking is being carried out at Nagpur and Pune airports in the state too, he said.
Mumbai municipal commissioner Pravin Pardeshi, also present at the press conference, said additional quarantine beds have been kept ready at private hospitals in the city.
Pardeshi also stated that people need not wear face masks, which the medical staff who are treating suspected coronavirus patients need.
Some 18,000 passengers arrive at the international airport in Mumbai every day, the commissioner said.
So far about 70,000 passengers have undergone thermal checking and 90 of them showed symptoms of the disease. But 83 of these patients eventually tested negative for the virus while the lab reports of seven people were awaited, Pardeshi added.
Earlier, making a statement in the Legislative Assembly, chief minister Thackeray said his government was taking all necessary steps for the prevention of the "coronavirus epidemic".
"I want to tell people that the next eight days are crucial and we have to remain cautious," he told the House.
"We need to tackle the crisis effectively without getting scared and panicky," he said. "If we get scared, we may end up committing avoidable mistakes," he added. -- PTI

Image: A thermal screening device checks passengers arriving at Lokpriya Gopinath Bordoloi International Airport in view of novel coronavirus outbreak in Guwahati. Photograph: PTI Photo
20:00   Coronavirus scare: Gurgaon women's marathon postponed
In the wake of the coronavirus scare, the women's marathon scheduled for March 8 has been postponed to an indefinite date.

The Haryana government was to organise the marathon on March 8 to mark International Women's Day. 

 "Have postponed the Gurugram marathon which was to be organised on March 8," Haryana chief minister Manohar Lal Khattar said in a tweet on Thursday.

He said experts world over have advised against organising mass gatherings due to the coronavirus scare, therefore, the marathon was postponed till the situation normalised. 

Haryana governor Satyadeo Narain Arya, extending Holi greetings, too urged people to stay away from big gatherings. 

In view of the coronavirus scare, biometric attendance at offices of the Haryana's skill development and industrial training department has been suspended till further orders, an official order said. 

All officials will continue to mark attendance manually. 

Haryana's director general (health services) Dr Suraj Bhan Kamboj said so far nobody tested positive for coronavirus in the state. 

Health minister Anil Vij said over 900 persons with travel history to China were tested negative. -- PTI
19:53   'Justice Mishra's comments lauding PM improper'
The Bombay Bar Association on Thursday passed a resolution deprecating Supreme Court judge Justice Arun Mishra's remarks lauding Prime Minster Narendra Modi at a recent international judicial conference.
The resolution described Justice Mishra's remarks about Modi as "improper and unnecessary and also expressed the association's "dismay and condemnation" over the remarks.
"This association deprecates the conduct of a sitting judge of the Supreme Court making such obsequious remarks about the head of the Executive and believes that they are both improper and unnecessary," the resolution, passed by majority, said.
On February 22, Justice Mishra at an international judicial conference had praised Modi and termed him as an "internationally acclaimed visionary" and a "versatile genius, who thinks globally and acts locally". -- PTI
19:38   Coronavirus: Mughal Gardens will be shut from Sat
The popular Mughal Gardens will be closed for public from Saturday in view of the coronavirus outbreak, Rashtrapati Bhavan said on Thursday.
"Continuing the precautionary measures at Rashtrapati Bhavan in view of COVID-19 Novel Coronavirus, the Mughal Gardens will close for public from Saturday (March 7, 2020) to avoid any large gathering of people," it said in a statement. 
A man from Ghaziabad with a recent travel history to Iran has tested positive for novel coronavirus, taking the total number of cases in the country to 30 as the government on Thursday asked states to form rapid response teams at district, block and village levels. -- PTI 
19:23   India hits out at Erdogan for Delhi riot remarks
India on Thursday hit out at Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and the United Kingdom's junior foreign minister Nigel Adams for their "irresponsible" comments over violence in the national capital when it is going through a "sensitive time".
External Affairs Ministry spokesperson Raveesh Kumar said Erdogan's comments were "factually inaccurate" and driven by his "political agenda".
Last week, the Turkish president had severely criticised India for the communal clashes in Delhi and even went on to call them "massacres of Muslims".
Kumar said India had made a strong demarche on the matter with the Turkish Ambassador in Delhi on Tuesday.
"The comments are factually inaccurate and are driven by his political agenda. We do not expect such irresponsible statements from a Head of State," Kumar said.
On the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights approaching the Supreme Court against the citizenship amendment law, Kumar said it is now for the top court to decide on the issue.
Asked about comments by Adams on the violence in Delhi, Kumar said the situation in the capital is fast returning to normal and that law enforcement agencies are doing their best to restore confidence and ensure that law and order is maintained.  
"Prime Minister has appealed for peace and brotherhood. Senior officials have visited the place of violence, peace committees have been formed and other steps have been taken in this direction," he said. 
"At this sensitive time, we would urge people not to make any irresponsible comments and not to be influenced by selective and unsubstantiated narrative on the matter," he said.-- PTI
19:21   IAF has two-pronged strategy to deal with shortage of fighter jets: Govt
To address the shortage of fighter aircraft in the Indian Air Force, the government has adopted a two-pronged strategy of midlife upgradation of existing jets and induction of new ones in the fleet, minister of state for defence Shripad Naik said on Thursday.
In a written response to a question in the Lok Sabha, Naik said the IAF has already contracted for 40 Light Combat Aircraft Mk1 with Hindustan Aeronautics Limited of which 16 aircraft have been delivered. 
"To overcome the shortage of fighter aircrafts in the IAF, a two-pronged approach has been adopted. That is, midlife upgradation of legacy aircraft to retain their operational relevance and induction of new aircraft," Naik said.
The IAF is in the process of acquiring additional 83 LCA Mk1A aircraft for which contract negotiations are in progress. 
Delivery of LCA Mk1A aircraft would commence three years from the date of signing of contract, Naik said.
Request For Proposal for 83 LCA Mk1A was issued to HAL in December, 2017.
A Request For Information for procurement of 114 Multi Role Fighter Aircraft (MRFA) was issued in April 2018, the minister added.
The MiG-27 fleet was decommissioned on December 31, 2019 due to obsolescence and completion of Total Technical Life, he added.
Replying to another question on whether the Defence Research Development Organisation has partnered with Indian or foreign companies to develop technology to prevent drone attacks, Naik said the information is "strategic in nature and its disclosure is not in the interest of national security".
In response to a separate query on whether there are any plans to privatise any defence public sector undertaking, Naik said the government has given an in-principle approval for strategic disinvestment of Bharat Earth Movers Ltd by reducing its shareholding of 54.03 per cent to 28.03 per cent, he said. -- PTI 
18:54   Coronavirus scare: Sikkim suspends issuing ILP to foreigners
The Sikkim government on Thursday decided to suspend issuing Inner Line Permit to foreign nationals following coronavirus scare as a precautionary measure, a senior official said.
"In view of rapid spread of coronavirus, no ILP may be issued to foreign nationals, including those from Bhutan, with effect from today," a Home Department notification issued by Joint Secretary Parina Gurung said.
In addition, no permits will be issued by the Tourism and Civil Aviation Department for travel to Nathula with immediate effect, she said.
Foreign nationals are required to obtain ILP from the state government to visit Sikkim, while a domestic tourist must get permit from the Tourism and Civil Aviation Department to visit Nathula, a mountain pass in East Sikkim district which links the state with China's Tibet Autonomous Region.
Though over four lakh people visiting the state have been screened, nobody has tested positive for the virus so far. -- PTI 
18:46   Kajol's short film 'Devi' hit with plagiarism allegation
An ex-student has accused the makers of Kajol-starrer Devi of plagiarising his short film "Four" .
The film depicts how nine women belonging to different strata of society are brought together by circumstance and end up forming a sisterhood after they share their stories of abuse.
Directed by Priyanka Banerjee, the short is produced by Niranjan Iyengar and Ryan Ivan Stephen.
In a Facebook post, Abhishek Rai alleged the movie has "heavy resemblance" with his own short film, which he wrote and directed in 2018.
"Here's something I'd like to bring to everybody's notice. We at AndaKurry Productions, made a short film when we were in film school, two years back called FOUR that dealt with a premise of rape victims sitting together in a room when a new victim arrives.
"And yesterday, a film named Devi was uploaded to LargeShortFilms's YouTube channel that has heavy resemblance and the premise is also of the film we made," Rai said. 
He said it is "ruthless" on the part of Devi makers to claim his work as theirs.
"Our film was a student (film) with very little production design, bad audio and stuff, but still it's a child of our own imagination and it's ruthless how anyone can just pick up a piece of thought and claim it to be theirs. 
"The film is an intellectual property of Asian Academy of Film & Television. one has contacted him regarding any kind of query. Now, I have not been contacted by large short films or the makers of the film regarding any kind of query," he claimed. 
The makers of Devi remained unavailable for a comment when contacted. -- PTI 

18:37   In a fist, SC to set up vacation bench during Holi break
For the first time, the Supreme Court will have a vacation bench during the upcoming one week Holi break to hear urgent matters.
Till now, vacation bench of the apex court sits during the nearly six-week long summer break in May and June.
Chief Justice S A Bobde said on Thursday that the vacation bench will not sit on the day of Holi but during the other days of the week.
The CJI made the statement after advocate Nitya Ramakrishna mentioned for urgent hearing a matter relating to anticipatory bail in a case under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act.
Ramakrishna said there was urgency in the matter as the court is scheduled to go on break for Holi from March 9 and the high court has granted protection to the accused only till March 13.
To this, CJI Bobde said that a vacation bench will be constituted for the Holi break, for urgent and "death penalty related cases" that may need to be heard.
The apex court will go on Holi vacation of one week from March 9 to 13. -- PTI 
18:35   Broadband internet services restored in Kashmir
Broadband internet services were restored in Kashmir on Thursday, a day after the Jammu and Kashmir administration lifted a ban on social media in the Union territory, ending a seven-month information blackout in the valley, officials said.
Internet services were snapped across all platforms on August 4 last year. 

The next day, the Centre revoked the special status of the erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir.
"The broadband services have been restored in the valley this afternoon," the officials said.
The ban on accessing social media sites and applications was revoked by the authorities on Wednesday. 

In an order issued as part of the weekly review process, they reiterated the restrictions imposed earlier but remained silent on the social media ban.
The government lifted restrictions on access to thousands of sites like Facebook and popular messaging app WhatsApp through mobile internet platforms.
However, the cap on internet speed will remain and mobile data service will be restricted to 2G.
Netizens found the sudden lifting of the social media ban hard to believe, with some wondering what prompted the decision.
"I do not know what has changed in the past few months that the government has lifted the ban. The ban in the first place was misplaced and unnecessary," Naveed Anjum, a software programmer, said.
Iltija Mufti, tweeting from the account of her mother and detained People's Democratic Party president Mehbooba Mufti, said it seemed that the administration realised the futility of the ban as "Kashmiris circumvented it through VPNs" and "outwitted state apparatus".
The internet services were restored in Jammu and Kashmir in a staggered manner.
The restrictions on mobile and internet services were partially eased after the Supreme Court said in January that access to the Internet is a fundamental right under Article 19 of the Constitution and asked the government to review the curbs. -- PTI 
18:25   7 Italy-returned persons put under home isolation in MP
Seven persons from three families have been isolated at home at Seoni in Madhya Pradesh for suspected exposure to the coronavirus following their return from Italy last month, an official said on Thursday.
None of them exhibited symptoms of the infection, but the step was taken as a precaution as Italy is the worst- affected country in Europe from the coronavirus, the official added.
The three families -- three couples and a child -- were placed under "home isolation" after the administration got information that they had recently returned from Italy, said District Vaccination Officer Dr H P Pateria.
They will have to stay in isolation under medical observation for 14 days, he added.
One of the persons placed under isolation told PTI over phone that they were screened at the Mumbai airport upon return, but as none of them showed any symptoms of the virus infection, they were allowed to go.
They returned to the city on February 28, he added. -- PTI
18:02   UK court rejects Nirav Modi's bail plea for 5th time
A United Kingdom court on Thursday rejected for the fifth time the bail plea of fugitive diamond merchant Nirav Modi, who is fighting his extradition to India on charges over the nearly $2 billion Punjab National Bank fraud and money laundering case.
The 49-year-old, who has been lodged at Wandsworth Prison in south-west London since his arrest in March last year and is scheduled for an extradition trial in May, made his fifth attempt at getting bail on the basis of a change in circumstances.
However, the high court in London rejected his bail plea.
Modi was arrested on March 19, 2019, on an extradition warrant executed by Scotland Yard on charges brought by the Indian government. -- PTI  
16:56   India-EU summit rescheduled amid nCoV fears: MEA
New Delhi and Brussels have decided to reschedule the India-EU summit on a mutually convenient date amid coronavirus concerns, the Ministry of External Affairs announced on Thursday.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi was supposed to visit Brussels to attend the summit later this month."With regards to the India EU summit, both sides have agreed that due to the health authorities advising against travel between regions, it would be wise to reschedule the summit to a later mutually convenient date," External Affairs Ministry spokesperson Raveesh Kumar said at a press briefing in New Delhi.

"The decision has been taken in the spirit of close cooperation between India and the EU who share the same concerns and commitment to the global health and hope that the outbreak is contained soon," Kumar added.

Health authorities around the world have taken measures to curb the spread of coronavirus which has killed more than 3200 people across the globe and spread to nearly 80 countries. -- ANI
16:48   General insurers say existing health policies cover coronavirus
The General Insurance Council, the apex industry lobby of the 44-member strong non-life insurers, on Thursday said almost all health insurance policies cover epidemics, including coronavirus. The statement comes after the regulator Irdai on Wednesday asked insurers to cover coronavirus cases in their existing policies and also to ensure that they expeditiously attend to the coronavirus claims. 

"Almost all the existing health policies cover almost all epidemics, which includes the coronavirus too. What the regulator (Irdai) said was not to frame a new policy but asking the industry to treat coronavirus cases expeditiously," A V Girija Kumar, chairman of the General Insurance Council, told PTI on the sidelines of an industry event to launch an awareness campaign to increase adoption of general insurance policies. There are 30 confirmed cases of coronavirus infection in the country as of Thursday, of which 16 are Italian tourists.

Image: Nurses speak during an awareness event in the outdoor patient ward about the COVID-19 coronavirus at a government hospital in Gandhi Nagar in Jammu on Thursday.
16:28   nCoV: Primary schools in Delhi shut till March 31
Delhi Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia says all schools in Delhi up to Std 5, both government and private, to remain shut till March 31, in view of the Coronavirus. The government has temporarily suspended biometric attendance in its offices in wake of the virus threat. While on schools, Iran has closed schools and universities for a month over the coronavirus.

India also announced that 16,076 passengers including crew aboard 452 ships from China are not allowed to disembark at Indian ports. Crew, seafarers having travel history to coronavirus-hit countries will be barred from embarking at Indian ports. All assistance will be provided to crew, passengers in case of sickness as per WHO norms. Japan has quarantined all arrivals from China, South Korea over the virus.
16:07   Two with travel history to coronavirus-hit countries flee from J-K hospital, brought back
Two people, who had a travel history to coronavirus-hit Italy and South Korea, fled from a Jammu-based government hospital's isolation ward, but were brought back, officials said on Thursday. They were admitted to the hospital on Wednesday afternoon. Samples were taken and sent to the National Institute of Virology in Pune, they said. 

There was adequate hospital security outside the isolation ward, but relatives of one of the persons "forcefully" took their patient with them after which the other also fled, a senior GMCH official said.

They "fled" on late Wednesday night, the official said. The two persons were brought back and admitted to the GMCH on Thursday, Dr Shafqat Khan, who has been nominated by the government as the nodal officer for coronavirus prevention in Jammu and Kashmir, told PTI. If the samples taken from them test positive of coronavirus, they will be quarantined, officials said, adding that no positive cases of the virus have been found in the Union Territory.

Symptomatic people have been instructed for home quarantine, they said. The number of coronavirus cases in India is 30, including 16 Italians.
16:03   MHA hearing on Nirbhaya convicts after hanging!
News coming in now is that the Supreme Court will hear on March 23, the Centre's appeal against the High Court order on simultaneous execution of death row convicts. Supreme Court says it will hear on March 23, Home Ministry's appeal which sought directions to hang Nirbhaya case convicts separately.

The original date for hanging the Nirbhaya case convicts was January 22 which was later shifted to February 1, then to March 3 and now March 20.

The Supreme Court Thursday said it would hear on March 23 the appeal filed by the Centre challenging the Delhi High Court order that the four death row convicts in the Nirbhaya gang rape and murder case have to be executed simultaneously.

Solicitor General Tushar Mehta told the bench, headed by Justice R Banumathi, that the trial court has fixed March 20 as date of execution of the four convicts who have exhausted all their legal remedies.

Mehta told the bench, also comprising Justices Ashok Bhushan and a S Bopanna, that these convicts have made a mockery of the system by their delaying tactics and taken it for a ride.

The bench said that it would hear the mater on merits on March 23 and made it clear that no adjournments will be granted. 

Convicts in a common crime case cannot be hanged separately. A 1982 judgment of the Supreme Court says that the convicts cannot be hanged until all the persons on death row have exhausted all legal remedies.

In the Nirbhaya case, the President has rejected the mercy petition of all four convicts. In the case of one of the convicts -- Pawan Gupta. President Ram Nath Kovind had on Monday, had rejected his mercy plea. This means as per law, Pawan Gupta cannot be hanged before expiry of 14 days since the rejection of the mercy plea by the President. Pawan's mercy plea was rejected yesterday, March 4th. 
15:40   30 cases of coronavirus in India
Number of positive Coronavirus cases in India rises to 30 after a person in Ghaziabad, Uttar Pradesh tests positive. The patient is a middle-aged man with a recent travel history to Iran, they said. Amid rising cases of coronavirus, the Union Health Ministry on Thursday asked states to form rapid response teams at district, block and village levels, stating cases of community transmission have been observed.  As of now, the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in the country stands at 30, including 16 Italian tourists. 

The figure includes the first three cases reported from Kerala last month who have already been discharged following recovery. 

The Delhi government on Thursday advised head of departments (HoDs), autonomous bodies and municipal corporations to suspend the biometric attendance system in the wake of coronavirus outbreak, an official said. "A letter has been written to principal secretaries, secretaries, autonomous bodies and municipal corporations for the suspension of biometric attendance in view of coronavirus threat," the official told PTI.
15:34   SC rejects advocate Colin Gonsalves's request to intervene in proceeding against Harsh Mander
The Supreme Court on Thursday denied a request of senior advocate Colin Gonsalves to intervene in the proceeding initiated against social activist Harsh Mander over his alleged remarks about the judiciary.

A bench of Chief Justice Sharad Arvind Bobde asked Gonsalves to stay out of proceedings being initiated against Harsh Mander.

Advocate Gonsalves said that he was the counsel of Mander in Delhi High Court and wants to put on record transcripts of speech, to which CJI Bobde said that Solicitor General Tushar Mehta has already given the transcript.

Delhi Police, in an affidavit filed in the top court on Wednesday, sought contempt action against former bureaucrat and activist Harsh Mander saying his speech at Jamia Milia Islamia during anti-CAA protests not only instigated violence but also brings judiciary to disrepute.

Referring to the video of the incident, police said that Mander delivered a "speech which is not only instigating the violence but also seriously contemptuous as it makes derogatory remarks against the Supreme Court to a huge gathering of people".

The video clip of Mander was also annexed with the affidavit for the perusal of the court.

The Supreme Court had on Wednesday slated to hear on Friday the matter related to the speech given by petitioner Harsh Mander, in which he allegedly said that he doesn't have faith in the judiciary.

Mehta had mentioned the alleged video of Mander during a hearing on Wednesday saying he (Mander) is seen calling on the people of India to streets for "real justice" and expressed no faith in the courts.

"If this is what he (Mander) feels about the court then we have to decide how to deal...," CJI Bobde had said. Advocate Karuna Nandy, appearing for Mander, had said that his client did not make such a statement.

Senior advocate Colin Gonsalves, who was representing another party in the hearing, said that local BJP leader Kapil Mishra had in January made similar statements but no police action was taken against him. -- PTI
15:25   Test Sonia Gandhi and family for Coronavirus: RLP MP urges Govt
RLP MP Hanuman Beniwal on Thursday said Congress interim president Sonia Gandhi, Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi must get tested for Coronavirus as they have just returned from Italy and may end up spreading it.

"Most of the patients who have been tested positive for Coronavirus in India have a connection with Italy. Earlier, Congress leader Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury said that party leader Rahul Gandhi had forewarned the government on the impending threat from Coronavirus," said Beniwal while speaking to ANI.

"I urged the government in the Lok Sabha to screen the Gandhi family for Coronavirus as they have just arrived from Italy. There should be a probe to find out if the spread of the virus originated from Sonia Gandhi's home," he said.

The RLP leader had made the same remark in the Lok Sabha today, following which, Congress leaders slammed him and shouted slogans and threw papers on the table of the Speaker.The Lok Sabha speaker did not allow his remark in the House.

Being asked if his statement will be expunged from records, he said: "I do not care if my remarks get expunged. I am used to it. However, I am worried about Sonia's health. They all should get their medical check-up done."

Taking a jibe at Rahul Gandhi over his posts on social media about Coronavirus, he said: "Rahul not coming out from his house but expressing his concern by sharing posts on it."

As Congress leaders demanded an apology from him for his statement, he said: "I will not seek an apology for his remark in this birth."

On Wednesday, Beniwal targetted Rahul Gandhi over his visit to violence-hit northeast Delhi and asked the leader if he underwent screening after coming from Italy.
15:19   Lok Sabha Speaker suspends 7 Cong MPs
Lok Sabha Speaker Om Birla has suspended 7 Congress MPs for their unruly behaviour in the Lower House. 

According to reports, Congress's Gaurav Gogoi and Ramya are among the seven who have been suspended. 

The Speaker has suspended the 7 MPs for throwing papers at the Speaker's chair. 

Lok Sabha has been witnessing uproar for the past three days as the Congress has been demanding a discussion over the Delhi riots. The Speaker agreed to their demand and said that a discussion would be held after Holi, but the Congress continues to protest. 
15:04   AAP MLA surrenders, in crime branch custody
Suspended AAP Councillor Tahir Hussain surrenders before a Delhi court. Hussain through his lawyer Mukesh Kalia had moved a surrender plea before Additional Chief Metropolitan Magistrate Vishal Pahuja. Hussain is in the custody of the crime branch. 
15:02   BMC attaches Nirav Modi's properties for tax recovery
The Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation has attached three out of four properties here of fugitive diamond businessman Nirav Modi for the recovery of property tax worth Rs 9.5 crore pending against them, a civic official said on Thursday.

Since, the Enforcement Directorate is in the process of auctioning four properties of the businessman, including three commercial and a residential one, the civic body has also written a letter to the agency asking to pay property tax dues as early as possible.

A commercial property of Nirav Modi is located at the Peninsula Business Park in Lower Parel area of Mumbai and two commercial ones are at Kohinoor City in suburban Kurla. Besides, a residential property is located at Kalina, a senior civic official said.

Property tax worth Rs 9.5 crore is outstanding against the four properties, the official said, adding that they have already attached three properties - two commercial and one residential - and the process of attachment of the fourth is in process. -- PTI
AAP MLA Tahir Hussain surrenders at a Delhi court. 
14:37   Nirbhaya convicts to now hang on March 20
Nirbhaya Case: The Delhi Court issues a fresh death warrant against the four convicts. They are to be hanged at 5.30 am on March 20, 2020.

Yesterday, a plea was moved in a Delhi court seeking a fresh death warrant for the execution of the four convicts in the December 2012 Nirbhaya gang-rape and murder case contending that the convicts have exhausted all the legal remedies.

Additional Session Judge Dharmender Rana issued notice to the convicts seeking their response on the application and slated the matter for hearing at 2 pm tomorrow.

Public prosecutor advocate Irfan Ahmad, appearing for the state, sought the issuance of a fresh date for execution today itself saying that the convicts have exhausted all the legal remedies available to them.

"The only legal remedy available to Pawan Gupta has also been exhausted... As there is no legal remedy left, please issue a fresh date of execution today itself," he said.

This comes after President Ram Nath Kovind, earlier today, rejected the mercy petition of Pawan Gupta, one of the four death row convicts in the case. Gupta was the fourth convict to file his mercy plea.

A Delhi court had on Monday stayed for the third time the death sentence of four convicts in the case observing that they cannot be executed while a mercy petition is pending before the President.

The President has rejected the mercy petition of all the convicts in the case.However, a "complete" mercy petition of convict Akshay Singh Thakur was recently filed claiming that the previous one, which was rejected by the President on February 5, did not have "complete facts".

Meanwhile, Pawan Gupta's curative petition seeking commutation of his death sentence to life imprisonment was also dismissed by the Supreme Court on Monday.

The case pertains to the brutal gang-rape and killing of a 23-year-old paramedical student in a moving bus on the night of December 16, 2012, by six people including a juvenile in Delhi. The woman had died at a Singapore hospital a few days later. -- ANI
14:33   Titanic! Rahul on India's nCoV preparedness
Rahul Gandhi on Union Health minister Dr Harsh Vardhan's statement in Parliament that India is full prepared to tackle coronavirus. Gandhi tweeted, "The Health Minister saying that the Indian Govt has the coronavirus crisis under control, is like the Capt of the Titanic telling passengers not to panic as his ship was unsinkable. It's time the Govt made public an action plan backed by solid resources to tackle this crisis."

In the wake of 29 positive novel coronavirus cases reported in India, the Union Health Ministry on Thursday asked states to form rapid response teams at the district, block and village levels, stating cases of community transmission have been observed.

As of now, the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in the country stands at 29, including 16 Italian tourists. The figure includes the first three cases in the country from Kerala last month. The three patients have since recovered.

Screening of all foreign nationals has been mandated since March 4 and has started in most airports from Wednesday evening. The process should stabilise by Thursday with additional staff being provided by the states, the ministry said in a statement.

"Since, in addition to COVID 19 cases related to travel, some cases of community transmission have also been observed, it has been decided to involve district collectors and states have been asked to form rapid response teams as the district, block and village levels," the ministry said.
14:04   MIA AAP MLA to surrender before Delhi court
Suspended AAP MLA Tahir Hussain to surrender before the Delhi court days after an FIR was filed against him. 

Delhi Police Commissioner SN Shrivastava said the police are taking appropriate legal action against the councillor. "We will soon present him before the law," he said. 

Hussain is accused of being involved in the death of an Intelligence Bureau staffer Ankit Sharma. Following the allegations, police have charged Hussain with murder.

The AAP was unequivocal in its assertion on Thursday that strict action should be taken against those who incited communal violence in northeast Delhi, with Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal saying double punishment should be given if anyone from his party was involved.
13:53   Kerala to open 'safe homes' for inter-caste couples
At a time when those marrying outside their caste and religion are facing ostracism and threats in several parts of the country, the Kerala government is gearing up to open 'safe homes' to ensure them a secure accommodation. 

The Department of Social Justice has unveiled the unique initiative to open such safe facilities in all districts. Social Justice Minister K K Shailaja said preliminary steps have begun to set up 'safe homes', where such couples can stay up to one year after marriage. The objective is to ensure security for them, the minister told the state Assembly, saying the initiative was being implemented with the support of voluntary organisations. 

The Department was already giving financial assistance of Rs 30,000 to such couples for self-employment if they were in the general category and had an annual income of less than Rs one lakh, she said. At the same time, if one of them belonged to the scheduled caste community, they were given an assistance of Rs 75,000. -- PTI
13:47   Dabholkar case: CBI recovers weapon from creek
In what could be a major breakthrough in the murder case of rationalist Narendra Dabholkar, the CBI has recovered a firearm from a creek in neighbouring Thane district of Maharashtra, sources in the probe agency said. 

The CBI hired services of a foreign sea explorer agency to search and recover the firearm used in the killing of Dabholkar. The CBI earlier claimed in a Pune court that one of the accused shooter, Sharad Kalaskar, dismantled the firearm used in commission of the crime and threw it in a creek in Thane.

"A weapon has been recovered during the search operation, but whether it is related to the crime or not will only be confirmed after the ballistic report from the forensic laboratory," a CBI official told PTI on Thursday, on condition of anonymity. 

He, however, refused to divulge any further details about the recovered weapon. Advocate Sanjeev Punalekar, one of the accused in the case who was arrested and is currently on bail, is alleged to advised Kalaskar to destroy the firearms used in the crime. 

Punalekar, before his arrest, had represented members of the Sanatan Sanstha and other activists in various cases in courts. The CBI earlier claimed that during the investigation, it came to light that in June 2018, Kalaskar visited Punalekar's chamber in Mumbai where he explained his role in the killing of Dabholkar. 

"Punalekar then told Kalaskar to destroy the firearms used in the killings, including of journalist Gauri Lankesh (in Bengaluru)," the CBI earlier claimed before the Pune court.

The agency also told the court that on July 23, 2018, Kalaskar dismantled four country-made pistols (by taking out barrels and sliders) and threw them from a bridge in Thane creek while on way to Nallasopara (in adjoining Palghar district) from Pune. Dabholkar, a well-known anti-superstition activist, was shot dead on August 20, 2013 in Pune. PTI
13:40   Working on logistics with Iranians for return of Indians due to coronavirus: EAM
External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar on Thursday said an Indian medical team will reach Iran during the day and the authorities are working on the logistics with their Iranian counterparts for the return of the Indians stranded there in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak in the country. 

Jaishankar said the Indian medical team was likely to set up its first clinic at Qom by the evening to start screening for coronavirus.

"Update for Indians stranded in #Iran and for their families: Our medical team for screening arrives in Iran today. Hope to establish first clinic at Qom by this evening. Screening process will start immediately thereafter. Working on logistics of return with Iranian authorities," the minister said in a tweet. "Group of Ministers constantly monitoring progress. Understand the concern of families. Keep faith," he said in another tweet. -- PTI
13:38   Coronavirus: Next 8 days crucial, says Maha CM
Amid the coronavirus scare, Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray onThursday said the next days are crucial and people need to remain cautious.

Appealing people to avoid going to crowded places if not necessary and limit the Holi celebrations, Thackeray said, "I pray the coronavirus gets burnt in the Holi fire." "I want to tell people that the next eight days are crucial and we have to remain cautious," he said while making a statement in the state Assembly. 

Thackeray also asked people not to panic over the coronavirus, and assured that the government was taking all steps to prevent the spread of the viral infection. The chief minister said he is reviewing the situation on a daily basis since the last one month. -- PTI
13:30   BJP to bring resolution supporting CAA in both houses of Maharashtra legislature today
The BJP may bring a resolution supporting the Citizenship Amendment Act  in both houses of Maharashtra legislature on Thursday. Former chief minister and Leader of Opposition in Assembly Devendra Fadnavis said that there is a lot of confusion in Maharashtra because different party leaders and ministers of the MVA government are giving contradictory statements about the CAA.

"This shall be cleared through a discussion of what exactly is the view of MVA government about the CAA. Some ministers of the MVA government are openly saying that they won't support CAA and they want to bring a resolution in the house against it. Some are even participating in anti-CAA rallies," Fadnavis said.

"Whereas, CM Uddhav Thackeray supported CAA several times and had said that there won't be any problems caused by CAA in the state. There is a lot of confusion among the leaders, and people of Maharashtra need to have clarity on it. So, we are of the view that this government must clear their stand on the floor of the house about what exactly is their view on CAA," he added.

Leader of Opposition in Council Pravin Darekar also said that the move will help in clearing the confusion created by contradictory statements of Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) leaders.Several non-BJP ruled states have passed an anti-CAA resolution in their state assemblies. -- ANI
13:24   Azad urges govt to issue statement on Delhi riots
Speaking in Rajya Sabha on Thursday Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad requested the government to table a statement regarding North-East Delhi violence on the floor of the House, on which a discussion can be conducted.

Speaking in House Azad said, "Since the government has decided to hold a discussion on Delhi violence on March 11, we request that if the government puts a statement on the floor of the House, the discussion should be confined to it only.

"Ruckus was created by the Opposition in the Upper House demanding discussion on Delhi violence after the debate over the coronavirus situation in the country.The House was later adjourned for the day after opposition ruckus continued.

At least 47 people were killed and around 200 people sustained serious injuries in the violence that hit North-East Delhi. -- ANI
12:46   COVID-19 hits Jan air travel globally: IATA
The International Air Transport Association (IATA) has released global passenger traffic data for January showing that demand measured in total revenue passenger kilometres or (RPKs) climbed 2.4 per cent compared to January 2019.

This was down from 4.6 per cent year-over-year growth for the prior month and is the lowest monthly increase since April 2010, at the time of the volcanic ash cloud crisis in Europe that led to massive airspace closures and flight cancellations.

January capacity (available seat kilometres or ASKs) increased by 1.7 per cent while load factor climbed 0.6 percentage point to 80.3 per cent.

"January was just tip of the iceberg in terms of traffic impacts we are seeing owing to the COVID-19 outbreak, given that major travel restrictions in China did not begin until January 23. Nevertheless, it was still enough to cause our slowest traffic growth in nearly a decade," said IATA's Director General and CEO Alexandre de Juniac.

January international passenger demand rose 2.5 per cent compared to January 2019, down from 3.7 per cent growth the previous month. With the exception of Latin America, all regions recorded increases, led by airlines in Africa and the Middle East that saw minimal impact from the COVID-19 outbreak in January.

Capacity climbed 0.9 per cent and load factor rose 1.2 percentage points to 81.1 per cent.Asia Pacific airlines' January traffic climbed 2.5 per cent compared to the year-ago period, which was the slowest outcome since early 2013 and a decline from the 3.9 per cent increase in December.

Softer GDP growth in several of the region's key economies was compounded by COVID-19 impacts on the international China market. Capacity rose 3 per cent and load factor slid 0.4 percentage point to 81.6 per cent.

Demand for domestic travel climbed 2.3 per cent in January compared to January 2019, as strong growth in the United States helped mitigate the impact from a steep decline in China's domestic traffic. Capacity rose 3 per cent and load factor dipped 0.5 percentage point to 78.9 per cent.

Chinese airlines' domestic traffic fell 6.8 per cent in January, reflecting the impact of flight cancellations and travel restrictions related to COVID-19. China's Ministry of Transport reported an 80 per cent annual fall in volumes in late January and early February.

Image: Madhuri Dixit Nene in Milan. Representational image. 
12:30   Coronavirus:India in touch with Iran to evacuate its nationals
India is in touch with Iran on possible evacuation of Indian pilgrims and students stuck in the coronavirus-hit nation, Health Minister Harsh Vardhan said on Thursday. Making a statement on the situation after cases of coronavirus surfaced, he said a total of 29 people in India have tested positive, including three initial cases in Kerala who have since recuperated and discharged. New cases include one in Delhi with a travel history of Italy and another in Telengana, who came in contact with a Singapore national in Dubai. Six persons, who came in contact with the person infected with the virus in Delhi, have tested positive, he said detailing steps taken by the government to contain its spread.

"The government is taking all necessary measures to prevent spread of COVID-19 in India," he said. The government has carried out two evacuation missions, bringing back a total of 767 from China. All of them have been kept in quarantine and have so far tested negative for the virus, he said. The minister said the government is following up with Iran to tie-up evacuation of Indian pilgrims and students stranded in Tehran and Qom as per need. PTI
12:28   Proud of you: Kohli congratulates women's team for making T20 World Cup final
India's men's team skipper Virat Kohli congratulated the Harmanpreet Kaur-led women's side for reaching its maiden final of the T20 World Cup in Australia, saying the outfit's performance is something to be "proud" of. The Indian women's team advanced to the the summit clash owing to a superior group stage record, after the semifinal clash against England was abandoned without a ball being bowled at the Sydney Cricket Ground due to persistent rain. 

"Congratulations to the Indian Women's team on qualifying for the @T20WorldCup final. We are proud of you girls and wish you all the luck for the finals," Kohli tweeted. Former India opener Virender Sehwag also took to Twitter to wish the Indian side luck for the final which is scheduled to be played in Melbourne on Sunday. 

"...A reward for winning all the matches in the group stage. Congratulations @BCCIWomen and wishing you glory this Sunday #T20WorldCup," Sehwag said. Former India Test specialist VVS Laxman hailed the side for its unbeaten record in the tournament so far. 

"Would have been great to see the match, but many congratulations to @BCCIWomen for making it to the finals of the #T20WorldCup . A reward for winning 4 out of 4 in the group stages. Wishing the girls the very best for the finals on #WomensDay" India have been in red-hot form in the tournament winning all four of their group A matches. They began with a win over defending champions Australia followed by victories against Bangladesh, New Zealand and Sri Lanka to top group A with eight points from four matches. 

The Harmanpreet Kaur-led side will take on the winner of the second semifinal between hosts Australia and South Africa in the summit clash. -- PTI 
12:21   14 Italian tourists with nCoV shifted to Medanta
Fourteen Italian nationals, who have tested positive for coronavirus, have been shifted from the Indo-Tibetan Border Police's (ITBP) Chhawla camp quarantine facility to the Medanta Hospital in Gurugram on Thursday.

The information was shared by the PRO Medanta Medicity in Delhi-NCR with ANI this morning.

"Medanta has received, at the special request of the government, 14 asymptomatic persons suspected to have COVID-19. These patients are housed on a completely separate floor, in an isolated quarantine floor, with no contact with the rest of the hospital," the PRO said.

The hospital has also deployed a separate team of doctors for treating these patients.Earlier, two of these Italian tourists had tested positive for coronavirus at a Jaipur hospital. Out of 21 Italian nationals, 8 are male and 13 are female. -- ANI

Image: The ITBP quarantine facility at  Chhawla camp 
12:14   Coronavirus: Parliament security use gloves, masks during screening of visitors
In the wake of the coronavirus outbreak, security officers at Parliament were seen wearing gloves while scanning visitors to the House on Thursday.

Some security personnel were also seen wearing masks as a preventive measure inside the premises of the House.

Yesterday, while addressing a press conference, Union Health Minister Dr Harsh Vardhan had stated that there were 28 cases of coronavirus in the country and added that universal screening of all international flights had begun to control the spread of the deadly virus.Novel Coronavirus has so far killed more than 3200 people globally. -- ANI
11:58   14 to 15 BJP MLAs in touch with us: Maharashtra minister
After the scare in Madhya Pradesh, some news that will cheer the Opposition. 

Maharashtra minister Jayant Patil has claimed that 14 to 15 BJP MLAs from the state are in touch with the Maharashtra Vikas Aghadi, but the ruling alliance is not willing to commit the mistake of "poaching" opposition leaders. Patil's comment came in the wake of the Congress' allegation that the BJP was carrying out an "Operation Lotus" in Madhya Pradesh to bring down the Kamal Nath government in that state.

Patil, who is the Maharashtra NCP chief, also accused the BJP of being desperate for power. "At least 15 MLAs of the opposition party are in touch with us even today. We have to do their works as we share good relations with them (the MLAs concerned). We understand their mindset," Patil told reporters on Wednesday outside the state Legislature complex. "Yet, it is not right to poach legislators...We don't intend to make that mistake. Our focus is on ensuring our government sustains," he added.
11:50   Democracy dies if cops fail to enforce laws: NSA
National Security Advisor (NSA) Ajit Doval on Thursday said that if police fail to enforce laws then democracy fails.

"Law making is the most sacrosanct job in democracy. And you are the enforcers of that law. If you fail to enforce laws, democracy fails. Law is as good as it is executed on the ground," Doval said while addressing young police officers in Gurugram.

"You have to first identify the problem, define the problem, and find ways of solution, think how technology can be used. A beat constable should get technology gadgets," he said. 

The National Security Advisor had been given the charge of bringing the Delhi riots under control last week. He visited Jafrabad, Seelampur and other parts of Northeast Delhi where he held talks with leaders of different communities. The NSA had made it clear that lawlessness would not be allowed to remain in the national capital and adequate number of police forces and paramilitary forces have been deployed. The police had been given a free hand to bring the situation under control. 
11:40   Yogendra Yadav on WhatsApp warning
Social activist Yogendra Yadav on an advertisement by the Delhi government warning the public against inflammatory messages on social media. 

@_YogendraYadav But delivering inflammatory speeches in public with a police officer standing next to you will get you Y-security. @DelhiPolice has its priorities set right!

The reference is to BJP leader Kapil Sharma. 
11:31   When RS polls are due fever to destabilise state govts rises: Cong on MP
The "fever" to destabilise a state government rises when Rajya Sabha elections are due, the Congress said on Thursday, accusing the BJP of abducting 14 of its MLAs in Madhya Pradesh. Three Rajya Sabha seats are falling vacant in the state and they are currently held by Digvijaya Singh (Congress), Satyanarayan Jatiya and Prabhat Jha (both from BJP).

"Ever since the BJP has come to power at the national level, the democracy of the country is being finished in every state one by one. It started with Arunachal Pradesh," senior Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad told a press conference. 

The BJP's policy has always been to ensure that states do not get any government except that of the party, he said. "Where ever other parties have made governments, their (BJP's) aim has been to destabilise them. This fever to destabilise state governments rises when the Rajya Sabha elections are due," Azad said.

The efforts in Madhya Pradesh to break the government is not new, "we condemn it, we will raise it in Parliament", he said. "We have never done politics of this kind where we scare and intimidate people to join us," he said. Congress leader Randeep Singh Surjewala alleged that the BJP "abducted 14 MLAs".

"Eleven mafias have been identified and are being reigned in by the Congress. They had been active for 15 years. Vyapam scam was unravelling. So this is a conspiracy to bring the Madjya Pradesh government down," he said. "Who paid for the charter plane to abduct the MLAs? Who paid for the five star hotels?," Surjewala asked. 

Congress leader Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury said, "Sinister design of BJP in breaking state governments, they have hatched a plan to dig the grave of democracy in the country." "By doing this heinous activity they want to destabilise the Congress regime. They are putting pressure on Congress leaders in Madhya Pradesh by adopting a carrot and stick policy," he said. Chowdhury urged all opposition parties to unite against the "authoritarian" government. -- PTI 
11:16   IMF provides $50 bn to combat Coronavirus
The International Monetary Fund (IMF) is making available about 50 billion dollars through its rapid-disbursing emergency financing facilities for low income and emerging market countries that could potentially seek support to combat the spread of coronavirus.

Of this, 10 billion dollars is available at zero interest for the poorest members through the rapid credit facility.

"We all recognise that the situation with the spread of the coronavirus is very serious and could well get worse. This affects us all," said IMF Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva on Wednesday (local time).

"We know that the disease is spreading quickly. With over one-third of our membership affected directly, this is no longer a regional issue -- it is a global problem calling for a global response," she said.Under any scenario, said Georgieva, global growth in 2020 will drop below last year's level. 

"How far it will fall, and for how long, is difficult to predict, and would depend on the epidemic, but also on the timeliness and effectiveness of our actions."Georgieva said this is particularly challenging for countries with weaker health systems and response capacity -- calling for a global coordination mechanism to accelerate the recovery of demand and supply.

The number one priority in terms of fiscal response is ensuring front-line health-related spending to protect people's well-being, take care of the sick, and slow the spread of the virus.

"I can't emphasise enough the urgency of stepping up health-related measures -- and the need to ensure the production of medical supplies so that supply is at par with demand," said Georgieva.Second, macro-financial policy actions may be required to tackle the supply and demand shocks. 
11:01   India reaches finals of ICC Women's T20 World Cup for the first time
India has entered its first finals of the ICC Women's T20 World Cup as the side's semi-final clash against England got abandoned due to rain on Thursday here at the Sydney Cricket Ground (SCG).There were no reserve days for the semi-finals and as India topped Group A, they progressed to the finals of the tournament.

Later in the day, South Africa and Australia will take on each other in the second semi-final, and if it gets washed out as well, the Proteas will make it to the finals as they topped Group B.As per the ICC rules, both innings needed to have at least five overs to constitute a match. 

However, in ICC tournaments, the minimum over-limit goes to 10 overs per side. So if rain forces the match to be less than 10 overs per innings, the match is deemed as 'abandoned'.In the 2018 edition of the Women's T20 World Cup, India and England clashed in the semi-finals, and the Indian eves had to face a loss to crash out of the tournament.

India defeated hosts Australia, Bangladesh, New Zealand, and Sri Lanka in their group to head into the semi-finals undefeated. -- ANI
10:44   Delhi riots: Case against Javed Akhtar
A complaint has been filed before a court in Begusarai against lyricist Javed Akhtar over his remarks on the FIRs being registered against expelled AAP councillor Tahir Hussain in the wake of Delhi riots. The complaint was lodged on Wednesday by Amit Kumar, a local advocate, before the court of Chief Judicial Magistrate Thakur Aman Kumar. On the basis of a newspaper report, the complainant has alleged that Akhtar's remarks were seditious and promoted religious hatred.

The media report was based on Akhtar's tweet of February 27 that "So many killed, so many injured, so many houses burned, so many shops looted so many people turned destitute but police has sealed only one house and looking for his owner. Incidentally, his name is Tahir. Hats off to the consistency of the Delhi police." 

The violence in northeast Delhi claimed at least 42 lives and left over 200 injured. The former Rajya Sabha member was heavily trolled for the tweet. In a subsequent tweet, Akhtar who asserted that he is a non-believer and a rationalist, had clarified that he was not asking "why Tahir but why ONLY Tahir and not even an FIR against those who have openly threatened violence in the presence of the police".

The matter is likely to come up for hearing on March 25. PTI
10:31   Deadly Riots in Delhi Have Investors Rethinking Indias Future
Through its worst slowdown in more than a decade India has had a constant positive to show investors: political stability. That no longer holds true.

Street protests and violence, which culminated in a riot that killed more than 46 in capital New Delhi during U.S. president Donald Trump's state visit, have raised concerns about whether investors may need to further temper expectations for Asia's third-largest economy.

India was the world's fastest-growing major economy until about a year ago, when a slowdown took hold amid waning consumer demand, rural hardship and ballooning bad loans in the banking system. Yet, since his landslide re-election in May, critics say Prime Minister Narendra Modi's government has prioritized measures that have stoked divisions between the Hindu majority and Muslims, triggering deadly protests that have started to hurt India's image among foreign investors.  Read the full report here. 
10:26   World of tomorrow
"The carnage of Delhi, horrific as it was, cannot be understood as only about the volatilities of a low-income tinderbox on one edge of the capital. It has to be understood in the context of the never-before circumstances we are in. The clues that lie woven into the cluster violence of Delhi make it far more unspeakable and portentous than any other communal riot in independent India, its short roll-out and relatively lower toll notwithstanding.

"This is a vastly and swiftly altered India. The essence of that alteration, it must be bluntly said, is the cauterization of the Muslim psyche and its space in the national scheme."

Read Sankarshan Thakur's column for the Telegraph here
10:16   Allow employees with flu-like symptoms to work from home: K'taka govt
The Karnataka government has advised city-based companies to allow their employees to work from home if they have flu-like symptoms. 

"Those employees having flu like symptoms may be allowed to work from home with advice of standard hand hygiene and cough etiquette," the Health Department said in its advisory. The advisory asked people to avoid non-essential travel to COVID-19 affected countries and refrain from travel to China, Iran, Republic of Korea, Italy and Japan. 

"Employees other than those restricted countries arriving directly or indirectly from China, South Korea, Japan, Iran, Italy, Hong Kong, Maccau, Veitnam, Malaysia, Indonesia, Nepal, Thailand, Singapore, Taiwan, the UAE and Qatar must undergo medical screening at airport entry," the advisory read.

The government advisory also mandated employees arriving through all international flights entering lndia from any port to furnish duly filled self-declaration form, including personal particulars - phone numbers and address in India, and travel history to health officials and immigration officials. -- PTI
10:05   Pet dog infected with COVID-19 in Hong Kong
Health authorities in Hong Kong have confirmed that a pet dog belonging to a coronavirus affected patient had contracted the virus. Experts called it a "low-level infection" that was likely to be the first reported case of human-to-animal transmission of the disease.

The Pomeranian, which repeatedly tested "weak positive" since last Friday - picked up the virus through surface contamination, including nose and mouth.

The dog has now been quarantined with the local Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department for further testing, South China Morning Post reported.

In its statement later, the department said experts from the University of Hong Kong, City University and the World Organisation for Animal Health had been consulted, and all "unanimously agreed that these results suggest that the dog has a low level of infection and it is likely to be a case of human-to-animal transmission."

"It is positive to tests and has been infected, so it is now quarantined in a centre by the department. Further tests will be conducted and it will not be released until the tests return negative results," was all health minister Sophia Chan Siu-chee said during a regular press briefing on the coronavirus crisis in the city.

A spokesman stressed there was still no evidence that pet animals could be a source of infection of Covid-19 or that they could fall sick.

The Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA), the largest independent animal welfare charity group in the city, also stressed that being infected was not the equivalent of being infectious or capable of spreading Covid-19.

The SPCA reminded animal lovers to maintain stringent personal hygiene and limit contact with their pets if they were suspected to have contracted the virus.The government said a second dog was also under quarantine, along with the Pomeranian, but it had tested negative for the coronavirus.

The owner of the Pomeranian is a 60-year-old woman who was confirmed to be infected and hospitalised on February 25.

Hong Kong reached a total of 100 coronavirus cases on Monday after infections were confirmed in two people, a woman who had been on the virus-struck Diamond Princess cruise ship and the brother of another Covid-19 patient. -- ANI
09:57   Sensex goes green, jumps 300+ points
Equity benchmark Sensex jumped nearly 300 points in opening session on Thursday tracking positive cues from global equities as central banks across the global prepare to combat the economic pressure of the coronavirus outbreak. 

After surging 299 points in early trade, the 30-share index was up 191.75 points, or 0.50 per cent, at 38,601.23, and the NSE Nifty rose 49.25 points, or 0.44 per cent, to 11,300.25. 

HUL, HCL Tech, Tata Steel, Nestle India, TCS and Asian Paints were among the top gainers, while ICICI Bank, L&T, PowerGrids, NTPC and Reliance Industries were trading in the red. In the previous session, the 30-share BSE barometer settled 214.22 points or 0.55 per cent lower at 38,409.48, and the Nifty closed 52.30 points or 0.46 per cent down at 11,251. PTI
09:52   Ex-UN chief Javier Perez de Cuellar passes away at 100
Former United Nations chief Javier Perez de Cuellar passed away on Wednesday in Lima, the capital of his native country Peru, the local media said.Perez de Cuellar was the fifth secretary-general of the global body, serving as secretary-general from 1982 to 1991, during the Iran-Iraq war, Xinhua news agency reported. In January, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres sent greetings to Perez de Cuellar on his 100th birthday anniversary. -- ANI
09:46   66,977 travellers screened at Mumbai airport till Mar 4
In the wake of Coronavirus outbreak, as many as 66,977 travellers from 563 flights have been screened at Mumbai International Airport till March 4, as per Maharashtra Public Health Department on Wednesday.

As travellers coming from all Corona affected countries are being screened at International airports, Maharashtra has 454 travellers coming from Corona affected areas.Till date out of 454 travellers, 293 have completed their follow-up of 14 days. Apart from Mumbai, Pune and Thane travellers are also monitored in Gadchiroli, Nanded, Buldhana, Nagpur, Wardha, Sangli, Ahmednagar, Amaravati, Palghar, Jalgaon, Chandrapur, Nashik, Solapur and Satara districts.From January 18 till date, 167 symptomatic travellers have been isolated in identified isolation facilities. Out of them, 161 have been found negative as per the reports of National Institute of Virology, Pune. Report of 6 persons is still awaited. At present, 9 travellers are still in the hospital, 7 at Mumbai and 1 each at Nashik and Nanded.As per guidelines from the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MOHFW), all travellers coming from Wuhan city of China are being isolated and tested for Corona whether symptomatic or asymptomatic. 

"All travellers coming from other affected countries have been asked to observe home isolation for 2 weeks from their date of departure from the affected country while they are being followed during this period by local health authority daily for health status. If any of such under surveillance traveller develop symptoms, he /she is admitted at an isolated ward and tested at an identified laboratory," it said.

The state health department has appealed to use a mask, however, it said it is not essential for the general population to use masks at the current moment.

"Mask is a must for any person with a history of travel to affected areas or persons having contact with infected persons, those showing symptoms of the disease and medical staff.N 95 mask is only for medical staff treating patients," it added. -- ANI
09:38   Chemists run out of sanitizers, masks in Delhi
Hand sanitizers have disappeared from the market and the price of masks has shot up multiple times as people resorted to panic buying amid the deadly COVID-19 outbreak.

"Hand sanitizers have disappeared from the market. We have given the order for it but it is difficult to get them. Masks which were earlier sold for Rs 50-60, are now being sold at Rs 100-150," Shubham, a medical store owner said.

People who could not get the masks use handkerchiefs and refrain from visiting a crowded place.

Speaking to ANI, Haider Ali, a resident said, "I had come here to buy the mask but the shops have run out of them so I have tied this hanky on my face. The disease is so deadly that people are afraid of shaking hands and going to public places."

The Chemist association treasurer of Nai Basti, Mohit Goyal said that as coronavirus has also been detected in India, there is panic among the people which led to the increase in demand of masks and sanitizers and the supply is low. "The N-95 mask which used to sell at Rs 50-60 but now it has been selling at the rate of Rs 280-300," Mohit said.

The outlets of Apollo Pharmacy in Noida have also run out of masks after the demand increased.

"We have been assuring customers that masks will be available soon. There are two types of masks one is a three-layer mask and another is N-95 mask, both are not available in any outlet of Apollo in pan Noida," an employee of Apollo Pharmacy said.

More than 94,000 people worldwide have been infected with the novel strain of the coronavirus, the vast majority of them in China where the outbreak originated. More than 3,200 people have died, but 51,000 have recovered after being treated. -- ANI
09:26   Man, wife arrested for supplying beef in UP town
A man and his wife were arrested for allegedly supplying beef in Chosana town in Uttar Pradesh's Shamli district, police said on Thursday. During a raid on Wednesday, 40 kg of beef was seized from a fridge in their house. The man was also booked for cow slaughter, said Ravinder Kumar, who is the in-charge of an outpost under the Jhinjhana police station. PTI
09:15   Release of 'No Time To Die' pushed to November 2020
In light of the global outbreak of the novel coronavirus, producers of the much-awaited James Bond film 'No Time to Die' have postponed its worldwide release to November 2020.

The formal announcement of the film being postponed was made on James Bond's Twitter handle on Wednesday. "MGM, Universal and Bond producers, Michael G. Wilson and Barbara Broccoli, announced today that after careful consideration and thorough evaluation of the global theatrical marketplace, the release of NO TIME TO DIE will be postponed until November 2020," read the tweet.

A follow-up tweet further said that the film will now release in the United Kingdom on November 12, 2020, which will be followed by the worldwide releases.

The film will be launched in the United States on November 25, 2020.

'No Time To Die' was slated to release on April 2, 2020, in India and its new release date will be announced later.

Earlier in February, the makers of the film cancelled its China premiere in the wake of the outbreak of coronavirus.

-- ANI
08:42   Don't panic about coronavirus: WHO to India
The World Health Organisation has said that Indians don't need to panic about the outbreak of Covid-19 coronavirus. 

Dr Rodrico Ofrin, Regional Emergencies Director, WHO, said there is no need to panic, as cases tested positive in India were because of travelling abroad, citizens' caught the virus on foreign land.

With 28 coronavirus cases in India, many Indians are worried a lot. Should Indians panic?

Answering the question, Dr Rodrico Ofrin said, "There is no need to panic, the need of the hour is to get more trained doctors and nurses to treat the infected. We know India has come up with many centres, that's the way to go about it. Hospitals have isolation wards, those need to be activated as soon as possible."

Speaking about what the citizens can do, he added, "As an Indian citizen you need to maintain basic hygiene like washing one's hands often, covering ones mouth while sneezing, if you feel sick rush to a doctor as soon as possible."

However, Dr Rodrico Ofrin cautioned the old and the very young, that's the age group which is most susceptible to the virus. He added that extreme caution should be taken by these two age groups.
08:21   Obama on coronavirus: Skip the masks, stay calm
Former US president Barack Obama called for people to take "common sense precautions" over the coronavirus outbreak -- advising them to follow hand-washing guidelines but not to wear masks.
"Save the masks for health care workers. Let's stay calm, listen to the experts, and follow the science," tweeted Obama, who has kept a low public profile since leaving office in 2017.

He said people should keep track of updates from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention -- and stay home if they are sick.

The World Health Organisation has said masks, goggles and other protective equipment used by health workers were in short supply due to "rising demand, hoarding and misuse."

The death toll in the US from the virus rose to 11 on Wednesday, as lawmakers in Congress reached a deal to provide more than $8 billion to fight the outbreak.

Nationwide, more than 130 people have so far been infected, with the virus detected in more than a dozen states. 
07:45   Jet founder Naresh Goyal's Mumbai house raided
The Enforcement Directorate raided the Mumbai residence of Naresh Goyal, founder of the now-grounded Jet Airways, late Wednesday night in connection with an alleged money laundering probe initiated by the agency.

The central agency, taking cognisance of a FIR filed by a travel company that has Goyal and his wife, Anita Goyal, of cheating it of Rs 46 crore, has registered a ECIR against the Goyals and Jet Airways.

The probe agency, which is also probing alleged foreign exchange violations by Naresh Goyal and Jet Airways, recorded Goyal's statement under a section of the Prevention of Money Laundering Act.

In September last year Goyal was questioned by Enforcement Directorate officials for over eight hours after a preliminary inquiry, launched in early 2019, alleged provisions of the Foreign Exchange Management Act were violated after Abu Dhabi's Etihad Airways invested $150 million for a stake in Jet, a loyalty and rewards management company formed in 2012 as a subsidiary.

Goyal's role in the deal is believed to be the main focus of that ED investigation.

It is important to note that FEMA offences are not criminal in nature, unlike those under PMLA.
00:12   Chandrayaan-3 launch in first half of 2021: Govt
Chandrayaan-3 will be launched in the first half of 2021, Union Minister Jitendra Singh said, indicating that there could be a slight delay in the launch of the third moon mission.

In written response to a question in Lok Sabha, Minister of State in the Prime Minister's Office Singh said four biological and two physical science experiments related to microgravity will be conducted during the Gaganyaan project, India's manned mission to space.

Singh said the revised configuration takes care of the robustness in design, capacity enhancement for mission flexibility and at the same time retained the heritage of Chandrayaan-II to the extent possible.

"The tentative launch schedule for ChandrayaanIII is first half of 2021.  ChandrayaanIII mission has been configured based on the lessons learnt from Chadrayaan II," Singh said.

Chandrayaan-II hard-landed on lunar surface last year.

The Indian Space Research Organisation had then resolved to launch the project again. It had said the project is likely to be launched by the end of the year.

Elaborating on the progress made on Gaganyaan, Singh said hardware realisation has commenced for ground test and space flight training of four astronaut candidates has also commenced.

"Four biological and two physical science experiments related to microgravity from academic institutions are short-listed...," Singh said.

National collaboration for design, development and delivery of human centric products such as crew medical kit, crew health monitoring system, emergency survival kit, dosimeters, earmuffs and fire suppression system has started, Singh said.

A three-week training programme for flight surgeon was also completed at ISRO with participation of CNES, the space agency of France, he added.  -- PTI