Sun, 01 August 2021
China sounds alarm as Delta variant spreading

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21:17   China sounds alarm as Delta variant spreading
The highly contagious Delta variant of the COVID-19 has raised major concerns in China as it spread to 18 provinces with fresh cases emerging in capital Beijing on Sunday.

At least 18 provinces in China have sounded alarm about COVID-19 as more than 300 domestic cases were detected in 10 days, posing great challenges to the country as it deals with the worst epidemic in months, official media reported.

At least 27 cities in 18 provinces reported more than 300 confirmed cases in recent days, including Beijing, Jiangsu and Sichuan, state-run Global Times reported on Sunday.

The number of medium and high-risk regions across the country rose to 95 on Sunday, of which 91 are medium-risk regions and four are high-risk regions, including Dehong Prefecture of Yunnan, Nanjing of Jiangsu and Zhengzhou of Henan, the report said.

Capital city Beijing reported two new COVID-19 confirmed and one asymptomatic cases on Sunday, a spokesperson said at a press briefing.

The three are all family members who returned from Zhangjiajie, a tourist destination in South China's Hunan Province with recent outbreaks.

The Beijing Centre for Disease Control (CDC) tested the confirmed patients on Thursday and the result shows they all contracted the contagious Delta variant.

People, vehicles, airlines and trains from regions with reported COVID-19 infections are being restricted from entering Beijing, Beijing municipal government said on Sunday.

The Chinese CDC compared the cases with the cases in Nanjing and found that they were on the same infection chain, official media reported.

This wave of domestic outbreaks started with the infections of cleaners from Nanjing's Lukou International Airport, later it spread to more local people and other provinces after shared travel experiences in tourist destination in Zhangjiajie, Central China's Hunan Province.

On Saturday over 11,000 tourists were found to have visited Zhangjiajie.

After the outbreak, all the tourist spots there were shutdown and all the tourists were asked to undergo COVID-19 tests before leaving the area.

Zhong Nanshan, China's top respiratory disease specialist expressed grave concern over the latest outbreak in Zhangjiajie.

Zhong said Nanjing as a big city is doing a good job in epidemic prevention and control but whether the epidemic in Zhangjiajie will further spread within the smaller city is still unknown.

Many confirmed cases across the country had links with Meili Xiangxi Grand Theatre in Zhangjiajie.

One performance of the show reached 2,000 audiences.

Zhong pointed out that in an environment where about 2,000 people gathered for a show, all of their close contacts and family members will be tracked, the Global Times reported.

Authorities from Nanjing, where the recent outbreak is most severe, said the city has detected 204 domestic confirmed cases in recent three rounds of nucleic acid testing, mostly relating to the Lukou Airport and its neighbouring areas.

The virus reportedly traced to a flight from Russia. Authorities at the Lukou Airport, which has been shutdown, said the airport will be disinfected thoroughly, including the accommodation of the working staff, in the next 10 days.

Apart from Nanjing and Zhangjiajie, many other cities had also adopted concrete measures to prevent and control the further spread of the virus domestically in the wake of a spike in COVID-19 infections.

China has officially reported 93,005 cases by Saturday, including 1,022 patients still receiving treatment, 25 of whom were in severe condition and 4,636 had died as a result of the virus.   -- PTI
20:15   India, China establish hotline in Sikkim-Tibet
To further the spirit of trust and cordial relations along the borders, a hotline has been established between the Indian Army in Kongra La, North Sikkim and China's People's Liberation Army (PLA) at Khamba Dzong in the Tibetan Autonomous Region on Sunday.

In a statement, the Indian Army said the event coincided with PLA Day today.

"The Armed forces of the two countries have well-established mechanisms for communication at ground commanders level. These hotlines in various sectors go a long way in enhancing the same and maintaining peace and tranquillity at the borders," the Army said.

As per the Army, the inauguration of the hotline was attended by ground commanders of the respective Armies and a message of friendship and harmony was exchanged through the Hotline.

This is the sixth Hotline to have been established between the countries including two each in Eastern Ladakh, Sikkim and Arunachal Pradesh. -- ANI
19:44   Abhishek Banerjee to visit Tripura tomorrow
As part of the outreach campaign in Bharatiya Janata Party-ruled Tripura, Trinamool Congress national general secretary Abhishek Banerjee will on Monday visit the north-eastern state, where the party claims it has a sizeable support base.

The visit of Banerjee, nephew of Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee and defacto number two in the party, comes day after a controversy had erupted over 'detention' of poll strategist Prashant Kishor's I-PAC team in an Agartala hotel room by the police, citing COVID-19 restrictions.

The incident prompted back-to-back visits to Tripura by TMC leaders, including West Bengal ministers Bratya Basu and Malay Ghatak and TMC MP Derek O'Brien, who decried the 'illegal detention of young boys and girls' of a professional firm.

Banerjee will offer prayers at the Tripureswari temple in Agartala during the day, hold a meeting with party members and address the media in the afternoon, sources in the TMC said.

Elections in the northeastern state are slated to be held in 2023.

Deputy leader of TMC in Rajya Sabha, Sukhendu Sekhar Roy, told PTI, "Abhishek will lead the party's journey in Tripura where Bengalis and other communities are rooting for us, our leader Mamata Banerjee. They are frustrated with the performance of the Biplab Deb-led BJP government."

The 'landslide victory of the TMC in West Bengal on the face of BJP blitzkrieg' has encouraged a majority of Bengali voters in Tripura to pledge their support for Mamata Banerjee, the parliamentarian said.

Abhishek Banerjee is immensely popular among Tripura electorate -- youth and women in particular.

He will chalk out the road map of our Tripura journey, he added.       

Veteran TMC leader and Lok Sabha MP Sougata Roy claimed that 'Abhishek's visit will be the precursor to the storm that will be raised by our supremo Mamata Banerjee in Tripura in the near future'.

Making light of the visit by TMC national general secretary, Bengal BJP chief Dilip Ghosh pointed out that the Mamata Banerjee-led party has no base anywhere outside this state.

"In the past, too, the TMC had made futile attempts to gain foothold in Tripura. They (TMC leaders) are still day dreaming... people of Tripura, including Bengalis, stand solidly behind the BJP. The TMC should protect its flock in Bengal, where the BJP has increased its assembly tally to 77 from just three," he added.   -- PTI
18:48   Rainfall 7% below normal in July: IMD
After its vigorous revival in the first week of July that saw floods, cloudburst and landslides in several parts of the country, the Southwest Monsoon ended with a seven per cent deficit for the month, the India Meteorological Department (IMD) said on Sunday.

The rainfall in July was minus seven per cent which comes to around 93 per cent of the Long Period Average, IMD Director General Mrutyunjay Mohapatra said.

Rainfall in the range of 96-104 is normal whereas precipitation in the range of 90-96 is classified as below normal.

July recorded extremely heavy rainfall over coastal and central Maharashtra, Goa, Karnataka.

Several towns and cities in Maharashtra were deluged to very heavy rainfall which resulted in catastrophic events like landslides claiming scores of lives and damaging property.

The north Indian states -- Jammu and Kashmir, Uttarakhand, Himachal Pradesh and Ladakh -- also saw cloudburst events that claimed several lives.

The national capital too recorded a very good rainfall activity.

But overall, the rainfall recorded for the month was seven per cent less.    

The IMD had predicted normal rainfall in July.

"We had predicted normal rainfall for July which was somewhere around 96 per cent of the LPA. July brings maximum rain over the country, but there was no rainfall activity over north India until July 8 which could have been the reason behind the deficit," Mohapatra said.

The Southwest Monsoon arrived over Kerala on June 3, two days after its normal schedule.

But it very rapidly covered the east, west, south and parts of north India by June 19.

But after that it entered into a phase that witnessed a spell of no rainfall activity. It started reviving from July 8.

The Southwest Monsoon reached Delhi on July 13 after a delay of 16 days and covered the entire country the same day.

June received 10 per cent more rainfall than normal.

Of the four-month rainfall season, July and August receive the maximum precipitation.

Overall, the country has received one per cent less rainfall than normal from June 1 to July 31.

The deficit was minus 13 per cent in the east and northeast subdivision of the IMD.

Northwest India division which covers north India recorded a two per cent deficit.

The south peninsula division which covers the southern states received 17 per cent more rainfall while the central India division that comprises west and central India recorded one per cent more rainfall than the normal.   -- PTI
18:45   Mandaviya hits back at Rahul Gandhi for questioning vaccine availability
The vaccination drive in the country is set to get a major boost this month, Union Health Minister Mansukh Mandaviya said Sunday as he took a swipe at Congress leader Rahul Gandhi for questioning the government's vaccine delivery programme.

The minister asked Gandhi to join everyone in feeling proud about the work done by the country's health workers.

In a response to Gandhi's tweet questioning the availability of vaccines last month, Mandaviya said more than 13 crore doses were administered in July and the drive is going to accelerate this month.

'More than 13 crore doses were administered in India in the month of July. It is going to accelerate this month. We are proud of our healthcare workers for this achievement.

'Now you too should be proud of them and the country,' Mandaviya said in a tweet in Hindi in response to Gandhi's post.

Earlier during the day, Gandhi had tweeted in Hindi saying, 'July is gone, but the shortage of vaccine hasn't gone away.'

He used the hashtag #WhereAreVaccines.

The cumulative COVID-19 vaccine doses administered in the country has crossed 47 crore with 60,15,842 doses being administered in a span of 24 hours, the health ministry said Sunday morning.

More than 3 crore balance and unutilised doses are still available with the states, union territories and private hospitals, it stated.   -- PTI
17:52   No passport, govt job for stone pelters in J-K
The CID wing of Jammu and Kashmir Police has ordered the denial of security clearance required for passport and other government services to all those involved in stone-pelting or subversive activities.

In an order issued on Saturday, the senior superintendent of police (SSP), CID, Special Branch (SB), Kashmir, has directed all the field units under it to ensure that the person's involvement in law and order, stone-pelting cases, and other crime prejudicial to the security of the state be specifically looked into during verification related to passport, service and any other verification related to government schemes.

The same must be corroborated from the local police station records, the order read.

The SSP also said digital evidence like CCTV footage, photographs, videos and audio clips, quadcopter images available in the records of the police, security forces, and security agencies be also referred during the verification.

Any subject found involved in any such cases must be denied the security clearance, the SSP, CID-SB, Kashmir said.   -- PTI
16:58   Dhanbad judge death: Police station in-charge suspended
Umesh Manjhi, the officer-in-charge of Pathardih police station has been suspended from his services in the case of the alleged killing of Additional District Judge Uttam Anand, informed Sanjeev Kumar, Senior Superintendent of Police, Dhanbad district.

On July 28, Uttam Anand was killed after a vehicle hit him near the Magistrate Colony, Dhanbad.

Two people involved in the alleged killing were arrested, and the auto used for the crime has also been seized.

The accused, identified as Lakhan Kumar Verma and Rahul Verma, confessed to the crime, said Amol Vinukant Homkar, Inspector General (Ops).

As per an official statement from the state government, an SIT was formed to probe into the case.

On July 30, the Supreme Court took Suo Motu cognisance of the killing after which a day later, the Jharkhand government recommended a Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) probe into the killing of the judge. -- ANI
16:33   Directions on cabinet rejig tomorrow: K'taka CM
Karnataka Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai on Sunday said the cabinet expansion won't take a week and the direction from the Bharatiya Janata Party high command in this connection was likely by tomorrow.

Speaking to reporters in Brngaluru ahead of his meeting with the officials on a host of issues, Bommai said the cabinet expansion won't take a week.

He was responding to a query on whether it would take a week for him to receive directions from the party high command in this connection.

The chief minister said, "I expect it today or tomorrow."

On July 28, Bommai had taken oath as the chief minister following the resignation of his predecessor B S Yediyurappa who resigned on July 26.

He is the lone cabinet member of his government as of now.

On the flood relief measures, the CM said he has convened a meeting with the senior officials to discuss the flood situation, funds for rescue and relief operations.

He has sought details from officials of various districts about the measures taken so far and directed them to prepare a list of steps to be taken on a priority basis.   -- PTI
15:55   Unnao rape survivor alleges harassment by PSOs, moves court
The Unnao rape survivor has moved a Delhi court alleging harassment by the personal security officers (PSOs) deputed on the directions of the Supreme Court for her protection.

District and Sessions Judge Dharmesh Sharma has directed the investigating officer of the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) to submit an impact assessment report in this regard with the assistance of the local police.

"Application has been moved on the behalf of the complainant that she and her family members were harassed by the PSOs who are deputed as per the direction of the Supreme Court, in a sense that they are not allowing her to enjoy her liberties," the judge said on July 31 through video-conferencing.

He further said that a sealed envelope was also received from the police in which certain allegations were levelled against the complainant and her family members.

"It is directed that this application be taken up for consideration," the sessions judge added.

The woman was kidnapped and raped by expelled Bharatiya Janata Party MLA Kuldeep Singh Sengar in 2017 when she was a minor.

The case was transferred from Unnao to Delhi and was probed by the CBI.

On August 1, 2019, the apex court had directed that the survivor, her mother, and other members of the family be provided security by the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF).

On December 20, 2019, Sengar was sentenced to jail for the 'remainder of his natural biological life' in the rape case.

On March 4, 2020, Sengar, his brother, and five others were convicted for the death of the rape survivor's father in judicial custody and were sentenced to 10 years imprisonment.   -- PTI
15:25   Negative RT-PCR must for Kerala-TN travellers
Negative RT-PCR report has been made mandatory for everyone coming from Kerala to Tamil Nadu from August 5, informed Tamil Nadu Health Minister Ma Subramaniyan on Sunday.

"RT-PCR report is mandatory for people coming from Kerala to Tamil Nadu from August 5," he said.

On July 30, Subramaniyan has said that COVID-19 cases have been increasing in the state.

"No of Covid cases has been increasing in the last three days. RT-PCR tests have increased. Many people are not wearing face masks. Vigilance in Tamil Nadu and Kerala is increased," said the minister.

Kerala has been witnessing a rise in COVID-19 cases.

As per the Union health ministry, Kerala recorded 20,624 fresh cases in the last 24 hours.

The total count of cases in the state has gone up to 33,90,761.

Tamil Nadu has recorded 1,986 new cases of COVID-19 and the total cases in the state are 25,59,597, the ministry informed.   -- ANI
14:46   Border row: Shah speaks to Mizoram, Assam CMs
Union Home Minister Amit Shah spoke to Assam Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma and Mizoram CM Zoramthanga over the phone on Sunday to defuse the border tension between the two Northeastern states.

During the phone call, it was decided to resolve the border issue amicably through meaningful dialogue, Zoramthanga said.

'As per telephonic discussion with Union Home Minister and Assam Chief Minister, we agreed to resolve the Mizoram-Assam border issue amicably through meaningful dialogue,' he tweeted.

Zoramthanga also urged the people of Mizoram to refrain from posting provocative messages and misuse of social media in order to de-escalate the ongoing tension.

'In the meantime, in order to prevent any possible escalation of the situation, I request the people of Mizoram to avoid posting sensitive messages and make judicious use of social media platform,' he said.

Tension continued at the border areas after the violent clash that took place near Vairengte town in Mizoram's Kolasib district on July 26, leaving at least seven people from Assam, including six police personnel, dead.

The Centre has deployed around five companies of the Central Armed Police Force (CRPF) to defuse tension.   -- PTI
13:53   Yogi took UP to top spot in law and order: Shah
Union Home Minister Amit Shah on Sunday asserted that Bharatiya Janata Party governments do not work on the basis of caste, but for the development of the poorest person and to revamp law and order.

Addressing a function after laying the foundation stone of the UP State Institute of Forensic Sciences in Lucknow, Shah heaped praise on Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath for taking the state to the top spot in terms of law and order.

"The BJP governments do not work on the basis of caste, families, or for the people who are close to them. The BJP governments work for the development of the poorest person and to revamp law and order," Shah said.

"For six years till 2019, I travelled a lot in UP. Hence, I know the earlier UP very well. Today in 2021, I can say with pride that Yogi Adityanath and his team have taken UP to the top spot in terms of law and order, he said.  -- PTI
13:46   2 months of monsoon
Distribution of rainfall in India from June 1 to July 31.
13:05   Ex-Manipur Cong chief joins BJP ahead of polls
Just months before Manipur Assembly elections, former Manipur Congress chief Govindas Konthoujam joined the Bharatiya Janata Party on Sunday.

Govindas Konthoujam, former Manipur Congress chief, joined the BJP in the presence of Manipur Chief Minister N Biren Singh and senior BJP leader Sambit Patra.

Manipur CM and BJP leader N Biren Singh addressed the press conference at party headquarters in Delhi today and said, "PM Narendra Modi has cared for the North East, and recently five ministers from the region have been inducted into the Union cabinet. Manipur promises to make PM Modi led government stronger."

On July 28, Congress MLA of 26-Bishnupur Assembly Constituency and former president of the Manipur Pradesh Congress Committee Govindas Konthoujam had resigned from the state Assembly.

His resignation letter was submitted to the office of the secretary of the Assembly on Wednesday.

Konthoujam's entry to the BJP was announced by the party's spokesperson Anil Baluni on Sunday morning.

'An eminent personality will join @BJP4India today (Sunday) 01 August, 12 noon at BJP HQ, 6A DDU Marg, New Delhi,' Baluni said in a tweet. -- ANI
12:42   Lalbaugcha Raja to celebrate Ganesh Chaturthi
Amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the Lalbaugcha Raja Ganeshotsav Mandal will be celebrating Ganesh Utsav in a traditional way adhering to all COVID-19 related guidelines and restrictions.

Last year, Lalbaughcha Raja Ganeshotsav Mandal, for the first time in history, refrained from holding the festivities in the wake of the pandemic.

Instead, the Lalbaughcha Raja Ganeshotsav Mandal had organised a blood and plasma donation camp.

The Maharashtra government had earlier issued guidelines to restrict the height of the Ganesha idols to upto four feet.

The height of the idols in public celebrations has been restricted to four feet while those in homes have been limited to two feet.

In view of the ongoing pandemic situation, the government has urged people to carry out the festivities by following Covid protocols and avoid crowding.

The government has also directed Ganeshotsav Mandals to seek prior permission from the local administration.

Ganesh Chaturthi, a 10-day festival that starts on the fourth day of the Hindu lunisolar calendar month Bhadrapada, will start on September 10 this year.

It is celebrated with much fanfare in Mumbai and other parts of Maharashtra with lakhs of devotees converging into mandals to seek blessing from Lord Ganesh.   -- ANI
12:01   Pegasus: SC to hear pleas seeking probe on Aug 5
The Supreme Court bench led by Chief Justice of India N V Ramana and Justice Surya Kant will hear pleas seeking a court-monitored probe into the reports of the government allegedly using Israeli software Pegasus to spy on politicians, activists, and journalists, on August 5.

The pleas filed by senior journalists N Ram and Sashi Kumar, Rajya Sabha MP John Brittas of the Communist Party of India-Marxist and advocate M L Sharma are listed for hearing before a Bench of Chief Justice of India N V Ramana and Justice Surya Kant on August 5.

The pleas seek inquiry headed by a sitting or retired judge of the top court to investigate the alleged snooping.

The petition filed by the senior journalists sought a direction to the Centre to disclose if it or any of its agencies have used Pegasus Spyware either directly or indirectly to conduct surveillance in any manner.

'Direct the Government of India to disclose if the Government of India or any of its agencies have obtained license(s) for Pegasus spyware and/or used/employed it, either directly or indirectly, to conduct surveillance in any manner whatsoever. Issue direction of constituting an inquiry to investigate the extent of surveillance on Indian citizens using the Pegasus spyware and other entities responsible for it, headed by sitting or retired judge of this court duly nominated by this court,' stated the plea.

The plea said that the targeted surveillance using military-grade spyware is an unacceptable violation of the right to privacy which has been held to be a fundamental right under Articles 14, 19 and 21 by the Supreme Court in the K S Puttaswamy case.

The targeted hacking/interception of inter alia journalists, doctors, lawyers, civil society activists, government ministers and opposition politicians seriously compromises the effective exercise of the fundamental right to free speech and expression under Article 19(1)(a), added the petition.

The petitioners have claimed that investigation involving several leading publications around the world has revealed that more than 142 Indians, including journalists, lawyers, government ministers, opposition politicians, constitutional functionaries and civil society activists, have been identified as 'potential targets' for surveillance using Pegasus software.

Rajya Sabha MP John Brittas of Communist Party of India-Marxist in his plea has sought a court-monitored probe by a Special Investigation Team (SIT) into reports of the government using Israeli software Pegasus to spy on people.

The petition has said that despite the very serious nature of the allegations, the government has not cared to investigate the issue.

Advocate Sharma sought direction for an SIT probe on whether the Union government bought the Pegasus spyware following due procedure of law and whether and how it had been used since the purchase.

Sharma said that in the interest of justice and fair play and for the protection of the life and liberty of the citizens of India, the Supreme Court should pass a direction to set up an SIT under the supervision of this court for an investigation into the Pegasus scandal and to prosecute all accused persons/ ministers for buying Pegasus and snooping of the citizen of India, including judges, opposition leaders and political persons, activist, advocates and others. -- ANI
Himanta Biswa Sarma
Himanta Biswa Sarma
11:15   FIR against Assam CM 'normal thing': MoS Home
Amid the ongoing border dispute between Mizoram and Assam, Union minister of state for Home Affairs and Bharatiya Janata Party leader Ajay Mishra Teni on Saturday termed it as an 'old dispute' and said that the Mizoram police registering a case against Assam Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma in the matter is a 'normal thing'.

Stating that Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Union Home Minister Amit Shah are monitoring the issue closely, Teni assured that the matter shall be resolved soon.

"The border dispute is an old dispute. it is constantly being monitored by the Prime Minister and Amit Shah ji and are trying to fix it. It shall be resolved soon. A case registered against the chief minister of Assam regarding the border dispute is a normal thing," said Teni speaking to reporters in New Delhi on Saturday.

Mizoram police filed criminal cases against Assam Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma, four senior officers of the state police, and two more officials, the police said on Friday.

The development comes days after the border dispute between the two states peaked and a fierce gun battle between the forces of the two states resulted in the death of five Assam police personnel and one civilian.One injured policeman succumbed to his injuries later taking the total number of policemen killed to six.

At least 50 people were injured in the incident.

A total of six companies of the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) have been deployed at the site where the policemen died.

Assam Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma on Saturday reacted to reports that an FIR had been filed against him and six officials in Kolasib district of Mizoram and asked why the case was not being handed over to a neutral agency as the incident took place within the constitutional territory of Assam.

Himanta Biswa Sarma said he has already spoken to Mizoram Chief Minister Zoramthanga on the issue.

'Will be very happy to join in any investigation. But why the case is not being handed over to a neutral agency, especially when the place of occurrence is well within the constitutional territory of Assam? Have already conveyed this to @ZoramthangaCM ji,' he said in a tweet.

Bharatiya Janata Party leaders said vested interests will seek to benefit from tensions in Assam and Mizoram, both of which are border states.

"We can't let that happen. Let there be a commission to resolve this matter between two states," a senior BJP leader said.

He said Assam has been trying to diffuse the tension.

Chief secretaries and DGPs of both states attended the meeting called by Union Home Ministry on July 28.

Meanwhile, with efforts continuing to defuse border tensions between Assam and Mizoram, the row and the violence earlier this week is likely to be raised in parliament by BJP MPs from Assam on Monday.

Sources said that the MPs can raise the issue under rule 377.

Under Rule 377 of the Rules of Procedure and Conduct of Business on Lok Sabha, members raise matters of urgent public importance that cannot be raised as short notice questions and calling attention motions.   -- ANI
11:07   India, UK to study Ashwagandha for Covid recovery
The AYUSH Ministry has collaborated with United Kingdom's London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine to conduct a study on Ashwagandha for promoting recovery from COVID-19.
The All India Institute of Ayurveda, an autonomous body under the Ministry of AYUSH, and LSHTM recently signed a memorandum of understanding to conduct clinical trials of Ashwagandha on 2,000 people in three UK cities -- Leicester, Birmingham and London (Southall and Wembley), the ministry said in a statement.  
Ashwagandha (withania somnifera), commonly known as 'Indian winter cherry', is a traditional herb that boosts energy, reduces stress and makes the immune system stronger. It is an easily accessible, over-the-counter nutritional supplement in the UK and has a proven safety profile, it said. 
The successful completion of the trial can be a major breakthrough and give scientific validity to India's traditional medicinal system. While there have been several studies on Ashwagandha to understand its benefits in various ailments, this is the first time the Ministry of AYUSH has collaborated with a foreign institution to investigate its efficacy on COVID-19 patients, it added.
According to AIIA Director Dr Tanuja Manoj Nesari, who is also a co-investigator in the project along with Dr Rajgopalan, Coordinator, International Projects, the participants have been randomly selected. Dr Sanjay Kinra of LSHTM is the principal investigator of the study.
"For three months, one group of 1,000 participants will be administered Ashwagandha (AG) tablets while the second group of 1,000 participants will be assigned a placebo, which is indistinguishable from AG in looks and taste. Both patients and the doctors will be unaware of the group's treatment in a double-blind trial," Dr Nesari said in the statement.
The participants will have to take the 500 mg tablets twice a day. A monthly follow-up of self-reported quality of life, impairment to activities of daily living, mental and physical health symptoms, supplement use and adverse events will be carried out.
It took over 100 meetings spanning about 16 months through both diplomatic as well as regulatory channels for signing of the MoU, Dr Nesari said. She added that the study has been approved by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) and certified by WHO-GMP. It is being conducted and monitored as per the internationally recognized GCP (Good Clinical Practices) guidelines, she added.
Recently, a number of randomized placebo controlled trials of Ashwagandha in humans in India have demonstrated its efficacy in reducing anxiety and stress, improving muscle strength and reducing symptoms of fatigue in patients treated for chronic conditions. It has also been indicated for treating non-restorative sleep, a hallmark of chronic fatigue, for which the trials are currently ongoing, the statement said. 
Combined with substantial literature on its pharmacological and immunomodulatory effects in vitro and in animals, the study suggests Ashwagandha as a potential therapeutic candidate for alleviating the long-term symptoms of COVID-19, it added.
After the trial's success, Ashwagandha will be a proven medicinal treatment to prevent infection and be recognized by the scientific community worldwide.  
Despite successful vaccine development, COVID-19 continues to pose a substantial threat to health in the UK and globally. More than 15 per cent of adults in the UK, where the clinical trials on Ashwagandha are going to take place, and more than 10 per cent globally have been infected with the SARS-CoV-2 virus. -- PTI 
10:17   India records 41,831 new COVID-19 cases
India saw a single-day rise of 41,831 new COVID-19 cases, taking the tally to 3,16,55,824, while the cumulative vaccine doses administered in the country has crossed 47 crore, according to Union health ministry data updated on Sunday.
The death toll climbed to 4,24,351 with 541 daily fatalities.
Registering an increase for the fifth consecutive cases, the active cases have climbed to 4,10,952 and comprises 1.30 per cent of the total infections, while the national COVID-19 recovery rate was recorded at 97.36 per cent, the data updated at 8 am showed.
An increase of 2,032 Covid cases has been recorded in the total number COVID-19 caseload in a span of  24 hours.
Also, 17,89,472 tests were conducted on Saturday, taking the  cumulative tests conducted so far for detection of COVID-19 in the country to 46,82,16,510, while the daily positivity rate was recorded at 2.34 per cent . 
Weekly positivity rate was recorded at 2.42 per cent, according to the health ministry.
The number of people who have recuperated from the disease surged to 3,08,20,521, while the case fatality rate stands at 1.34 per cent, the data stated.
Cumulative vaccine doses administered so far has reached 47.02 crore under the nationwide vaccination drive.
India's COVID-19 tally had crossed the 20-lakh mark on August 7, 30 lakh on August 23, 40 lakh on September 5 and 50 lakh on September 16. -- PTI
09:58   Court upholds CBI probe in UP rape survivor's accident
A Delhi court has upheld the investigation conducted by the Central Bureau of Investigation that had ruled out any foul play in the Unnao rape survivor's accident in 2019. 
In 2019, the rape survivor, her family, and lawyer were travelling in a car when it was hit by an overspeeding truck in Rae Bareli, killing two aunts and leaving her and the advocate critically injured.
Pursuant to this, a murder case was filed against expelled BJP MLA Kuldeep Singh Sengar, who was also awarded life-term imprisonment for raping the minor survivor, and nine others after her family filed a complaint alleging "conspiracy" behind the accident.
Dismissing these allegations, District and Sessions Judge Dharmesh Sharma held that the objections of the complainant party read like an engrossing thrilling story but were based on mere surmises and conjectures. 
He further said that there are no grounds to suspect the fidelity, accuracy, and sincerity of the investigation conducted by the CBI and that the agency came out with a plausible version of the incident. 
Notably, the investigating agency had concluded that there was no evidence regarding criminal conspiracy hatched between those named in the FIR, including Kuldeep Sengar, and the truck driver or the cleaner or for that matter owner of the offending truck.
Upholding the probe, the judge stated in an order dated July 31, "I have no hesitation in holding the findings of the CBI in the chargesheet, that there is no case against the accused persons so as to take cognisance and proceed against them under Section 302 (murder) and 307 (attempt to murder) read with Section 120B (criminal conspiracy) of the Indian Penal Code, cannot be faulted."
The sessions judge, however, framed charges against the truck driver for causing death by negligence and doing an act to endanger human life, besides framing charges of criminal intimidation against Sengar and his associates.
Besides this, on December 20, 2019, Sengar was sentenced to jail for the "remainder of his natural biological life" in a separate case for raping the minor in 2017.
On March 4, 2020, Sengar, his brother, and five others were also convicted for the death of the rape survivor's father in judicial custody and were sentenced to 10 years imprisonment. -- PTI
09:48   JD-U opposes coercive measures to control population
Janata Dal-United MP Rajiv Ranjan, better known as Lalan Singh, was on Saturday elected as its national president at the party's national executive meeting here in place of Union minister R C P Singh, who stepped down following his induction in the Modi Cabinet.
The party also passed a number of resolutions, including reiterating its position that the central government should come out with caste census, an issue with potentially wide political ramifications, and also spoke against any coercive measures like the enactment of laws to control population growth.
Some BJP-ruled states, including Uttar Pradesh, have batted for a law to curb the population growth.
JD-U spokesperson K C Tyagi told reporters that coercive policies had failed during the Emergency, even as he added his party was in support of steps to control the growth of population.
Tyagi said the party's national council will meet in Patna in August to endorse Lalan Singh's election as its president. The council is the largest organisational body of the party and is also expected to discuss other pertinent issues.
Lalan Singh, a confidant of the party's main face and Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar and its first upper-caste national president, asserted that he will work to strengthen the JD-U in different parts of the country and will reach out to those leaders who were once part of the organisation but have drifted away for some reasons.
Kumar, whose party's equation with the ally BJP has been uneven, also attended the national executive meeting and is scheduled to have a luncheon meeting with INLD leader Om Prakash Chautala on Sunday.
Tyagi, however, said that politics should not be read into it as both leaders go back many decades and share similar socialist background.
Chautala was released from jail sometime back after being convicted on corruption charges.
The JD-U MPs have also sought time from Prime Minister Narendra Modi to press upon their demand that the Centre should come out with caste census as it will help shape development schemes and make them more targeted, he said.
The government had told Parliament in March this year that there is no proposal at present to release the report of the caste census carried out in 2011.
After independence, India decided as a matter of policy not to enumerate caste-wise population other than SCs and STs, it had said in March.
09:23   Assam's all-party delegation to visit Delhi to resolve Mizoram boundary row
A 19-member all-party delegation of Assam assembly, headed by Speaker Biswajit Daimary, on Saturday decided to visit Delhi and urge the Centre to resolve the state's boundary dispute with Mizoram at the earliest.
The delegation visited Lailapur close to the inter-state border where the clash took place on July 26 in which six Assam Police personnel and one civilian were killed, and later held a meeting at Silchar.
"It was decided at the meeting that an all-party delegation will meet the central government authorities and urge them to resolve the border dispute at the earliest as well as ensure that the constitutional boundaries were maintained," an official release said.
The delegation members unanimously decided to support the Assam government in all measures it takes to "protect the border" at any stage of the ongoing dispute in the interest of the people of the state. 
The speaker also appealed to everyone to remain united to protect Assam's land and its people.
"Just as all parties in Mizoram are united in protecting the borders of their state, all parties in Assam must also be united," Daimary said. 
He said that there is a need to formulate new policies or enact laws in the interest of inter-state border security to ensure that not an inch of the state's land was encroached upon.
Besides Daimary, the delegation comprised Deputy Speaker Numal Momin, BJP MLAs Jayanta Malla Baruah, Bhuban Pegu, Rupak Sarmah and Krishna Kamal Tanti, Congress members Kamalakhya Dey Purkayastha, Misbahul Islam Laskar, Siddeque Ahmed and Khaliluddin Mazumder.
Other members of the delegation were AGP's Ramendra Narayan Kalita and Prodip Hazarika, AIUDF's Zakir Hussain Laskar, Suzamuddin Laskar and Karimuddin Barbhuiya, UPPL's Lawrence Islary, BPF's Charam Boro, CPI(M)'s Manoranjan Talukdar and Independent MLA Akhil Gogoi.
Cutting across party lines, 15 MLA from the three Barak Valley districts of Cachar, Karimganj and Hailakandi have assured full support to the Assam government in dealing with the inter-state border situation. -- PTI
08:30   First Zika virus case found in Maharashtra
The first Zika virus infection case in Maharashtra has been reported from Pune district, officials said on Saturday, while also appealing people not to panic.

The woman patient who was diagnosed with the infection has recovered completely, the state health department said.

"She and her family members do not have any symptoms," it said in a statement.

The 50-year-old woman, a resident of Belsar village in Purandar tehsil, received her test report on Friday. 

The report said that besides Zika infection, she was also infected by Chickungunya.

A government medical team visited the village on Saturday and met the sarpanch and gram panchayat members and instructed them about preventive measures, the statement said.

Zika virus spreads through the bite of the aedes aegypti mosquito and most patients do not have symptoms.

The typical symptoms include fever, body ache and conjunctivitis, and pregnant women should be more careful, the statement said.

State surveillance officer Dr Pradip Awate told PTI that there was no need to panic.

"Zika is a moderate disease as 80 per cent patients do not get any symptoms and remaining 20 per cent have moderate flu-like symptoms. One can recover by drinking enough water, taking rest and having a simple paracetamol tablet," he said.

Death due to Zika virus  infection was unheard of, he added.

Dr Awate also said that when a Zika virus outbreak took place in Brazil in 2019, it was believed that its infection during pregnancy can cause infants to be born with microcephaly (abnormal smallness of the head), but this connection has not been proved so far.

"However, we have still put special emphasis on the need for special care of pregnant women," he added.

Ayush Prasad, Chief Executive Officer, Pune district, appealed people not to panic. "It's due to proactive work of our field teams that the case was detected. We are working very hard to contain the spread and make the best healthcare available to people," he said. -- PTI