Sat, 28 November 2020
UK appoints Covid vaccines minister

Timeline  Refresh

21:03   UK appoints Covid vaccines minister
The British government appointed a vaccines minister on Saturday as it prepares to inoculate millions of people against the coronavirus, potentially starting within days.

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson said Conservative lawmaker Nadhim Zahawi will oversee the country's biggest vaccine program in decades.

The UK medicines regulator is currently assessing two vaccines -- one developed by Pfizer and BioNTech, the other by Oxford University and AstraZeneca -- to see if they are safe and effective. The Guardian newspaper reported that hospitals have been told they could receive the first doses of the Pfizer shot the week of December 7, if it receives approval.

The UK says frontline health care workers and nursing home residents will be the first to be vaccinated, followed by older people, starting with those over age 80.

Britain has ordered 40 million doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine, enough for 20 million people, and 100 million doses of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine.

In all, the UK government has agreed to purchase up to 355 million doses of vaccine from seven different producers, as it prepares to vaccinate as many of the country's 67 million people as possible.

Decisions about which, if any, vaccines to authorize will be made by the independent Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency.

Pfizer and BioNTech say their vaccine is 95 per cent effective, according to preliminary data. It must be stored at ultra-cold temperatures of around minus 70 degrees Celsius (minus 94 Fahrenheit).
20:24   Govt ready to deliberate: Amit Shah to farmers
Union Home Minister Amit Shah on Saturday reached out to thousands of farmers who have been camping in and outside Delhi to protest against the three laws passed by the Centre recently. "The government is ready to deliberate on every problem and demand of the farmers," Shah said in a video message.

Shah said the Centre will hold talks with the agitating farmers' unions on December 3 and if they want to hold discussions before that, they will have to shift their protests at the place finalised by the government.

"If farmers' unions want to hold discussions before December 3 then, I want to assure you all that as soon as you shift your protest to structured place, the government will hold talks to address your concerns the very next day," he was quoted as saying by news agency ANI.
20:14   Fight against farm laws will continue till they are repealed: Rahul Gandhi
Congress leader Rahul Gandhi on Saturday said Modi government cannot change strong intentions of farmers through "fake FIRs" and the fight against "anti-agriculture" laws will continue till they are repealed.

Gandhi said in a tweet that raising voice against injustice is not crime but a duty.He attached a media report which said police had registered FIRs against protesting farmers.

"Raising voice against injustice is not crime, it is duty. Modi government cannot change the strong intentions of farmers through fake FIRs. This fight will continue till anti-agriculture black laws are replealed. For us it was 'Jai Kisan' and will remain so," he said.

The farmers had embarked on a 'Delhi chalo' protest march against three farm laws enacted recently. 

-- ANI
19:30   'Waging war': Oppn to Centre on farmers' protest
Alleging that the Central farm laws "threatened" India's food security, several opposition parties on Saturday likened attempts by the police to stop the farmers' march towards Delhi by using tear gas, water cannons and by digging up roads to "repression" and "waging a war".
In a joint statement, leaders of eight opposition parties extended their support to the farmers who are protesting the three farm laws.

These leaders are NCP chief Sharad Pawar, DMK's T R Baalu, CPI(M) General Secretary Sitaram Yechury, CPI General Secretary D Raja, RJD MP Manoj Jha, CPI(ML) General Secretary Dipankar Bhattacharya, AIFB's Debabrata Biswas and RSP General Secretary Manoj Bhattacharya.

"Braving severe repression, tear gassing, heavy water cannons, roadblocks, police barricades and digging up the national highways surrounding Delhi akin to waging a 'war' on our farmers, tens of thousands of farmers have successfully reached the National Capital of Delhi.

"We salute their determination and courage in this massive protest demanding the withdrawal of the retrograde anti-Kisan agri laws," they said in the statement.

The Central government was forced to relent and reverse its earlier decision of preventing the farmers from reaching Delhi to peacefully voice their protest and allocated them a place to assemble, it said.

-- PTI
18:59   Chinese defence minister to visit Nepal on Sunday
Chinese Defence Minister General Wei Fenghe will visit Nepal on Sunday and meet the country's top leadership, the foreign ministry announced on Saturday.
During his one-day working visit, Wei, also a State Councillor, will pay a courtesy call on President Bidhya Devi Bhandari and Prime Minister K P Sharma Oli.

"The Chinese Defence Minister will also meet Chief of Army Staff General of Nepal Army Purna Chandra Thapa. Wei will return Beijing the same evening wrapping up his brief visit," the ministry said in a statement.
The ministry's announcement comes a day after India's Foreign Secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla wrapped up his maiden two-day visit to Nepal.

Wei's visit also comes amidst an ongoing political rift in the ruling Nepal Communist Party that resurfaced following a meeting between Prime Minister Oli and his rival Pushpa Kamal Dahal 'Prachanda'.
China's political profile in Nepal has been on the rise in the recent years with billions of dollars of investments under Beijing's multi-billion-dollar Belt and Road Initiative, including the building of the Trans-Himalayan Multi-Dimensional Connectivity Network.
-- PTI
18:27   Tomar invites farmers for talk on Dec 3 again
As farmers from Punjab and Haryana started protesting against the three new farm laws on Nirankari Samagam Ground in Burari on Saturday, Union Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar reiterated that the central government was ready for talks with the farmer unions' leaders on December 3 to resolve their issues.

"The government is ready to do anything that is required for the prosperity of farmers. We have invited them for talks on December 3 and I hope that they will come," Tomar said.

While the government has maintained that the three laws will do away with middlemen, enabling farmers to sell their produce in the markets directly, protesters fear that these could dismantle the minimum support price system, thereby disrupting their timely payments.

Tomar said under Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the Centre has continuously increased the MSP, increased procurement at the increased MSP and also set up a Rs 1 lakh crore infrastructure fund for the farmers.

He accused the political opponents of the BJP of politicising the issue. "If political parties want to do politics, they should do so on their own, not in the name of our farmers."

Responding to a picture posted by Congress leaders showing a police officer purportedly attacking a farmer, the Union minister said that the Congress only knew how to do politics using evil and lies.

"The Congress party uses only hate and evil for their politics because they don't have anything true to tell the people. They were in power for 10 years and they didn't achieve anything, so they are using lies now," he said.

The farmers started their "Delhi Chalo" march on Thursday against the three farm laws passed by the central government in September.

After two days of a stand-off with police and facing tear gas, water cannons and barricading at various points on the Delhi-Haryana border, the farmers' march was allowed to enter Delhi on Friday through Tikri border and were told to hold their protest in Burari on the outskirts of the national capital.

The farmers started protesting on Nirankari Samagam Ground in Burari on the outskirts of the national capital on Saturday.

"We don't trust them (government); there have been discussions earlier as well but no solution came out of it. We want the government to take back the laws," said a farmer.

The three laws that have caused the stir are The Farmers' Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Act, 2020, The Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Act, 2020, and The Essential Commodities (Amendment) Act, 2020.

-- ANI
17:47   Hyderabad police register case against Akbaruddin Owaisi
Hyderabad police have registered a suo motu case against All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen leader Akbaruddin Owaisi and Telangana Bharatiya Janata Party president Bandi Sanjay Kumar in connection with alleged hate speech.

"We have registered a suo-moto case against AIMIM Floor Leader Akbaruddin Owaisi and BJP state president Bandi Sanjay for hate speeches. The case has been booked under relevant sections of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) and an investigation has been taken up," SR Nagar Police said in a statement.

During the Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation election campaign, Akbaruddin termed the memorials of PV Narasimha Rao (Gyan Bhoomi) and NT Rama Rao (NTR Ghat) constructed along the Necklace Road abutting Hussain Sagar as "encroachments" and demanded their removal.

Earlier, the Telangana BJP President during a campaign rally had said, "Once BJP wins GHMC polls, we will conduct a surgical strike in Old City to weed out illegal Rohingyas."

The GHMC polls are scheduled for December 1 and the results will be declared on December 4. 

-- ANI
17:19   Khattar should apologise to farmers: Amarinder
"These farmers are my people. It is my duty to stand with them and I will not speak to CM Khattar till he apologises to the farmers whom he attacked. Khattar's police fired tear gas and attacked my farmers. Farmers broke through the barricades when they got angry but who can stop them from getting angry? I want them to protest peacefully and I hope the government calls then before December 3," says Amarinder Singh.

The Punjab CM added, "I cannot understand Haryana govt's stand. Delhi government invited the farmers for a meeting so they were marching to Delhi but why did Haryana stop them? I have notes that say that up to 50,000 farmers have marched to Delhi. Who cares about what Haryana CM Manohar Lal Khattar says? These protests were spontaneous, he is leveling allegations on us because he has failed. Why is he stopping our farmers? Why did he have to fire gas at them? I have spoken to PM Modi and the Agriculture Minister so why cant I speak to Khattar? He has failed and is now blaming me for this."
16:49   PM arrives at Pune's Serum Institute
Prime Minister Narendra Modi arrives in Pune for his visit to Serum Institute of India to review Covid-19 vaccine development.

Earlier, he visited the Bharat Biotech facility in Hyderabad and pharma major Zydus Cadila's plant near Ahmedabad to get information about its vaccine development. 
16:18   BJP govt failed to prevent Chinese from trespassing, using force to suppress farmers' voice: Cong
Congress on Saturday demanded that the BJP government should apologise for the use of tear gas, lathicharge and water cannons on farmers protesting the farm laws and alleged that Centre failed to prevent Chinese troops from trespassing the Line of Actual Control but was using force to "suppress farmers' voice."

Congress spokesperson Jaiveer Shergill demanded that Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar should visit Burari ground, where farmers have congregated and apologise for the "brutal assault" on them and also assured them of the withdrawal of the "black" farm laws.

"Instead of playing hide and seek game with farmers, the agriculture minister should visit Burari grounds, fold his hands and hang his head in shame, and seek apologies from farmers," he said.

Criticising the use of force on farmers, he remarked that "beating the farmers is not the culture of India democracy."

"BJP government, who was failed to prevent Chinese from trespassing LAC, has used all its forces for containing farmers protest and attempt to silent their voice," Shergill said.

"Ironically, when the ruling government should focus on proving financial support and work for the benefit of the farmer, it chose to provide bonus to food providers with the use of lathi, tear gas and water cannons," Shergill said.

He said that the farmer agitation has completely exposed "dictatorial" of the Centre.

"By raising finger on Congress party, BJP cannot escape its accountability. BJP instead of doubling the farmer's income zeroing the farmers' income with the bonus of Lathi, tear gas and water cannons," he said.

Earlier in the day Congress leader Rahul Gandhi posted a video of the Haryana police using water cannons on a group of farmers. "The country's farmers are standing resolutely in the face of Modi government's cruelty against them" Gandhi tweeted.

Farmers are protesting against the three laws -- the Farmers Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Act, 2020, The Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Service Act, 2020, and The Essential Commodities (Amendment) Act, 2020.

-- ANI
15:52   'Encouraging to see participation in DDC polls'
National Conference vice-president Omar Abdullah on Saturday said it was encouraging to see voters come out to participate in the District Development Council polls despite the cold weather.
Abdullah's remarks came as the voting for the first phase of the eight phase DDC polls and bypolls to local bodies was underway in the union territory.

"It's encouraging to see voters come out to participate in the DDC polls despite the cold weather. I hope as the day progresses more people choose to cast their votes," the NC leader said in a tweet.

While the voting was sluggish for the first couple of hours in the valley due to cold weather, it picked up pace as the day progressed. 

-- PTI

Image: Umar Ganie/
15:36   Sonia appoints interim party treasurer
Congress president SoniaGandhi appoints former union minister Pawan Bansal as the party's interim treasurer after the demise of Ahmed Patel, who was the All India Congress Committee treasurer.
15:17   Karnataka CM's political secy hospitalised after 'suicide' attempt
Karnataka Chief Minister B S Yediyurappa's political secretary and relative N R Santosh who was hospitalised following alleged suicide attempt, is 'stable and cheerful', and may be discharged in a day or two, doctors treating him said on Saturday.
According to sources, Santosh is said to have attempted suicide by consuming sleeping pills on Friday night.
On finding him unconscious at his Dollars Colony residence, family members have rushed him to Ramaiah Memorial Hospital.
Santhos, 31, was brought at about 8.30 pm with an alleged history of consumption of sleeping tablets at around 7 pm, the Hospital President Dr Naresh Shetty said in a statement.
Noting that on admission he was drowsy, the doctor said appropriate treatment was administered immediately and all investigations were carried out.
-- PTI
15:00   Not us, Punjab behind protest: Haryana CM
Haryana Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar hit out at his Punjab counterpart, Amarinder Singh, on Saturday afternoon, holding him responsible for the thousands of farmers marching to Delhi to protest against the centre's farm laws. 

He also claimed that "office bearers of the Punjab Chief Minister's Office" were leading the protest.

Khattar then thanked Haryana Police - who have been criticised for resorting to lathi charges and tear gassing to beat back the farmers - for showing restraint.

"Punjab farmers are protesting. Haryana farmers have stayed away. I thank Haryana farmers and police for showing restraint. Punjab Chief Minister is fanning this protest. Office bearers of the Punjab Chief Minister's Office are leading the protest," Khattar told reporters.

Khattar, who sparred with Amarinder Singh on Twitter on Thursday, also repeated his claim that he had been trying to contact Mr Singh since the farmers' march began, but had received no response.

Farmers from several states have been marching in waves to Delhi to mount a joint protest against the farm laws, only to be confronted by a Haryana police force that had been instructed to not let them pass.

Apart from lathi charges, water cannons and tear gassing, The cops also set up barricades wrapped in barbed wire to stop the farmers, and dug up roads to act as trenches. 

On Thursday Amarinder Singh took to Twitter to urge Manohar Lal Khattar to let the farmers pass peacefully.

"Let them pass ML Khattar ji, don't push them to the brink. Let them take their voice to Delhi peacefully," he tweeted.
14:24   Sisodia slams local BJP leader for 'insulting' protesting farmers
Aggrieved farmers from Punjab, Haryana and other states have congregated in north Delhi two days after setting out for the national capital as part of their Delhi Chalo march to protest against the Centres newly introduced agriculture laws.

The march that began on Thursday witnessed massive violence after police sealed the Punjab-Haryana and Delhi-Haryana borders to prevent the farmers from entering the national capital, even resorting to water cannons and firing tear gas shells.

Finally, the Centre relented on Friday and allowed them to enter Delhi till the Nirankari Samagam Ground in Burari and continue their protests there.

However, some local Bharatiya Janata Party leaders have taken to the streets and said that those protesting are goons and not farmers, and that anyone can sit on the streets and protest.

Delhi Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia condemned the statements and said that it is an insult to the farmers of our country.

BJP is calling farmers goonda. This is the reality of this party. In a country that upholds the Jai Jawan Jai Kisaan slogan, this is an insult to the farmers of our country, Sisodia said.

After the farmers were allowed to enter the national capital, the ruling Aam Aadmi Party government in the state took up the responsibility of providing food, shelter and basic amenities to the agitators.

Braving Delhis cold, some farmers were seen cooking food in the open field early Saturday morning.
14:06   PM reaches Hyd to visit Bharat Biotech plant
Prime Minister Narendra Modi arrived in Hyderabad on Saturday as part of his three-city tour to take the stock of COVID-19 vaccine development.
After landing at Hakimpet Air Force station, he was received by Telangana Chief Secretary Somesh Kumar, Director General of Police and other officials.
He will be proceeding to Bharat Biotech's facility located at Genome valley, a life sciences cluster about 20 km from the AF base, officials said.
Covid-19 vaccine, Covaxin, being developed by Bharat Biotech in collaboration with Indian Council of Medical Research and National Institute of Virologyis now undergoing phase-3 trials.
The vaccine is being developed and will be manufactured at Bharat Biotech's BSL-3 (Bio-Safety Level 3) facility in Genome Valley in Hyderabad.
Modi will be interacting with scientists and senior management of the city-based vaccine maker onthe status of Covaxin, officials said.

-- PTI
13:53   Raut says Shiv Sena not scared of Centre's 'pressure politics'
Shiv Sena leader Sanjay Raut on Saturday reiterated his attack on the Centre, saying that the people of Maharashtra are aware of the "pressure politics" by the BJP-led government against the state, adding the central agencies are being misused for the same.

"The Central government is attempting to do pressure politics by using such tactics but it won't affect much in Maharashtra we are silently observing the moves of central agencies. We are not intimidated," he said.

Further attacking the Centre, he said, "There will always be pressure politics on Maharashtra and West Bengal. We will continue to struggle. If somebody wants to do pressure politics, we welcome them... But we want to do transparent politics concerning the people of this country. But they are trying to pressure us using the Central agencies."

The Shiv Sena leader further drew a parallel between the Centre and East India Company.

"There was a time when the East India Company used to adopt such tactics, buying people, crushing them and suppressing them," he alleged.

Raut also defended a cartoon that he shared on his Twitter page in which the Enforcement Directorate and CBI have been portrayed as dogs. "The cartoon that I have shared expresses what the people of the country feel. This is how people think. These well-respected agencies which were once lauded, are now being misused used against the opposition parties."

-- ANI
13:18   NPRD to send sipper to jail for Stan Swamy
Tribal activist Stan Swamy's painful wait for a sipper cannot be tolerated any longer, said a prominent disability rights organisation that is planning to send the drinking aid to the jailed octogenarian, who is suffering from Parkinson's disease.
The 83-year-old was arrested from his residence in Ranchi on October 8 for his alleged involvement in the Elgar Parishad case and is lodged at the Taloja Jail in Mumbai.

The National Platform for the Rights of the Disabled's reaction came after a special court in Mumbai on Thursday again rejected Swamy's application for a straw and sipper, and sought a response from the National Investigation Agency on his request.

The court will hear the matter on December 4.

The agency had earlier this month sought 20 days time to respond to the activist's request for a straw and sipper, and had said it did not take these items from Swamy during his arrest, as claimed by the activist.

"The painful wait that Swamy will have to endure for a sipper cannot be tolerated any longer. December 4, when the very same court decides again, is seven days away. Stan cannot be refused fluids for such a long period. The NPRD and its affiliating units have therefore decided to send sippers to the jailor of Taloja Jail, Maharashtra, to be given to Stan Swamy," the NPRD said in a statement.

It also appealed to all disability rights organisations, activists and all those who seek justice for the activist and stand in defence of his rights to join this campaign and send sippers to Swamy.
-- PTI
12:30   Docs warn against Delhi's 'suicidal' marathon
Top doctors have warned runners against what they say is a "suicidal" half marathon in Delhi amid the rising coronavirus cases and soaring air pollution in the national capital.

Women's marathon world record-holder Brigid Kosgei from Kenya and Ethiopia's two-time men's winner Andamlak Belihu are among the 49 elite athletes running the 21 km race.

Thousands of amateur runners will also be taking part in Delhi's half marathon.

Organisers say the "highest level of safety-standards, with bio-secure zones" have been laid on for the race starting at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium.

However, with New Delhi recording more than 500,000 coronavirus cases, and air quality in the world's most polluted capital hovering between 'unhealthy' and 'hazardous', doctors said the athletes should think twice as it would be "suicidal"

"It will be suicidal for runners to run the race this time. We have such high levels of pollution, we have the risk of coronavirus," Arvind Kumar, founder trustee of the Lung Care Foundation said.

"With the presence of this twin threat if people are still running despite knowing everything, well, I have no words to express my anguish."

"Whether you are an international elite runner or you are a small boy from a village, the damaging potential of a damaging agent remains the same," said the doctor.

All India Institute of Medical Sciences Director Randeep Guleria also told the agency that the race should not be run because of the air pollution.

Delhi has been hit by a winter pollution crisis each year for the past decade when crop-stubble burning from nearby states, cold temperatures and car and industrial pollution produce a toxic mix.

This year, the Indian capital is also a major concern in the battle against the coronavirus. India is the world's second worst-hit country behind the United States, with about 9.3 million cases.
12:14   UP Guv gives assent to ordinance against forcible religious conversions
Uttar Pradesh Governor Anandiben Patel on Saturday gave assent to an ordinance against forcible or "dishonest" religious conversions, an official said.
The Uttar Pradesh Prohibition of Unlawful Conversion of Religion Ordinance, 2020 has been promulgated with the approval of the Governor, the official said.

The state cabinet presided over by Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath had earlier this week approved the draft ordinance to curb forcible or "dishonest" religious conversions including those for the sake of marriage, which could land violators in jail for up to 10 years.

According to it, a marriage will be declared 'null and void' if the conversion of a woman is solely for that purpose, and those wishing to change their religion after marriage need to apply to the district magistrate.
In recent weeks, BJP-run states like Uttar Pradesh, Haryana and Madhya Pradesh have revealed plans to enact laws to counter alleged attempts to convert Hindu women to Islam in the guise of marriage, which party leaders often refer to as 'love jihad'. 

-- PTI
11:52   Jawan versus Kisan: Rahul says this is dangerous
Several photos of farmers reaching the Capital braving Polices tear gas, water cannon have gone viral on social media. Sharing one of them in which a jawan can be seen aiming his baton at a protesting farmer, Congress leader Rahul Gandhi said it is a very sad photo. Our slogan was Jai Jawan Jai Kisan, but today PM Modis arrogance made the jawan stand against the farmer. This is very dangerous, Gandhi tweeted.

Look at the countrys system in the BJP government. When the billionaire friends of BJP come to Delhi, they get red-carpet welcome. But when farmers come to Delhi, roads are being dug. It is right that anti-farmer laws are made but when farmers come to Delhi, it becomes wrong? Priyanka Gandhi tweeted denouncing police action on protesting farmers.

On Friday, the Delhi government welcomed the farmers to the Capital refusing Delhi Polices plea to turn the stadiums of the city to imprison the protesters for the time being. The protesters were allowed to assemble at the Nirankari Samagam Ground in Burari. A number of farmers said they want to go either to the Ramlila ground or Jantar Mantar to protest against the farm laws.

The protest is likely to be intensified from Saturday onwards as farmers from Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand are likely to join the movement.
11:24   Why I'm Losing Hope in India
My generation of Indians has often been disappointed in our country, and we have sometimes despaired about the direction it was taking, but it's been impossible for us to stop hoping.

Our own past has trained us to see the silver lining.Opportunities we couldn't imagine growing up in the 1970s and '80s emerged from nowhere and changed our lives, and many of us believe history will keep repeating, with the pain of the pandemic shocking the economy out of its pre-Covid inertia.

So it breaks my heart to have to suggest to today's rising generation that this crisis is different than others we have weathered, that the walls are closing in again, and the opportunity set for India is shrinking, perhaps for a very long time.

The national dream of emulating China's rapid growth is receding -- by some economic yardsticks, we can't even keep up with Bangladesh.

Read the full piece by Andy Mukherjee HERE
11:05   CAT to be held in three shifts on Sunday
The Common Admission Test (CAT) 2020 will be held in three shifts, instead of two, and across more centres and cities on November 29, Sunday, to ensure the safety of the candidates.

The test, which is the gateway to the 20 premier Indian Institutes of Management (IIMs) and over 110 non-IIM B-schools, will be held at 430 centres in 159 cities -- up from 376 centres in 156 cities last year.

The computerised entrance exam will be conducted in three shifts: 8:30 am to 10:30 am; 12.30 pm to 2.30 pm; and 4.30 pm to 6.30 pm.

'Additional measures have been taken to minimise the travel needs of the candidates by increasing the centres for examination to 430 across the country,' stated IIM Indore, which is conducting the exam this year on behalf of the IIMs.

The institute and its delivery partner, Tata Consulting Services (TCS), have taken these measures to ensure that the government's advisory on social distancing and other preventive/protective measures at the examination centres are implemented.

The number of candidates who have registered for CAT 2020 is, however, down by over 15,000 as compared to last year.

Over 244,000 candidates had registered for CAT 2019 and eventually 209,926 took the test.

This year, just about 228,000 have applied.

The CAT convenor has approached the chief secretaries and DGPs of various states and UTs to allow candidates to travel using their admit cards as curfew pass in case of lockdowns or curfews.

The local authorities have also been requested to provide necessary facilities and security so that the exam is conducted smoothly.

The 180-minute computer-based entrance test is usually divided into three sections: Verbal Ability and Reading Comprehension; Data Interpretation and Logical Reasoning; and Quantitative Ability.

Last year, the paper was relatively easy compared to previous years, CAT takers and experts had observed. -- Vinay Umarji/Business Standard
10:50   Delhi: Farmers refuse to head to protest site
Thousands of farmers gathered at the Singhu border held a meeting on Saturday morning amid heavy security presence and decided to continue demonstrating there even after being offered a site in north Delhi to hold their protest.

Those gathered at the Tikri border continued to hold ground as well.

A decision on whether they would head to the designated protest site is expected soon.

After the meeting at the Singhu border, one of the main routes used to access the city from Punjab, a farmer leader said they would not move and continue their protest there.

"We will not move from here (Singhu Border) and continue our fight. We will not return home. Thousands of farmers have come from Punjab and Haryana to join the protest," he said.

On Friday, hundreds of farmers entered the national capital to hold a peaceful protest at the Sant Nirankari Ground after facing teargas and water cannons and clashing with security personnel while thousands remained at border points, undecided whether to go to the demonstration site identified by police.

The day witnessed police using teargas shells, water cannons and multi-layer barriers to block the protesters and the farmers pelting stones and breaking barricades in some places in their determination to push through as part of their 'Delhi Chalo' march against the Centre's new farm laws.

After a meeting between farmer leaders and senior police officers, the Delhi Police had allowed the protesters to hold demonstration peacefully at Nirankari Ground, but senior farmer leader Darshan Pal later said they would stay put at border points on Friday night and a decision on whether to go to the identified protest site or not will be taken on Saturday.   -- PTI
10:46   Search operations continue for missing Navy pilot
Search operations continue even over 40 hours after Commander Nishant Singh went missing after a MiG-29K fighter trainer jet of the Indian Navy met with an accident over the Arabian sea on Thursday.

Naval assets such as the P-8I surveillance aircraft and Indian Air Force C-130J Super Hercules special operations aircraft among others have been pressed into the search operation.

Another pilot, who went missing after the incident has been found.

The Navy has ordered an inquiry into the incident.

'MiG-29K trainer aircraft operating at sea ditched at about 1700 hrs on 26 Nov 20. One pilot safely recovered, search for the second pilot Cdr Nishant Singh, by air and surface units is in progress. An enquiry to investigate the incident has been ordered,' Navy spokesperson said in a tweet on Friday.

The Indian Navy has a fleet of over 40 MiG-29K fighter aircraft based out of Goa and also operated from the INS Vikramaditya aircraft carrier.   -- ANI
09:58   41,322 new Covid cases, 485 deaths in 24 hrs
With 41,322 new COVID-19 infections, India's total cases rise to 93,51,110.

With 485 new deaths, toll mounts to 1,36,200.

Total active cases at 4,54,940.

Total discharged cases at 87,59,969 with 41,452 new discharges in last 24 hours.  -- ANI
09:35   PM begins visit to vaccine development centres
Prime Minister Narendra Modi arrives at Gujarat's Ahmedabad, to visit the Zydus Biotech Park to review the COVID-19 vaccine development.

Later today, the PM will visit Bharat Biotech in Hyderabad and Serum Institute of India in Pune.   -- ANI
08:43   Voting begins for 1st phase of J-K civic polls
Polling for the first phase of the first-ever elections to the District Development Councils (DDCs) in Jammu and Kashmir began on Saturday morning.

43 out of 280 constituencies in the Union Territory are going to polls in the first phase of DDC elections.

The polling will end at 2 pm.

Elections for the DDCs, which are being held in eight phases, will conclude on December 19 and the counting of votes be held on December 22.

By-polls for 234 vacant seats of Urban Local Bodies (ULBs) are also being held simultaneously.

Parties including the National Conference, People's Democratic Party (PDP), Peoples Conference and Communist Party of India-Marxist, formed the People's Alliance for Gupkar Declaration and are fighting the maiden DDC elections together.

National parties Bharatiya Janata Party and Congress are also in the fray.

K K Sharma, State Election Commissioner, said that the health department is engaged to implement COVID-19 guidelines.

"All arrangements including security reviewed and completed. The remote areas to go to polls in first and second phase of polling. Health Department engaged to implement COVID guidelines," he said.

On Friday, Jammu and Kashmir Director General of Police Dilbag Singh chaired a high-level meeting to review security arrangements for the DDC polls and by-elections for Panchayat and Urban Local Bodies.

He said that the focus should be to ensure security arrangements and implementation of the devised comprehensive security plan for the elections. -- ANI
00:19   '10 Covid vaccines likely by 2021 summer'
Ten COVID-19 vaccines could be available by the middle of next year if they win regulatory approval, but their inventors need patent protection, the head of the global pharmaceutical industry group said on Friday.
Vaccines by Pfizer and BioNtech, as well as Moderna and AstraZeneca have shown promising results in large clinical trials, but there is no question of "cutting corners", said Thomas Cueni, director-general of the International Federation of Pharmaceutical Manufacturers and Associations.

"So far 3 we have 3 out of 3 were hits. I would expect that we will see something similar with Johnson & Johnson, I would expect that we would see similar positive results with Novavax, and many others, Sanofi Pasteur, GSK are in there, Merck," he said.

'Big Pharma' and biotech firms have invested heavily in research and development and in boosting manufacturing during the pandemic to be able to roll out vaccine doses, Cueni told a Geneva news briefing.

It would be a mistake to lift patent protection to allow compulsory licensing and try to make vaccines requiring such complex quality assurance without expert staff and quality control procedures, he said.

"We will hopefully by the next summer have probably 10 vaccines which have proven their value. But all of them really need to be submitted by rigorous scientific scrutiny by the regulators."