Wed, 01 December 2021
Odisha readies for cyclone, evacuates people

Timeline  Refresh

23:26   Odisha readies for cyclone, evacuates people
With the Indian meteorological department forecast of a cyclonic storm reaching Odishs coast on December 4, the state government on Wednesday asked collectors of 13 districts to prepare for evacuation of the people and has chalked out a disaster management strategy by requisitioning National Disaster Response Force, Odisha Disaster Rapid Action Force and fire department personnel for rescue and relief operation.           

The forecast said that the low pressure area in south Andaman Sea will intensify into a depression and move towards the coast as a cyclonic storm on December 4 and the Coast Guard has initiated extensive pre-emptive measures in the eastern coast keeping it in view.         

The Coast Guard disaster relief teams with inflatable boats, life buoys and life jackets are on the standby for disaster response operation, a twitter post by the defence public relations officer in Chennai said.         

Medical teams and ambulance have been kept ready for swift mobilisation, it said.         

The district authorities in some places are asking farmers over the public address system to harvest their ripe paddy crops, the state chief secretary said.         

Fishermen have been advised to not venture into the southeast and adjoining east-central Bay of Bengal on December 2 and 3, into west central and adjoining northwest Bay of Bengal and along and off North Andhra Pradesh Odisha West Bengal coasts from December 3 to 5, state relief commissioner PK Jena said.         

The sea condition is likely to be very rough with the squally wind speed reaching 45 to 55 kmph, gusting to 65 kmph on December 3. 

The wind speed is likely to reach 80 kmph gusting to 90 kmph on December 4 morning, an advisory issued by him said.    -- PTI
23:03   Scribe held for alleged derogatory remarks against Kerala health min
A journalist was arrested here on Wednesday for allegedly making derogatory remarks against Kerala health minister Veena George.          

The Kochi cyber crime police arrested the scribe, TP Nandakumar, based on a complaint by a lawyer.        

The police commissionerate, Kochi, in a release, confirmed the arrest of the journalist -- also known as 'Crime Nandakumar' -- and said that his home and office were searched for any digital evidence in connection with the allegations against him. -- PTI
22:29   BSF fires on drone coming from Pak in Amritsar
The Border Security Force Wednesday said its troops fired on a drone along the India-Pakistan border in the Amritsar sector, forcing it to return.                 
In an official statement, the BSF said its personnel opened fire after they heard the humming sound of the drone coming from the Pakistan side and entering into the Indian territory on the intervening night of November 30 and December 1.                 

"Suspecting the modus operandi of anti-national elements of smuggling through a drone, troops retaliated with fire in the direction of a humming drone to thwart their attempt. Further, troops heard the returning sound of the suspected drone to Pak territory after 10 seconds," it said.                 

"Immediately, the depth area was cordoned, police was informed and all escape routes were chocked. During extensive search of the area, 01 black colour bag with a ring attached with thread sling to hold the bag was found in a farm field on own side of fence," said the BSF.                 

"Four packets of contraband suspected to be heroin (weight appx. 3.660 kg) were recovered from the bag," it said. -- PTI
21:51   Over 125 cr Covid vaccine jabs administered in India so far: Health min
The cumulative number of COVID vaccine doses administered in the country crossed 125 crore on Wednesday, the Union health ministry said. 

More than 71,55,049 vaccine doses have been administered till 7 pm, it said. 

The daily vaccination tally is expected to increase with the compilation of the final reports for the day by late night, the ministry said. 

The countrywide vaccination drive was rolled out on January 16 with healthcare workers getting inoculated in the first phase. 

The vaccination of frontline workers started from February 2. 

The next phase of COVID-19 vaccination commenced from March 1 for people over 60 years of age and those aged 45 and above with specific comorbid conditions. 

The country launched vaccination for all people aged more than 45 years from April 1. 

The government then decided to expand its vaccination drive by allowing everyone above 18 to be vaccinated from May 1. -- PTI
21:23   WhatsApp bans 2 mn Indian accounts in Oct: Report
Over 2 million Indian accounts were banned by WhatsApp, while 500 grievance reports were received by the messaging platform in October, according to its compliance report. 

In its latest report released on Monday, WhatsApp said 2,069,000 Indian accounts were banned on WhatsApp during the said period. 

An Indian account is identified via a +91 phone number, it added. 

"WhatsApp is an industry leader in preventing abuse, among end-to-end encrypted messaging services. Over the years, we have consistently invested in Artificial Intelligence and other state of the art technology, data scientists and experts, and in processes, in order to keep our users safe on our platform," a WhatsApp spokesperson said. 

In accordance with the IT Rules 2021, the platform has published its fifth monthly report for the month of October, the spokesperson said. 

"This user-safety report contains details of the user complaints received and the corresponding action taken by WhatsApp, as well as WhatsApp's own preventive actions to combat abuse on our platform. As captured in the latest monthly report, WhatsApp banned over 2 million accounts in the month of October," the spokesperson said. 

Previously, the Facebook-owned company had stated that more than 95 per cent of bans are due to the unauthorised use of automated or bulk messaging (spam). 

The global average number of accounts that WhatsApp bans to prevent abuse on its platform is around 8 million accounts per month. -- PTI
20:46   Man loses Rs 89,000 while ordering food online in Maharashtra
A man allegedly lost Rs 89,000 while ordering for food online from a famous restaurant in Maharashtra's Aurangabad city, police said on Wednesday. 

Based on a complaint, an offence was registered on Tuesday at MIDC police station under section 420 (cheating) of the IPC and relevant provisions of the IT Act, an official said. 

The incident took place in September when Babasaheb Thombre (41), a resident of Naregaon area of Aurangabad city, came across an advertisement on social media offering discount on meals, an official said. 

The advertisement was about a famous restaurant in the city offering two meals at the price of one, he said. 

To place an order, the man had to share his credit card details, and when he did so, Rs 89,000 were deducted from his bank account, the official said, adding that further probe is underway. -- PTI
20:29   4 from UK, Netherlands test Covid positive
Four people who flew into Delhi from the Netherlands and the UK in the early hours of Wednesday have tested positive for COVID-19 and their samples have been sent for genome sequencing to ascertain if they have the new variant, Omicron, sources said.                 

All four have been admitted to the LNJP Hospital, where a dedicated ward has been set up for isolating and treating such patients, they added.                 
"Four flights originating from Amsterdam and London and carrying 1,013 passengers landed at the Indira Gandhi international airport between 12 night and 6 am. Of these passengers, four have tested positive," a source said.                 

Three patients travelled on a flight from Amsterdam that carried a total of 372 people. 

The fourth patient travelled with 176 others on a flight from London. All four are Indian nationals, he added.                  

A source at the LNJP Hospital said two more travellers who tested negative but have COVID-like symptoms have been brought to the hospital.                 

A total of six patients are in the hospital at present, the source said. -- PTI
19:52   No nuclear plant leak in India in last 3 yrs: Govt
There have been no incidents of radioactive leakage to the environment from any nuclear power plant in the country in the last three years, the Atomic Energy Ministry said.

Responding to a question in the Lok Sabha, Minister of State in the Department of Space and Department of Atomic Energy Jitendra Singh said the safety of nuclear power plants is continuously monitored and reviewed by the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board.

"There have been no incidents of radioactive leakage to the environment from any nuclear power plant in the country in the last three years," he said in a written reply.

Responding to another question, Singh said land measuring around 174 hectares in an L-shaped configuration (with each arm of the L being 4 km in length) has been acquired for the LIGO-India Project at Aundha in Maharashtra's Hingoli district.

The government has committed Rs 79.85 crore for the pre-investment activities of Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO)-India Project.

"The project requires identification, acquisition and development of a seismically low noise site, followed by construction of the civil facility required for housing the 4 km arm length interferometer detector suitably designed to address all the vibration sources such as pumps, fans, HVAC etc," he said.

The scope of work also involves fabrication and installation of large vacuum chambers, liquid nitrogen cryo-pumps etc, with the required quality control and contamination control to achieve ultra-high vacuum suitable for installation of the detector, the minister added.

This project aims to provide opportunities to scientists and engineers to dig deeper into the realm of gravitational waves.

A few years back, scientists had, for the first time, observed ripples in the fabric of space-time called gravitational waves, arriving at Earth from a cataclysmic event in the distant universe.

In 2016, the central government had given an 'in-principle' approval to the LIGO-India mega science proposal for research on gravitational waves.
Representational pic
Representational pic
19:36   Mumbai girl gets new lease of life after receiving MP farmer's heart
A five-year-old girl suffering from a rare heart condition got a new lease of life after the heart of a 41-year-old farmer from Madhya Pradesh was flown to Mumbai and transplanted in her, an official said on Wednesday.

According to officials from Indore's Government Mahatma Gandhi Memorial Medical College, farmer Khum Singh Solanki's body was airlifted to Mumbai on Tuesday night.

The girl was suffering from a rare disease that caused her heart and surrounding areas to enlarge in an unusual manner. The heart retrieved from the farmer's body was a bit small compared to the normal one, the dean of the medical college Dr Sanjay Dixit said.

Considering this unusual coincidence, the heart of an adult man was transplanted in the child's body. The transplant surgery was completed late on Tuesday night, which is a rare case in the medical world, he said.

The child's condition was stable and doctors of the hospital in Mumbai are keeping a watch over her, Dixit said.

Solanki, a resident of Pipliya Lohar village of Dewas district, was critically injured in a road accident and was admitted in a private hospital in Indore, it was stated.

Doctors declared him brain dead on Tuesday, following which his family consented to donate his vital organs, and his heart, liver, kidney and lungs were retrieved, officials said.

Solanki's liver and kidneys were transplanted in the bodies of three persons in Indore, while his lungs were donated to a 38-year-old in Hyderabad.

In the last six years in Indore, vital organs of 42 brain-dead persons had been donated to patients in Delhi, Haryana, Maharashtra and Telangana, the officials added.
19:15   Court rejects Elgar accused Teltumbde's bail plea
A special NIA court here on Wednesday denied interim bail to activist Anand Teltumbde, an accused in the Elgar Parishad-Maoist links case, to visit his nonagenarian mother in wake of the death of his brother Milind Teltumbde, a top Naxal leader, in an encounter with security forces last month.

Anand Teltumbde is currently lodged in Taloja jail in Navi Mumbai following his arrest in the Elgar Parishad case in April 2020.

Special court judge D E Kothalikar rejected his temporary bail application.

In the plea filed on November 23, Anand Teltumbde had said that he came to know that his brother Milind Teltumbde, one of the wanted accused in the case, was killed on November 13 in Gadchiroli.

He added that his mother is over 90 years old and at such a moment of bereavement, he being the eldest in the family, not only his presence by the side of the mother and his siblings would be of great moral support, but also gathering of all family members would be a solace to each other.

In the plea, he had sought 15-day bail.

Meanwhile, another accused in the case, Surendra Gadling has moved a plea seeking plastic chair and table inside prison. He also sought permission for allowing a personal shaving kit to him.

The court has sought a report from the prison authorities and posted the matter for hearing on December 8.

Anand Teltumbde and other activists were initially booked by the Pune police after violence erupted at Koregaon Bhima village near Pune, a day after the Elgar Parishad conclave was held in the city on December 31, 2017. Inflammatory speeches and provocative statements made at the conclave triggered the violence at Koregaon Bhima the next day, the police had alleged.

According to police, the event was "backed" by Maoists. Later on, the NIA later took over the probe into the case.

Milind Teltumbde was among the 26 Naxals who were killed in the encounter with security forces in Gadchiroli. He was carrying a reward of Rs 50 lakh on his head for his alleged involvement in violent activities against the state.
Representational pic
Representational pic
19:01   Ship stranded in high seas off Lakshadweep coast due to engine fire, passengers safe
A ship with over 322 passengers and 85 crew on Wednesday was stranded in the high seas 16 nautical miles from here after its engine caught fire. The vessel was sailing to Androth Island, a part of the Lakshadweep archipelago, officials sources said.

All the passengers and crew are safe and another ship has been sent to tow the stranded vessel to Androth, the sources said.

MV Kavaratti had left for Lakshadweep from Kochi on Tuesday and offloaded some passengers. Then, the shop was on its way to Androth and other islands of the archipelago on Wednesday when the incident occurred.

While it was a few hours away from Androth, the ship's engine caught fire, sources said and added that though the flames were extinguished promptly, it could not sail further.

Subsequently, another ship -- MV Corals -- was dispatched to tow the stranded vessel to Androth from where the passengers going to the islands would be ferried there in smaller boats, sources said.
18:29   Negative RT-PCR must at Mumbai airport: BMC
Amid global concerns over the Omicron strain of coronavirus, the Mumbai civic body on Wednesday mandated all domestic passengers landing at the city airport to carry a negative RT-PCR report not older than 72 hours.

In a circular, the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) asked the Mumbai airport operator to communicate this new rule to all the domestic airlines.

"The Mumbai Airport operator to communicate to all domestic Airlines that they shall not board, ordinarily, any passenger for landing in Mumbai without RT-PCR test with negative result taken within 72 hours of departure," the directive stated.

In Maharashtra, six passengers from the high-risk countries have tested positive for coronavirus so far, a health bulletin had said.

As one of them is from Mumbai, the BMC has tightened measures.

The civic body said passengers can be exempted from the RT-PCR report rule only in exceptional cases like family distress, and the testing may be allowed on arrival at the airport in Mumbai.

The civic body also directed the airport operator to strictly implement the revised COVID-19 guidelines of the Government of India (GOI) issued in view of the concerns over the new Omicron variant of coronavirus "with immediate effect".

As per the Centre's guidelines, the passengers arriving from the "risk" countries specified in the circular will have to undergo a self-paid post-arrival COVID-19 test at the port of arrival, the civic body said.

The BMC also said that the Maharashtra government's directives "shall become operational from 23:59 hours of December 2, 2021".

In the latest guidelines, the Maharashtra government has specified that the passengers coming from "risk countries" shall compulsorily undergo institutional quarantine for one week and take RT-PCR tests on the 2nd, 4th and 7th-day post-arrival.

The civic body said that it has decided to give two days for the passengers coming from "risk" countries as many of them have already finalised their travel plans and are on the move. Many passengers might be airborne and they might not be aware of these recent guidelines.

"To avoid major inconveniences and also to recast their travel plans, a window of two days is proposed to be given to all passengers from the risk countries," the BMC stated.

The Maharashtra State Disaster Management Authority on Tuesday night had issued the latest guidelines.

The list of 'at-risk countries is announced by the Union government.

According to an updated list, the countries designated as 'at-risk are the European countries, the UK, South Africa, Brazil, Botswana, China, Mauritius, New Zealand, Zimbabwe, Singapore, Hong Kong and Israel.
A suite at the Six Senses Fort Barwara
A suite at the Six Senses Fort Barwara
17:41   Gajraj Rao reacts to Vicky-Kat's 'no-phone policy' wedding
Actor Gajraj Rao's latest Instagram post provides further proof that Vicky Kaushal and Katrina Kaif's wedding is afoot. 

The 'Badhaai Ho' star posted a screenshot of a news report which stated that there is a no-phone policy at the wedding.

Gajraj wrote, "Selfie nahi lene dega, to main nahi aa raha byah main...(If you won't let me take a selfie then I'm not coming to the wedding)." He added a sad face emoji to the post and tagged Vicky Kaushal. 

According to media reports, Vicky and Katrina's marriage will be held over three days at Six Senses Fort Barwara, in Sawai Madhopur, Rajasthan from December 7 to December 9.
Manjinder Singh Sirsa
Manjinder Singh Sirsa
17:33   SAD leader joins BJP
Shiromani Akali Dal leader Manjinder Singh Sirsa joins the BJP. 

Manjinder Singh Sirsa tendered his resignation as the president of Delhi Sikh Gurudwara Management Committee (DSGMC).

Taking to his Twitter handle, he wrote, "With gratitude to all office bearers, members, staff & people who worked with me; I am resigning from Delhi Sikh Gurudwara Management Committee as President. I will not contest the upcoming DSGMC internal elections. My commitment to serving my community, humanity & nation remains the same!"
17:20   Maha: RT-PCR not mandatory for fully vaccinated
Maharashtra Health Minister Rajesh Tope now says that COVID-19 guidelines for international and domestic travellers coming to the state amid the Omicron emergence does NOT mandate RT-PCR test. "A fully-vaccinated local domestic passenger can travel without RT-PCR test," says State Health Minister Rajesh Tope.

This is what the Maharashtra government's travel guidelines amid the Omicron outbreak are:

i. Mandatory RTPCR testing of all international travellers at the Mumbai airport, irrespective of country of origin 
ii. Mandatory 14-day home quarantine for all international passengers, despite being tested RTPCR Negative upon arrival 
iii. Mandatory RTPCR test for passengers planning to undertake connecting
flights after disembarking at Mumbai and further travel subject to a negative RTPCR result 
iv. Requirement of negative RTPCR test 48 hours prior to date of journey, for domestic passengers travelling from other states to Maharashtra.
17:12   Align Omicron travel rules: Centre to Maha
After the Maharashtra government revised the guidelines on quarantine for international passengers in view of concerns over the Omicron variant, the Centre on Wednesday asked the state to align its order with the SOPs issued by the Union Health Ministry. 

 Maharashtra has mandated seven-day institutional quarantine for travellers arriving in the state from 'at-risk' countries under the guidelines issued by the State Disaster Management Authority on Tuesday night. 

 Such passengers will also undergo-PCR test on the second, fourth and seventh day of arrival. If found to be COVID-19 positive, the passenger will be shifted to a hospital. In case the test is negative, the passenger will still have to undergo seven-day home quarantine. 

 Union Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushan, in a letter, said that the order issued by the Maharashtra government is in divergence with the COVID-19 SoPs and guidelines issued by Union Health Ministry for international passengers. 

 "I would, therefore, urge you to align the orders issued by the state with the guidelines issued by the Ministry of Health, Government of India, so that uniform implementation of the guidelines may be ensured across all states and UTs. 

 "I would also advise that such modified orders of the state government are given wide publicity to obviate any inconvenience to travellers," he said in the letter addressed to Pradeep Kumar Vyas, Additional Chief Secretary of the state's Department of Health & Family Welfare.

 Under the new guidelines issued by the Union Health Ministry on November 28, passengers originating or transiting from at-risk countries will have to undergo-PCR testing post-arrival and will be required to wait for the results at the airport before leaving or taking a connecting flight.

Travellers from countries excluding those countries at risk will be allowed to leave the airport and shall self-monitor their health for 14 days post-arrival but five percent of the total flight passengers shall undergo post-arrival testing at random at the airport on arrival.

However, according to the Maharashtra government guidelines, passengers from other than 'at-risk' countries will have to undergo a compulsory-PCR test at the airport. Even if found negative, they will have to undergo 14-day home quarantine. 

'At-risk' nations are the European countries, the UK, South Africa, Brazil, Botswana, China, Mauritius, New Zealand, Zimbabwe, Singapore, Hong Kong and Israel. PTI
16:59   There is no UPA: Mamata on anti-BJP alliance
Mamata Banerjee on her meeting with NCP chief Sharad Pawar: "A firm alternative should be made as nobody's fighting against ongoing fascism. Sharadji is the seniormost leader and I came to discuss our political parties. I agree with whatever Sharadji said. There is no UPA."

NCP Chief Sharad Pawar when asked if Congress will be a part of it, amid talks of a "strong alternative" in his meeting with WB CM-TMC chief Mamata Banerjee, "Be it Congress or any other party, the thing is that those who are against BJP, if they'll come together, they're welcome."

Congress reacts: "Everybody knows the reality of Indian politics. Thinking that without Congress anybody can defeat BJP is merely a dream," Congress General Secretary KC Venugopal.
16:25   Mamata meets Sharad Pawar, talks leadership
West Bengal CM and TMC chief Mamata Banerjee met NCP chief Sharad Pawar in Mumbai today.

Banerjee said Maharashtra and West Bengal have good relations and that is why she was going to meet Pawar. 

 "Let's be united, give justice to people and save our country and democracy," she said. 

After the meeting, Pawar said, "Sanjay Raut and Aaditya Thackeray met her. Today, my colleagues and I had a long chat with her. Her intention is, in today's situation, like-minded forces have to come together at the national level and set up a collective leadership."

 Banerjee appealed to members of the civil society to travel to across country to generate awareness towards this cause. 

Noted lyricist Javed Akhtar, social activist Medha Patkar, actor Richa Chadha and stand-up comedian Munawar Faruqui were among those who participated in the interaction.

 On Tuesday, Banerjee met Shiv Sena leaders Aaditya Thackeray and Sanjay Raut. The meeting was seen as an outreach to fellow opposition leaders by the TMC head.
16:20   Mapped: the scrips that prevailed despite Omicron
Indusind Bank was the top gainer in the markets today.
16:13   MPLADS restored, MPs to get Rs 2 cr for remaining part of 2021-22
The government has restored Member of Parliament Local Area Development Scheme (MPLADS) for the remaining part of 2021-21 with release of Rs 2 crore per Member of Parliament in one installment, Parliament was informed on Wednesday.

 "The Government has approved restoration of MPLADS during the remaining part of the financial year 2021-22 with release of MPLADS fund at the rate of Rs 2 crore per Member of Parliament in one instalment," Statistics Minister Rao Inderjit Singh said in a written reply to the Lok Sabha. 

 The minister also told the House that the government has continued MPLADS from 2022-23 to 2025-26, with the annual entitlement of Rs 5 crore per MP as per the extant MPLADS Guidelines, with a total financial outlay of Rs 17,417.00 crore from 2021-22 to 2025-26.
16:12   Sensex rebounds 620 pts; Nifty above 17,100
Equity benchmark Sensex rebounded 620 points on Wednesday, boosted by gains in index majors Reliance Industries, Maruti and SBI amid a positive trend in global markets. 

 The 30-share index ended 619.92 points or 1.09 per cent higher at 57,684.79.

 Similarly, the NSE Nifty surged 183.70 points or 1.08 per cent to close at 17,166.90. IndusInd Bank was the top gainer in the Sensex pack, rising nearly 6 per cent, followed by Axis Bank, SBI, Maruti, Tech Mahindra and Reliance Industries. 

 On the other hand, Dr Reddy's, UltraTech Cement, Sun Pharma, Bharti Airtel and Titan were among the laggards.
16:08   India's mfg sector gain further strength in Nov
India's manufacturing sector activities gained further strength in November, and witnessed the strongest increase in production and sales since February on improving market conditions, a monthly survey said on Wednesday. 

 The seasonally adjusted IHS Markit India Manufacturing Purchasing Managers' Index (PMI), increased from 55.9 in October to 57.6 in November, signalling the strongest improvement in the health of the sector in ten months. 
15:55   80% of intl passengers in Delhi opt for Rapid PCR
On the first day of implementation of the new COVID-19 guidelines for international travellers, around 80 per cent of passengers opted for Rapid PCR test while others go with regular RT-PCR test.

"Passengers arriving at IGI Airport after 10-14 hours of flight do not want to wait for another five hours for test results and they prefer Rapid PCR test to leave the airport for their destination at the earliest," an airport official said on Wednesday. 

A senior airport official said that amid rising concerns over the emergence of the Covid variant Omicron, the Ministry of Health and family has set new guidelines for international travellers that are being implemented from December 1 onwards.

"Out of total 1,013 passengers that arrived at IGI Airport from 'at risk' countries, 792 opted for Rapid PCR test that cost Rs 3900 while others 221 passengers decided to take RT-PCR test that costs Rs 500," said the official.
15:36   RT-PCR tests on intl passengers on day 2, 4, 7
The Maharashtra government says that international passengers from at-risk countries may be de-planed on priority and separate counters will be arranged by MIAL and Airport Authority for conducting their RT-PCR tests etc. 

They will have to undergo mandatory seven-day institutional quarantine, while RT-PCR tests will be carried out on days 2, 4 and 7.

The strict guidelines for international passengers, especially coming from 'at-risk' countries, came into effect from Tuesday midnight amid rising concerns over the emergence of the COVID variant Omicron.

Under the new norms, RT-PCR tests are mandatory for passengers arriving from 'at-risk' countries, and they will be allowed to leave the airport only after the test results come. Also, randomly five per cent of the passengers arriving on flights from other countries will be subject to the test.

While no cases of Omicron have been reported so far in India, the Union health ministry has asked states and Union Territories to ensure RT-PCR tests for travellers coming from 'at-risk' countries on the first day of arrival and retesting on the eighth day.

The ministry, on Tuesday, also advised international passengers from 'at-risk' countries to prepare to wait at the airports till the report of the RT-PCR test has come and not book connecting flights beforehand.
15:16   Omicron effect: Intl flights won't resume on Dec 15
India's aviation regulator, the Directorate General of Civil Aviation, has decided to postpone resumption of scheduled international flights from December 15 in the wake of emergence of new Covid variant, Omicron.

After a long hiatus of more than 20 months, the government had on November 26 announced the resumption of scheduled international commercial flights from December 15.
14:45   Shah Rukh Khan was victimised: Mamata in Mumbai
Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, who held a meet in Mumbai today, said megastar Shah Rukh Khan was victimised. 

The meeting was attended by political leaders, social activists, former high court judges and celebrities -- High Court judges Shafi Parkar and Abhay Thipse, Tushar Gandhi, activists Teesta Setalvad and Medha Patkar, former Congress leader Sanjay Jha, Sudheendra Kulkarni, Shatrughan Sinha, author Shobha De and actors Swara Bhaskar, Rahul Bose and Konkona Sen Sharma.

Banerjee called the BJP a "cruel and undemocratic party", and underscored the need of unity and sought advice and guidance for the battle ahead.

"India loves manpower not muscle power. We are facing a cruel undemocratic party the BJP. If we are together, we will win," said the Trinamool chief, is on a two-day visit to Maharashtra.

"Mahesh ji (film director Mahesh Bhatt), you have been victimised, Shah Rukh Khan has also been victimised. If we have to win, we have to fight and speak out wherever you can. You guide us and give us advice as a political party," the West Bengal CM said.

She added that if all regional parties come together, then it will be easy to defeat the BJP.
Twitter CEO Parag Agarwal
Twitter CEO Parag Agarwal
14:29   Twitter CEO Parag Agrawal to get $1mn pa
Parag Agrawal, who has recently been named as the CEO of microblogging platform Twitter, will receive an annual salary of USD 1 million along with other perks and bonuses. 

 The India-born executive - who succeeds Jack Dorsey in this role - served as Twitter's Chief Technology Officer since 2017, and has been responsible for the company's technical strategy. 

 He joined the company in 2011 as a software engineer, leading efforts on scaling Twitter Ads systems, as well as reaccelerating audience growth by improving Home timeline relevance. 

 "...Agrawal will receive an annual salary of USD 1,000,000 and will continue to be a participant in the company's executive bonus plan with a new target bonus of 150 per cent of his annual base salary. Under the terms of the Offer Letter, in December 2021, the Board will grant to Mr Agrawal restricted stock units (RSUs) with a grant date face value of USD 12,500,000," a regulatory filing by Twitter to the US SEC, said. 

 The filing added that the RSUs will vest in 16 equal quarterly increments (each being 6.25 per cent of the grant) starting February 1, 2022, subject in each case to Agrawal remaining an employee of Twitter through the applicable vesting date.
Very heavy rain in Kerala last month
Very heavy rain in Kerala last month
14:14   168 very heavy rainfall events in Nov: IMD
The country saw 645 events of heavy rainfall and 168 of very heavy rainfall in November, the highest in the month in five years, the India Meteorological Department (IMD) said on Wednesday.

 It recorded 11 extremely heavy rainfall (more than 204.5 mm) events in the month, equalling the number reported last year. 

 The country saw 645 events of heavy rainfall (64.5 mm to 115.5 mm) and 168 events of very heavy rainfall (115.6 mm to 204.5 mm) in November, the highest in the last five years, according to the IMD's data.

 Peninsular India reported most of the extremely heavy to very heavy rainfall events, which claimed 44 lives in Andhra Pradesh, 16 in Tamil Nadu, 15 in Karnataka and three in Kerala.

 The Met office also said the country received 56.5 mm of rainfall against the normal of 30.5 mm -- an excess of 85.4 per cent -- in November. Peninsular India gauged 160 per cent more rainfall -- 232.7 mm against the average of 89.5 mm. PTI
14:04   AIADMK tweaks bylaws, seeks to shut doors on Sasikala
The main opposition AIADMK, which is facing challenge from eased out leader V K Sasikala, on Wednesday amended its bylaws to strengthen norms to retain the present leadership structure of top two positions held by O Panneerselvam and K Palaniswami. 

 The amendments to bylaws at the Executive Committe meeting of the AIADMK held in Chennai, effectively closes the door on Sasikala, who has claimed to be the party 'general secretary.'

 While amendments made in 2017 bestowed all the powers vested with the top position of general secretary to the then newly created positions of party coordinator (Panneerselvam) and joint coordinator (Palaniswami), the current tweaks further strengthen that top party structure. 

 The amendments mandate a 'single vote' by 'primary members' to elect the top leadership, which is the two positions of coordinator and joint coordinator. 

 While the posts are two, there cannot be separate votes, as the twin positions together constitute the party top leadership. According to the AIADMK, Sasiakala is not a member of the party, though she has claimed to be the general secretary.
14:03   If you are heading to Tirumala: Second ghat road closed for traffic
The second ghat road leading to the famous hill shrine of Lord Venkateswara in Tirumala has been indefinitely closed to vehicular traffic after massive boulders fell on the stretch following rain-triggered landslides. 

 The landslip took place early on Wednesday, a temple official said adding a group of about 20 devotees on a bus plying uphill had a miraculous escape as the driver swiftly brought the vehicle to a halt on noticing rocks rolling down the hills. 

 The dislodged rocks, some car-sized, have rolled down causing enormous damage to the road in many places and its protection railings at a height of 1000 feet and 800 feet respectively on 20 km long extremely curled serpentine road. 

 Recently, Tirumala had witnessed heavy downpour and after a gap of three days the hills again experienced moderate rain on Tuesday night, which have resulted in mudslides. 

 A team of experts from IIT in New Delhi is expected to visit the damage sites on the road soon the official said adding that TTD Board Chairman YV Subba Reddy also visited the site.
13:49   The new Covid guidelines if you are flying today
Mumbai's Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj International Airport (CSMIA) tightened COVID-19 guidelines on international passengers arriving in India. These rules are in place at Delhi, Chennai and most other airports as well in India. 

This follows the World Health Organisation's announcement that Omicron (B.1.1.529) has been classified as a COVID-19 Variant of Concern. The new guidelines take effect from today.
The details of the procedures followed are: 
Arriving passengers from high-risk countries, will be segregated from passengers arriving from low-risk countries.

Passengers arriving from at risk countries (as declared by GOI order dated 30th Nov, 2021) shall have to undergo mandatory 7 day institutional quarantine and RTPCR test to be carried out on day 2, day 4 and day 7 at the quarantine facility. If any of the tests are found to be positive, then the passenger shall be shifted to a hospital. Incase all the tests come negative; the passenger will have to undergo a further 7days of home quarantine.

Passengers from any other countries except the at-risk countries will have to compulsorily undergo RTPCR test at airport on arrival and on being found negative will have to undergo 14 days of home quarantine. If found positive they will be shifted to the hospital.

Adequate RT-PCR testing facility in international arrivals in form of 48 registration counters & 40 sampling booths.

In addition to standard RT-PCR, 30 Rapid PCR machines, are available for the passengers having connecting onward flights with short connecting time. 

Passengers who have not done their pre booking of RT-PCR test online, QR codes have been displayed at various locations in the arrival corridor.

Physical forms for RT-PCR registration are made available to passengers on board with help of airlines which they can fill before disembarking from flight & thus avoid queuing for the registration on arrival.

Passengers are required to be taken to quarantine / hotel facility as per the GoM guidelines, dated 30th November 2021, a dedicated transportation lobby is available & dedicated buses have been made available.

The lucky few who got oxygen during the 2nd Covid wave
The lucky few who got oxygen during the 2nd Covid wave
13:29   No data for government
A government that quite mysteriously does not have data on the following as well: 
No data of migrant deaths during Covid last year. 
No record of deaths due to lack of oxygen during the second Covid wave this year.

13:27   No data of farmers' deaths, no compensation: Govt
Union Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar has informed Parliament that the government has "no record" of the deaths of the farmers who camped out at Delhi borders protesting against the now repealed three farm laws.

In a written reply to the Opposition's query on whether the Centre will grant financial assistance to the families of the farmers who lost their lives during the year-long protest, Union Minister Tomar said, "Ministry of Agriculture has no record in the mater and hence the question does not arise."

Farmer leaders maintain that over 700 farmers perished while protesting against the contentious agri laws at the Singhu, Tikri and Ghazipur borders since November 2020. 

The deaths were chiefly due to harsh weather, illness contracted from unhygienic conditions, and suicide.

Meanwhile, the protesting farmers are standing firm on their demands, with the Samyukta Kisan Morcha (SKM) calling on the government to come to the table and discuss all pending issues with farm leaders.
Representational image
Representational image
13:16   Ahmedabad civic body offers Rs 60,000 smartphone to get vaccinated
In a bid to encourage citizens to get fully vaccinated against COVID-19, the Ahmedabad civic body has come up with a lucky draw scheme, announcing that its winner, who has taken the second dose of vaccine, will get a smartphone worth Rs 60,000. 

 Those who take their second jabs of COVID-19 vaccine between December 1 and 7 will be eligible for the scheme and one winner will be later declared through the lucky draw, the Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation (AMC) said in a statement on Wednesday. 

 The city civic body in Gujarat has from time-to-time come up with schemes to lure people eligible for vaccination to take their second dose of vaccine in order to achieve the target of 100 per cent inoculation. 

 The AMC had earlier distributed packets of one litre of edible oil to thousands of beneficiaries, especially from slums in the city. 

 So far, 78.7 lakh people have received vaccine doses in the city, including 47.7 lakh people who have taken the first dose and 31.0 lakh who have taken both the jabs, the AMC's health department said. 

 Those who have not taken even a single dose of vaccine and those due for the second dose will be prohibited from entering public areas, like gardens, zoo and museums, as well as private residential and commercial areas, the AMC said. 

 With effect from Wednesday, the civic body has also restricted the entry of such people to the urban/community health centres and hospitals run by it, the civic body said. 

 The AMC has set up points at the entrances of all its health centres and hospitals to check the status of COVID-19 vaccination of visitors.

 If a visitor (except a patient) is due for the vaccine dose, he/she will be given the shot at the centre before being allowed to enter the premises, it said.
Covid tests have been stepped up
Covid tests have been stepped up
13:04   Booster Covid doses a must: Virologist
Booster doses of COVID-19 vaccines are the easiest barrier that must be created immediately against Omicron, according to eminent virologist Dr T Jacob John. 

The virologist noted that it may not seed the third wave of the pandemic, but breakthrough infections may be common due to the new variant. 

 When a person gets an infection even after being vaccinated against it, it is called a breakthrough infection. 

 A new variant of COVID-19, feared to have a high amount of spike mutations, has been detected in South Africa. 

On November 26, the World Health Organization (WHO) designated B.1.1.529, first detected in southern Africa, as a variant of concern, on the advice of its Technical Advisory Group on Virus Evolution (TAG-VE) and named it Omicron. 

 Speaking to PTI on Omicron, John, an eminent virologist and the former director of the ICMR's Centre of Advanced Research in Virology, on Tuesday said the dictum here should be "expect the best but be prepared for the worst". 

 "While only some 30 per cent of the population is vaccinated with two doses, the cup is one-third full," he added. John said India's population is well-immunised by the massive first wave (which lasted eight months, infecting probably some 30 per cent of the population) of the Covid pandemic and the deadlier second wave (which in 12 weeks infected probably some 75-80 per cent of the remainder, plus many reinfections within these numbers). 

 "Against this background, what may happen if the variant enters and spreads far and wide is unpredictable. It may not be as bad as people fear. It may not seed a third wave. Yet, the wise course is to avoid importation and bolster our 'population immunity' (popularly called herd immunity). That means two things -- vaccinate the unvaccinated and offer booster doses to all two-dose vaccinated," he said. 

 Booster doses are the easiest barrier that "we can and must create" immediately against the variant, he added.

 "Also, second doses to first-dose recipients and first doses to all others, including children, must be given. Pregnant women -- two doses in first pregnancy, starting as early as possible, and one booster dose in the next pregnancy," John said. 

 Talking about the effectiveness of vaccines against the new variant, he said breakthrough infections may be common. 

 "Looks like breakthrough infections will be common. However, the basic virus is the same and high levels of immunity that can be achieved with booster doses can be expected to be highly protective both against the disease and even transmissibility," he said.

 Talking about mutations in Omicron, John said 34 mutations are observed, which is more than Alpha, Beta, Gamma and Delta and all other variants of concern.
12:51   All Uttarakhand cops to undergo Covid test
A total of 18 police personnel have been found to be COVID-19 positive in Uttarakhand during the antigen testing across the state, informed Ashok Kumar, Uttarakhand Director General of Police (DGP) on Wednesday.

Speaking to ANI, Kumar said, "As many as 5,000 policemen have given their samples for COVID-19, out of which, 18 were tested positive. Most of these COVID-19 positive police personnel are from Haridwar and Pauri districts." 

The DGP has also given instructions that all the police personnel will undergo Covid testing in three days.
12:32   Zoramthanga urges PM to appoint chief secy who knows Mizo language
Mizoram Chief Minister Zoramthanga has urged Prime Minister Narendra Modi to appoint a new chief secretary in the state, one who has working knowledge of the Mizo language, a month after the Centre appointed Renu Sharma to the top post. 

The CM had a month ago raised the same issue in a letter to Union Home Minister Amit Shah. 

 Zoramthanga, who is currently in the national capital, on Tuesday called on Prime Minister Narendra Modi and discussed a wide range of issues, including the appointment of chief secretary and rehabilitation of Myanmar refugees, an official statement said.

 The statement also said that the chief minister, during the meeting, requested the PM to consider his government's request to appoint a chief secretary who has "working knowledge of the Mizo language" for effective administration. 

 The prime minister assured him that he will take up the matter with authorities concerned, according to the statement. Arunachal Pradesh-Goa-Mizoram and Union Territory (AGMUT) cadre Renu Sharma was asked by the Centre to take charge from November 1.

 That very day, the Mizoram government issued a notification asking Manipur-cadre IAS officer JC Ramthanga, who is posted as additional chief secretary to the CM, to take up the responsibilities that come with the state chief secretary's post. 

 Sharma, however, assumed office on November 2. Zoramthanga had on October 29 written to Shah urging him to modify the Centre's order of appointing Sharma as the chief secretary. -- PTI
12:28   Delhi petrol prices slashed by Rs 8 per litre
The Delhi government on Wednesday reduced value-added tax (VAT) on petrol to 19.40 per cent from 30 per cent.

Following the reduction, petrol rates will be cut by  8 per litre in the national capital. The new prices will be effective from midnight today.

Meanwhile, fuel prices were kept unchanged for 27 consecutive days.

 Earlier on November 4, the government had slashed excise duty on petrol and diesel to bring rates slightly down from the record-high levels.

In Delhi, petrol is currently sold for  103.97; while diesel rate stood at  86.67, according to Indian Oil Corporation. In Mumbai, petrol is retailed at  109.98 per litre; while diesel is being sold at  94.14 per litre.
12:26   Travel ban not needed, says Covid doc
Faheem Younus, Chief of Infectious Diseases. University of Maryland, USA, and the go-to person for tweets on the pandemic writes on the travel ban:

"Implement these 3 steps and never impose a COVID travel ban again.
1. PCR 48 h prior (detects Omicron variant) 
 2. Proof of vaccination needed (reduces risk of infection) 
 3. Require KN95 masks on flight (minimizes risk of transmission) 
 Don't react like it's 2020."
Nargis Taraki
Nargis Taraki
12:22   Help us, Malala
An Afghan woman asks Nobel prize winner Malala Yousafzai for help. 

Nargis Taraki tweets: Dear @Malala, I remember the day when we, The Afg girls stood for 10min in schools to pray for ur recovery & health. We were the only girls who could understand you & ur struggle for #education. Today those Afg girls r expelled from schools and need your support, lobby & act."

Malala Yousafzai has in fact appealed to the Talibani leadership in Afghanistan to revoke the de facto ban imposed on female education and immediately reopen girls senior secondary schools across the nation, emphasising that the new rulers in Kabul should abide by their assurances given to the world of respecting women's rights.
12:09   4 fliers into Delhi Covid+ve, genome test awaited
Four people who flew into Delhi from the Netherlands and the UK in the early hours of Wednesday have tested positive for COVID-19 and their samples have been sent for genome sequencing to ascertain if they have the new variant, Omicron, sources said.

All four have been admitted to the LNJP Hospital, where a dedicated ward has been set up for isolating and treating such patients, they added. 

"Four flights originating from Amsterdam and London and carrying 1,013 passengers landed at the Indira Gandhi International Airport between 12 night and 6 am. Of these passengers, four have tested positive," a source said. 

 All four are Indian nationals, he added. 

 According to the Centre, the countries designated as "at-risk" are the European countries including the UK, South Africa, Brazil, Botswana, China, Mauritius, New Zealand, Zimbabwe, Singapore, Hong Kong and Israel. 

 Travellers from the "at-risk" countries have to follow additional measures on arrival in India from Tuesday midnight.
12:03   Minor fire in Parliament room
A minor fire broke out on Wednesday morning inside Parliament room number 59, officials said. According to fire officials, the Parliament fire post received a call at 8.05 am regarding fire at room number 59, opposite press room in Parliament house.

 The firemen rushed to the spot. A computer set, chair and table in room number 59 were on fire. No casualty was reported.
12:02   Bengal secures $135 million World Bank loan
International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD) has approved a USD 135 million loan to West Bengal to improve the operational efficiency and reliability of electricity supply in select pockets in the state. 

The IBRD and its concessional lending arm, the International Development Association (IDA), are collectively also called the World Bank. The variable spread loan or floating interest loan will have a maturity of 17 years, including a grace period of seven years and will aim to strengthen distribution networks, invest in smart-grid technologies, and ensure financial sustainability of the state discom.

 "The financial stability of electricity companies is critical to providing efficient and reliable electricity to people. The pandemic has adversely affected the financial health of electricity distribution companies in India and in turn the financial health of the electricity generation companies," World Bank's Country Director in India Junaid Ahmad said in a statement issued from global headquarters. -- PTI
12:00   Japan begins Covid booster shots amid Omicron concerns
Japan began on Wednesday to administer COVID-19 booster injections to people who finished the full two shots at least eight months ago amid increasing concerns over the new Omicron variant of the COVID-19, the government said.

India is one of the few countries which has refused to administer booster shots. 

The third dose of the vaccine developed by Pfizer and BioNTech SE were provided to health care professionals across the country. 

The elderly and others are expected to receive booster injections from January. 

Although the effectiveness of the booster shots remains unknown against the new Omicron variant, Prime Minister Fumio Kishida has decided that Japan will administer the booster shots as scheduled, as vaccine-induced immunity against infection was confirmed to weaken over time.

Individuals aged 18 or above will be eligible for the third injection, under Japan's current policy, and especially those who are at higher risk of severe symptoms such as the elderly or those engaged in high-risk occupations will be especially encouraged to get a booster shot.

Meanwhile, the first and second shots will continue to be administered to unvaccinated people in the country.
11:54   Plea in SC for censoring all Kangana's posts
A petition has been filed in the Supreme court against actor Kangana Ranaut seeking censoring of all her social media posts in future in order to maintain law and order in the country.

The plea filed by advocate Charanjeet Singh Chanderpal also sought direction to transfer all the FIRs filed across India, against the actor for her remarks on farmers' protest, to Khar police station, Mumbai, and charge sheet be filed in a period of six months along with expeditious trial within a period of two years. 

The advocate said that Ranaut's remarks and posts on social media "are not only outrageous and blasphemous but also intend to cause riots".

"The remarks are not only outrageous and blasphemous but also intend to cause riots, hurt religious sentiments, they are defamatory as well as portray Sikhs in a totally anti-national manner. It also justifies the innocent killing of Sikhs. The remarks are totally against the unity of our country and the actress deserves a serious punishment in law. They cannot be brushed aside or excused," read the plea.
11:34   Arrogance of majority, says suspended TMC MP
Dola Sen, TMC MP who has been suspended from the Winter session: "The suspension of MPs shows the arrogance of those in the majority. When they were in opposition they also used to disrupt Parliament proceedings. We will continue our 'dharna till the time we don't get justice." 

Suspended Opposition members of Rajya Sabha sit on protest against their suspension from the House for the remaining part of the Winter session of Parliament. 

Rajya Sabha proceedings adjourned for almost an hour as opposition MPs protest against suspension of 12 members.
11:30   Modi holds meeting with top ministers to discuss strategy for Parliament session
 Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Wednesday held a meeting with top Ministers in Parliament on Wednesday, the third day of the winter session, to discuss strategy for the ongoing winter session.

The meeting was attended by Defence Minister Rajnath Singh, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, Road Transport, and Highways Minister Nitin Gadkari, Law Minister Kiren Rijiju and Parliamentary Affairs Minister Pralhad Joshi.

 Earlier on Tuesday, PM Modi held a meeting with ministers to discuss the strategy.

The meeting comes at a time when opposition leaders are protesting demanding revocation of suspension of 12 Opposition MPs of Rajya Sabha.
11:26   Wankhede asked to appear before caste panel
A caste verification committee here has asked Narcotics Control Bureau's (NCB) zonal director Sameer Wankhede to appear before it on December 14, according to Bhim Army leader Ashok Kamble, who is the complainant in the matter. 

 Kamble had filed the complaint with the Mumbai district caste verification committee against Wankhede for allegedly forging documents and presenting himself as member of the Hindu Mahar (Scheduled Caste) community to secure the government job. 

"We presented all the documents to the committee and asked it to take up the matter further. The committee told us that Wankhede will be asked to depose before it on December 14," Kamble said on Wednesday. 

 Notably, Maharashtra minister Nawab Malik had also earlier alleged that Wankhede was born a Muslim, but he forged his documents to get the government job. 

 Wankhede had led a raid on a cruise ship off the Mumbai coast in October this year and drugs were allegedly seized onboard. Later, actor Shah Rukh Khan's son Aryan Khan and some other people were arrested in that case. Malik had termed the cruise drugs case as "fake" and levelled a series of allegations against Wankhede. PTI
11:15   Elgar Parishad case: Activist Sudha Bharadwaj gets bail

The Bombay high court on Wednesday granted default bail to lawyer Sudha Bharadwaj, an accused in the Elgar Parishad Maoist links case. 
A bench of Justices S S Shinde and N J Jamadar directed that Bharadwaj be produced before the special National Investigation Agency court in Mumbai, that will decide the conditions to be imposed on her bail and finalise her release from the Byculla women's prison.
She has been in custody as an undertrial since her arrest in 2018.
Bharadwaj's counsel and senior advocate Yug Chaudhry earlier told the HC that judge K D Vadane, who had taken cognisance of the Pune police's charge sheet and remanded Bharadwaj and the seven other accused persons to custody, was an additional sessions judge. 
Chaudhry had earlier said that Vadane signed his court orders as a special judge, even though he was not a designated special judge.
The HC bench led by Justice Shinde had reserved its order on Bharadwaj's plea on August 4 this year.
The high court, however, rejected the default bail pleas of co-accused Sudhir Dhawale and seven others. 
11:08   Oppn leaders to meet on suspension of MPs: Kharge
Opposition parties will hold a meeting over the suspension of 12 Rajya MPs, said senior Congress leader Mallikarjun Kharge on Wednesday.

"We are demanding the revocation of suspension of 12 Opposition members of the Rajya Sabha. We will hold a meeting and decide the future course of action," Kharge told ANI.

Opposition party leaders including Congress MP Rahul Gandhi staged a protest at the Gandhi statue inside Parliament premises on Wednesday demanding revocation of suspension of 12 Rajya Sabha members.

As many as 12 MPs from the opposition parties were suspended from Parliament's winter session for allegedly creating ruckus on the last day of the monsoon session.

The suspension came after Union Minister of Parliamentary Affairs Pralhad Joshi on Monday wrote a letter to Rajya Sabha chairman M Venkaiah Naidu, who is the Vice President, for violence on the last day of the monsoon session.

The suspended MPs include six from Congress, two each from TMC and Shiv Sena and one each from CPM and CPI.The action has been taken against them for the 'indiscipline' in the monsoon session of the House.

The suspended MPs are Elamaram Kareem (CPM), Phulo Devi Netam, Chhaya Verma, R Bora, Rajamani Patel, Syed Nasir Hussain and Akhilesh Prasad Singh of the Congress, Binoy Viswam of CPI, Dola Sen and Shanta Chhetri of Trinamool Congress, Priyanka Chaturvedi and Anil Desai of Shiv Sena. -- ANI
10:40   Union Cabinet meeting to be held in Parl today
A meeting of the Union Cabinet is scheduled to be held in Parliament on Wednesday, the third day of the ongoing winter session.

The meeting will be held around 1 pm. 

The winter session of the Parliament commenced on Monday. On the first day of the session, both the Houses of Parliament passed the Farm Laws Repeal Bill 2021. 

However, the government passed the Bill without having a discussion on the floor.

The second day of the session also remained adjourned as the Opposition leaders held protests and walkouts over the suspension of 12 Rajya Sabha MPs.

The winter session is likely to conclude on December 23
10:20   Sensex surges over 500 points in early trade
Equity benchmark Sensex jumped over 500 points in early trade on Wednesday, tracking gains in index majors HDFC twins, Tata Steel and Reliance Industries amid positive cues from Asian markets. 

 The 30-share index was trading 515.05 points or 0.90 per cent higher at 57,579.92 in initial deals. Similarly, the Nifty rose 185.15 points or 1.09 per cent to 17,168.35.

 IndusInd Bank was the top gainer in the Sensex pack, rising 3.21 per cent, followed by Tech Mahindra, HDFC, Tata Steel, SBI, Asian Paints and NTPC. On the other hand, Dr Reddy's and PowerGrid were among the losers.
10:16   Air travellers to Bhopal now need to undergo RT-PCR test
All air passengers arriving at the Bhopal airport will now have to undergo the RT-PCR test for COVID-19 detection before entering the city, if they fail to present a recent test report, officials said. 

 The RT-PCR test reports of passengers coming to bus stands and railway stations in the Madhya Pradesh capital will also be checked randomly from Wednesday, an official statement issued on Tuesday said, without mentioning the validity duration of the test reports. 

 Notably, Bhopal district collector Avinash Lavania on Tuesday said COVID-19 cases were rising in the state capital and everyone needed to be alert. 

 There have also been concerns over the new potentially more transmissible 'Omicron' variant of the coronavirus found in some countries.

 As per directives issued by Divisional Commissioner Gulshan Bamra during a meeting on Tuesday, health officials should check the recent RT-PCR test reports of all passengers, domestic or international, coming to the Raja Bhoj Airport in Bhopal, the statement said. 

 Similarly, the reports of passengers arriving at bus stands and railway stations here should also be checked. If passengers are found without the test reports, they should be allowed to enter the city only after ensuring their sampling for the coronavirus test, Bamra said. -- PTI

10:03   Yashwant Sinha admitted to hospital with severe back pain
Former Union minister and Trinamool Congress leader Yashwant Sinha was admitted at the state-run SSKM hospital in Kolkata after he complained of severe back pain, hospital sources said on Wednesday.
The octogenarian politician was taken to the SSKM hospital on Tuesday where he is undergoing treatment at the Woodburn Block , they said.
A team of four doctors is supervising the treatment of 84-year-old Sinha who is "at the moment a bit better", they said. 
"He is better now. We are keeping a constant watch on him," a senior doctor of the SSKM Hospital said. 
10:00   Active COVID-19 cases in India fall below 1 lakh
India added 8,954 new coronavirus infections taking the total tally of COVID-19 cases to 3,45,96,776, while the active cases were recorded at less than a lakh after 547 days, according to the Union Health Ministry data updated on Wednesday.
The death toll climbed to 4,69,247 with 267 fresh fatalities, according to the data updated at 8 am.
The daily rise in new coronavirus infections has been below 20,000 for 54 straight days and less than 50,000 daily new cases have been reported for 156 consecutive days now.
The active cases declined to 99,023 comprising 0.29 per cent of the total infections, the lowest since March 2020, while the national COVID-19 recovery rate has improved to 98.36 per cent, the highest since March 2020, the ministry said.
09:39   Delhi's air quality continues to remain 'very poor'
The air quality in the national capital continued to remain in the 'very poor' category on Wednesday morning, according to the System of Air Quality and Weather Forecasting And Research.

The overall Air Quality Index (AQI) of Delhi on Wednesday morning was recorded at 316. 

In light of the air quality standard, SAFAR issued an advisory to reduce heavy exertion. As per SAFAR's prediction, the AQI in Delhi will marginally improve to 305 but will remain in the 'very poor' category. 

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

Some residents of Delhi complained of respiratory problems and said that no improvement has been witnessed. 

"There is too much pollution in Delhi. It increases in winter every year. The government is not doing anything. People feel irritation in the chest because of the pollution," said a resident of RK Puram. 

Another local said, "There is no change in the situation of the pollution in Delhi. I don't think it will improve in the coming years as the number of vehicles on the roads is increasing and so is the population."

Sanjay Kumar Sahni, a Delhi resident, had a list of suggestions for the government which included the installation of air purifier towers and seeking the public's opinion on taking other measures. 

09:18   Mamata Banerjee likely to meet Sharad Pawar today
West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata  Banerjee is likely to meet Nationalist Congress Party chief Sharad Pawar on Wednesday afternoon in Mumbai. 

Banerjee, who is on a three-day visit to Maharashtra, met Shiv Sena leaders Aaditya Thackeray and Sanjay Raut in Mumbai on Tuesday. 

"We welcome her to Mumbai and Maharashtra. There has always been a friendship. We had met her even 2-3 years back when she visited Mumbai. We came to carry forward that friendship. We discussed many issues but we came here to welcome her to Mumbai," Thackeray had said while speaking to media persons.

Meanwhile, the Shiv Sena in a statement informed that due to health issues, Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray will not be meeting Banerjee.
08:37   Maha impose 7-day quarantine for fliers from 'at risk' nations
Amid concerns caused by Omicron  variant of coronavirus, the Maharashtra State Disaster Management Authority said on Tuesday night that travelers arriving in the state from 'at-risk' countries will have to undergo mandatory seven-day institutional quarantine.
The list of 'at risk' countries is announced by the Union government.

According to an updated list, the countries designated as "at-risk" are the European countries, the United Kingdom, South Africa, Brazil, Botswana, China, Mauritius, New Zealand, Zimbabwe, Singapore, Hong Kong and Israel.

Such passengers will also undergo RT-PCR test on second, fourth and seventh day of the arrival, the authority said in its latest guidelines.

If a passenger is found to be positive, he or she will be shifted to a hospital. 

In case the test is negative, the passenger will still have to undergo seven-day home quarantine.

Passengers from other than at-risk countries will have to undergo compulsory RT-PCR test at the airport. Even if found negative, they will have to undergo 14 days' home quarantine.

If found positive the patient will be shifted to a hospital, the guidelines added. -- PTI 
00:06   India removes B'desh from its at-risk country-list
India on Tuesday removed Bangladesh from a list of 'at-risk' countries that was issued as part of measures initiated in view of the emergence of new coronavirus variant Omicron, people familiar with the development said.

Travellers from the 'at-risk- countries will require to follow additional measures on arrival in India.

Bangladesh was removed from the list after the country took up the matter with India, the people cited above said.

Bangladesh Foreign Minister AK Abdul Momen said in Dhaka that the issue was taken up with India.

"Due to (our) request, India High Commission has informed that Bangladesh has been removed from the red list of India," he said in a message to media.

According to the updated list, the countries designated as "at-risk" are the European countries, the UK, South Africa, Brazil, Botswana, China, Mauritius, New Zealand, Zimbabwe, Singapore, Hong Kong and Israel.

The original list that figured Bangladesh was issued four days back.

The strict norms for arriving international passengers, especially from 'at-risk' countries, are coming into effect from Tuesday midnight.

While no cases of Omicron have been reported so far in India, the Union government has asked states and Union Territories to ensure RT-PCR tests for travellers coming from 'at-risk' countries on the first day of arrival and retesting on the eighth day.