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Sat, 17 October 2020
UAE minister reviews progress on Hindu temple

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23:43   UAE minister reviews progress on Hindu temple
Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation of the United Arab Emirates, has met with the representatives of a Hindu organisation building the community's first temple in Abu Dhabi and reviewed its progress.

The foundation stone of the temple was laid in April last year and work started from December.

During the meeting held in Al Ain recently, Sheikh Abdullah held discussions with Brahmavihari Swami of the BAPS Swaminarayan Sanstha and reviewed an update on the temple's construction, the BAPS Hindu Mandir, Abu Dhabi said in a statement.

Indian Ambassador to the UAE Pavan Kapoor was also present at the meeting, it said.

"In these challenging times of the COVID pandemic, such a project of global harmony will regenerate faith and hope, celebrating the unique friendship of India and the UAE and their dedication to progress and peace," the statement said.

Brahmavihari Swami highlighted how the project team and the entire Hindu community were dedicated to making this long-term contribution to the UAE.

"It is a unique chance to not just preserve ancient art and architecture, but to create new art and a new legacy that will last for thousands of years."

An exquisite golden memento of the temple was gifted to Sheikh Abdullah.

The one-hour meeting speaks volumes about the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi Sheikh Mohammed Bin Zayed Al Nahyan's vision and commitment for a more inclusive, more peaceful and harmonious future, the statement said.

The Indian community in the UAE constitutes 30 per cent of the total population and is the largest expatriate community in the Gulf country.  -- PTI

IMAGE: PM Narendra Modi launches stone-laying ceremony for first Hindu temple in Abu Dhabi. Photograph: @MEAIndia/Twitter
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22:26   Statue of Unity thrown open to visitors
The 182-metre tall Statue of  Unity in Gujarat's Narmada district opened for visitors on Saturday for the first since March amid the coronavirus outbreak.  

The statue at Kevadiya, the tallest such structure in the world and a major tourist attraction nationwide, was opened with visitors needing to follow strict social distancing and other norms aimed at containing the COVID-19 outbreak, a state government release said.

'Only 2,500 tourists will be permitted every day, with 500 of them being allowed in five time slots of two hours each between 8 am and 6 pm. Tickets can be purchased only from the authorised website and not physically from counters,' it said.

Other attractions in the vicinity of SoU, like river rafting, ekta nursery, cactus garden and butterfly garden etc have also been thrown open for visitors, the release added.  -- PTI
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22:03   Peace along LAC 'deeply disturbed': Jaishankar
External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar on Saturday said peace and tranquillity along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) is 'deeply disturbed' and this is obviously impacting the overall relationship between India and China.

Jaishankar made these comments against the backdrop of the over five-month-long border standoff between India and China in eastern Ladakh where each side has deployed over 50,000 troops.

The Sino-India boundary question a very 'complicated' and difficult issue, he said at a webinar on his book The India Way, giving a historical perspective to development of the relationship between the two neighbouring countries in the last three decades.

The external affairs minister said the relationship between India and China, which was 'very difficult', was normalised since late 1980s through a plethora of initiatives like trade, travel, tourism, and societal activities on the premise of peace and tranquillity along the border.

"It is not our position that we should solve the boundary question. We understand that it is a very complicated and difficult issue. There have been many negotiations at different levels...That is a very high bar for a relationship," Jaishankar said.

"I am talking about a much more basic bar which is that there must be peace and tranquillity along the LAC in the border areas and that has been the case since the late 1980s," he added.

"Now, if peace and tranquillity is deeply disturbed, then obviously there will be an impact on the relationship and that is what we are seeing," he said referring to the border situation in eastern Ladakh.

Jaishankar said both China and India are rising and assuming 'bigger' role in the world, but the 'big question' is how the two countries find an 'equilibrium'.

"That is the basic case I addressed in my book," the minister said, adding he completed the manuscript of the book in April, before the border row erupted in eastern Ladakh.   -- PTI
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21:25   Ready to shift Hathras family to my residence: Sanjay Singh
Aam Aadmi Party leader Sanjay Singh on Saturday said he is ready to shift to his residence in Delhi the family of the Hathras victim who died after being allegedly gang-raped.

Singh said they do not need to live in fear of the Adityanath government.

'I am ready to take in the family of the Hathras victim to my residence. They do not need to live in fear of the Adityanath government. I have conveyed my feelings to the victim's uncle,' Singh tweeted in Hindi.

Reacting, Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal tweeted that he is proud of Singh.

The 19-year-old Dalit woman was allegedly raped in a Hathras village by four men on September 14.

After her condition deteriorated, she was referred to Delhi's Safdarjung hospital where she succumbed to injuries. Her family alleged that the local police forced them to conduct the last rites in the dead of the night.

Local police officers, however, had said the cremation was carried out 'as per the wishes of the family'.

The incident led to protests across the country with people from different sectors demanding justice for the victim.  -- PTI
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20:46   Maha govt allows gyms to reopen from Oct 25
Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray on Saturday said gymnasiums and fitness centres in the state will be allowed to reopen from Dussehra, which falls on October 25.

During a virtual meeting with representatives of gyms and fitness centres, the chief minister said group activities like zumba and yoga and steam and sauna facilities will not be allowed.

"Gymnasiums and fitness centres are for the welfare of citizens, so care should be taken to ensure that there is no virus spread. The SoPs should be strictly followed," he said.

Thackeray said the state government was going slow on lifting COVID-19 restrictions because there should be no complacency.

Safety measures such as disinfecting premises at hourly interval, physical distancing, sanitisation and use of masks would be mandatory, the chief minister said, adding that health checks of trainers and staff should be done regularly.  -- PTI
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20:42   TRP scam: BARC focusing on 'individuals'
Hit by the fake TRP scam, TV ratings computing body Broadcast Audience Research Council (BARC) on Saturday said it believes channels are committed to maintaining a clean ecosystem and its efforts presently are focused on 'individuals' responsible for infiltrating homes to influence the data.

The body said it is also cooperating with the probe by Mumbai Police, which has so far arrested six people for allegedly influencing particular channels' ratings by inducing the homes which formed the sample size which was being monitored to determine the ratings.

'Our efforts on combating infiltration are focused on the individual(s) responsible for these activities and we firmly believe that television channels are committed to maintaining a clean and transparent ecosystem,' it said in a statement.

The Mumbai police had claimed that three channels, including Arnab Goswami-headed Republic Media Network, were allegedly influencing the TRP numbers.

The Republic has denied the allegations.

According to Mumbai police, brands take advertising calls based on TRPs and over Rs 32,000 crore of ad inventory is sold every year, which makes it think that it is a multi-crore scam.

The arrested include former employees of an agency engaged by BARC.

'BARC is providing the necessary assistance to the ongoing investigation by law enforcement agency and this should be seen in the light of larger stability of the panel and in the interests of self-regulation, rather than in isolated cases of particular channels which leads to a distortion of facts,' the BARC statement said.

It added that the body is driven by the single goal of generating ratings that its subscribers rely on which are deeply rooted in science, report with the greatest sense of responsibility and truly reflect what the country watches. -- PTI
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20:07   Home secretary Ajay Bhalla gets extension
The tenure of Home Secretary Ajay Kumar Bhalla has been extended till August 22, 2021, according to a personnel ministry order issued on Saturday. 

He would have superannuated next month. 

Bhalla, a 1984 batch IAS officer of Assam-Meghalaya cadre, was in August 2019 appointed as the home secretary. 

The Appointments Committee of the Cabinet has approved the extension in service of Bhalla as Home Secretary beyond the date of his superannuation, ie, November 30, 2020, up to August 22, 2021, it said.
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20:04   Unknown gas smell reported in Mumbai suburbs
Complaints of unknown gas smell reported from central Mumbai suburbs like Ghatkopar, Vikhroli, Govandi and Bhandup, the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) has said. Details are awaited.
PM Modi at Pathankot
PM Modi at Pathankot
19:55   NIA officer who probed Pathankot terror attack dies of dengue
Retired IPS officer Sanjiv Kumar Singh, who led the probe into the 2016 terrorist attack on the Pathankot Air Force base while serving in the NIA, has died. He was 61.

Singh, a 1987-batch Indian Police Service officer of the Madhya Pradesh cadre, died at a hospital in Gurgaon on Friday.

His former colleague in the central probe agency and Assam's Additional Director General of Police (Law and Order) G P Singh tweeted about his passing away.

"A sad day. We lost Sri Sanjeev Kumar Singh IPS 1987 batch to dengue today. My mentor at @NIA_India he would always remain in thoughts. Rest in peace Sir," G P Singh wrote.

The National Investigation Agency also condoled his death.

"NIA Condoles Sad and Untimely Demise of Shri Sanjeev Kumar Singh IPS (1987 MP). Shri S. K. Singh served NIA for 7 years and stood for an indomitable spirit of Professionalism, Honesty and Commitment. May His Soul Rest in Peace," the central probe agency said on its official Twitter handle.

The officer had retired from service in February. He last served with the Border Security Force as an ADG (eastern command) based in Kolkata, looking after the deployment of the force along the India-Bangladesh international border.

The officer had led the NIA probe in the 2016 terrorist attack on the Indian Air Force base in Punjab's Pathankot and had escorted a joint investigation team of Pakistani officials, in March that year, who visited the air base as part of their own probe in the case.

The officer was a health enthusiast and his last Twitter post on June 14, 2018, has a video where he can be seen doing pull-ups and push-ups as part of Prime Minister Narendra Modi's fitness challenge to IPS officers.  

He has also served as ADG (Naxal operations) in Madhya Pradesh after his deputation with the NIA ended.

The IPS association, the Madhya Pradesh DGP and the BSF also condoled his death on their official Twitter handles.
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19:33   Topping up Paytm wallet thru credit card? Pay 2% fee
Paytm users will have to pay a 2 per cent fee on the amount added to their e-wallet using a credit card.

Until now, users had to pay 2 per cent fee if they loaded more than Rs 10,000 in their e-wallets via credit card in a month.

A message saying "Nominal charge of 2 per cent is applicable on adding money using credit card. Nominal fee is applicable since we pay high charges to your bank/payment network when you add money using a credit card. Please use UPI or debit card to add money for free" is displayed when customers attempt to add money to their Paytm wallet via a credit card.

Paytm is also providing an offer, wherein users will get 2 per cent cashback up to Rs 200 on adding minimum Rs 50 using credit card, as per the message.

When contacted, a Paytm Payments Bank spokesperson said customers have the flexibility to add money to their Paytm wallet from any of their preferred funding source, including UPI, net banking and cards.

"The banks and credit card companies charge a fee for loading money into the Paytm wallet from any of these sources. The 2 per cent charge is passed on to customers, who use credit cards for adding funds to their wallet. For all other sources, we will continue to absorb the cost of loading money," the spokesperson said.

The spokesperson further said the company has temporarily waived the 5 per cent charge that is levied on money transfer from wallet to bank accounts as a promotional offer for the festive season.

"The amount added in the wallet can be used to transfer money to another wallet or bank account, to make payments to online and offline merchants via QR codes, to process bill payments, do recharges and multiple other forms of transactions. All such transactions will also continue to be free of cost for our customers," the spokesperson said.

In 2017, Paytm had introduced a similar fee on amounts added to wallet via credit cards, but had rolled back the decision after pressure from users. 

At that time, Paytm had said the fee was aimed at curbing misuse of its platform to transfer interest-free credit card funds to bank accounts of users at zero transaction cost.
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19:24   Dr Reddy's gets nod for phase 2/3 vaccine trial
Dr Reddy's Laboratories on Saturday said it along with Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF) has received approval from the Drug Control General of India (DCGI) to conduct phase 2/3 human clinical trials for COVID-19 vaccine Sputnik V in India.

This will be a multi-centre and randomised controlled study, which will include safety and immunogenicity check, the Hyderabad-based drug major said in a statement.

"This is a significant development that allows us to commence the clinical trial in India and we are committed to bringing in a safe and efficacious vaccine to combat the pandemic," Dr Reddy's Laboratories Co-chairman and Managing Director G V Prasad said.

RDIF CEO Kirill Dmitriev said the entity was pleased to collaborate with the Indian regulators.

"In addition to Indian clinical trial data, we will provide safety and immunogenicity study from the Russian phase 3 clinical trial. This data will further strengthen the clinical development of Sputnik V vaccine in India," he added.

Last month, Dr Reddy's and RDIF (Russian sovereign wealth fund) had entered into a partnership to conduct clinical trials of Sputnik V vaccine and its distribution in India.

As part of the partnership, RDIF shall supply 100 million doses of the vaccine to Dr Reddy's upon regulatory approval in the country.

On August 11, the Sputnik V vaccine developed by the Gamaleya National Research Institute of Epidemiology and Microbiology was registered by the Ministry of Health of Russia and became the world's first registered vaccine against COVID-19 based on the human adenoviral vectors platform.

Sputnik V is currently undergoing phase 3 clinical trials in Russia and the proposed number of subjects is 40,000.

Additionally, phase 3 clinical trial of the vaccine has commenced in the United Arab Emirates last week.  -- PTI
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18:23   Foreign LeT IED expert killed in Anantnag
A foreign Lashkar-e-Tayiba (LeT) terrorist, who was an IED expert, was killed in an encounter with security forces in Anantnag district of Jammu and Kashmir on Saturday, police said.

Security forces launched a cordon-and-search operation in Larnoo area of Anantnag district, in south Kashmir, this morning following inputs about the presence of terrorists there, a police official said.

The official said that after the presence of the terrorist was ascertained, he was given an opportunity to surrender, but he fired indiscriminately on the search party, leading to an encounter.

In the gun-battle, the foreign terrorist was killed and his body retrieved from the site of the encounter, the official said.

He said the gunned down terrorist has been identified as Nasir alias Shakeel Saab alias Shak Bhai an A-category terrorist and an IED expert affiliated with proscribed LeT outfit.

Incriminating materials including arms and ammunition were recovered from the site of the encounter, the official said, adding these items have been taken into the case records for further investigation and to probe his complicity in other terror crimes.  -- PTI
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18:13   Army destroys five live mortar shells in J-K's Poonch
The Army destroyed five unexploded 120-mm mortar shells fired by Pakistan during ceasefire violations in different villages along the Line of Control (LoC) in Poonch district of Jammu and Kashmir on Saturday, officials said.

They said the shells were found close to residential areas in different villages of Balnoi sector.

They were removed by the bomb disposal squads of the Army after being informed by the villagers.

The live mortar shells were later destroyed in controlled explosions in the forest area, the officials said.

According to official sources, 3,589 ceasefire violations by Pakistan have been reported along the LoC and the International Border till October 6 this year as against a total of 3,168 in 2019.

The maximum 427 ceasefire violations took place in September, followed by 411 in March and 408 in August, the sources said.

A total of 398 ceasefire violations were recorded in July, 387 in June, 382 in May, 387 in April, 366 in February, and 367 in January, they said.

The sources said 62 ceasefire violations were reported within the first six days of this month.

Sometimes the shells don't explode and are defused or destroyed by Army experts after the force is informed by the residents of the border areas, they said.  -- PTI
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17:05   Mumbai airport extends Covid testing facility
The Mumbai airport on Saturday said it has extended the availability of its express coronavirus infection test facility also to departing passengers and non-passengers.

The RT-PCR test facility is functional from October 15, the airport said in a release.

Initially launched for arriving international transit passengers in line with the Civil Aviation Ministry's directives, the Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj International Airport (CSMIA) has now further extended the availability of the test facility for passengers departing from the airport as well, the airport operator said in a release.

The testing facility, located on the curbside of Level 4 at Terminal 2 for departing passengers, is also available for non-passengers visiting the airport to drop off or receive their loved ones, it added.

The initiative addresses passenger concerns regarding the different COVID-19 regulations across domestic and international destinations, it said adding, departing passengers can undergo the test at CSMIA before travelling to their onward destination and produce their negative test report to skip institutional quarantine at their destination.

The Mumbai airport had first launched the RT-PCR test facility last month for arriving international passengers transiting to a domestic destination from Mumbai as a measure to skip institutional quarantine upon arrival.

This was later extended to all passengers arriving at the airport as directed by the MoCA.

Since the commemoration of the test facility on September 6, the airport has witnessed a total of over 3,340 passengers opting for the test, with an average 100 test per day being conducted, said the release.

Till date 38 passengers tested positive, of the total tests conducted at the airport facility so far and they were transferred by the state authorities to designated COVID-19 institutions, according to the airport operator.

Departing passengers can make an online booking through the test feature available on the CSMI airport website or register themselves at the helpdesk set up at departures to enrol for the RT-PCR test before entering the terminal and receive a digital copy mailed directly or can also collect the physical copy of the test report within eight hours, it stated.

Passengers departing from the airport are encouraged to arrive at the terminal 8-12 hours before their scheduled departure, it added.  -- PTI
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16:29   Pak troops target civilian areas in Kathua
The Pakistan Rangers violated ceasefire overnight by resorting to unprovoked firing on forward posts and villages along the International Border (IB) in Kathua district of Jammu and Kashmir, officials said on Saturday.

The firing in the Pansar-Manyari area started around 9.15 pm Friday and continued through the night, forcing the residents to take shelter in the underground bunkers, the officials said.

They said BSF troops guarding the IB retaliated strongly.

There was no report of any casualty on the Indian side, they said.

However, a barber shop suffered some damages, the officials said, adding the cross-border firing between the two sides stopped around 5.55 am.

A 48-year-old man of Manyari village received minor injures, the officials said.

According to official sources, 3,589 ceasefire violations by Pakistan were reported along the LoC and International Border till October 6 this year compared to a total of 3,168 in 2019.

The highest 427 ceasefire violations took place in September followed by 411 in March and 408 in August, the sources said, adding July recorded 398 ceasefire violations, June and April (387 each), May (382), February (366) and January (367).

The sources said 62 ceasefire violations were reported in the first six days of this month.  -- PTI
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15:54   New Zealand PM Jacinda Ardern wins 2nd term in landslide victory
Jacinda Ardern has won a second term as New Zealand's Prime Minister after her success at handling the country's coronavirus outbreak helped secure a landslide victory, CNN reported on Saturday.

With 87 per cent of the votes counted, Ardern's center-left Labour Party has won 48.9 per cent of the vote, meaning her party looks likely to score the highest result that any party has achieved since the current political system was introduced in 1996.

"Tonight, New Zealand has shown the Labour Party its greatest support in at least 50 years," Ardern said in a powerful victory speech on Saturday where she referred to the difficult times ahead for New Zealand.

"And I can promise you: we will be a party that governs for every New Zealander."

Labour's main opposition, the center-right National Party, is on 27 per cent -- down on last election's 44 per cent and likely to be the party's worst result since 2002.

National leader Judith Collins said she called Ardern to concede defeat and congratulate Ardern on an 'outstanding result' for the Labour Party.

Results are still being counted.

Final results will be released in three weeks once special votes -- including those cast by New Zealanders living overseas -- are counted.   -- CNN
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15:28   Court orders probe against Kangana, her sister
A court in Mumbai has asked the police to investigate the complaint lodged against Bollywood actor Kangana Ranaut and her sister Rangoli Chandel for allegedly trying to create communal tension through their tweets.

Bandra metropolitan magistrate Jaydeo Y Ghule passed the order on Friday.

Casting director Sahil Ashrafali Sayyed had lodged the complaint in the court, seeking its direction for registration of an FIR under IPC sections 153A (promoting enmity), 295A (malicious acts intended to outrage the religious feelings), 124A (sedition) against the actor and her sister, his lawyer Ravish Zamindar said.

The complainant has alleged that the actor has been defaming Bollywood since the last two months by calling it a 'hub of nepotism', 'favouritism', etc, through her tweets and television interviews.

In the complaint, he said that Ranaut has tweeted 'very objectionable' comments, which has not only hurt his religious sentiments, but also the feelings of many artists.

Sayyed alleged that Ranaut has been trying to divide the artists on the communal lines.

'Her sister, too, has made objectionable comments on social media to spread communal tension between two religious groups,' the complaint said.

Upon perusal of the documents on record and the lawyer's submission, the court found that 'cognisable offence' has been committed by the accused.

It then directed the police station concerned to initiate necessary action and investigation against the actor and her sister under relevant provisions of Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC).

"Total allegations are based upon the comments made on electronic media- Twitter and interviews- and a thorough investigation by an expert is necessary," the court said.   -- PTI
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14:44   9 killed, over 30 injured as jeep collides with UP roadways bus in Pilibhit
At least 9 people lost their lives and more than 30 were injured in a collision between a jeep and an Uttar Pradesh roadways bus in Pilibhit on Saturday, police said.

The accident occurred in Puranpur Police Station area of the district, a senior police official said.

Superintendent of Police, Pilibhit, Jaiprakash Yadav said, "In an early morning accident involving a jeep and a roadways bus, nine persons were killed, while over 30 persons were injured."

He added that the deceased include passengers of the bus as well as the jeep.

"Seven of the passengers died on the spot and the injured are undergoing treatment at the district hospital. The ill-fated bus was coming from Lucknow to Pilibhit, and most of the passengers are from Pilibhit and nearby areas," he said.

Police officials said that the accident site is approximately 40 kilometres away from the district headquarters.  -- PTI
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14:36   Mithun Chakraborty's son booked for rape
Mumbai Police have registered a case against veteran actor Mithun Chakraborty's son Mahaakshay and the former's wife Yogita Bali on a complaint of rape and cheating filed by a woman, an official said on Saturday.

The case was registered at Oshiwara police station on Thursday night based on the complaint lodged by the 38-year- old woman, he said.

"The complainant said she was in a relationship with Mahaakshay Chakraborty from 2015 to 2018 and during that period he had promised to marry her," the official said.

"The woman said that during their relationship, she had gone to see Mahaakshay's flat at Adarsh Nagar in Andheri West, which he had purchased in 2015. She said when she went there, the accused offered her a spiked soft drink and forced her to have physical relations with him," he added.

"The woman alleged that when she became pregnant, Mahaakshay asked her to abort the baby and gave her pills," he said.

"The woman said she used to ask Mahaakshay about their marriage. But in January 2018, he told her that he cannot marry her, which led to an altercation between them. She said when she called him, his mother Yogita Bali threatened her," the official said.

The complainant later went to Delhi with her brother to stay with their family friend.

There, she lodged a complaint against Mahaakshay and his mother Yogita Bali at Begumpur police station in June 2018, he added.

The police had registered an offence under section 376 (rape), 313 (causing miscarriage without woman's consent) and others, and the probe was transferred to the crime branch there.

A Delhi court later granted anticipatory bail to Mahaakshay and his mother in the case.

In March 2020, the Delhi high court had asked the woman to file her complaint in the court, where the offence had taken place. Following that, she filed a complaint at Oshiwara police station in July this year, the official said.

"Accordingly, an offence under IPC sections 376 (rape), 376 (2) (n) (repeated rape), 328 (causing hurt by means of poison), 417 (cheating), 506 (criminal intimidation) and 34 (common intention) has been registered against the accused," he said, adding that a probe is on.

Mahaakshay has featured in a few films like Haunted 3D and Loot.  -- PTI
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13:10   Jale candidate never supported Jinnah: Cong
Masqoor Ahmed Usmani, Congress candidate from Jale constituency for Bihar polls never aligned with Jinnah's ideology, said party's general secretary Randeep Singh Surjewala on Saturday.

This comes a day after Union Minister for Fisheries, Animal Husbandry and Dairy Giriraj Singh said that the grand old party and mahagathbandhan need to tell that whether they support Jinnah's ideology.

"The BJP is preparing controversy in hatred factory, to divert attention. Our Jale candidate never aligned with Jinnah's ideology. When he was an Aligarh Muslim University (AMU) student, he wrote to Prime Minister Narendra Modi for removal of Jinnah's portrait from AMU, Parliament and Bombay high court. But PM Modi never responded," Surjewala said during a press conference in Patna.

The Congress party gave the ticket to former President of Aligarh Muslim University Student's Union Dr Maskoor Ahmad Usmani as a candidate from Jale seat, Dharbhanga for the upcoming Bihar Assembly Elections 2020.

In 2019, Usmani was booked under sedition charges for raising anti-national slogans.

In 2020, Twitter suspended his official account for criticizing the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act on the arrest of Safoora Zargar and Meeran Haider.

Congress has denied the party's ticket to former Railways Minister Lalit Narayan Mishra's grandson Rishi Mishra who had contested unsuccessfully from Jale segment in Darbhanga district in the 2015 assembly polls, a year after he had grabbed the seat in a by-election.

He had lost the seat to Jibesh Kumar of the BJP.  -- ANI
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12:35   Dasara festivities begin in Mysuru amid Covid shadow
The famous 10-day long Dasara festivities commenced in the palace city of Mysuru on Saturday with religious fervour, amid the shadow of COVID-19 pandemic.

Celebrated as 'Nada Habba' (state festival), the festivities began with Dr C N Manjunath, Director of Sri Jayadeva Institute of Cardiovascular Sciences and Research, Bengaluru and Chief Minister B S Yediyurappa showering flowers on the idol of goddess Chamundeshwari, the presiding deity of Mysuru royals, atop Chamundi Hill.

Dr Manjunath, who is also the nodal officer for COVID-19 testing was chosen for Dasara inauguration, in recognition of the service of doctors and front line COVID-19 warriors.

Six coronavirus warriors were also honoured at the inaugural to recognise their service in the fight against the pandemic. With COVID-19 pandemic casting shadow, the government had decided to organise the 410th Dasara festivities in a 'simple' way, by and large restricting it to keep up with the traditions.

The 10 day event that every year showcases Karnataka's cultural heritage resplendent with folk art forms, and attracts large crowds and tourists, has been scaled down this time due to COVID-19.

The Mysuru administration has restricted people at most of the events and has arranged for live telecasts. With Mysuru having a large number of cases, the focus is on strict enforcement of SOPs for controlling the spread of virus and to mark safe Dasara.

'Jumbo Sawari' or procession of well decorated elephants carrying the idol of Goddess Chamundeshwari placed in a golden Howdah on Vijayadashmi or the 10th day of the festival, which marks the culmination of celebrations on October 26, has been restricted to the palace premises.

At the palace too, the royal family has decided to hold the celebrations in the simple way with select gathering, due to COVID pandemic.

The Navaratri celebrations at the palace include several rituals, most remarkably Yaduveer Krishnadatta Chamaraja Wadiyar, the scion of Mysuru royal family, dressed in grand attire, conducting Khasagi durbar (private durbar) by ascending the golden throne, amid chanting Vedic hymns.

The royal palace and several parts of Mysuru city will be illuminated with thousands of bulbs glowing during the evenings, all through the festival.

Dasara was celebrated by the rulers of the Vijayanagar empire and the tradition was inherited by the Wadiyars.

Festivities were first started in Mysuru by the Wadiyar King, Raja Wadiyar I in the year 1610.

However, with the abolition of the institution of the kings and the announcement of privy purse, the state government took over the mantle of celebrating Dasara. -- PTI
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11:55   Cong vows to scrap farm laws if elected in Bihar
If elected to power after the Bihar Assembly polls under the leadership of Tejashwi Yadav, the government will pass a Bill in the first Vidhan Sabha session to scrap the three 'anti-farm laws', said Congress general secretary Randeep Singh Surjewala on Saturday.

"If we form the government, under the leadership of Tejashwi Yadav, we will pass a Bill in the first Vidhan Sabha session to scrap the three anti-farm laws. Can PM Modi and Nitish tell us that if all mandis are destroyed then how the farmers will get MSP?" Surjewala said while launching Mahagathbandhan's manifesto for Bihar polls.

The three laws recently enacted by the central government are 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.

Surjewala, chairman of the party's election management and coordination committee for the three-phase Bihar assembly polls termed the polls as the election of condition versus plight.

"This election is the election of the new path and the new sky versus the Hindu-Muslim, this election is the election of new-age versus the experience of failure, this election is the election of self-reliance and progress versus division and hate. This election is the election of a new direction versus destruction," he said.

Rashtriya Janata Dal leader Tejashwi Yadav, Congress leader Shaktisinh Gohil and other leaders were also present during the manifesto launch event.

Promising to provide 10 lakh jobs as soon as the grand alliance is elected to power, Tejashwi said adding that his government will bear the travel expenses of the candidates going to the exam centre.

As per the manifesto of the Mahagathbandhan-- Jobs will be given to 10 lakh youth in the first cabinet meeting, expense of candidate appearing for government examination will be borne by the government, infrastructure will be made world-class, a Bill will be brought in Bihar in the first Vidhan Sabha session to scrap the three 'anti-farm laws'.

'Karpoori Sahayata Shram Kendra' will be set up across the state to help people in need.

Focussing on the education sector, 12 per cent state budget will be spent on education and there will be one teacher on every 30 students in Primary schools and one teacher on 35 students in secondary school.

Appointment of art, computer and sports teacher for every school. Under 'Smart Gram Yojana', a clinic with a doctor and nurse will be established in every panchayat, the manifesto said.

The Congress, the Communist Party of India, and the Communist Party of India-Marxist are part of the grand alliance under the leadership of the RJD.

Bihar with 243 assembly seats will go to polls in three phases: October 28, November 3 and November 7.

The results will be declared on November 10. -- ANI

IMAGE: RJD leader Tejashwi Yadav, Congress leader Randeep Singh Surjewala and Shaktisinh Gohil release the grand alliance's manifesto for the upcoming Bihar Elections. Photograph: ANI
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10:55   Delhi records 'poor' air quality
The national capital's air quality was recorded in the 'poor' category on Saturday morning but is likely to improve slightly due to favourable wind speed, according to government agencies.
 
The air pollution level in Delhi had hit an eight-month high on Thursday but reduced slightly on Friday with favourable wind speed helping in dispersion of pollutants, even as the contribution of stubble burning to Delhi's PM2.5 concentration rose to 18 per cent.     
 
The city recorded an air quality index of 263 at 10 am. 

The 24-hour average AQI was 239 on Friday and 315 on Thursday, the worst since February 12 (AQI 320).     

An AQI between 0 and 50 is considered 'good', 51 and 100 'satisfactory', 101 and 200 'moderate', 201 and 300 'poor', 301 and 400 'very poor', and 401 and 500 'severe'.     

A senior scientist at the India Meteorological Department (IMD) said the maximum wind speed was 10 kilometers per hour on Friday. It is likely to be 12 kmph on Saturday.     
 
Calm winds and cold temperatures are unfavourable for dispersion of pollutants.
 
The wind direction is expected to be north-north westerly on Saturday, which is likely to increase the impact of stubble burning on Delhi's air quality.     
However, the Ministry of Earth Sciences' Air Quality Early Warning System for Delhi said the ventilation index a product of mixing depth and average wind speed -- is likely to be 9,500 metre square per second on Saturday -- favourable for dispersion of pollutants.
 
Mixing depth is the vertical height in which pollutants are suspended in the air. It reduces on cold days with calm wind speed.
 
A ventilation index lower than 6,000 sqm/second, with average wind speed less than 10 kmph, is unfavourable for dispersal of pollutants.
 
According to the System of Air Quality and Weather Forecasting and Research (SAFAR), the contribution of farm fires to Delhi's PM2.5 concentration rose from around 6 per cent on Thursday to 18 percent on Friday.
 
It was only around one per cent on Wednesday and around 3 per cent on Tuesday, Monday and Sunday. Air quality is expected to improve further to the lower end of the poor category by Sunday, SAFAR said.
 
The Central Pollution Control Board had on Friday said meteorological conditions in Delhi have been "extremely unfavourable" for dispersion of pollutants since September as compared to last year.  
 
PM10 concentration between September 1 and October 14 this year has been more as compared to the corresponding period last year, CPCB Member Secretary Prashant Gargava.  
 
The average ventilation index has been 1,334 metre square per second in September and October this year as compared to 1,850 metre square per second during the corresponding period last year, the official said.  -- PTI
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10:45   Mamata's Durga Puja bonanza for techies
West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on Friday announced that employees of State-run Webel Ltd and techies of agencies engaged will now be treated as contractual staffers of the state government, terming it a 'Durga Puja gift'. 

The chief minister said that they will get several benefits with this announcement, including job certainty till the age of 60. 

"Bengal is known for its e-governance & today I'm pleased to announce my Pujo gift for young IT personnel working to improve our e-services for the people of Bengal. Webel/WTL/agency-engaged IT staff in state govt shall now be directly engaged as contractual staff of GoWB," she tweeted. 

"They will also get 30 days leave & 10 days medical leave annually along with usual maternity leaves for women. They'll have tenure certainty till 60 years age & get Rs 3 L on attaining 60 years as terminal benefit. Further, Swasthya Sathi will cover their medical expenses," Banerjee added.
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10:27   WR to run 12 pairs of special trains during upcoming festival
The Western Railway has said that 156 trips of 12 special trains would be operated on various routes during the forthcoming Dussehra and Diwali festivals to clear the extra rush of passengers.
Of these 12 pairs of special trains, five pairs will run from Bandra Terminus, two pairs each from Indore and Udhna and one pair each from Okha, Porbandar and Gandhidham stations, the WR said in a release on Friday.
"All the trains will run as special trains on special fare," it said.
They will be run as fully reserved trains.
Booking for these trains will start between October 17 and 22 onwards, the WR said. -- PTI  
Schools reopened in Patiala
Schools reopened in Patiala
10:08   India reports 62,212 new COVID-19 cases
India's COVID-19 caseload rises to 74,32,680 with 62,212 new cases, the Union health ministry data showed.

With 837 fatalities in the last 24 hours, India's death toll pushes to 1,12,998.

Currently there are 7,95,087 active cases while 65,24,595 people have recovered from the disease so far.
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09:29   Sabarimala reopens for devotees after 6 months
The famed Lord Ayyappa temple in Sabarimala opened to devotees on Saturday morning after remaining closed for over six months due to the coronavirus pandemic, with a few worshippers wearing masks and carrying COVID-19 negative certificate offering prayers.
   
The temple, which opened for the monthly puja on Friday evening, will allow pilgrims to offer prayers till October 21.
Rapid antigen tests are being conducted at Nilackal for those not carrying a negative test report for COVID-19.
 
This is the first time since March 25, when a nationwide lockdown came into force, that pilgrims are being allowed to offer prayers at the hill shrine, which opened at 5 am, sources in the Travancore Devaswom Board, which manages the temple, said.
 
As many as 246 people have booked through the virtual queue system for darshan on Saturday. Each day only 250 people will be allowed inside the temple.
 
The usual rush of devotees was missing this time.
 
Though the temple opened on Friday evening for the monthly puja, entry of devotees was allowed only from Saturday, the first day of 'Thulam' (malayalam month).
 
Only those between 10-60 years, having a medical certificate stating that they were fit to trek the holy hill, are being allowed to offer prayers.
 
Due to the pandemic, the pilgrims will not be allowed to stay at Sannidhanam, Nilackkal or Pamba. -- PTI  
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09:10   Obama to campaign for Biden and Kamala Harris
Former United States president Barack Obama will campaign for Democratic party presidential candidate Joe Biden in Pennsylvania next week, the Biden campaign has said.
President Donald Trump, however, told his supporters here that Obama was an "ineffective" campaigner and this was good news for him as in 2016 "they did a lousy job and that's why I'm your president".
Biden, 77, was the vice president during Obama's two terms. While Obama has endorsed Biden and his running mate and India-origin Senator Kamala Harris by making online campaigns for them, this would be the first time that the 59-year-old former president would be campaigning in person.
Four years after he left the presidency, Obama because of his oratory skills, still remains the biggest crowd puller for the opposition Democratic party.
"On Wednesday, October 21, (former) president Obama will travel to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, to campaign on behalf of Joe Biden and Kamala Harris," the Biden campaign said in a statement on Friday afternoon.
No other details were immediately available.
 
Biden, as per the latest opinion polls, leads against Republican incumbent President Donald Trump by over nine points on an average.
 
However, there are signs that the polls are tightening, especially after Trump resumed his rallies after recovering from COVID-19.

 He has been attracting thousands of supporters to his election rallies in the battleground states.
Presdient Trump said, "Well he campaigned harder than Hillary last time, so why do we care? The other thing he refused to endorse Joe. He knows what's going on up here with Joe. Obama refused to endorse him and even after Joe had won he didn't want to and then finally like a long time later he finally came out and endorsed him." 
"But they called me they said, you know, Obama is going to start campaigning? I said, is that good or bad? I think it's a good thing because you know, they did a lousy job and I wouldn't be president of the United States if they did a good job. I probably wouldn't have run and if I did I probably wouldn't have won. It's one of those things. They did a lousy job and that's why I'm your president," he said.
Obama is the only Democratic leader who can attract a big crowd in his election rallies. 

His jumping into the campaign, with a little over a fortnight left for the presidential elections, is likely to motivate and encourage Black Americans and fence sitters to come out and vote, Biden strategists believe.
A day earlier, the Democratic National Committee released a new ad featuring Obama -- The 2020 Election Is Already Here.  
It highlights the stakes of this election, the importance of Americans voting now to make their voices heard and how they can find all the information they need to make their plan to vote. -- PTI
A devotee offers prayers at Mumbadevi Temple
A devotee offers prayers at Mumbadevi Temple
09:07   PM Modi greets people as Navratri begins
Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Saturday extended his greetings to people on the beginning of Navratri and wished them happiness, peace and prosperity.
   
With the blessings of the goddess, may our planet be safe, healthy and prosperous, he said in a tweet.
 
"Pranams to Maa Shailputri on Day 1 of Navratri. With her blessings, may our planet be safe, healthy and prosperous. May her blessings give us strength to bring a positive change in the lives of the poor and downtrodden," the prime minister said. -- PTI 
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08:56   7 dead, over 30 injured as bus, car collide in UP
Seven people lost their lives and over 30 were injured as a bus and a car collided in the Puranpur area, according to Superintendent of Police (SP) Jai Prakash on Saturday.

"The bus was coming to Pilibhit from Lucknow, and the pickup was coming from Puraipur. The accident happened at the borders of Puranpur. The bus overturned in the fields as a result of which several people in the bus got crushed. Some occupants of the pickup also received injuries in the accident," SP Jai Prakash told reporters here.

The injured were rescued and taken to a nearby hospital following which some of them were referred to the district hospital after receiving primary treatment.

The police officials also said that most of the victims belonged to Pilibhit.

Further details are awaited. -- ANI
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08:19   COVID-19 an 'artificial horrible situation': Trump
United States President Donald Trump out at China for sending 'the plague' (COVID-19) adding that the United States would "never forget" what "they" did to the country.

"What's happening to China, nobody has ever seen that..nobody ever thought that it was possible. We have done so much better than them until they sent us the plague. We are coming back from the plague and we could have lost 2.2 million people or more (due to COVID-19), we lost over 200,000 people. We shouldn't have lost a person. What they have done to us, we shall never forget," Trump said at a rally.

Trump later said that the US had the 'greatest economy ever' before the COVID-19 outbreak hit the country further. 

He also termed the virus "as an artificial horrible situation".

"We were coming together--the thing that was going to bring our country together was a success, it was happening until that artificial and horrible situation came in, it was happening like never before," Trump added.

Trump, like in all of his rallies, attacked his democratic counterpart Joe Biden for supporting China's entry into the World Trade Organization calling it "the single worst deal we have ever made." "China was flatlining--until that happened and then they became a rocket ship. They are considered a developing nation and I said if they are a developing nation, we are too," he added. -- ANI
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00:11   Belgium to close cafes & restaurants for 4 weeks
Belgium will close all cafes and restaurants for four weeks on Monday as it seeks to tackle a sharp rise in coronavirus cases.

The move was announced by deputy prime minister Georges Gilkinet following a meeting of the Belgian governments crisis unit.

The Brussels city region already imposed similar restrictions last week but Fridays announcement extends them nationwide.

Gilkinet said the decision to close cafes and restaurants - deemed high-risk venues for spreading the virus - was taken to try to head off another full lockdown like the one Belgium enforced earlier in the year.

He warned the situation is serious from a health point of view, and we must prevent our healthcare system from becoming saturated.

Our hospitals are clogged, he added.

The figures are as high as they were in March when we decided on a lockdown, thats what we absolutely want to avoid.

Belgium has recorded 191,959 covid cases and 10,327 deaths as of Friday.

As a result of a surge in infections in September, the rate of hospitalisations has accelerated in recent days, particularly in Brussels and Belgiums French-speaking southern provinces.