Thu, 29 October 2020
Italy hits new record in daily Covid-19 cases

Timeline  Refresh

23:41   Italy hits new record in daily Covid-19 cases
Italy on Thursday registered a record of 26,831 new Covid-19 infections in the last 24 hours, its highest daily increase in coronavirus cases since the beginning of the pandemic. 

Over the past day, 217 people have died of coronavirus, bringing Italys total number of deaths to 38,122. The new increase brings the total number of confirmed cases to 616,595.

Premier Giuseppe Conte called for national unity on Thursday as he presented the governments latest restrictions to halt the spread of Covid-19. The new restrictions mean Italys bars and restaurants must stop serving customers at 6pm while cinemas, theatres, swimming pools and gyms must close completely.

Conte described the upswing in contagion as sly and sudden.

"Allow me to say that this is truly the time to remain united.
23:21   India's average daily Covid tests in past 6 weeks at about 11 lakh
The Union health ministry on Thursday said nearly 11 lakh coronavirus tests have been conducted daily on an average in the last six weeks as the total tests crossed 10.65 crore adding that 15 lakh tests can now be done per day.

"With 10,75,760 tests conducted in the last 24 hours, the cumulative tests have crossed 10.65 crores (10,65,63,440). Nearly 11 lakh tests have been conducted daily on an average during the past six weeks," the ministry stated.

It said that India continues to maintain the declining trend of active cases with a surge in the number of recovered cases.

"Active cases stand at 6,03,687 today. It comprises only 7.51 per cent of the total positive cases of the country. The declining trend of active cases is supported by rising number of recovered cases. The total recovered cases have crossed 73 lakh (73,15,989)," it said.

"The gap between recovered cases and active cases has crossed 67 lakh (67,12,302)," it added.

While giving a break-up of states and Union Territories, it said 79 per cent of the new recovered cases are being added from ten states and UTs.

"79 per cent of the new recovered cases are observed to be concentrated in 10 States/UTs. Kerala and Maharashtra continue to report the highest number of recovered cases which are over 8,000 and 7,000 respectively," it said.

-- ANI
23:04   UN chief condemns heinous' knife attack in Nice
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres strongly condemns the knife attack at a church in the French city of Nice that killed three people, UN spokesperson Stephane Dujarric said in a press briefing on Thursday.

Earlier in the day, an attacker beheaded two of the victims and later was detained by the police. A probe, which considers a terrorism motive, was launched.

"The Secretary-General strongly condemns the heinous attack today, October 29, at the Notre Dame basilica in Nice, in which a number of people were killed," Dujarric said.

Guterres extended his condolences to the families of the victims and reaffirmed solidarity of the United Nations with the French government, the spokesman added.

The attack in Nice was followed by a knife-stabbing attempt in France's southeastern city of Avignon and another one at the French Consulate in Saudi Arabia.

-- ANI
22:47   Schools, colleges to open in Andhra from Nov 2
Schools and colleges will be opened in Andhra Pradesh from November 2 and classes will be conducted on alternate days, a government official said on Thursday.

According to a press statement from Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister's Office, all measures are being taken to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Chief Secretary of Andhra Pradesh Government Nilam Sawhney has explained the schedule of re-opening of the classes.

Classes for 9th, 10th, Intermediate First Year (11th) and Intermediate Second Year (12th) will be held for half-day only.

All colleges for higher education will be conducted in rotation method. Classes for 6th, 7th and 8th standards will start from November 23. Classes will be held for half-day only.

The classes for 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th and 5th standards will start from December 14. Classes will be held for half-day only, and on alternate days only. This schedule is applicable for all government and private educational institutes, as per the press statement.

-- ANI
22:21   PM Modi on 2-day Gujarat trip from Oct 30
Prime Minister Narendra Modi will arrive in Gujarat on Friday morning on a two-day visit during which he is scheduled to launch a host of projects, including the famed seaplane service between Kevadiya and Ahmedabad, said an official on Thursday.

In a slight change in the original schedule, Modi is expected to visit the grieving family of former Gujarat Chief Minister Keshubhai Patel in Gandhinagar after his arrival at the Ahmedabad airport.

The 92-year-old BJP stalwart died on Thursday morning due to prolonged illness.

The PM will then leave for Kevadiya in Narmada district.

This will be Modi's first visit to his home state since the coronavirus outbreak in Gujarat in March-end.

According to the official, Modi would take a helicopter ride from the Ahmedabad airport to reach Kevadiya.

During his trip, Modi would also pay tributes to Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel at the 'Statue of Unity' near Kevadiya on the occasion of birth anniversary of the first home minister of independent India on October 31, said the official.

-- PTI
22:09   1,120 new coronavirus cases in Mumbai, 33 deaths
The tally of COVID-19 cases in  Mumbai increased to 2,55,362 on Thursday with 1,120 new cases, the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation  said.

The death toll in the city reached 10,186 with 33 fresh fatalities being reported, it said.
The civic body said the city has 18,367 active COVID-19 patients.
1,824 patients were discharged from hospitals in the last 24 hours, which took the number of recovered patients to 2,26,041, about 88 per cent of the total caseload.
The number of COVID-19 tests carried out in the city has crossed 14.98 lakh.

Mumbai's average doubling rate of COVID-19 cases has reached 149 days, while the average growth rate of cases has gone down to 0.46 per cent.
7,250 buildings in the city are sealed, while there are 606 containment zones in slums and chawls.
-- PTI
22:06   3 BJP leaders shot dead by terrorists in J-K
Kulgam BJP Yuva Morcha General Secretary Fida Hussain, Umar Rashid and Umar Ramzan were shot dead by terrorists on Thursday. 

Recently, several leaders associated with the ruling party have been attacked in the Valley. 

In July, BJP leader Sheikh Waseem Bari and two members of his family were killed after terrorists opened fire at them in Jammu and Kashmir's Bandipora district. Bari was earlier the district president of the party.
21:19   Over 2 mn returned under 'Vande Bharat': MEA
Over two million Indians have returned from abroad after the government launched the 'Vande Bharat' evacuation mission on May 7 in view of the coronavirus pandemic, the Ministry of External Affairs said on Thursday.
Ministry of External Affairs spokesperson Anurag Srivastava said under phase seven of the mission, operational since October 1, as many as 1,057 international flights would have been operated by the end of this month, from 24 nations, reaching 22 airports across India and repatriating an estimated 1,95,000 people. 

"We have started our internal preparations for the next phase," he said at an online briefing.

As on Thursday, 20.55 lakh Indians have been repatriated through different modes of the Vande Bharat Mission viz. Air India, private and foreign carriers, chartered flights, naval ships and land border crossings, he said. 

These flights under the current phase include those from among the 18 countries with which India has a bilateral 'air bubble' arrangement in place, he said, adding the 'air bubble' arrangement has been working satisfactorily adding to the capacity. 

About the air bubble arrangement with Bangladesh, he said it was agreed during the joint consultative commission held between the foreign ministers of both countries on September 29, that air bubble flights will be initiated to meet the requirement of travellers of the two sides.

The bilateral air bubble has been operationalised from Wednesday. Two flights of the US-Bangla airline flying Dhaka-Kolkata and Dhaka-Chennai sectors were operated on October 28, he said.

The inaugural flight was flagged off jointly by the High Commissioner and Chairman, Civil Aviation Authority of Bangladesh and CEO of US-Bangla Airlines, he said. 

"This air bubble has been operationalised to cater to the travel needs of nationals on both the sides, particularly catering to the urgent medical requirements of Bangladesh nationals visiting India for treatment," Srivastava said.
"All visas, except the tourist ones, are being issued by the High Commission of India in Dhaka and our four Assistant High Commissions in Bangladesh. In the next few days, major Indian and Bangladesh airlines will commence flight operations between the two countries," he said. 

-- PTI
20:41   Delhi records highest single-day covid cases at 5,673
The coronavirus graph in Delhi has remained on a relentless climb, registering a new high of 5,739 fresh cases over the last 24 hours. This was the second consecutive day when the national capital logged more than 5,000 new patients of the highly infectious disease.

Yesterday, the city recorded its 5,673 cases, breaching the 5,000-barrier for the first time since the outbreak reached Delhi.

For two days before that, the national capital has been logging over 4,000 cases a day.
20:12   Do you want us to leave politics: Omar to Centre
Former J&K Chief Minister and National Conference leader Omar Abdullah lashed out at the central government, asking if it wants political parties in the state to leave mainstream politics in Kashmir.

"What do you want from us? Do you want us to leave mainstream politics here?" Omar Abdullah asked while reacting to the government's action of stopping Peoples Democratic Party workers from carrying out a protest against the recent changes in land laws in the state.

Omar Abdullah said PDP workers were allowed to carry out a peaceful protest in Jammu but were bundled into vehicles and detained when they tried to do the same in Srinagar.

Speaking about the recent changes in the laws governing land ownership in J&K, Omar Abdullah said their fight was now for the identity and land of J&K.

"These special laws and status was given to J&K at the time of Maharaja Hari Singh," Omar Abdullah said, and pointed out that leaders in Nagaland have refused similar laws.

He said now every mainstream party in J&K was on the same page. "We have been forced to get together and fight for the rights. We are not counting seats anymore. This fight is not about power or chief ministership. It would be shameful if we go after power. People will never forgive us if we do something like that. I wish this coming together of parties happened earlier. There are so many states where people from other parts of the country cannot buy land. If we are talking against this law, we are being called 'anti-nationals'," Omar Abdullah said.

On Tuesday, the central government cleared the decks for people from across the country to buy land in Jammu and Kashmir by amending several laws, a move which mainstream political parties in the Union Territory said was akin to putting the erstwhile state up "for sale".
20:03   800 will be made: Muralitharan
The last word is yet to be said on 800, the Muttiah Muralitharan biopic that had run into rough weather in Tamil Nadu over the casting of actor Vijay Sethupathi over fears that it may serve as a propaganda vehicle for the Sri Lankan cause (read, anti-Tamil).  

With the world record holder for number of Test wickets (800, obviously) requesting the actor to pull out following threats on social media, the project seemed to have gone into limbo, but the cricket legend believes otherwise.  

'It will be made. The film's not just for Tamil Nadu. The producers are from Mumbai, they want it in all languages, in Tamil, Sinhala, Hindi, Bengali, Telugu, Malayalam and with English subtitles,' Muralitharan tells the BBC's Nalini Srinivasan from Dubai, here

And while on the subject, do also read N Sathiya Moorthy's analysis of why Tamil Nadu erupted in protest over the biopic, here.
19:58   Accounts of the govt of India
An easy guide to India's expenses and receipts. 
19:57   PM Modi condemns Nice knife attack
Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Thursday condemned the attacks in France, including one in Nice where three people were killed inside a church. 

A man armed with a knife attacked two women and a man at the Notre Dame Basilica in the southern city of Nice on Thursday morning before he was shot by police.

I strongly condemn the recent terrorist attacks in France, including todays heinous attack in Nice inside a church. Our deepest and heartfelt condolences to the families of the victims and the people of France. India stands with France in the fight against terrorism, PM Modi tweeted.

19:29   'World knows Pak's role in supporting terror'
The whole world knows about Pakistan's role in supporting terrorism and no amount of denial can hide this truth, India said on Thursday in sharp reaction to Islamabad's objection to references to it and cross-border terrorism in the Indo-US joint statement after their 2+2 dialogue.
External Affairs Ministry Spokesperson Anurag Srivastava said the country that provides shelter to "maximum number of UN-proscribed terrorists" should not even attempt to play the victim card.

"The whole world knows truth about Pakistan's role in supporting terrorism," he said at a media briefing while answering questions on Islamabad's reaction to the Indo-US joint statement.

"Even their leaders have time and again spoken about their role with regard to terrorism," Srivastava said.

In the joint statement, India and the US on Tuesday strongly condemned cross-border terrorism in all its forms and asked Pakistan to take "immediate, sustained and irreversible" action to ensure that no territory under its control is used for launching terror attacks.

In its reaction, Pakistan on Wednesday called it "unwarranted" the reference made towards it.

"We reject the Pakistan-specific reference in the joint statement', issued by India and the US after their 2+2 ministerial dialogue," the Pakistan Foreign Office had said in its reaction.

-- PTI
19:26   Govt bans export of onion seeds
The government on Thursday banned exports of onion seeds with immediate effect amidst rising prices of the bulb in the domestic markets. 

Earlier, the export of onion seeds was in the restricted category, which means an exporter was required to obtain a licence or permission from the government for shipments. 

"The export of onion seeds is prohibited, with immediate effect," the Directorate General of Foreign Trade said in a notification. It added that the provisions under transitional arrangement shall not be applicable.

-- PTI
19:16   Nusrat Jahan in trouble for Durga pandal visit
Trinamool Congress MP Nusrat Jahan has been accused of contempt of court. The actor-turned-politician has been pulled up for her recent visit to a Durga Puja pandal despite a Calcutta high court ban on entry into pandals owing to the pandemic this year.

Appearing on behalf of a petitioner who recently sought restrictions during Durga Puja to prevent a surge in coronavirus cases, advocate Sabyasachi Chatterjee said the matter will soon be brought before a vacation bench of the court.

In a landmark order earlier this month, the Calcutta HC had prohibited entry of general public into Durga Puja pandals across West Bengal while hearing the plea.

"It was astonishing that people's representatives like Nusrat Jahan and Mahua Moitra entered pandals despite the court prohibiting it by declaring pandals as no-entry zones. MPs, lawmakers entering pandals in complete violation of the High Court judgment is a clear contempt of the court," Chatterjee told India Today.

"It is also contempt of the particular position they are holding. She has misused her position as an MP to enter the pandal. Notices have been dispatched...Nusrat Jahan and Srijit Mukherji should receive it by tomorrow," Chatterjee added.

Lok Sabha MP Nusrat Jahan and her businessman husband Nikhil Jain were photographed at the prominent Sangha pandal in south Kolkata on October 24. They were accompanied by filmmaker Srijit Mukherjee and his wife, Bangladeshi actor Rafiath Rashid Mithila.

According to Chatterjee, the public was restrained from entering pandals throughout the puja days when some celebrities were seen flouting the rules in place to curb the spread of Covid-19.
18:39   Akshay Kumar starring Laxmmi Bomb is now 'Laxmii'
Prior to the release, the makers have renamed Akshay Kumar starring 'Laxmmi Bomb' to 'Laxmii' on Thursday.

Amid the backlash on the title, film critic and movie trade analyst Taran Adarsh confirmed that the title has been changed to 'Laxmii'.

"NEW DEVELOPMENT... #LaxmmiBomb title changed... New title: #Laxmii... Premieres 9 Nov 2020 on #DisneyPlusHotstarVIP... Stars #AkshayKumar and #KiaraAdvani, " tweeted Adarsh.

Film director Raghava Lawrence had said, "I considered going the same way for the Hindi remake but we collectively decided that the name must appeal to the Hindi audience as well and what better than Laxmmi."

"By god's grace, it was turning out to be a cracker of a film, so we named it 'Laxmmi Bomb'. Like a dhamaka of Laxmmi Bomb cannot be missed, the transgender lead character is powerful and radiant. Hence the name fits perfectly," he added.

The movie is set to premiere on November 9, 2020, on DisneyPlus Hotstar. 

-- ANI
18:08   Court orders probe against Kangana, Rangoli
A court in Mumbai on Thursday asked the police to initiate an inquiry against actor Kangana Ranaut and her sisterRangoli Chandel for allegedly posting "hateful" and "derogatory" statements against a particular community on social media.

Metropolitan magistrate Bhagawat T Zirape ordered the inquiry, saying that it was necessary in deciding the role of the accused. The court also asked the police station concerned to submit the inquiry report by December 5.

Advocate Ali Kashif Khan Deshmukh had approached the court saying that no action was taken by Amboli police, where he had lodged the complaint against the sisters. As per the complaint, Chandel had posted a hate speech on Twitter in April targeting a particular community, following which her account on the micro-blogging site was suspended.

The "Queen" actress had later posted a video in support of her sister over her controversial tweets. In the video that was released on various social media platforms, she called a sect of that community as terrorist, the complaint said. This way, both the accused posted hateful and derogatory statements against the community, it said. 

The metropolitan magistrate, after verification of the complaint, said that the evidence against the accused was electronic in nature and police inquiry was necessary for proceeding against the accused. Recently, the Bandra Police had registered a First Information Report (FIR) against Ranaut and her sister after a local court ordered them to investigate a complaint filed by a Bollywood casting director and fitness trainer, who accused them of promoting enmity between communities through their remarks. -- PTI 

18:07   Mask-less? Sweep roads if you won't pay fine in Mumbai
Next time if you are caught without a face mask in public in Mumbai, get ready to sweep roads as part of community service if you fail to pay fine to the city civic body. The Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation is making violators do community service in the form of sweeping roads if they are reluctant to pay Rs 200 as fine for not wearing masks in public places, according to civic officials. 

In view of the coronavirus pandemic, authorities have made wearing of face masks mandatory in public to curb the spread of the infection. The K-West civic ward, which includes areas like Andheri West, Juhu and Varsova, has already made several violators sweep roads for an hour to deter people from roaming around without a mask. 

Vishwas Mote, assistant municipal commissioner (K-West ward), told PTI on Thursday that since the past seven days they have made people do community service in the form of sweeping roads if they unnecessarily argue with officials or refuse to pay fine for not wearing a mask.
17:44   Maharashtra extends lockdown till Nov 30
Maharashtra Government extends lockdown till 30th November. All activities permitted under Mission 'Begin Again' will continue.
Bigg Boss contestant Jaan Kumar Sanu had to apologise for his remarks
Bigg Boss contestant Jaan Kumar Sanu had to apologise for his remarks
17:30   Is Maharashtra a dharamshala, asks angry Sena
Reacting to an alleged controversial remark on Marathi language by a contestant on a popular reality TV show, Shiv Sena leader Arvind Sawant on Thursday asked whether Maharashtra is a guest house (Dharamshala) where anyone can come and say anything.

"Our Constitution has given permission to everyone to use their mother tongue. It does not differentiate on the basis of language. The state language of Maharashtra is Marathi and will Maharashtra tolerate an insult to that Marathi? Is Maharashtra a dharamshala," he questioned.

The controversy arose when a contestant on a reality TV show on a certain channel asked another contestant to refrain from speaking in Marathi. The Shiv Sena has demanded an apology from the channel, which the network issued. -- ANI
17:29   Pak minister claims Pulwama attack: Ghus ke maara
Pakistan was responsible for the terrorist attack in Jammu and Kashmir's Pulwama last year in which 30 Indian CRPF jawans were killed, a Pakistani minister has told the country's legislature, in a damning admission of the country's role in sponsoring cross-border terrorism.

"Humne Hindustan ko ghus ke maara (We hit India in their home). Our success in Pulwama, is a success of the people under the leadership of Imran Khan. You and us are all part of that success," Fawad Chaudhury, a minister said in the national assembly.
16:43   Dharavi slums report 14 new Covid cases
The Covid-19 tally in Mumbai's slum colony of Dharavi increased to 3,536 with the addition of 14 new cases on Thursday, according to a senior BMC official. He said 3,088 Covid-19 patients in Dharavi have already recovered and discharged from hospitals. The official said the slum-dominated area has only 139 active coronavirus cases at present. The civic body has stopped sharing death figures from the densely populated locality. Spread across 2.5 square kilometres, Dharavi has a population of more than 6.5 lakh. -- PTI
NCP leader Dilip Walse-Patil (extreme left)
NCP leader Dilip Walse-Patil (extreme left)
16:33   Maha minister Dilip Walse-Patil tests Covid positive
Maharashtra minister and NCP leader Dilip Walse-Patil on Thursday said he has tested positive for coronavirus and is undergoing treatment for the infection. Over a dozen state ministers, including Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar, have tested positive for the disease over the past few months. Taking to Twitter, the minister of excise and labour department said he had undergone a COVID-19 test and the reports have come out positive. 

Walse-Patil informed that his health is fine and as a precautionary measure on the advice of doctors, he is undergoing treatment. The minister also urged people who had come in contact with him to get themselves tested as a precaution.

Earlier, ministers Jitendra Awhad (housing), Ashok Chavan (public works department), Dhananjay Munde (social justice), Varsha Gaikwad (school education), Eknath Shinde (urban development) and Nitin Raut (energy) and eight other ministers had contracted the infection. PTI 
16:25   Marshall Islands records first Covid-19 cases
The Marshall Islands authorities have recorded two cases of the coronavirus infection in the country at the US military base on Kwajalein Atoll, for the first time since the beginning of the pandemic, the Office of the Chief Secretary said.

"The Marshall Islands first border cases of novel coronavirus (COVID-19) have been identified on the military base on Kwajalein Atoll," a press release published on Facebook on Wednesday said.The statement that the two infected individuals arrived from Honolulu on October 27 on the same flight, their tests for coronavirus were positive while both people remained in a mandatory quarantine.

The Marshall Islands authorities said there was no internal transmission of the coronavirus and there was no need to impose new restrictions.

Up until this incident, the Republic of the Marshall Islands had been one of the few nations in the world where no cases of COVID-19 were recorded. Only a few island states such as Samoa, Tonga and Nauru are free of coronavirus so far. -- ANI
16:23   Two dead in knife attack near church in Nice, France
French police say two people have been killed and several others injured in a knife attack near a church in the Mediterranean city of Nice. The assailant was arrested after the Thursday morning attack and taken to a nearby hospital after being injured during his arrest, a police offical said. He was believed to be acting alone, the official said. She was not authorized to be publicly named. The reason for the attack is unclear. It comes as France is under high alert for terrorist attacks. The lower house of parliament suspended a debate on new virus restrictions and held a moment of silence for the victims. 
16:18   Sushant's friend seeks CBI probe in Disha's death
Late Bollywood actor Sushant Singh Rajput's friend and gym partner Sunil Shukla on Thursday approached the Bombay High Court, seeking a CBI probe into the the actor's former manager Disha Salian, who died in "suspicious circumstances". Salian, 28, died on June 8 after falling off the 14th floor of a residential building in suburban Malad.

Six days later, on June 14, 34-year-old Rajput was found hanging in his Bandra home.

In the petition, Shukla claimed that both Salian and Rajput died in "suspicious circumstances" and that the Mumbai police has not considered several aspects while probing Salian's death.

"The petitioner (Shukla) has documentary evidence to prove that Disha Salian and Sushant Singh Rajput were in touch from March to April 2020," the petition said. It added that the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) is already probing the death of Rajput and hence even Salian's death case should be handed over to the central probe agency. -- PTI
15:49   Govt makes packaging of food grains in jute bags mandatory
In order to help the jute industry, the government on Thursday decided that 100 per cent food grains and 20 per cent sugar will be mandatorily packaged in jute bags. A decision to extend the norms for mandatory packaging in jute materials was taken by the Union Cabinet, Information and Broadcasting Minister Prakash Javadekar said while briefing reporters about the meeting. The decision, he said, will benefit about 4 lakh workers engaged in the jute sector along with thousands of farmers. Jute is primarily grown in West Bengal, Odisha, Assam, Meghalaya, Tripura and Andhra Pradesh. PTI 
15:40   Govt suspends Madhya Pradesh wife-beater cop
The Union Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) has upheld the suspension of senior Madhya Pradesh IPS officer Purushottam Sharma, who was seen purportedly thrashing his wife in a video that went viral last month. In a letter issued to the Madhya Pradesh chief secretary on Wednesday, the MHA also directed the state government to chargesheet Sharma by November 27. 

The state government had suspended Sharma from the post of special director general on September 29 following his viral video, in which he was seen beating his wife after she confronted him at the house of a news anchor with a regional channel.

When asked about the Centre's letter to the state government, Sharma said, "This is a procedure. I am going to file my reply and move the court." After the incident came to light, Sharma had said that it was a family dispute which would be sorted out. He had written to the state government that his suspension be revoked. However, his plea was not entertained. He had also moved the Central Administrative Tribunal (CAT), which upheld his suspension saying that it was a move necessary for fair inquiry. Sharma said that his plea was still pending with the CAT. -- PTI
15:12   India conducts 1 cr Covid tests in last 9 days
The Union Health Ministry on Thursday informed that the country has conducted about one crore tests to diagnose coronavirus in the last nine days. The government mentioned that on average, nearly 11 lakh Covid-19 tests were being performed every day for the past six weeks.

"India has demonstrated a consistent rise in the COVID-19 testing infrastructure since Jan 2020. With 10,75,760 covid tests conducted in the last 24 hours, the cumulative tests have crossed 10.65 crores (10,65,63,440).

Nearly 11 lakh tests have been conducted daily on an average during the past six weeks," said the Health Ministry in a statement adding that the country is capable of doing 15 lakh tests every day now.

According to the Central Government, the cumulative positivity rate has been falling progressively as testing has increased and it has touched 7.54 per cent as of October 29. At least crore tests were conducted in the last nine days and the daily positivity rate stands at 4.64 per cent.

While India continues to maintain the declining trend of the active corona cases, at present it stands at 6,03,687 cases. It comprises only 7.51 per cent of the total positive cases of the country, said the ministry.

The declining trend of active cases is supported by a rising number of recovered cases. The total recovered cases have crossed 73 lakh (73,15,989). The gap between Recovered cases and active cases has crossed 67 lakh (67,12,302).With an increasing number of recoveries, this gap is continuously widening. -- ANI
14:43   Had kidney transplant in 2016: Rajinikanth
Breaking his silence, actor Rajinikanth on Thursday said he has been advised against entering politics by doctors as he had undergone a kidney transplant and due to the coronavirus pandemic. The actor said he would announce at the appropriate time whether he would enter politics or not after consulting his office bearers of his 'Mandram'.

Rajinikanth said on his twitter handle that though a statement -that hints that he may reconsider his political entry given his health condition- doing rounds in social media was not from him, the content related to his health status and doctors advise to him "is all true." 

"Everyone knows that it is not my statement. However, the information in it, related to my health status and doctors advise to me is entirely true," he said.

Doctors categorically advising Rajinikanth against venturing into politics in view of his kidney transplant in 2016 and the raging coronavirus pandemic were the two key health related points that found a mention in the purported "statement." 

The 'statement' recalling his treatment at a Singapore hospital in 2011 for kidney ailment, said Rajinikanth underwent a kidney transplant at a hospital in the United States in May 2016. The doctors advised the actor when he sought 'consultation' on his political entry, it said. "At the right time, I will let the people know about my political stand after consulting the office-bearers of Rajini Makkal Mandram," he said
14:38   Army launches indigenous messaging application similar to WhatsApp, names it SAI
In the quest for 'Atmanirbhar Bharat', Indian Army has developed and launched a secure messaging application named the "Secure Application for the Internet (SAI)" that supports an end-to-end secure voice, text and video calling services for Android platform over internet, the Ministry of Defence said here on Thursday.

"The model is similar to commercially available messaging applications like WhatsApp, Telegram, SAMVAD and GIMS and utilises end-to-end encryption messaging protocol. SAI scores over on security features with local in-house servers and coding, which can be tweaked as per requirements," the ministry said in a release.

According to the statement, the application has been vetted by CERT-in empaneled auditor and Army Cyber Group, and the process for filing Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) hosting the infrastructure on NIC and working on iOS platform is currently in progress.

"SAI will be utilised pan Army to facilitate secure messaging within the service. The Defence Minister after reviewing the functionalities of the app complimented Col Sai Shankar for his skill and ingenuity for developing the application," it added. -- ANI
The Munger police station was set on fire and trashed by unidentified persons
The Munger police station was set on fire and trashed by unidentified persons
14:22   Durga immersion firing: Munger SP, DM transferred
The Election Commission of India has ordered the immediate removal of the SP and District Magistrate of Munger. An inquiry has been ordered into the incident which has to be completed with the next seven days. 

The new DM and SP will be posted in Munger today itself.

Meanwhile, unidentified persons cause arson at SDO and SP office in Munger, setting several vehicles on fire and damaging the office. The mob was protesting against a man's death during a firing incident on October 26 at the time of the immersion of Goddess Durga. The mob demanded action against Munger Superintendent of Police and the SDO.

The Munger incident happened late Monday night at Deen Dayal Upadhyay Chowk under the Kotwali police station limits of the city. While people alleged the young man, who was in his early 20s, died in police firing, the administration said he was hit by a bullet fired by somebody from among the crowd. The opposition attack on the ruling party is apparently based on the fact that Munger Superintendent of Police Lipi Singh is the daughter of R C P Singh, the Janata Dal-United leader in the Rajya Sabha.
14:10   40% of Srinagar residents have Covid antibodies
Over 40 per cent people living in Srinagar district have developed Covid-19 antibodies, according to a latest sero-prevalence study which suggests a large fraction of the population in the summer capital of Jammu and Kashmir may have been infected by the novel coronavirus. 

The results of the study conducted by the Government Medical College Srinagar reveal a quantum jump from 3.8 per cent sero-prevalence recorded in a similar study conducted in the city in June. 

A sero-survey involves testing the blood serum of individuals to check for the prevalence of antibodies against an infection. 

"We have conducted a sero-survey in Srinagar district which has revealed that over 40 per cent of the 2,400 persons tested negative but had developed antibodies," said Dr Muhammad Salim Khan, head of community medicine at GMC Srinagar.

Khan noted that the samples were taken randomly from 20 clusters in Srinagar district which also revealed higher prevalence of antibodies in the female population than males. "The trend is encouraging but there is no way we can say that Covid-19 will be defeated at a certain level of population by developing the antibodies. The scientific community is also wary of using the term herd immunity in the absence of a vaccine," he added. 

Herd immunity occurs when a large number of people, usually 70 to 90 per cent, become immune to a contagious disease after being infected by it. But there are many grey areas clouding the issue as far as the novel coronavirus is concerned with no consensus on when herd immunity sets in. -- PTI
14:00   Covid drugs used sans nod? SC seeks govt reply
The Supreme Court Thursday sought response from the Centre on a plea alleging that two medicines Remdesivir and Favipiravir, are being used for treatment of COVID-19 without approval.

A bench headed by Chief Justice S A Bobde issued notice to the Centre on the plea and sought its response in four weeks.

Advocate M L Sharma petitioner in-person referred to the bench, also comprising Justices A S Bopanna and V Ramasubramanian, the World Health Organization (WHO) report of October 15 and said that nowhere these medicines are designated officially as medicines for coronavirus.

The bench said that it is only going to make central government aware of it and therefore issuing notice.

On September 16, the top court had said that there was an approval by the central government on use of Remdesivir and Favipiravir, as medicines to treat COVID-19.

The top court was hearing a plea seeking registration of a first information report by the Central Bureau of Investigation against 10 Indian pharmaceutical firms for manufacturing and selling these two medicines for treating COVID-19 patients allegedly without valid licences.

Remdesivir and Favipiravir are antiviral drugs and their efficacy in treating COVID-19 patients has been a matter of debate among medical experts.  -- PTI
13:26   Former Unnao MP Annu Tandon resigns from Congress
In a setback to the Congress, senior leader and former MP from Unnao, Annu Tandon on Thursday resigned from the primary membership of the party citing "misalignment with the state-level leadership." 

In a statement released to the media, Tandon said that she has sent her resignation to party president Sonia Gandhi and requested her to accept it immediately. By-election to the Bangarmau Assembly seat of Unnao, the Lok Sabha constituency Tandon had represented in 2009, is slated for early next month.

While stating that she had continuously received warmth and guidance of both Congress presidents Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi during her 15-year association with the party, Tandon said there is a "misalignment between the state-level leadership" and she did not see their support coming her way since the past several months.

The state leadership of the party has focused only on social media management and self branding and is oblivious to the deep divisions in the party and the voters it has thus caused,Tandon said. She said canards were being spread about her and her associates by the local, irrelevant, and chosen few. -- PTI
Ex-air chief BS Dhanoa with Abhinandan Varthaman
Ex-air chief BS Dhanoa with Abhinandan Varthaman
13:10   Dhanoa on Abhinandan: We were ready to strike
Former Air Force chief BS Dhanoa on Thursday said that India was ready to wipe out Pakistan's forward bridges had Islamabad's "military adventure" been successful in response to the Balakot aerial strikes and added that "our military posture was very offensive".

His remarks came after Pakistan Muslim League-N (PML-N) leader Ayaz Sadiq said in the National Assembly that Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi had in an important meeting pointed out that if Pakistan did not release Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman, India would attack Pakistan "that night by 9 pm".

"Abhinandan's father and I served together. So, when Abhinandan ejected I told him that we could not get Ahuja back, but will definitely get Abhinandan back. During the Kargil war, my flight commander Ahuja was captured and shot dead. That was playing on my mind. I told him that there are two parts. The main pressure on Pakistan was diplomatic and political. But there was also a military posture," Dhanoa told ANI.

"The way he (Pakistan MP) is saying that 'Pair 'kaanp rahe the' (legs were trembling). It is because the military posture was very offensive... God forbid if there are military misadventure on 27th and hit some of our military installations, we were in a position to wipe out their forward brigades. They know what is our capability," he said.

Wing Commander Varthaman had shot down a Pakistani aircraft F-16, which had transgressed into the Indian airspace during a dog fight between Indian and Pakistani air force on February 27, 2019, and in the process, his plane crossed over to Pakistani side and was shot down. Abhinandan was returned to India from the Attari-Wagah border on March 1, 2019.

Dhanoa, who was the Indian Air Force chief when the aerial strikes took place in Pakistan, said that Indian military could not strike to secure Abhinandan's release but it could do it to put pressure on the Pakistan military.

"But that decision is political. Whether we need to go to war. Suppose strike on 27th had been successful, then to what extent do we respond. Do we respond with a full-scale war or only hitting their forward brigades opposite us? This is a political decision," he said.

The former IAF chief said that the Balakot strike had put fear into Jaish-e-Mohammad and their Pakistani handlers that India can hit them in Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (PoK) as well as in Pakistan.

"Till the time Indian elections got over, there was nothing because they knew the response is going to be very swift. We were deployed in this manner that we could respond at very short notice. It is very good for the morale that he was released at such a short period of time and he came back unharmed," he said.

Abhinandan has been awarded the Vir Chakra on Independence Day by President Ram Nath Kovind for his exemplary bravery.  -- ANI
12:55   Hope Rahul believes Pak's Abhinandan story: BJP
BJP President J P Nadda on Thursday attacked the Congress for "mocking" the armed forces while citing a purported video in which a Pakistani MP states that pilot Abhinandan Varthaman was released by Islamabad as it feared an attack by India.

In the video tweeted by Nadda, a Pakistani MP speaking in the country's national assembly is heard saying that Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi, in an important meeting in the presence of Pakistan Army chief General Bajwa, had said that, if Pakistan did not release Abhinandan, India would attack Pakistan that night at 9.00 pm.

Wing Commander Varthaman landed in Pakistani custody following an aerial dogfight between Indian and Pakistani pilots after the Balakot airstrikes by India in 2019.

Taking a swipe at Rahul Gandhi, the BJP president said, "Congress' princeling does not believe anything Indian, be it our Army, our Government, our Citizens. So, here is something from his Most Trusted Nation', Pakistan. Hopefully now he sees some light...  "

Hitting out at the Congress, Nadda said the party premised its entire campaign around keeping our armed forces weak. The Congress and its leaders mocked our armed forces, questioned their valour and tried every trick to ensure India doesn't get latest Rafale Planes, he said. The BJP chief said people of India rejected such politics and punished Congress. PTI
12:29   It's a clean sweep for RJD: Tejashwi on PM's barbs
A day after Prime Minister Narendra Modi's "Yuvraaj (Prince) of Jungle Raj" jibe at Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) leader Tejashwi Yadav, the Mahagathbandan's chief ministerial candidate on Thursday said that he should have spoken about the issues of hunger and unemployment in Bihar, rather than making personal attacks.

"He is the Prime Minister of the country, he can speak anything. I do not want to comment on this, but if he had come to Bihar, he should have spoken on the special package for the state, unemployment, and hunger. People were expecting he would speak on these issues," said the RJD leader.

About Union Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad's comment on Rahul Gandhi having "no aukaat" left, Yadav reiterated that the BJP leaders should speak on ground-level issues like unemployment and corruption rather than making personal attacks.

He claimed that the general feedback received from people showed the RJD is making a "clean sweep" in phase one of the Assembly elections, which concluded on Wednesday.

"From the general feedback we received, we predict that we are making a clean sweep. People across the binaries of caste, class, and religion have voted on the issues of unemployment and corruption," he stated. 
12:25   Ex-Gujarat CM Keshubhai Patel passes away
Keshubhai Patel, former Chief Minister of Gujarat, passes away at the age of 92. He was admitted at a hospital in Ahmedabad. 

Keshubhai Patel complained of difficulty in breathing on Thursday morning when he was taken to a hospital, where he passed away.

According to The Times of India, Keshubhai Patel had tested positive for coronavirus in September.

The BJP leader was asymptomatic at the time of being diagnosed with Covid-19. 
12:23   Priyanka writes to UP CM over 'plight' of Varanasi weavers
Congress leader Priyanka Gandhi Vadra on Thursday raised with Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath the issue of problems being faced by Varanasi weavers, urging him to restore the scheme of providing electricity to them at a flat rate.

In a letter to Adityanath, the Congress general secretary in-charge of Uttar Pradesh said it has come to her notice that from some time Varanasi's weavers were very worried and desperate. "The families of the weavers of Banarasi sarees, famous in the whole world, are desperate for making ends meet," she said in her letter in Hindi. 

Due to the coronavirus pandemic and government policies, the entire business of weavers has been destroyed despite the fact that they have made Uttar Pradesh's name famous with their craft for ages, she said. The Uttar Pradesh government should help them in this difficult period, Priyanka Gandhi said. 

"The UPA government had implemented a scheme of providing weavers electricity at a flat rate in 2006, but your government is doing injustice to the weavers by discontinuing that scheme," she said in the letter. Priyanka Gandhi said the weavers have told her that when they held a strike against arbitrary power bills, the government called them for a dialogue and officials assured them that their demands will be considered, but despite that no efforts were made to solve their problems. 

In the letter, Priyanka Gandhi made three main demands -- the scheme to provide electricity to them at flat rate be restored, their "harassment" in the name of "fake" outstanding bills be stopped and their electricity connections should not be cut while the already cut connections be restored. "I hope you will take these demands seriously and take constructive steps," she said. Her letter to the Uttar Pradesh chief minister comes days after she interacted with weavers from Varanasi and assured them that the Congress was standing with them against injustice of all kinds. -- PTI
11:57   Dr Reddy's partners with Dept of Biotechnology for Sputnik V vaccine clinical trials in India
Dr Reddy's Laboratories Ltd on Thursday announced its partnership with Biotechnology Industry Research Assistance Council (BIRAC), Department of Biotechnology (DBT), for advisory support on clinical trials of Sputnik V vaccine in India. According to a press release from the city-based rug make, the partnership will allow Dr Reddy's to identify and use some of BIRAC's clinical trial centres for the vaccine, which are funded under the National Biopharma Mission (NBM), implemented by Project Management Unit-NBM at BIRAC. Further, the company will have access to Good Clinical Laboratory Practice (GCLP) labs to conduct immunogenicity assay testing of the vaccine. -- PTI
11:55   Covid antibodies last at least 5 months: Study
A vast majority of individuals infected with mild-to-moderate Covid-19 mount a "robust" defence via antibodies that is relatively stable for "at least five months", according to a new study which says this immune response significantly reduces the risk of re-infection with the novel coronavirus. The research, published in the journal Science, found that this antibody response correlates with the body's ability to neutralise the SARS-CoV-2 virus that causes COVID-19. 

"While some reports have come out saying antibodies to this virus go away quickly, we have found just the opposite -- that more than 90 per cent of people who were mildly or moderately ill produce an antibody response strong enough to neutralise the virus, and the response is maintained for many months," said Florian Krammer, a senior author of the study from The Mount Sinai Hospital in the US. 

"Uncovering the robustness of the antibody response to SARS-CoV-2, including its longevity and neutralising effects, is critically important to enabling us to effectively monitor seroprevalence in communities and to determining the duration and levels of antibody that protect us from reinfection," Krammer said. 

To screen individuals, the scientists used an antibody test called an enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) to detect the virus' telltale spike protein which enables it to attach and gain entry into our cells. In the study, the researchers set up antibody test results using distinct dilutions of patient serum set at 1:80, 1:160, 1:320, 1:960, or 1:2880 and higher levels (titres). They explained that these scores are generated by the number of times the scientists can dilute a patient's serum and still be able to detect the presence of antibodies. -- PTI
11:41   Raj meets guv on electricity bills
This is why MNS chief Raj Thackeray met Maharashtra governor Bhagat Singh Koshiyari. "My delegation had met Adani & BEST officials, so I met the Governor today regarding the increased electricity bill. Companies are ready to reduce the electricity bill. Governor will soon convey to CM and take a decision. There are lot of issues in Maharashtra, there is no shortage of questions, one has to get the answers from the govt. I will meet Sharad Pawar. If required, I will meet the Chief Minister as well when the right time comes."
11:35   Let Abhinandan go! Pak army chief was trembling
Pakistan Army Chief Qamar Javed Bajwa's "legs were shaking" while Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi told the meeting of parliamentary leaders that India was about to attack their country, said a Pakistani lawmaker as he recounted the events of February 2019 meeting during which Imran Khan government decided to release Indian Air Force pilot Abhinandan Varthaman.

In a speech in the National Assembly, Pakistan Muslim League-N (PML-N) leader Ayaz Sadiq said that Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi had in an important meeting pointed out that if Pakistan did not release Abhinandan Varthaman, India would attack Pakistan "that night by 9 pm."

The PML-N leader told opposition leaders that Qureshi in a meeting with the parliamentary leaders, including PPP and PML-N and Army Chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa, had asked for Abhinandan to be let free.

"I remember Shah Mahmood Qureshi was in the meeting in which Imran Khan had refused to attend and Chief of Army Staff General Bajwa came into the room, his legs were shaking and he was perspiring. Foreign Minister said for God's sake let Abhinandan go, India's about to attack Pakistan at 9 PM", Sadiq recounted the events of the important meeting.

Dunya News further quoted Sadiq as saying that the opposition has supported the government in all issues including Abhinandan but will not be able to further support it.Wing Commander Varthaman shot into limelight after he shot down a Pakistani aircraft F-16, which had transgressed into the Indian airspace during a dog fight between Indian and Pakistani air force on February 27, 2019 and in the process, his plane crossed over to Pakistani side and was shot down.

Abhinandan was returned to India from the Attari-Wagah border on March 1, 2019. He has been awarded the Vir Chakra on Independence Day by President Ram Nath Kovind for his exemplary bravery. -- ANI
11:28   Dropping 1995 case against SP big mistake: Mayawati
Former Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh and Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) chief Mayawati on Thursday said that dropping the 1995 case against Samajwadi Party (SP) as a precondition to SP-BSP alliance was a "big mistake".

"I want to disclose that when we decided to contest polls with SP for Lok Sabha elections in UP, we worked very hard for it but from day one of our coalition SP Chief kept telling SC Mishra that since BSP-SP had joined hands, I should take back my June 1995 case," said Mayawati.

"Our party had joined hands with SP to fight communal forces during the Lok Sabha elections. Due to their family in-fighting, they could not gain much from 'Gatbandhan' with BSP. They stopped responding to us post-elections and hence, we decided to part ways with them," she added.

The BSP chief further stated that when BSP saw Samajwadi Party's behaviour towards them after the Lok Sabha election results, BSP realised that they have committed a big mistake by taking back their 2nd June 1995 case against them.

"We should not have joined hands with them. We should have thought a bit deeply. We took a wrong decision in haste," she added.

"Once again we saw their anti-Dalit side, yesterday during the examination of the papers of Rajya Sabha," said Mayawati. -- ANI
11:23   Raj Thackeray meets Maharashtra governor
Another gubernatorial meet. Raj Thackeray, Chief of Maharashtra Navnirman Sena, meets Governor Bhagat Singh Koshyari at Raj Bhavan in Mumbai.
11:21   West Bengal Governor to meet Amit Shah today
West Bengal Governor Jagdeep Dhankhar is scheduled to meet Union Home Minister Amit Shah at 11:30 am today. Dhankhar has been at loggerheads with West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee over several issues. Banerjee had earlier also accused Dhankhar of running a "parallel administration" in the state. The Governor has consistently been raising the issue of law and order in West Bengal said that the situation is very alarming. -- ANI
Roshan Mirza from the Samajwadi Party
Roshan Mirza from the Samajwadi Party
10:38   Digvijaya asked me to withdraw from by-poll: SP candidate
Roshan Mirza, Samajwadi Party (SP) candidate from Gwalior said that Congress leader Digvijaya Singh asked him to withdraw from upcoming by-poll. "Digvijaya Singh called me and told me to withdraw from upcoming by-polls. He said I will give you Councillor's ticket. I told him I won't withdraw and will contest," Mirza told ANI when asked about the purported viral audio in which Digvijaya Singh was allegedly asking him to withdraw. Mirza also alleged that a Congress leader named Aslam offered him Rs 10 lakh to withdrawn his candidature.

Commenting on the viral audio, BJP Leader Lokendra Mishra said that the former chief minister does not believe in democracy but in management.

"Digvijaya Singh has come out of his hole at last stage of elections. He doesn't believe in democracy but in management. He has said in past that elections are won by management. He himself might have made the audio viral,'" Mishra said.

Singh said that the polls are not between the Congress and the BJP but between honest and dishonest.

"This election is not between the Congress and the BJP. This is an election- between honest and dishonest, between loyalty and traitor, between durable and sellable," read the Congress leader's tweet. Voting on 28 Assembly seats in Madhya Pradesh by-polls will take place on November 3 and the results will be declared on November 10. -- ANI
10:20   Sensex plunges by 350 pts over US polls' fear
Equity benchmark Sensex plunged over 350 points in early trade on Thursday amid negative cues from global markets as rising coronavirus cases and uncertainty over US presidential elections weighed on investor sentiment. Market participants were also cautious ahead of the expiry of October derivatives contracts, traders said. 

The 30-share BSE index was trading 365.19 points or 0.91 per cent lower at 39,557.27. Similarly, the broader NSE Nifty tumbled 106.90 points or 0.91 per cent to 11,622.70. Titan was the top laggard in the Sensex pack, dropping over 4 per cent, followed by L&T, ONGC, Tech Mahindra, Bajaj Auto, HUL and Nestle India. On the other hand, Axis Bank, Asian Paints, UltraTech Cement and HCL Tech were among the gainers. 

In the previous session, Sensex ended 599.64 points or 1.48 per cent lower at 39,922.46, and Nifty tanked 159.80 points or 1.34 per cent to close at 11,729.60 Exchange data showed that foreign institutional investors sold equities worth Rs 1,130.98 crore on a net basis on Wednesday. -- PTI
10:08   NIA continues raids of NGOs in Srinagar and Delhi
Continuing with its searches in connection with a case pertaining to "raising funds in India and abroad in the name of charitable activities" by "certain so-called NGOs and trusts", and using them for "carrying out secessionist and separatist activities in Jammu and Kashmir", the National Investigation Agency on Thursday raided nine locations of six NGOs and trusts in Srinagar and Delhi.

They are Falah-e-Aam Trust, Charity Alliance, Human Welfare Foundation, JK Yateem Foundation, Salvation Movement, J-K Voice of Victims.Similar searches were conducted on Wednesday at 10 locations in Srinagar and Bandipora and in one location in Bengaluru. -- ANI
10:00   Potters prepare for Diwali
A potter from Ayodhya is making earthen lamps (diyas) and other items ahead of Diwali. The potter says, "We have suffered a lot due to the pandemic. I hope that I will get orders for diyas before the festival."
09:56   doctors of Hindu Rao Hospital end strike, salaries paid till Sept
Resident Doctors and health workers at Hindu Rao Hospital ended their strike over non-payment of salaries on Wednesday night, after their salaries till September was paid by North Delhi Municipal Corporation (NDMC).

The doctors ended their protest in presence of NDMC Mayor Jai Prakash and thanked him for listening to their demands.

Speaking to ANI, Prakash said that the salaries of protesting doctors had been paid till the month of September.

"The nurses, paramedical staff, technicians, and ward boys have also been paid their one month salary," he added.Earlier on October 27 Prakash had met the doctors and promised them the release their salaries at the earliest.

"These healthcare workers are on a strike for the past few days. I met the doctors last night as well. They should end this strike as I will be sanctioning the release. Everyone should work responsibly amid COVID-19 crisis," he said.

Taking exception to the ongoing protest and a hunger strike by resident doctors of Hindu Rao Hospital due to alleged non-payment of salaries for three months, the Indian Medical Association on October 26 demanded that the authorities should pay the salaries of the doctors along with the dues immediately.

Resident Doctors' Associations of NDMC Medical College and Hindu Rao Hospital went on an indefinite hunger strike on October 23 against non-payment of salaries during the COVID-19 lockdown. -- ANI
09:50   India Covid tally tops 80 lakh, 49.8k new cases
India records 49,881 new COVID-19 cases, 517 fatalities in 24 hours, taking virus caseload to 80,40,203 and the death toll to 1,20,527, said the government.

Active COVID-19 cases in country stand at 6,03,687 while 73,15,989 people have recovered so far, said the Union health ministry.

Meanwhile, total 10,65,63,440 samples have been tested for COVID-19 up to October 28. Of these 10,75,760 samples were tested yesterday, said the Indian Council of Medical Research.   -- PTI/ANI
09:15   Govt releasing 1 lakh tonne of onion buffer stock: Tomar
Amid the soaring prices of onion, Union Agriculture Minister has said one lakh tonne of buffer stock of the key kitchen staple is being released by the government to provide relief to people.

He was talking to reporters on Wednesday after taking part in a rally in Dharampuri town of Indore district ahead of the November 3 bypolls to 28 Assembly seats in Madhya Pradesh.

"The government has already taken cognisance of the issue of rising prices of onion and its one lakh tonne of buffer stock is being released through NAFED," Tomar said.

"We had imposed a ban on the export of onion from the country well in time and opened routes for its import," the minister said.

Nationalist Congress Party chief and former Union agriculture minister Sharad Pawar on Wednesday blamed the central government's policies for the rising prices of onion, and said he would speak to the Centre about the stock limit imposed on the commodity traders.

Referring to Congress's protests on the new farm laws, Tomar accused the opposition party of having double standards. In its 2019 Lok Sabha poll manifesto, the Congress promised to make trade free of regulations, he said.

The Congress had also said it would encourage inter- state trade, discontinue the Agriculture Produce Marketing Committees (APMCs), give encouragement to contract farming and end the Essential Commodities Act, he said.

"But it was unable to do these things because of pressure from middlemen," the minister claimed.

"The Bharatiya Janata Party-led government framed new laws for agriculture reforms. Therefore, the Congress is now suffering from stomachache," he added.

The Union minister was in Indore to address a rally in support of the state's water resources minister Tulsiram Silawat, who is contesting the bypoll from Sanver Assembly seat here.   -- PTI
08:28   Delhi air quality turns 'severe', visibility low
The air in the national capital on Thursday further deteriorated with the rise of pollutants in the atmosphere.

The Air Quality Index (AQI) stood at 401 in Anand Vihar, 405 in Alipur, and 410 in Wazirpur, all three in the 'severe' category as per the Delhi Pollution Control Committee (DPCC) data.

The AQI stood at 376 in RK Puram, 384 in ITO, 311 in Lodhi Road, and 387 in Punjabi Bagh, all four in the 'very poor' category as per DPCC data.

The national capital witnessed a thin layer of smog this morning, reducing visibility in various parts of the city.

Amid the rise in pollution levels, people are also experiencing problems with breathing.

According to experts, the severe category affects the health of people and seriously impacts those with existing diseases.

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

Amid the rise in pollution levels, people are having problems with breathing and some children have started facing throat problems due to contaminated air.

Recently, the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) submitted before the Delhi high court that it has issued directions to implementing agencies including State Pollution Control Boards, construction agencies, municipal bodies, traffic police and transport department of Delhi and NCR for strict action against air polluting activities. -- ANI
00:21   Only 'green' firecrackers can be sold in Delhi
Environment Minister Gopal Rai said on Wednesday that only green firecrackers can be manufactured, sold and used in the national capital.  
He also said the Delhi government will launch an anti-firecracker campaign from November 3 and requested people not to burn crackers at all considering the seriousness of the situation due to the COVID-19 pandemic.  
"Only 'green' firecrackers can be manufactured, sold and used in Delhi this Diwali as per a Supreme Court order issued in 2018," he told reporters. 
In 2018, the Supreme Court had banned the use of polluting firecrackers and allowed the sale of 'green' firecrackers in a bid to control air pollution. 
The 'green' crackers are not as polluting as the conventional types of firecrackers and they contain at least 30 per cent less particulate matters such as Sulphur Dioxide and Nitrogen Oxide. 
The CSIR-National Environmental Engineering Research Institute was tasked with the job of developing 'green' crackers. But only a few varieties were available in the market last year due to licensing requirements. 
The minister said smoke from firecrackers and stubble burning make Delhi's air "hazardous" every year. 
"The government will launch an anti-cracker campaign from November 3. Under it, 11 special squads of the Delhi Pollution Control Committee and city police will inspect firecracker manufacturing units to ensure that there is no old stock left," he said. 
Strict action will be taken against the violators under the Environmental Protection Act and Air Act, he said. 
"In fact, I appeal to the people of Delhi to launch a no-crackers' campaign. They should try and avoid burning firecrackers completely considering the seriousness of the situation due to the COVID-19 pandemic," Rai said. -- PTI