Sat, 26 September 2020
Thousands flout COVID curbs during UK rally
21:12 Thousands flout COVID curbs during UK rally
Thousands of anti-lockdown demonstrators turned up at Trafalgar Square in London on Saturday for a so-called 'We Do Not Consent' rally to protest against restrictions imposed to check the spread of coronavirus, including the current "rule of six" which limits gatherings to a maximum of five people.
The Metropolitan Police issued a statement to warn that it would be stepping up patrols in line with the planned demonstrations, even as it reminded the public that such gatherings could be in breach of regulations designed to protect people from the virus.
It is illegal for people to gather in groups of more than six, unless they are exempt. While protest is one of those exemptions, organisers must submit a risk assessment and must comply with social distancing.
"Officers will, of course, continue to use the approach of engaging, explaining and encouraging people to follow the regulations. However, if people fail to comply, and continue to put themselves at risk, officers will take enforcement action," said Commander Ade Adelekan, who is leading the Met Police operation on Saturday.
Meanwhile, protesters could be seen holding placards reading: 'When tyranny becomes law, resistance becomes duty', 'Unmask the Truth' and 'No More Lies, No More Masks, No More Lockdown', while chants of 'take off the mask' echoed loud.
21:05 Is Khushbu Sundar heading for the BJP?
Is Tamil actress and Congress spokesperson Khushbu Sundar set to join the BJP in New Delhi this week?
Speculation is rife in the national capital that she is heading to the saffron party where she will be made a spokesperson and will also be named a star campaigner for the BJP in the Bihar assembly election campaign.
Similar reports have surfaced in the past as well and Khushbu had wasted no time in refuting them.
What lends an extra dimension this time, however, is that her Twitter bio makes no mention of her Congress affiliations.
20:42 Those opposing agri-related Bills anti-farmer: Yogi
Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath on Saturday said those opposing the Centre's agriculture-related Bills are "anti-farmer".
Prime Minister Narendra Modi had promised to double the income of farmers and the Bills have been passed with this aim in mind, he said, addressing BJP workers at a school auditorium in Jaunpur.
The chief minister said the legislations will free farmers from the grip of middlemen and provide them with an option to sell their produce as per their choice.
The opposition is misleading people but they will not be allowed to succeed, he said, terming those opposing the Bills as "anti-farmer".
Without taking names, the chief minister in Deoria said: "Those who exploited farmers and mocked migrants... those who don't know whether sugarcane is grown on land or trees are pretending to be warriors of farmers and labourers."
20:27 Maha adds 20,419 new COVID-19 cases; 23,644 recover, 430 die
Maharashtra's COVID-19 tally rose to 13,21,176 on Saturday with the single-day addition of 20,419 fresh cases, state health department said.
With 430 more patients succumbing to the infection, the cumulative toll in the state went up to 35,191, it said.
A total of 23,644 patients were discharged after treatment in the state in the day, taking the count of recoveries to 10,16,450, the department said.
The state is now left with 2,69,119 active cases.
Mumbai city reported 2,282 new cases, taking its overall count to 1,96,585, while fatalities rose to 8,750 with 44 more people succumbing to the infection.
20:03 Withdraw farm bills, guarantee MSP: Rahul
Stepping up its attack on the Centre over the farm bills passed by Parliament, the Congress ran a social media campaign -- Speak up for farmers -- with Rahul Gandhi demanding the government withdraw the proposed legislations and give a guarantee on MSP.
The three bills were passed by both houses of Parliament during the Monsoon Session and are awaiting presidential assent.
In a video message as part of the Congress' 'Speak up for farmers' campaign, Gandhi told farmers they were being persistently "attacked".
"First demonetisation, then GST, then you were not given a single rupee at the time of coronavirus, attempt was being made to kill you (farmers), you are being made a slave of corporates, and now these three deadly Bills," Gandhi said in his video message.
These bills are aimed at finishing off farmers and hurt them, he alleged.
"We are standing with you (farmers) and together we will stop these bills," Gandhi said.
"I want to say to the government -- you have made a very big mistake. If farmers hit the streets, it will result in tremendous damage. Don't waste time, withdraw these laws immediately and give guarantee on MSP (minimum support price) to farmers," the former Congress chief said.
The Centre has asserted the bills will be beneficial for farmers and increase their income.
19:23 Modi Cabinet rejig likely
With names of several senior leaders like Ram Madhav, Anil Jain, Saroj Pandey and P Muralidhar Rao missing from the new list of national office bearers announced by the Bharatiya Janata Party chief JP Nadda on Saturday, speculation is rife that an imminent union cabinet reshuffle is on the cards.
Several other senior leaders like Uma Bharati, Om Mathur, Prabhat Jha, Vinay Sahastrabhuddhe, Shyam Jaju and Avinash Rai Khanna are also missing from the new national team.
Sources said a Cabinet expansion could take place in the next few weeks or after the Bihar assembly polls. A few of these leaders are likely to be accommodated in the new cabinet.
Party sources said that leaders from several key states like West Bengal, Andhra Pradesh, Kerala, and Telangana are expected to be accommodated in the expansion as the BJP aims to grow in these states in the future.
It is also learnt that Prime Minister Narendra Modi may also rejig the portfolios of several of his ministers. Currently, several ministers have been burdened with multiple portfolios. This may change and some of these may be allocated to the newly inducted ministers, sources added.
The much awaited cabinet reshuffle would be the first such rejig of the Narendra Modi cabinet after it was voted back to power in 2019 Lok Sabha polls.
18:59 India one of those countries where women are provided paid maternity leave of 26 weeks: PM Modi at UNGA
In his address to the UN General Assembly's general debate on Saturday, Prime Minister Narendra Modi outlined how the world's largest democracy has moved forward with the vision of a "Self-reliant India" along with paying more attention to the health of women in the country by providing them Paid Maternity Leave of 26 weeks.
"In the changed circumstances of the post-pandemic era, we are moving forward with the vision of a "Self-reliant India". A Self-reliant India will also be a force multiplier for the Global Economy. Today, it is also being ensured that there is no discrimination in extending the benefits of all the schemes and initiatives to every citizen of the country," Prime Minister Modi said.
Addressing the general debate of 75th United Nations General Assembly, he added, "India is one of those countries where women are provided Paid Maternity Leave of 26 weeks," further highlighting the progress made in regard to the rights of members belonging to the transgender community.
18:50 India not driven by own self-interests: PM @UNGA
PM Modi is addressing the UNGA. Here are the highlights from his address
>> India has always thought about interests of the whole humankind, not just its own. This philosophy has been driving force. From Neighbourhood First to Act East policies, our views towards the Indo-Pacific, we have always thought of interests of all humankind
>> If we were to make an objective assesment of the performance of UN over the last 75 years, we see several stellar achievements. But at the same time, there are also several instances that point to the need for a serious introspection of the work of the United Nations
>> Even during these very difficult times of the raging pandemic, the pharmaceutical industry of India has sent essential medicines to more than 150 countries
>> As the largest vaccine producing country in the world, I want to give one more assurance to the global community today. Indias vaccine production and delivery capacity will be used to help all humanity in fighting this crisis
>> India will not hesitate in raising its voice against the enemies of humanity, human race and human values these include terrorism, smuggling of illegal weapons, drugs and money-laundering
18:43 Where is UN in fight against pandemic: PM @UNGA
Prime Minister Narendra Modi is addressing the United Nations General Assembly.
PM Narendra Modi starts speaking at UNGA: "World of 1945 was significantly was different from today's world. In the 21st century, the requirements and challenges of the present is very different form the past. With the changing times if we don't change, the drive needed to bring change will also get weekened."
"Where is the United Nations in the joint fight against the pandemic. It is true that the faith and respect the UN enjoys among the 1.3 billion people is unparalleled. It is also true that the people of India have been waiting for the reforms of UN to be completed. For how long will India be left out of the decision making process of UN," asks the PM in his speech which has been pre-recorded.
18:36 PM Modi addresses UN General Assembly
Prime Minister Narendra Modi is addressing the United Nations General Assembly for the General Debate in the 75th Session of the General Assembly.
PM Modi is scheduled as the first speaker at 6:30 pm.
The theme of the 75th UNGA is 'The future we want, the United Nations we need, reaffirming our collective commitment to multilateralism - confronting the Covid-19 through effective multilateral action'.
As the UNGA this year is being held in the backdrop of the Covid-19 pandemic, it is being conducted mostly virtually.
PM Modi's address is therefore via a pre-recorded video statement broadcast at the UNGA hall in New York.
18:04 PM Modi congratulates BJP's new team
Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Saturday congratulated Bharatiya Janata Party's new team of national office bearers and expressed confidence that they will "uphold the glorious tradition" of the party of serving the people of India selflessly and with dedication.
He said the new team should work hard to empower the poor and marginalised.
"Congratulations and best wishes to the new team. I am confident they will uphold the glorious tradition of our Party of serving the people of India selflessly and with dedication. May they work hard to empower the poor and marginalised," PM Modi said in a tweet.
BJP chief Jagat Prakash Nadda announced the new team of national office-bearers on Saturday.
Dr Raman Singh, Mukul Roy, Annapurna Devi, Baijyant Jay Panda are among national vice presidents of the party.
While Tejasvi Surya, an MP from Karnataka, has been appointed as Yuva Morcha chief and Rajkumar Chahar is Kisan Morcha president.
Bhupendra Yadav, Kailash Vijayvargiya and CT Ravi are among national general secretaries of the party.
17:52 Central govt betrayed farmers: Sachin Pilot
Accusing the central government of betraying farmers, former Rajasthan deputy chief minister Sachin Pilot on Saturday asked how will the Centre pacify farmers about the farm bills when it failed to convince its own minister over it.
He demanded that the Centre withdraw the three bills in the interest of farmers.
"The central government should admit its mistake and withdraw the bills. The way the bills were passed... pushed in the Rajya Sabha was undemocratic. Therefore dissenting voices are emerging in the country today," Pilot said in a video message.
He said that a Union minister from NDA's ally resigned from the Cabinet over the issue.
"When the Centre is not able to convince its minister, how will it convince farmers? Farmers understand everything, the BJP government has betrayed them," Pilot said, adding that the Congress was with the farmers.
He said that BJP's promise to double the farmers' income has been sidelined and the farmers have been badly hit.
The Congress leader said that the bills were introduced hurriedly, without consulting the states and farmers.
"We all want that investment and reforms, but these bills are anti-farmer and anti-national," he said.
17:28 US moves to restrict stay of Chinese journalists to 90 days
The Trump Administration is seeking to restrict the stay of journalists from China in the US to just 90 days with the provision of another extension for a similar duration, according to a federal notification.
The move came amidst worsening of bilateral ties over a range of issues like the coronavirus pandemic, trade, Beijing's increasing grip on Hong Kong and alleged human rights abuses against minorities in the Xinjiang province.
The proposal of the Department of Homeland Security is part of the fixed time limit on visas of students, researchers and foreign journalists in the US.
While the time limit for foreign journalists in general has been restricted to 240 days and another extension of a similar period, those for a journalist from China would be issued a I visa by the United States just for 90 days, as per the federal notification issued.
17:10 'Does govt have Rs 80,000 cr for covid vaccine'
Adar Poonawalla, the CEO of the Serum Institute of India - the world's largest manufacturer of vaccines by volume and which is conducting Covid vaccine trials ahead of mass production - took to Twitter today to highlight potential challenges ahead of vaccine production and distribution in the country.
"Quick question: will the Government of India have 80,000 crores available over the next one year? Because that is what the Ministry of Health needs to buy and distribute the vaccine to everyone in India. This is the next concerning challenge we need to tackle," Poonawalla said.
"I ask this question, because we need to plan and guide, vaccine manufacturers both in India and overseas to service the needs of our country in terms of procurement and distribution," he added.
Covishield - the vaccine developed by the University of Oxford and pharma giant AstraZeneca and being tested by the SII in India - is currently in Phase 2 and Phase 3 human trials.
India's rush to develop Covid vaccines is understandable - the country has recorded over 80,000 new cases every day for the past few weeks and has over 9.6 lakh active cases (only the United States has more).
16:37 Sisodia likely to be shifted out of ICU
The condition of Delhi Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia, who is suffering from COVID-19 and dengue, has further improved, a day after he was administered convalescent plasma therapy, and he is likely to be shifted from the ICU to a normal ward, officials said.
He is currently undergoing treatment at Max hospital, Saket, where he was admitted on Thursday evening after a "falling" blood platelet count and low oxygen level.
Sources at the Max hospital also said Sisodia is fine and doing better.
An official from Sisodia's office said, "His vitals are better now. His condition has improved, and he will be shifted from the ICU to a normal ward today".
The 48-year-old AAP leader had tested positive for COVID-19 on September 14 and was under home isolation.
On Wednesday, he was admitted to the LNJP Hospital for treatment. He tested positive for dengue a day later and was shifted to the ICU of the private facility in south Delhi.
16:17 S P Balasubrahmanyam shed radiance over country: Sonia
Congress president Sonia Gandhi has condoled the demise of celebrated playback singer S P Balasubrahmanyam and hailed him as the "singing moon" who shed his special radiance over the country.
The versatile singer, actor and music composer was laid to rest at his farm house near Chennai on Saturday with a 24-gun salute by the Tamil Nadu Police.
In a letter to his son S P B Charan, Gandhi said she was deeply saddened by the death of Balasubrahmanyam, "who so bravely fought the cruel COVID-19 virus for over six weeks before succumbing to it".
Gandhi said Balasubrahmanyam was a shining symbol of India's rich musical and linguistic culture, singing with equal melodious and emotional power in Tamil, Telugu, Kannada, Malayalam and Hindi.
He brought joy and solace to millions of his fans, and the artistic and cultural world is much poorer and darker for his loss, the Congress chief said.
"He was indeed the Paadum Nila -- the Singing Moon -- who shed his special radiance over our country," Gandhi said in the letter.
Balasubrahmanyam, who held sway over millions of fans with his golden voice rendering a record 40,000 plus songs over five decades, died on Friday at a hospital in Chennai, plunging music lovers in grief.
After waging 52 days of grim battle for life following COVID-19 infection, the 74-year old singer suffered a cardio-respiratory arrest and the end came in the afternoon, a day after his condition turned extremely critical.
A six-time national award winner, Balasubrahmanyam was honoured with Padma Shri in 2001 and Padma Bhushan in 2011.
15:51 BJP president Nadda announces new team
Eight months after assuming office, BJP national president Jagat Prakash Nadda announced a new team on Saturday.
Women and youth have been given an opportunity in the new structure.
Nadda took over as party president in January this year. He was unanimously elected national president of the party at the culmination of the party's organisational poll process.
A former Himachal Pradesh minister, Nadda has the organisational experience and became party's working president in June 2019 after the ruling party swept the Lok Sabha elections.
15:28 Anil Ambani tells UK court he leads disciplined lifestyle
Reliance Group chairman Anil Ambani has told a UK court that suggestions of his lavish tastes are speculative because his lifestyle is "very disciplined" as he gave evidence in a dispute involving a loan agreement with three Chinese banks.
The 61-year-old former billionaire appeared via videolink from Mumbai before the High Court on Friday for compulsory cross-examination in aid of an asset disclosure order obtained by the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China Ltd Mumbai Branch, China Development Bank and Exim Bank of China.
The order required Ambani to give full disclosure of all of his assets worldwide exceeding $100,000.
"My needs are not vast and my lifestyle is very disciplined," Ambani told the London court.
Asked about his fleet of luxury cars and other references to his lavish lifestyle as the counsel for the banks cross-examined him, the Reliance Communications chief dismissed them as "speculative" media stories.
"Mr Anil Ambani has always been a simple man of simple tastes, contrary to exaggerated perceptions of his flamboyance and lavish lifestyle," said a spokesperson for Anil Ambani.
"He is devoted to his family and company, an avid marathon runner, and deeply spiritual. He is also a lifelong vegetarian, teetotaller and non-smoker who would much rather watch a movie at home with his kids than go out on the town. Reports that suggest otherwise are completely misleading," the spokesperson said.
The dispute revolves around an alleged breach of a personal guarantee on a company debt refinancing loan of around $925 million dating back to February 2012. Ambani denies providing authority for any such guarantee, resulting in the High Court action in the UK -- the jurisdiction agreed upon as part of the terms of the loan agreement.
14:54 Opposition stalling farm bills fearing PM's popularity: Meghwal
Union minister Arjun Ram Meghwal on Saturday said the farm bills passed by the Parliament were in the interest of farmers, but the opposition parties were trying to stall them as they were "worried" about the rising popularity of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
He also said that although the opposition parties were crying foul over the Parliament's monsoon session getting curtailed, they themselves had demanded it.
The minister of state for parliamentary affairs was addressing the BJP's state-level executive meeting in Goa virtually.
"The opposition is trying to stall the farm bills drafted in the interest of country's farmers, because they are worried about the increasing popularity of PM Modi," he said.
"The opposition is criticising the government on the farm bills saying that they were passed in a hurried manner during the short session of the Parliament. But they are indulging in false propoganda," Meghwal added.
"We wanted to have an 18-day long session of Parliament, but due to COVID-19 outbreak there was a demand by the opposition to curtail it," he said.
14:35 Not taken any call yet on polls: Ex-Bihar DGP
Former Director-General of Police Bihar, Gupteshwar Pandey on Saturday said that he has not taken any decision on contesting the upcoming Bihar assembly elections.
"I came here to meet Chief Minister Nitish Kumar and to thank him as he gave me absolute freedom to serve my duties as DGP. I have yet not taken any decision on contesting polls," he said while speaking to the media.
Pandey on Wednesday had said that he would enter politics only if the people of his home district Buxar want him to do so.
"People have been coming to me in large numbers from Begusarai, Sitamarhi, Shahpur and several other districts, telling me that if I wish to enter politics then I should contest election from their district. Buxar is my home district where I was born and brought up. It will be a decision by them. If they want me to, then I may enter politics" he had said.
Pandey quit as DGP after his request for voluntary retirement was approved on Tuesday by the Bihar government, which waived a three-month mandatory cooling-off period.
14:27 Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine produces strong response in early trial
A single dose of Johnson & Johnson's experimental COVID-19 vaccine produced a strong immune response against the novel coronavirus in an early-to-mid stage clinical trial, according to interim results.
The vaccine, called Ad26.COV2.S, was equally well-tolerated at two different doses, the results showed.
A single shot, versus a rival two-dose approach being tested by Moderna Inc and Pfizer Inc , could simplify distribution of the vaccine.
However, it is unclear whether elderly people, one of the populations most at risk from the virus, will be protected to the same degree as younger people with the J&J vaccine.
The trial in close to 1,000 healthy adults, which is backed by the US government, began after the J&J vaccine was found in July to offer strong protection in a single dose to monkeys.
Based on the current results, J&J on Wednesday kicked off a final 60,000-person trial, which could pave the way for an application for regulatory approval.
The company said it expects results of that so-called Phase 3 trial by the end of the year or early next year.
13:52 India has always given priority to Lanka: PM
Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Saturday said India has always given priority to Sri Lanka under its Neighbourhood First Policy and Security and Growth for All in the Region doctrine, adding that relations between the two countries are thousands of years old.
Speaking during the virtual summit with his Sri Lankan counterpart Mahinda Rajapaksa, he thanked the leader for accepting his invitation. "The relations between India and Sri Lanka are thousands of years old. According to my government's Neighbourhood First policy and SAGAR doctrine, we give special priority to relations between the two countries," said PM Modi.
"I thank you (Sri Lankan PM Mahinda Rajapaksa) for accepting my invitation for this virtual bilateral summit between India and Sri Lanka. I also congratulate you for being elected as Prime Minister and victory of your party in Parliamentary elections," he added.
This virtual bilateral summit was PM Modi's first such virtual engagement with a neighbouring country and also PM Rajapaksa's first diplomatic engagement with a leader of a foreign country after he was sworn in as the Prime Minister on August 9, 2020.
13:43 Weekend lockdown begins in Jodhpur amid spike in COVID-19 cases
A weekend lockdown began in Jodhpur on Saturday to check the spread of the novel coronavirus amid a sudden spike in fresh infections and deaths.
Police and civic officials took out marches in parts of the desert city to sensitise people about the prevailing situation and request them to stay indoors.
District Magistrate Indrajeet Singh said, "We have taken this decision (to impose lockdown) considering the spurt in infections in the city. We expect people to adhere to it. If they do not understand the seriousness of the situation now, it will be too late."
The city has reported close to 1,200 cases in the past two days, leading to a huge pressure on its healthcare infrastructure. More than 150 people have died due to COVID-19 in the city this month.
The lockdown will remain in force till Monday early morning. Essential services are exempt from the restrictions. Students appearing in various examinations will also be allowed to move.
This is the second weekend lockdown to be imposed in the city after the first one in early August.
The district magistrate said the administration has been constantly working to enhance the capacity of hospitals to cater to the rising number of COVID-19 patients.
13:23 Sara Ali Khan at NCB office to record statement
Actor Sara Ali Khan reached the NCB office in south Mumbai on Saturday afternoon to record her statement in connection with drugs probe linked to film star Sushant Singh Rajput's death, an official said.
She reached the NCB's zonal office in Ballard Estate around 1 pm.
Her name cropped up during the questioning of Rhea Chakraborty, Rajput's girlfriend who has been arrested by the NCB in the drugs case along with over a dozen others, officials said.
Sara was Rajput's co-star in "Kedarnath" film.
12:53 24-gun salute given to S P Balasubrahmanyam
Singing legend S P Balasubrahmanyam's funeral is currently underway in Chennai.
The last rites will be performed with complete police honours.
S P Balasubrahmanyam died at a Chennai hospital on Friday afternoon. He was 74.
On Friday evening, S P Balasubrahmanyam was taken to his Red Hills Farmhouse in Thamaraipakkam in the Thiruvallur district in a hearse van, when well-wishers and emotional fans followed the vehicle to bid SPB a final farewell.
S P Balasubrahmanyam is survived by his wife Savitri, daughter Pallavi, and son S P Charan, who is a producer and a singer.
S P Balasubrahmanyam was admitted to Chennai hospital MGM healthcare for COVID-19 on August 5. The singer tested negative after a few weeks but continued to remain on ventilator. A day before his death, the hospital announced he was put on maximum life support.
12:34 Delhi's air quality set to worsen this week
Air quality in the national capital is likely to plunge in the next few days, due to a gradual decrease in wind speed and an increase in the instances of stubble burning in the neighbouring states of Punjab and Haryana.
At 7am on Saturday the hourly average air quality index reading according to the Central Pollution Control Board was 155 (moderate) as against the overall recording of 134 (moderate) on Friday.
On Thursday, the AQI recording of Delhi stood at 104 (moderate).
Throughout the next week, the AQI level is likely to remain in the moderate range but slightly on the higher end. It all depends on how much stubble burning takes place in Punjab and Haryana, said a senior India Meteorological Department official.
The official added that wind speed in Delhi over the next few days will remain at 15-20kmph, after which it will gradually reduce.
12:17 Issues from Mumbai can be sent as parcel to Bihar: Sanjay Raut
A day after the Election Commission of India announced the schedule of Bihar elections to be held in three phases on october 28, November 3 and 7, Shiv Sena leader Sanjay Raut said if Bihar doesnt have enough issues, Mumbai can parcel some.
His jibe came in the backdrop of allegations that the death of Bollywood actor Sushant Singh Rajput, who hailed from Bihar, is being used as an election issue in Bihar.
Elections in Bihar should be fought on the issues of development, law and order, and good governance, but if these issues have exhausted, then issues from Mumbai can be sent as parcel, the Shiv Sena leader said.
The state police departments of Bihar and Maharashtra locked horns over the investigation into the death of Rajput who was found dead on June 14 at his Mumbai residence. Former Bihar DGP Gupteshwar Pandey accused Maharashtra Police of not co-operating with them. It is also being speculated that Pandey may join politics after he took a VRS.
12:02 Shraddha at NCB office; Sara to appear soon
Shraddha Kapoor on Saturday arrived at the Narcotics Control Bureau to join the probe into a drugs case lodged following the death of actor Sushant Singh Rajput in June this year.
Actor Sara Ali Khan is also expected to appear for interrogation today.
There is heavy police deployment outside the NCB office, in Colaba, where barricades have been put up.
Deepika Padukone arrived earlier at the office amid a full media glare.
On Friday, the agency questioned actor Rakul Preet Singh, Padukones manager Karishma Prakash, and Dharma Productions executive producer Kshitij Ravi in connection with the case. Prakash, who was interrogated for about seven hours, has been summoned for another round of questioning today. Rakul was questioned for about four hours.
11:37 Ex-Bihar DGP Pandey to join JD-U today
Former Bihar DGP Gupteshwar Pandey will be joining Nitish Kumar-led Janata Dal-United at a ceremony at 1 pm on Saturday. This comes days after Gupteshwar Pandey took voluntary retirement from services and triggered speculation of contesting the upcoming Bihar assembly elections.
IPS officer Gupteshwar Pandey, who has been at the centre of the controversy surrounding investigation into the death of actor Sushant Singh Rajput, sparked rumours of joining politics by announcing his retirement.
Gupteshwar Pandey has been a vocal supporter of Nitish Kumar and was criticised over his sexist remarks on actor Rhea Chakraborty.
On Tuesday night, Gupteshwar Pandey hogged media limelight by announcing his retirement and triggered rumours. He further fuelled the speculation by saying "I am a free man now, can do anything".
11:10 Deepika reaches NCB office to record statement
Bollywood actor Deepika Padukone reached the NCB office in south Mumbai on Saturday morning to record her statement in drugs probe linked to film star Sushant Singh Rajput's death, an official said.
Deepika arrived at the NCB guest house in Colaba, from where the central agency is operating, in a small car around 9.50 am.
There is heavy police deployment outside the Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB) office, where barricades have been put up. Media personnel have gathered in large numbers for coverage.
Deepika has been summoned by the NCB as part of its probe into the alleged Bollywood-drugs nexus.
There were reports that Deepika's husband and actor Ranveer Singh had asked the NCB if he could also remain present during her interrogation.
However, the NCB had on Friday clarified that it did not receive any such request.
Two other Bollywood actresses- Shraddha Kapoor and Sara Ali Khan- are also set to appear before the probe agency on Saturday.
Deepika's manager Karishma Prakash, who was questioned by the team on Friday, has also been asked to remain present for further questioning on Saturday, another official said.
Prakash's WhatsApp chats included conversations about drugs with one 'D' and the central agency wanted to find out who this person was, the NCB sources had said earlier. -- PTI
10:39 Modi, Rajapaksa to discuss key issues today
The issue of fishing will be a key point in the bilateral talks between Sri Lankan Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa and his Indian counterpart Narendra Modi during their virtual summit on Saturday, according to officials in Colombo.
Rajapaksa's media office on Saturday said that the prime minister held talks with a large contingent of local fishing organisations on Friday and the issue between the two countries would be a major point of discussion.
The summit is being held on the initiative of Prime Minister Modi who had a telephonic conversation with the newly-appointed Sri Lankan prime minister on August 6 this year.
Rajapaksa's office said that the fisher community told the premier that since the outbreak of COVID-19, the Indian authorities no longer prevent their fishermen straying into local waters for poaching.
This has caused hardships for the local fishing community.
Fishing by Indians in the Sri Lankan waters has been a recurring problem and has figured at high-level talks between the two neighbours in the past.
Rajapaksa assured them that the issue would be taken up with the Indian leader and the Sri Lankan Navy should arrest anyone carrying out poaching in the country's waters, it said.
The interaction between the two leaders is also expected to focus on the full gamut of bilateral engagement inter alia political, economic, finance, development, defence and security spheres, educational, tourism and cultural as well as regional and international issues of mutual interest, the Sri Lankan foreign ministry said in a statement on Wednesday.
Relevant subject ministers and senior officials of both countries will associate the leaders at the summit.
This is the first virtual summit-level interaction by Prime Minister Rajapaksa with a foreign leader since assuming premiership last month.
The two leaders are expected to deliberate on a host of issues like ways to further deepen anti-terror cooperation, boost overall defence and trade ties as well as implementation of India's development projects in Sri Lanka.
The long-pending Tamil issue in Sri Lanka is also likely to figure in the talks. India has been pitching for fulfilling the aspirations of the minority Tamil community in the island nation.
Prime Minister Modi visited Sri Lanka twice during the former regime of Maithripala Sirisena from 2015.
Both Mahinda Rajapaksa and his brother and President Gotabaya Rajapaksa chose India for their first overseas visit after winning the presidential election in November last year.
Sri Lanka waits in anticipation of India's action for a debt moratorium and an additional currency swap from India, said the foreign ministry officials in Colombo. -- PTI
09:45 85,362 new cases take Covid tally above 59 lakh
JUST IN: India's COVID-19 case tally crosses 59-lakh mark with a spike of 85,362 new cases and 1,089 deaths in last 24 hours.
The total case tally stands at 59,03,933 including 9,60,969 active cases, 48,49,585 cured/discharged/migrated and 93,379 deaths, says the ministry of health and family welfare.
Meanwhile, the Indian Council of Medical Research says that 7,02,69,975 samples have been tested up to September 25 for COVID-19.
Of these, 13,41,535 samples were tested yesterday, it said. -- ANI
09:16 Punjab farmers continue to block railway tracks
Kisan Mazdoor Sangharsh Committee continued their 'rail roko' agitation in Amritsar, in protest against the farm Bills, recently passed in Parliament.
The Railways had cancelled various special trains running from the Ferozepur division from September 24 to 26, following the agitation which was scheduled to conclude on September 26, but has been extended by three days.
While talking to ANI, members of the committee said the agitation will be strengthened in the coming days and would 'force the government to rollback the Bills'.
"We are protesting here in Devidaspura for the last three days. We recite prayers in the morning and continue to sit on protest. It will be continued till September 29. We are demanding the Bills' cancellation. The number of protesters is increasing. People are coming here in large numbers against the Modi government's dangerous farm Bills," said Gurucharan Singh Chabba, Secretary of Kisan Mazdoor Sangharsh Committee's Amritsar unit.
"The farm Bills passed by Parliament will help the big corporates as they will be able to hoard the crops. It will end the mandi system," he added.
The protesters under the banner of Kisan Mazdoor Sangharsh Committee have blocked the railway tracks by putting up a tent on the railway lines.
They are raising anti-government slogans and demanded rollback of all the farm Bills at Devidaspura, a village on the city outskirts.
State general secretary (Committee) Sarwan Singh Pandher said, "We will protest in various parts of Punjab. This rail roko agitation will continue across the country.
"It has become a people's movement now. I thank all who are protesting against the Bill. We will review the agitation on September 28, depending upon the situation. We will force the government to withdraw the Bill."
Similar protests against the farm legislations have been witnessed in various parts of the country including Uttar Pradesh, Haryana, and Odisha. -- ANI
08:20 PM Modi's virtual address at UNGA today
Prime Minister Narendra Modi is scheduled to deliver a virtual address at the annual United Nations General Assembly on Saturday, official sources said.
The UN General Assembly this year is largely being held online due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Majority of world leaders are delivering pre-recorded speeches at the summit in New York.
The sources said Modi's pre-recorded video statement is expected to be broadcast at the UN General Assembly hall in New York around 9 am local time (6:30 PM IST) and added that he is scheduled as the first speaker in the forenoon.
Some of the priority issues for India at the ongoing 75th session of UN General Assembly will be to push for strengthening global action against terrorism, they said.
The sources said that India will pitch for more transparency in the process of listing and delisting of terror entities and individuals by the UN sanction committees.
Being one of the largest troops contributing nations to the UN, India will also seek to engage intensively in finalising of mandates for the UN peacekeeping mission, they said.
The sources said that continuing with active engagement on issues relating to sustainable development and climate change will be another priority for India. India will also highlight its role as a 'pharmacy to the world' while elaborating on its contribution to global cooperation against COVID-19 by aiding more than 150 countries, they said.
The sources said India's role as a South-South development partner, especially in the context of the India-UN development partnership fund will also be explained at the summit.
India will also reiterate its commitment to the idea of global partnership under the sustainable development goals, including on climate change.
The sources said India's priorities will be to ensure inclusive and responsible solutions for international peace and security, effective response to international terrorism, new orientation for a reformed multilateral system, technology for all and streamlining of UN peacekeeping. -- PTI