Fri, 03 December 2021
Seven IAF aircraft crashed in last 2 yrs: Govt
23:45 Tamil is compulsory, the qualifying norm for govt services: TN
All state government held competitive exams would from now on have a compulsory paper in the Tamil language and a pass in the subject is the basic qualifying norm for entry to Tamil Nadu government services and state-run public sector enterprises, the government announced on Friday.
A paper on Tamil language, conforming to Class 10 standards is compulsory in all such exams and a score of 40 per cent is the minimum qualifying mark, according to a government order dated 1 December 2021.
If an aspirant does not get through in the qualifying Tamil language paper, other subject papers, that are part of the overall exam scheme, would not be taken up for evaluation, the order said.
While Tamil language paper would be compulsory, a pass in it is the basic qualifying norm for entry to government and PSU services and this rule is applicable to all state government recruiting agencies including the Tamil Nadu Public Service Commission.
As regards the TNPSC, the norm takes immediate effect, the government said. Other state recruitment agencies including the teachers recruitment board, medical services recruitment board, TN Uniformed Services Recruitment Board and TN Forest Uniformed Services Recruitment Committee would release similar guidelines. Similar guidelines for state-run public sector enterprises would be released by the respective authorities, the GO said. -- PTI
23:21 Cong receives another jolt as Meghalaya youth wing chief quits
The Congress received another jolt in Meghalaya on Friday when its youth wing president Richard M Marak, a close aide of former chief minister Mukul Sangma who along with 11 other MLAs joined the TMC last week, quit the grand old party citing 'structural defect' in it.
Marak, the Meghalaya Pradesh Youth Congress chief, submitted his resignation to India Youth Congress president Srinivas BV.
"I have been unhappy with the party for quite some time now due to the way the INC has been functioning. There is a structural defect in the INC," Marak said in his resignation letter.
"This has already been highlighted many times in the past but there has been no attempt to rectify these. Instead, those who have pointed out these defects have been vilified. The last stroke was the appointment of the current president (Vincent Pala) who has no regard for the functioning of the party on Congress principles," he said.
The youth leader claimed that 500 other Congress workers quit the party across Meghalaya on Friday.
Although he is close to Sangma, Marak did not mention whether he would join the TMC.
He was reportedly seen at two political rallies addressed by Sangma in his home constituency Songsak on Thursday, and in Ampati on Friday. -- PTI
22:49 Seven IAF aircraft crashed in last 2 yrs: Govt
Seven aircraft of the Indian Air Force have crashed in the last two years, the government said in Lok Sabha on Friday.
Minister of state for defence Ajay Bhatt, replying to a question, said every aircraft accident in the IAF is investigated by a separate court of inquiry.
"A total of seven aircraft of Indian Air Force have crashed in the last two years, including the Mirage 2000 which crashed recently in Madhya Pradesh," he said.
Bhatt said the court of inquiry is ordered to ascertain the cause of the accident and the recommendations of the investigations are implemented.
"The steps taken by the government to avoid such incidents in the future include invigoration of aerospace safety organisation, maintaining a database of accidents and incidents, improving training methodology and increased use of simulators," he said.
Asked about steps being taken by the government to boost the country's security, he cited several measures including the creation of the post of the chief of defence staff.
"Various steps have been taken by the government from time to time to strengthen the security of the country. Towards this, the post of chief of defence staff was created in December 2019," he said in the written reply.
Bhatt said the CDS has been mandated to carry out integration and jointness in the armed forces including the creation of integrated theatre commands. -- PTI
22:30 SC rejects plea of wife to live in posh matrimonial home
The Supreme Court on Friday rejected the pleas of socialite Poonam Jaidev Shroff, engaged in a bitter matrimonial dispute with her industrialist husband Jaidev Shroff, that she be either permitted to live with her estranged husband in their posh matrimonial home in Mumbai or be paid Rs 35.37 lakhs per month for staying out on rent.
The apex court, which earlier asked Poonam to select a house of her choice on rent in Mumbai, had later directed the registrar of the family court at Bandra in Mumbai to engage an architect from the panel of architects maintained by the Bombay high court for finding out an appropriate accommodation for her after her industrialist husband agreed to pay a rent of Rs 30 lakh per month over and above Rs 12 lakh interim maintenance.
In order, a bench comprising Justices L Nageswara Rao and BR Gavai took strong note of the rejection of properties searched by the court-appointed architect for her and their daughter and termed the approach as 'unreasonable.'
"In our view, to stretch the word 'similar' as used in the order dated March 6, 2020, to be totally identical to the said house would be unrealistic. It will be difficult to find a house identical to the said house having the same area, the same facilities, and the same luxuries," Justice Gavai said.
"The word 'similar' has to be construed as providing the same degree of luxury and comfort as is available in the said house. We have no hesitation in observing that the conduct of the respondent-wife in firstly not choosing any house as per her choice and secondly, in rejecting all the properties, which have been identified by the Architect, only on the ground that they are not similar and therefore, not in accordance with the order..., to say the least, is unreasonable,' Justice Gavai said in the order. -- PTI
22:01 Govt lays down norms to provide compensation for Covid deaths
Death certificates indicating coronavirus deaths either already issued prior to coming into force government guidelines or as ratified by district committees shall be treated as valid document for considering any death as death due to COVID-19, the Lok Sabha was informed on Friday.
Responding to a question on whether the Supreme Court has directed the Centre to pay compensation to deceased COVID-19 victims, minister of state for health, Bharati Pravin Pawar said in pursuance of the court judgement dated June 30, the government through the National Disaster Management Authority has issued 'Guidelines to provide for ex-gratia assistance to kin of the deceased by COVID-19'.
The NDMA has recommended Rs 50,000 per deceased person, including those involved in relief operations or associated in preparedness activities, subject to cause of death certified as COVID-19, she said in a written reply.
The ex gratia assistance shall be provided by states from state disaster response funds.
This assistance is required to be disbursed within a period of 30 days from the date of submitting the application to the district disaster management authority/district administration concerned along with proof of death of the deceased due to COVID-19 and the cause of death certified as died due to COVID-19', Pawar explained.
Further, all the states have been advised to constitute grievance redressal for solving issues related to payment of ex gratia in case of any dispute.
"Death certificates indicating COVID-19 deaths either already issued prior to coming into force of these guidelines or as ratified by district level committee shall be treated as valid document for considering any death as 'death due to COVID-19'," the minister added. -- PTI
21:35 SKM meet tomorrow to decide on future agitation
A crucial meeting of the Samyukta Kisan Morcha will be held at the Singhu border on Saturday to decide on the future course of the agitation.
Farmer leaders said any decision on whether to send five names to the Centre for a panel on minimum support price will be taken in the meeting as they have not yet received any formal communication from the government.
The meeting will also ponder over pending demands of the protesting farmers which include legal guarantee on MSP of crops, withdrawal of cases against farmers, compensation to kin of farmers who lost their lives during the agitation.
"Our crucial meeting is tomorrow (Saturday) at 11 am. Along with discussing our pending demands, the SKM will decide future course of the movement. Since we have not yet got any formal communication from the Centre to submit names of five farmer leaders for a committee on MSP, we will decide in the meeting whether we have to send the names to them," SKM core committee member Darshan Pal said. -- PTI
21:23 When George Clooney turned down $35 million for a day's work...
Actor George Clooney turned down an offer of USD 35 million for a day's work for an airline commercial, the star recently revealed.
According to Variety, in an interview published in a newspaper on Friday, Clooney said, "I was offered USD 35 million for one day's work for an airline commercial, but I talked to Amal about it and we decided it's not worth it."
Clooney married human rights lawyer Amal Clooney nee Alamuddin in 2014.
The actor, who won a supporting actor Oscar for Syriana and best picture for Argo, said that the airline was associated with "a country that, although it's an ally, is questionable at times, and so I thought 'Well, if it takes a minute's sleep away from me, it's not worth it.'"
Clooney was talking to the outlet about his new film The Tender Bar, which he directed, but does not star in. The film, which stars Ben Affleck, Daniel Ranieri and Tye Sheridan, follows a boy growing up on Long Island who seeks out father figures among the patrons at his uncle's bar.
"The whole country [the US], for the last five years, has been engaged in hate and anger, and I've been part of it at times. I've been angry, and this was such a kind story. It's such a gentle film, and I wanted to be part of that, and I thought maybe an audience would want to be part of a gentle experience," Clooney said about the film, which is slated to release in the UK on December 17.
As per Variety, Clooney also revealed that he is bound for Australia to star alongside Julia Roberts in Ol Parker's Ticket to Paradise, and will be in the UK to film another, unspecified, project with Brad Pitt.
21:00 Ex-CJI Ranjan Gogoi comes out with tell-all memoir
Former Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi has come out with his autobiography to tell the dramatic story of his life and work including the extraordinary events that took place during his tenure -- the 'infamous' press conference prior to his elevation to the top post, allegations of sexual harassment and the impact of tabloid journalism.
Publishers Rupa describes Gogoi as a "fascinating man of contrasts who has intrigued observers across the political and social spectrum" and his story as "clear-eyed, inspiring and incisive".
In Justice for the Judge, Gogoi tells the dramatic story of his life, tracing his journey from Dibrugarh in Assam to the highest court of the land through people, landmark cases and his own judicial ambition, and reveals the lessons he learnt along the way about the country's legal system.
"Never one to shy away from contentious issues, Gogoi provides a no-holds-barred account of the extraordinary events that characterised his tenure in the apex court -- the 'infamous' press conference prior to his elevation as the most powerful judge in the land, unsubstantiated allegations of sexual harassment and the impact of tabloid journalism," a statement said.
In the book, which will be released on December 8, Gogoi also writes about the important meetings, intense interactions and private confrontation that preceded the landmark verdicts authored by him -- Rafale and the contempt proceeding initiated against Rahul Gandhi, Sabarimala, NRC and Ayodhya.
Gogoi was the 46th CJI from October 3, 2018 to November 17, 2019.
20:29 NIA moves SC against bail to Sudha Bharadwaj
The National Investigation Agency has moved Supreme Court against the Bombay high court order granting default bail to lawyer-activist Sudha Bharadwaj, who was arrested in the Elgar Parishad-Maoist links case in August 2018 under the provisions of UAPA.
The high court on December 1 had said in its order that Bharadwaj, accused of being part of a conspiracy to overthrow the Union government, was entitled to bail and its denial would be in breach of her fundamental right to life and personal liberty guaranteed under Article 21 of the Constitution.
The high court had directed that Bharadwaj, lodged in the Byculla women's prison, be produced before the Mumbai special NIA court on December 8, and conditions of her bail and date of release be decided.
Bharadwaj is the first among 16 activists and academicians arrested in the case to have been granted default bail.
Poet-activist Varavara Rao is currently out on medical bail.
Jesuit priest Stan Swamy died in a private hospital here on July 5 this year while waiting for medical bail.
The others are all in custody as undertrials.
The high court had rejected the default bail plea filed by eight other co-accused in the case -- Sudhir Dhawale, Varavara Rao, Rona Wilson, Surendra Gadling, Shoma Sen, Mahesh Raut, Vernon Gonsalves and Arun Ferreira.
The case relates to alleged inflammatory speeches delivered at the Elgar Parishad conclave, held at Shaniwarwada in Pune on December 31, 2017, which the police claimed triggered violence the next day near the Koregaon-Bhima war memorial located on the city's outskirts.
The Pune police had claimed the conclave was backed by Maoists. The probe in the case was later transferred to the NIA.
20:23 7 held for disrupting namaz in Gurugram
Seven people were detained by the police in Gurugram over an alleged attempt to disrupt the Friday namaz by raising slogans.
A police official said some people were detained in the Sector 37 area as a precautionary measure to maintain peace.
Several members of some Hindu outfits gathered at the site and raised "Bharat Mata Ki Jai" and "Jai Shri Ram" slogans as members of the Muslim community were arriving at the open site to offer Friday prayers.
As sloganeering continued and apprehending breach of peace in the area, the police detained seven people.
There were allegations that some locals had earlier in the day parked their trucks near the site, claiming parking problems.
Last Friday, locals from several villages had occupied the designated site, which lies near the Sector 37 police station and held a "havan", claiming the event was to pay homage to martyrs of the Mumbai terror attacks.
A month ago, BJP leader Kapil Mishra had attended a Govardhan puja held at a site in Gurugram's Sector 12A, where Muslims used to offer prayers every week. The puja was organised by the Sanyukt Hindu Sangharsh Samiti.
Objecting to anyone occupying a public place to offer prayers, Mishra had then said, "If people from different religions, faiths and sects keep occupying open public spaces on one day every week, it will result in blockade of all roads and parks."
Around 30 people had been briefly detained by police on October 29 for allegedly gathering to disrupt Friday namaz offered by Muslims in the Sector 12 area in Gurugram.
Three years ago, the district administration had designated 37 sites in the city for Muslims to offer Friday prayers after which there were protests by some Hindu groups.
A few months ago, one group started protests against the prayers offered in the open after which there have been protests on Fridays for the past several weeks.
20:20 Punjab's border districts on high alert
Two days after the police seized a kilogram of RDX from Punjab's Dinanagar, a tiffin bomb and four hand grenades were recovered in Gurdaspur district, officials said on Friday.
Earlier this week, two terror modules sponsored by Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence were busted in Gurdaspur, they said.
During a check at T-Point near Salempur Araiyan village on Thursday, Station House Officer Sadar Gurdaspur found a suspicious sack in the bushes on the side of a road.
On checking, he found hand grenades and a tiffin bomb concealed in it, Director General of Police (DGP) Iqbal Preet Singh Sahota said, adding the bomb detection and disposal teams were asked to diffuse the explosives.
Keeping in view the recent recoveries of RDX, hand grenades and pistols from the border district, Strong static and shifting 'Nakas' have been laid in the entire district by all SHOs under the supervision of gazetted officers, Sahota said.
The Punjab Police, especially the border district police forces, are on high alert and night duty domination operations are being carried out on the directions of Deputy Chief Minister Sukjhinder Singh Randhawa, the DGP said.
Several ADGP rank officers are deputed to personally supervise the night domination operations in border districts, he said in a statement. -- PTI
19:17 Narayan Rane's security cover upgraded to Z category
The VIP security cover of Union Cabinet Minister Narayan Rane has been upgraded to Z-category by the government in view of prevailing security threats to him, official sources said on Friday.
Rane, the minister for micro, small and medium enterprises, has been enjoying central security cover of the lower Y-category since December last year.
The 69-year-old minister and politician from Maharashtra is protected by armed commandos of the Central Industrial Security Force .
CISF Deputy Inspector General and chief spokesperson Dr Anil Pandey confirmed the development to PTI.
Under the upgraded Z-category, Rane can have a team of six-seven armed commandos for proximate security every time he travels to any part of the country.
Sources in the security establishment said the upgrade was recommended by central agencies after they carried out a security and vulnerability analysis for Rane recently.
The minister was with his Y-security cover when he was arrested by the Maharashtra police from Ratnagiri in August over his controversial remarks against Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray.
The CISF provides VIP security cover to a number of other protectees, including National Security Adviser Ajit Doval and RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat among others.
19:03 Booster, kids' jab: Govt taking 'expert advice'
A decision on booster dose and Covid jabs for children will be taken on the basis of scientific guidance from experts, Union Health Minister Mansukh Mandaviya said on Friday even as India stepped up surveillance for Omicron variant of the coronavirus.
Replying to an 11-hour-long debate on the COVID-19 pandemic in Lok Sabha, Mandaviya said RT-PCR tests have been conducted on 16,000 passengers from 'at-risk' countries, of whom 16 have tested positive for COVID-19.
The minister said the swab samples of these 16 passengers have been sent for genome sequencing to screen for the Omicron variant of the virus.
During the debate on Thursday, several members had flagged the issue of booster doses of COVID-19 vaccines and had expressed concern over the new variant of the virus, two cases of which were detected in the country.
Mandaviya hit out at the opposition for making a political issue on the availability of ventilators, which were funded through the PM-CARES Fund, and hailed the leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi during the testing times.
He said orders were placed for the supply of 58,000 ventilators, mostly with public sector companies, and 50,200 breathing machines had been delivered to states and 48,000 have been installed at various hospitals.
Besides ventilators, the government also ensured availability of Covid protocol medicines across the country to ensure that the states did not appear wanting in the fight against the pandemic.
Mandaviya also slammed the opposition parties for creating doubts about homegrown vaccines which affected the vaccination drive.
"Opposition-ruled states promised support during meetings with the prime minister, but went back on their words and tried to weaken the nation's fight against COVID-19," the minister said.
To questions on the vaccination drive, the minister said the government was committed to fully vaccinate all the eligible beneficiaries.
He said 85 per cent of the beneficiaries have received the first dose, while 50 per cent have been fully vaccinated.
He dared Lok Sabha members to ensure 100 per cent vaccination in their respective constituencies to speed up the inoculation drive.
"Twenty-two crore vaccine doses are already available with the states and the Centre will make available an additional 10 crore this month," Mandaviya said, and added that the government had started Har Ghar Dastak' (knock on every door) campaign to speed up vaccination.
Mandaviya said the Modi government had embarked on strengthening the health infrastructure across the country without blaming previous governments who had ignored the sector.
Government worked for results. In last two years, decisions under leadership of Prime Minister Modi show that this government works not with power, but with will power, the minister said. -- PTI
Prime Minister Narendra Modi bows before the Constitution of India
18:16 BJP MP introduces bill to amend Preamble
Opposition MPs on Friday stalled the introduction of a private member's bill by BJP MP K J Alphons that seeks to amend the Preamble of the Constitution.
Deputy Chairman Harivansh Narayan Singh had initially allowed the introduction of the bill, but later reserved his decision on it after a consensus was reached following protests by RJD MP Manoj Jha and MDMK's Vaiko.
When the Upper House assembled post-lunch for Private Members' Legislative Business, Alphons was called to introduce the Constitution (Amendment) Bill, 2021 (amendment of the Preamble) on the floor.
When the deputy chairman allowed its introduction, Jha and Vaiko protested saying such draft legislation requires the prior assent of the President of India.
The deputy chairman, however, said such a bill does not require the permission of the President.
Opposing it, Jha said the bill is about amendment in the Preamble, which is part the basic structure of the Constitution.
"Preamble is part of the basic structure of the Constitution. Please do not do this," said Jha.
Alphons sought permission of the chair to speak on the bill but it was declined.
"At this juncture, you are not allowed to discuss the bill. If anything is there, it is on the House to decide on this and not the chair," the deputy chairperson said, adding that the member has a right to introduce such bill.
However, citing rules, Jha said such bills are subject to the recommendations of the President under Article 117 of the Constitution.
"Amendment to Preamble is an attack on the edifice of the Constitution. Are we allowing this house to ransack everything?" said Jha.
Some members from the treasury benches suggested that it has happened earlier also.
On this, Jha said: "A bad precedent should not become a norm."
Replying to it, the deputy chairperson said he has to follow the process.
"This bill does not require the assent of the President, I am making it clear to you. This is on the House to decide and not me," he said.
Seeing a logjam, Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs V Muraleedharan suggested the chair to reserve its decision and give a decision later.
"I suggest the Chair to reserve this and give a ruling on a later date," he said.
Consenting to this, the deputy chairman said, "If this is the opinion of the House, then we reserve it."
Thousands of Afghans are starving as aid doesn't reach them
17:46 Pak agrees to let India transport wheat, life-saving drugs to Afghanistan
Pakistan on Friday agreed to let India transport 50,000 metric tonnes of wheat and life-saving drugs as humanitarian assistance for the people of Afghanistan on Afghan trucks through the Wagah border crossing.
A row had erupted between the two countries over the modalities of transportation.
On Thursday, India said that discussions with Pakistan are going on to finalise the modalities for the transportation of its aid to Afghanistan through Pakistani soil and insisted that no conditionalities should be attached for sending the humanitarian assistance.
In New Delhi, Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) spokesperson Arindam Bagchi said that humanitarian assistance should not be subject to conditionalities.
17:39 Hindu Right and attacks on academic freedom in US
To attack academic freedom is now viewed as a duty in the name of Hindutva. The question is whether university administrators will act to protect the academic freedom of faculty who write about India. The fear of being called Hinduphobic may be too powerful for academic institutions in today's political climate. But it should be remembered that not all phobias are the same,' writes Vinayak Chaturvedi in thenation.com, here.
17:36 51,775 cases of mucormycosis reported in India: Minister
A total of 51,775 cases of mucormycosis have been reported till November 29, Union Health Minister Mansukh Mandaviya informed the Lok Sabha on Friday.
On the steps taken by the government to tackle such cases, Mandaviya in written reply to a question said health is a state subject and the Union Ministry of Health has proactively supported states to tackle the challenge posed by cases of mucormycosis during the second surge of COVID-19.
The ministry had asked all states to make mucormycosis a notifiable disease so as to get details of its prevalence in the country. A unified portal was created by the ministry for states to enter surveillance data of mucormycosis cases.
The Ministry of Health has issued national comprehensive guidelines for the management of post-COVID-19 sequelae, including mucormycosis, he said in the written reply.
The clinical management guidelines for COVID-19 cases by the Ministry of Health advocates rational use of steroids for managing moderate to severe cases of COVID-19 under strict medical supervision, the minister said.
Further noting the relationship between use of steroids and other immune-suppressive drugs, the advisory for rational use of steroids and Tocilizumab in the treatment of COVID-19 patients was issued by the Directorate General of Health Services.
17:27 Sensex crashes 765 pts as Omicron enters India
Domestic markets lurched lower on Friday after India reported its first case of the Omicron variant of the coronavirus, prompting investors to dial back risk exposure.
The Centre on Thursday said two cases of Omicron have been detected in Karnataka.
Snapping its two-session rally, the 30-share BSE Sensex nosedived 764.83 points or 1.31 per cent to end at 57,696.46. Similarly, the broader NSE Nifty tanked 204.95 points or 1.18 per cent to 17,196.70.
PowerGrid was the top loser in the Sensex pack, shedding 4.03 per cent, followed by Reliance Industries, Kotak Bank, Asian Paints, Bharti Airtel, Tech Mahindra and Maruti. Only four index components finished in the green -- L&T, IndusInd Bank, Tata Steel and UltraTech Cement, rising up to 0.72 per cent.
17:17 Farmers stop Kangana's car, demand apology
Farmers in Punjab stopped actor Kangana Ranaut's car near Ropar and demanded she apologise over her statements on the farmers' protest. "If the security personnel were not present here, lynching would have happened. Shame on these people," Ranaut said.
Ranaut had shared a tweet on November 27, alleging that the "Shaheen Bagh dadi" also joined the farmers' agitation over the new laws at various border points of the national capital.
She retweeted the post with pictures of two elderly women, including Bilkis Bano, and wrote that the "same Dadi" who featured in Time Magazine was "available in 100 rupees", a comment that has particularly irked the members of the Punjabi community.
She has also repeatedly called the Sikhs protesting at the sites, anti-nationals, Khalistanis and terrorists.
"I have been surrounded by a mob here. They are abusing me and threatening to kill me. Am I a politician? What is this behaviour, it is unbelievable," she said in a video posted on her Instagram stories.
The video also shows her trying to talk to the farmers surrounding her car.
16:46 Genome results for 28 Covid+ve travellers in 2 days
News from Maharashtra: Health Minister Rajesh Tope on Friday said the swab samples of 28 persons, who returned to the state from high-risk countries last month with nine of them already testing COVID-19 positive, have been sent for genome sequencing.
"The international travellers who arrived in Mumbai from the high-risk countries have been identified and the swab samples of 28 such persons have been sent for genome sequencing. Out of them, nine persons have already tested COVID-19 positive. However, we are yet to establish whether they are carrying the new Omicron variant," he said.
"We expect to get their genome sequencing report in two days and the next course of action will be decided in case any of them is found infected with the new variant," the minister added.
As many as 2,868 persons have returned to the state from various countries between November 10 and 30, he said, adding that the state government has so far tested 485 of them and nine of them have tested positive for COVID-19.
The state health department has instructed the staff to isolate the international travellers, who have tested positive for the infection, an official said.
16:37 18 fliers from at-risk nations test Covid+ve
Health Minister Mansukh Mandaviya on Friday informed Parliament that RTPCR tests of 16,000 passengers from 'at-risk' countries have been conducted so far, of whom 18 have tested positive for COVID-19.
He also said that genome sequencing for Omicron detection is underway for such passengers.
Addressing the Lok Sabha during the Question Hour, he said the Union government has taken measures to make the country ready for any future challenges and adopted the buffer stock policy to ensure that all states have enough medicines to deal with any further surge in COVID-19 cases.
"A decision on booster dose and jabs for children will be taken on the basis of scientific advise," he said and appealed to opposition parties to trust scientists. PTI
16:21 Ex-TN pollution board chief dies of suicide
Former Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board chairman AV Venkatachalam, who was facing corruption charges, has died by suicide, Chennai Police says. A case of unnatural death has been registered. His body was handed over to the relatives today after post-mortem.
16:06 Mandaviya credits Modi with Covid vaccine
Health Minister Mansukh Mandaviya speaking on the Covid-19 pandemic in the Lok Sabha:
-- 3.46 cr Corona cases have been reported in India and 4.6 lakh people have died - which is 1.36 per cent of total cases.
-- 25,000 cases and 340 deaths per million population have been reported in India - which is one of the lowest in the world.
-- Under Modi government, work is going on to strengthen the weak health infrastructure. Without blaming pervious governments that ignored health infrastructure, this government worked for results.
-- In the last two yrs, decisions under the leadership of PM Modi show that this govt works with willpower and not power.
-- The 1st Covid-19 case in India was reported on 13th January, 2020 in Kerala. But the 1st meeting of the Joint Monitoring Committee constituted by the Centre, was held on 8th January 2020. This means we were alert, a committee had been formed before the case was reported and it had started working.
-- There was a time when it took three years for approval for research on a vaccine. So, nobody used to do research. We scrapped those rules and the nation got its vaccine within a year. This facility has been given by PM Modi.
15:57 Vaccines will work against Omicron: Govt
The Union Health Ministry on Friday said while there is no evidence to suggest that existing vaccines do not work on the Omicron variant of SARS-CoV-2, some of the mutations reported may decrease the efficacy of the jabs.
It however underscored that definitive evidence for new variant's increased remission and immune evasion is awaited.
The ministry has issued a list of frequently asked questions (FAQs) about the Omicron variant of coronavirus which has been designated by WHO as a 'variant of concern' (VoC).
Two cases of the new variant were reported in Karnataka on Thursday.
From the list of FAQs, the ministry, answering to whether the existing vaccines work against the Omicron variant, said, "While, there is no evidence to suggest that existing vaccines do not work on Omicron, some of the mutations reported on spike gene may decrease the efficacy of existing vaccines."
However, vaccine protection is also by antibodies as well as by cellular immunity, which is expected to be relatively better preserved. Hence, vaccines are expected to still offer protection against severe disease and vaccination is crucial. If eligible one should get vaccinated, it said.
On the possibility of a third wave of Covid infection, the ministry said Omicron cases are increasingly being reported from countries outside of South Africa and given its characteristics, it is likely to spread to more countries, including India.
However, the scale and magnitude of the rise in cases and the severity of the disease are still not clear, it said.
"Further, given the fast pace of vaccination in India and high exposure to delta variant as evidenced by high seropositivity, the severity of the disease is anticipated to be low. However, scientific evidence is still evolving," the Health Ministry said.
To a question on can the currently used diagnostics methods detect Omicron, it said that the most accepted and commonly used method of diagnostic for SARS-CoV2 is the RT-PCR method. -- PTI
15:25 Cyclone Jawad: 65 trains from Vizag cancelled
In view of the cyclone Jawad, around 65 trains from the Visakhapatnam district of Andhra Pradesh scheduled for December 3 and 4 have been cancelled, informed the East Coast Railways on Friday.
The senior Divisional Commercial Manager of Waltair Division of East Coast Railway, A.K. Tripathi said that around 65 ongoing trains were cancelled from the Visakhapatnam district of Andhra Pradesh for December 3 and 4 in view of Cyclone Jawad.
Further, the district administrations have ordered the closure of all the schools across Visakhapatnam and Srikakulam districts till tomorrow, informed Mallikarjuna, District Collector, Visakhapatnam. Meanwhile, around 46 National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) teams have been deployed 46 teams in Odisha, West Bengal and Andhra Pradesh.
15:23 46 NDRF teams deployed in Odisha, WB, AP
In view of cyclonic storm Jawad, 46 teams of the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) have been deployed in Odisha, West Bengal and Andhra Pradesh.
"A total of 46 NDRF teams have been sent to Odisha, West Bengal and Andhra Pradesh. They are prepositioned there. IDS is on alert if the situation arises to airlift any of the teams. 18 more teams are on standby," said Atul Karwal Director General, NDRF.
The deep depression over west-central adjoining southeast Bay of Bengal will intensify into a Cyclonic Storm during the next 12 hours and will reach north Andhra Pradesh-Odisha coast by Saturday morning, informed the India Meteorological Department on Friday.
As the low-pressure area over the southeast Bay of Bengal continues to develop in view of Cyclone Jawad, the Odisha government on Thursday evening issued guidelines to prevent its adverse effects.
15:02 CAA anti-national, targets a community: Tharoor
Terming Citizenship (Amendment) Act 'fundamentally anti-national', Congress MP Shashi Tharoor on Friday alleged that the act targets a particular community.
Speaking to ANI, Tharoor said, "I spoke in Parlament when the CAA came up. I objected to the Home Minister. Any law that is seen targetting any community is fundamentally anti-national. They (Centre) should not proceed with it. I welcome the fact that for two years they have not yet written the rules or implemented the law."
"I hope they will think very long and hard before doing anything so foolish. It will needlessly divide the country. I will urge the government not to recklessly endanger the social harmony of the country," he added.
Trinamool Congress (TMC) MP Dola Sen reiterated that the Centre will have to repeal CAA just like farm laws.
"A union minister in a written reply in the Parliament yesterday said that National Register of Citizens (NRC) will not be implemented throughout India. They have (central government) repealed the three farm laws. We believe they will have to repeal the NRC. The ball is in their court now," the TMC MP told ANI. Notably, a delegation of West Bengal BJP leaders will meet Prime Minister Narendra Modi today demanding the implementation of the CAA in the state.
14:27 Sri Lanka detects 1st case of Omicron variant
Sri Lanka on Friday detected its first case of COVID-19's new variant Omicron, Deputy Director General of Health Services Hemantha Herath said.
"Today, we have found one Omicron infected person from our labs, he announced. The person, who arrived from an African nation, was currently in quarantine along with his family members," the official said.
The Sri Lankan government on November 28 had announced that arrivals from South Africa, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Namibia, Lesotho and Eswatini are required to undergo mandatory quarantine. -- PTI
Atul Karwal DG NDRF
13:56 Cyclone Jawad to make landfall tomorrow
A low-pressure system in the Bay of Bengal has intensified into a cyclonic storm 'Jawad', the India Meteorological Department said on Friday.
The cyclonic storm is likely to reach the west-central Bay of Bengal off the coast of north Andhra Pradesh and Odisha by Saturday morning, the IMD said.
It will then move north-northeastward along the coast of Odisha and adjoining Andhra Pradesh and touch the coast around Puri by December 5 noon, according to the weather department. Very heavy rainfall is likely to start in north coastal Andhra Pradesh and south coastal Odisha by Friday evening. The intensity of rainfall is likely to increase on Saturday, it said.
Atul Karwal DG NDRF said, "A total of 46 NDRF teams have been sent to Odisha, West Bengal and Andhra Pradesh and are prepositioned there. IDS is on alert if the situation arises to airlift any of the teams. 18 more teams are on standby."
The low-pressure area had developed over the Andaman Sea on Nov 30. It intensified into a depression on December 2 and further into a deep depression on Friday morning.
It turned in a cyclone on Friday noon, the IMD said. A red colour warning has been issued for Andra Pradesh's Srikakulam, Vizianagram and Visakhapatnam districts for Saturday. The red colour warning has also been issued for the Gajapati, Ganjam, Puri, Jagatsinghpur districts of Odisha The name of the cyclone -- 'Jawad' -- has been proposed by Saudi Arabia. PTI
13:32 What the health minister told Parl on O2 deaths
The politics around oxygen started with the second wave of COVID-19 and some states went to courts and showed increased demand for oxygen in their respective state to get favourable orders, said Minister of Health and Family Welfare Mansukh Mandaviya in Lok Sabha on Friday.
"Prime Minister Narendra Modi asked Chief Ministers not to hide any number related to deaths due to COVID-19 or oxygen," he said.
"We had written to all States asking for data on it. 19 States responded, only Punjab reported four 'suspected' deaths due to oxygen shortage," he added.
The minister was replying to the question raised by Congress MP Balubhau Dhanorkar on the deaths due to oxygen shortage during the second wave of COVID-19.
A Supreme Court bench, headed by Justice D Y Chandrachud, also constituted National Task Force (NTF) to assess and recommend the need and distribution of oxygen in the country. The Winter session which began on November 29 is likely to conclude on December 23.
Navy Chief Admiral R Hari Kumar
13:25 Confident of dealing with any threat in India's maritime domain
The Indian Navy is fully confident of defending India's maritime interests and is carrying out acquisition of platforms considering the possible security challenges facing the country, Navy Chief Admiral R Hari Kumar said on Friday.
Addressing a press conference, he also said that the details of the proposed maritime command are being worked out and indicated that its basic structure may come up by next year.
The Navy chief also said that work is on to expand the role of women in various spheres of the Indian Navy's overall functioning.
Admiral Kumar said the Indian Navy keeps track of China's forays into the Indian Ocean, saying activities of that country are watched closely.
He said COVID-19 and the situation along the northern borders increased complexities relating to national security.
At the same time, he said the Indian Navy is fully ready to deal with any security challenge.
"I would like to assure the nation that Indian Navy stands ready to deal with any security challenge," he said. "We are fully confident of defending India's maritime interests," he added. The Navy chief said despite COVID-19, his force maintained combat readiness. PTI
13:19 Malaysia detects first case of Omicron variant
The first case of the Omicron coronavirus variant has been detected in Malaysia and found to have been brought in on November 19, days before South Africa reported the first case to the World Health Organization (WHO) on November 24, Malaysian Health Minister Khairy Jamaluddin said on Friday.
"As people catch up with the Omicron announcement, it's important to note that this case came in to Malaysia on 19 November before South Africa reported the first detected case to WHO," Jamaluddin wrote on Twitter.
The Malaysian health authorities detected the first case by revisiting all positive COVID-19 tests obtained at Kuala Lumpur International Airport from November 11 to 28. Genomic sequencing found a case of Omicoron infection among them, the minister said.
13:13 NCR air pollution: SC allows construction activity of hospitals in Delhi
The Supreme Court on Friday allowed the Delhi government to go ahead with construction activities of hospitals in the city and expressed satisfaction over fresh steps taken by the Commission for Air Quality Management in Delhi-NCR for enforcement of orders to tackle air pollution.
A Bench of Chief Justice NV Ramana Justices DY Chandrachud and Surya Kant approving the measures proposed by the Commission directed the Centre and Delhi government to comply with Commission's December 2 orders.
"We have taken into consideration the directions proposed. We direct Centre and NCT of Delhi to implement the orders of December 2 and we keep the matter pending and will hear it on next Friday," the Bench stated in its order.
The Delhi government today urged the apex court to allow construction activities of hospitals in the city adding to prepare and counter the possible Covid-19 third wave, it had started to revamp its hospital infrastructure and started construction of seven new hospitals, but due to the construction ban, work has stopped.
In addition to that, work is being carried out in 19 government hospitals to provide better health infrastructure in the national capital for the benefit of patients, Delhi government told the Bench requesting that construction work at hospitals be exempted from the ban. --
12:50 Large asteroid stronger than N-bomb heading towards Earth this month
2018 AH is estimated to be around 190 meters long, similar to the Tunguska asteroid, meaning it would be far more powerful than a nuclear bomb. Read the report here.
12:40 Booster dose for 40+, suggest Indian scientists
Top Indian genome scientists have recommended a booster dose of Covid-19 vaccines for those above 40 years with preference to high-risk and high-exposure population.
The recommendation was made in the weekly bulletin of the Indian SARS-CoV-2 Genomics Sequencing Consortium (INSACOG), a network of national testing labs set up by the government to monitor genomic variations of COVID-19.
"Vaccination of all remaining unvaccinated at-risk people and consideration of a booster dose for those 40 years of age and over, first targeting the most high-risk / high-exposure may be considered," the INSACOG bulletin said.
The recommendation came amid demands for a booster dose of covid vaccines by lawmakers during a discussion in the Lok Sabha on the pandemic situation in the country.
The INSACOG said genomic surveillance will be critical for early detection of the presence of this variant, to enable necessary public health measures.
It also recommended monitoring travel to and from the known affected areas, and contact tracing of COVID-19 cases with an epidemiological link to the affected areas has been implemented along with increased testing.
"Vaccination of all remaining unvaccinated at-risk people and consideration of a booster dose for those 40 years of age and over, first targeting the most high-risk / high-exposure may be considered, since low levels of neutralising antibodies from current vaccines are unlikely to be sufficient to neutralise Omicron, although risk of severe disease is still likely to be reduced," it said. PTI
12:16 Nine intl passengers test Covid+ve at Mumbai
Update: Nine international travellers, including one from South Africa, who arrived at Mumbai International Airport between November 10 - December 2 have tested positive for COVID-19, said the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) on Friday.
The BMC has sent the samples of the patients for genome sequencing to find out if they are positive for the new COVID-19 variant Omicron. Meanwhile, the Centre on Thursday informed that two people have tested positive for the Omicron variant in Karnataka.
The new variant of COVID-19 was first reported to the World Health Organisation (WHO) from South Africa on November 25. As per the WHO, the first known confirmed B.1.1.529 infection was from a specimen collected on November 9 this year.
On November 26, the WHO named the new COVID-19 variant B.1.1.529, which has been detected in South Africa, as 'Omicron'. The WHO has classified Omicron as a 'variant of concern'. Dozens of countries have imposed travel restrictions on the southern African nations since the mutation was discovered.
The new Omicron coronavirus variant has been confirmed in 23 countries and their number is expected to rise, Director-General of the World Health Organization (WHO) Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus had said.
12:10 France confirms 8 Omicron variant cases: Health agency
The number of COVID-19 cases caused by the Omicron variant of the coronavirus has reached eight, the French public health agency said.
The first Omicron infection case was detected in the French overseas department of Reunion on Tuesday.
The next day, French government spokesman Gabriel Attal said that 13 suspected cases have been identified throughout the country.
"Eight confirmed cases of the Omicron variant in France as of 12/02 at 16:00 [15:00 GMT]," the Public Health France said in a COVID-19 situation update issued late on Thursday.
The institute said numbers of COVID-19 hospitalizations and critical care patients were on the rise. As of Friday, France has confirmed over 7.8 million coronavirus cases and more than 120,000 related fatalities.
To date, 77.4 per cent of the French population has been administered at least one dose of a vaccine against COVID-19, and 75.8 per cent have been fully vaccinated.
12:04 Needless provocation: Tharoor on BJP MPs protest
Congress MP Shashi Tharoor on BJP MPs' protest against Opposition: "It was needlessly provocative of the BJP MPs to come here and rub salt in the wounds. If anything BJP should've shown solidarity. My colleagues were unjustly expelled by a party that has institutionalised disruption."
BJP MPs staged a protest outside Parliament on Friday against the 'unruly' behaviour of the Opposition parties.
On the other hand, Opposition MPs protested against the suspension of 12 Rajya Sabha MPs. Since the commencement of the winter session of the Parliament on Monday, there have been continuous disruptions in the functioning of both Houses.
In a move that angered the Opposition and set the stage for acrimonious exchanges, a dozen members of Opposition parties in Rajya Sabha were suspended from the winter session on the very first day on Monday following a motion brought in by the government.
The members were suspended for alleged unruly conduct towards the end of the monsoon session in August when marshals were called after Opposition members stormed the Well of the House during the passage of the General Insurance Business (Nationalisation) Amendment Bill, 2021.
US President Joe Biden gets vaccinated in September
11:39 Biden urges Americans to get booster doses of Covid vax
As India refuses to consider booster shots for Covid-19, the US is urging its citizens to get their boosters.
President Joe Biden has appealed for Americans to get their boosters and get behind his plan to tackle the new Omicron variant through wider availability of vaccines and shots, but without new major restrictions on daily life.
Biden wants to require private insurers to cover the cost of at-home COVID-19 tests and he is tightening testing requirements for people entering the United States, regardless of their vaccination status.
11:34 Closing borders buy time for countries: WHO
World Health Organisation officials in the Western Pacific say border closures adopted by some countries may buy time to deal with the omicron coronavirus variant, but measures put in place and experience gained in dealing with the delta variant should remain the foundation for fighting the pandemic.
While a few regional countries are facing surges, COVID-19 cases and deaths in many others have decreased and plateaued, WHO Regional Director for the Western Pacific Dr. Takeshi Kasai told reporters Friday in a virtual news conference broadcast from Manila, Philippines.
"Border control can delay the virus coming in and buy time. But every country and every community must prepare for new surges in cases," Kasai said.
The positive news in all of this is that none of the information we have currently about omicron suggests we need to change the directions of our response."
Much remains unknown about the new variant, including whether it is more contagious, as some health authorities suspect, or if it makes people more seriously ill, and whether it can thwart the vaccine. Kasai said omicron has been designated a variant of concern because of the number of mutations and because early information suggests it may be more transmissible than other variants of the virus.
More testing and observation is necessary, he said. Thus far, four countries and regions in the Western Pacific Australia, Hong Kong, Japan and South Korea have reported cases of the omicron variant, said WHO Regional Emergency Director Dr. Babatunde Olowokure. That number is likely to go up as more cases are discovered globally, Olowokure said.
11:21 Mizoram to issue new guidelines on Omicron Covid variant
The Mizoram government is likely to soon come out with new guidelines on tackling the new Omicron variant of coronavirus, a health department official said.
The state-level expert team on COVID-19 management has submitted draft guidelines to the government to screen and monitor people coming from abroad, he said. The new regulations will also include suggestions on Covid appropriate behaviour for such travellers, the official, who is a member of the team, said.
11:08 Nashik city records highest-ever 24-hour rainfall in December
Nashik city in Maharashtra has this week recorded the highest-ever single-day rainfall during December, the Met department has said.
Unseasonal rains lashed the city and other parts of the district on December 1 and showers continued during the intervening night of Wednesday and Thursday.
Sources in the weather department said the city recorded 63.8 mm rainfall in the 24-hour period starting 8.30 am on Wednesday, which broke the all-time record for 24-hour rainfall in December.
The previous record was 31 mm rainfall which was registered on December 16, 1967. In all, the district received 176 mm rainfall during this period.
Apart from the city, other parts of the district, including Igatpuri, Trimbakeshwar, Dindori, Peth, Niphad, Sinnar, Chandwad, Dewla, Nandgaon, Yeola, Baglan, Kalwan and Surgana received showers that day.
Karnataka Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai
11:00 After Omicron cases, K'taka CM calls urgent meet
Karnataka Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai will be chairing a meeting with experts, senior Ministers and officials, on Friday, in the wake of two cases of the new Omicron variant of coronavirus detected in the state.
New guidelines aimed at controlling its spread is likely to be formulated.
The meeting is scheduled for Friday afternoon, after the Chief Minister returns from his Delhi trip.
"An emergency meeting has been convened tomorrow with experts and senior officers. The meeting would discuss the measures to prevent the spread of new variant of Covid and the strategies to control it. The issue would be discussed with experts of the union government as well. Action would be taken to formulate new guidelines," Bommai was quoted as saying in a statement by his office, late on Thursday.
Out of the two cases of the new Omicron variant of coronavirus that have been detected in the State, one 66-year old is a South African national who had left the country after testing negative, while the other is a local person -- a doctor aged 46, with no travel history.
Five contacts of the doctor have also tested positive and their samples have been sent for genomic sequencing.
Health Minister K Sudhakar is also holding a meeting with Directors, Deans, HOD's of all departments of all Government Medical Colleges and Medical Superintendents, ahead of the Chief Minister's meeting.
"The Chief Minister will chair a meeting with senior Ministers, officials and experts, the government is seized of the matter and is on top of the measures that need to be taken, no need to worry or have unnecessary confusions or speculations," Sudhakar had said on Thursday night.
The CM on Thursday had met Union Health Minister Mansukh Mandaviya and discussed administering a booster dose of the vaccine against COVID-19 to health workers. PTI
10:26 Genome testing of 11 Covid+ve passengers awaited
Updates on the worrying Omicron variant, of which 2 cases have already been detected in Karnataka.
-- Mumbai: 9 international travellers including one from South Africa who arrived at Mumbai International Airport between 10th Nov-2nd Dec have tested positive for COVID19. Their samples have been sent for genome sequencing: Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation.
-- Tiruchirapalli: A passenger from Singapore at the Tiruchirappalli International Airport was found COVID positive and got admitted to a private hospital; samples have been sent for genome sequencing to Chennai and Bengaluru.
Chennai: A passenger from the UK who landed in Chennai was found COVID positive and is admitted to a special ward of the King Institute of Preventive Medicine. Samples have been sent for genome sequencing to Chennai & Bengaluru: TN Health Minister Ma Subramanian at Teynampet, Chennai.
10:05 Singapore says 2 travellers from S Africa tested "preliminarily positive" for Omicron
Two travellers from South Africa have tested "preliminarily positive" for the Omicron variant of COVID-19 after landing in Singapore, the Ministry of Health has said.
Two passengers who arrived in Singapore from South Africa on a Singapore Airlines (SIA) flight SQ479 have tested "preliminarily positive" for the Omicron variant on Wednesday, the MOH here said on Thursday.
"Both cases were isolated upon arrival in Singapore on December 1, and had not interacted in the community," Channel News Asia reported, quoting the ministry.
"There is currently no evidence of any community transmission from these cases," the MOH added.
The two travellers, who arrived from Johannesburg, are recovering in isolation wards at the National Centre for Infectious Diseases (NCID). Both of them are fully vaccinated and have "mild symptoms of cough and scratchy throat", it said -- PTI
A Mirage fighter jet
09:59 Tyre of Mirage fighter jet stolen from truck
Ludicrous but true: Uttar Pradesh Police on Thursday filed a case against unidentified miscreants after a tyre of a Mirage fighter jet was stolen from a truck carrying a consignment of military equipment from Lucknow.
The truck was carrying the consignment to Jodhpur airbase from Bakshi-Ka-Talab airbase in Lucknow on November 27. An FIR has been filed at Ashiyana Police Station in Lucknow. An investigation is underway.
People queue up to get vaccinated
09:55 Active Covid cases in India increase to 99,976
With 9,216 coronavirus infections being reported in a day, the country's total tally of COVID-19 cases rose to 3,46,15,757, while the active cases increased to 99,976, according to the Union Health Ministry data updated on Friday.
The death toll climbed to 4,70,115 with 391 fresh fatalities, according to the data updated at 8 am.
The daily rise in new coronavirus infections has been less than 50,000 for 159 consecutive days now.
The active cases comprise 0.29 per cent of the total infections, the lowest since March 2020, while the national COVID-19 recovery rate was recorded at 98.35 per cent, the ministry said.
An increase of 213 cases has been recorded in the active COVID-19 caseload in a span of 24 hours.
09:52 Equity indices open in green
Equity indices opened in green on Friday with Sensex up by 279.65 points and Nifty up by 83.80 points. The 30-scrip BSE Sensex was up by 279.65 points or 0.48 per cent at 58740.94 at 9.21 am. Similarly, 50-scrip NSE Nifty was trading at 17485.50 at 9.21 am, up by 83.80 points or 0.48 per cent.
09:48 Harvard University adds caste as protected category for student workers
Harvard University has added caste as a protected category for all graduate and undergraduate student workers.
The historic addition marks Harvard as the first Ivy League school to have caste equity protection in its non-discrimination clause for unionised student workers. This decision will impact more than 4,900 student workers at Harvard and the surrounding Harvard community, Equity Labs said in a statement.
With this addition, Harvard joins UC Davis, Colby College, Brandeis University, and several other universities where students, faculty, and staff face caste-based discrimination, Equity Labs said.
"Driven in partnership with caste-oppressed community members, this win is part of a larger national movement for caste equity that aims to protect caste-oppressed students, workers, and communities across the country," it said.
In a statement, Thenmozhi Soundararajan, executive director at Equality Labs, said the courage of the Harvard Graduate Student Union and the inter-caste and interfaith coalition of community and students who helped make this win possible is inspiring.
These leaders have worked tirelessly to make this win happen while also supporting students experiencing caste discrimination, she said.
"With the incredible support of Equality Labs as well as the Harvard Anti-Caste Coalition, the Harvard Graduate Students Union has become one of the first higher education labour unions to have secured protections against caste discrimination in a collective bargaining agreement," said Aparna Gopalan, Harvard Graduate Student Union Organizer.
"This also marks the first time Harvard or any Ivy League institution has officially decided to include caste as a protected category," she said.
09:40 Akhil Bharat Hindu Mahasabha criticises Maurya's Mathura remark
The Akhil Bharat Hindu Mahasabha on Thursday expressed displeasure over Uttar Pradesh deputy chief minister Keshav Prasad Maurya's tweet on a temple in Mathura and said the Bharatiya Janata Party is only concerned about getting votes in the upcoming polls.
The remarks came a day after Maurya tweeted, "The construction of grand temples is on in Ayodhya and Kashi, and preparations are on for one in Mathura (Ayodhya Kashi bhavya mandir nirmaan jaari hai Mathura kee tyaari hai)."
Mathura is considered to be the birthplace of Lord Krishna.
The supposed temple site, which is a subject of multiple lawsuits, is located inside an Aurangzeb-era mosque in Mathura and shares its premises with a prominent temple.
After the Mathura district administration raised objections, the ABHM called off its proposed programme for the installation and 'jalabhishek' of Lord Krishna's idol on December 6 at the deity's "actual birthplace", which the Hindu Mahasabha claims is inside the mosque.
The district administration on November 28 had imposed prohibitory orders under CrPC Section 144.
"The truth is that Ayodhya, Kashi or Mathura, none of these have ever been on the agenda of the BJP. But after winning the Ayodhya case, the BJP started showing interest in our campaign to remove the Shahi Eidgah in Mathura," the ABHM said.
Meanwhile, speaking about his Wednesday's tweet, Maurya said, "A grand temple is being constructed at the Ram janmabhoomi. A grand corridor is being made at Baba Vishwanathji in Kanshi and it is the wish of all Krishna devotees that a grand temple is constructed at the Krishna Janmabhoomi in Mathura and I have only expressed it."
When asked if it will be an election issue, he said, "The Krishan temple is not an election issue, just as the Ram temple in Ayodhya or Baba Vishwanathji in Varanasi are not election issues." -- PTI
09:16 Cyclone Jawad intensifies into depression: IMD
The well marked low pressure area over southeast Bay of Bengal has intensified into a depression and is likely to take the form of a cyclonic storm in the next 24 hours and reach Odisha-Andhra Pradesh coast on December 4, the IMD has said in its bulletin on Thursday.
In view of the possible cyclone, the Odisha government has geared up its preparedness by keeping adequate men, machinery and logistics ready to meet the challenge.
Based on the IMD's suggestions the state government has ensured that all fishermen returned to the shore by Thursday evening, special relief commissioner P K Jena said.
According to the IMD bulletin issued on Thursday evening the system has moved west-northwestwards and has concentrated into a depression. At 5.30 pm it lay centered over southeast Bay of Bengal, about 960 km south-southeast of Vishakhapatnam (Andhra Pradesh), 1020 km south-southeast of Gopalpur (Odisha) and 1060 km south-southeast of Paradip (Odisha).
Though the meteorological department forecast extreme rainfall activities from Friday and wind speed reaching 100 kmph when the cyclone reaches close to Odisha coast on Saturday, it is yet to give details about the possible place of the land fall and also the exact wind speed to be faced by the people.
The bulletin said that most of the models are indicating that the current depression will intensify into a cyclonic storm on Friday. However, there is some divergence among them. These indicate that the system will move west-northwestwards initially and there will be gradual changes in movement to northeast/northnorthwest till December 4 evening, it said.
The system will then re-curve north-northeastwards and some models indicate that the system will cross north Andhra Pradesh-south Odisha coast in the late night hours of December 4.
Odisha special relief commissioner (SRC) P K Jena said the state government has kept 249 teams comprising 17 of NDRF, 60 of ODRAF and 172 teams of fire service personnel ready and has deputed them to the districts for deployment. "As soon as we get detailed information they will be deployed," he said.
The district collectors of some vulnerable districts have been asked to evacuate people from low lying areas and those living in kutcha houses as there was fear of tidal surge during the possible cyclone, Jena said.
09:10 Gita Gopinath to take on new role at IMF
Indian-American Gita Gopinath, the chief economist of International Monetary Fund, is being promoted as IMF's First Deputy Managing Director, the fund announced Thursday.
She would replace Geoffrey Okamoto who plans to leave the Fund early next year. Gopinath, who was scheduled to return to her academic position at Harvard University in January 2022, has served as the IMF's chief economist for three years.
"Both Geoffrey and Gita are tremendous colleagues. I am sad to see Geoffrey go but, at the same time, I am delighted that Gita has decided to stay and accept the new responsibility of being our FDMD," said Kristalina Georgieva, IMF's Managing Director.
Georgieva said Gopinath's contribution to the Fund's work has already been exceptional, especially her "intellectual leadership in helping the global economy and the Fund to navigate the twists and turns of the worst economic crisis of our lives."
She also said Gopinath "the first female chief economist in IMF history" has garnered respect and admiration across member countries and the institution with a proven track record in leading analytically rigorous work on a broad range of issues.
Under Gopinath's leadership, the IMF's Research Department had gone from "strength to strength," particularly highlighting its contributions in multilateral surveillance via the World Economic Outlook, a new analytical approach to help countries respond to international capital flows (the integrated policy framework), and Gopinath's recent work on a pandemic plan to end the COVID-19 crisis by setting targets to vaccinate the world at feasible cost, said the IMF's Managing Director.
"As the pandemic continues its grip on us, the work of the Fund has never been more critical and international cooperation never more important. I am very thankful to Kristalina and the Board for this opportunity, and so look forward to collaborating closely with all the incredibly brilliant and committed colleagues at the Fund, working with whom has been an absolute privilege," Gopinath said.
Georgieva noted that given the increasingly complex policy choices and difficult trade-offs facing the IMF's 190 member countries "exacerbated by the pandemic" some realignment in the roles and responsibilities of the Fund's senior management team is being undertaken.
In particular, the FDMD will take the lead on surveillance and related policies, oversee research and flagship publications and help foster the highest quality standards for IMF publications, she said. -- PTI
08:19 Omicron scare: WHO deploys team in South Africa
The World Health Organization has deployed a team of officials to South Africa's Gauteng province, the epicentre of the new Omicron coronavirus variant, for ramping up surveillance measures and contact tracing efforts as the country grapples with rising infections, an official said on Thursday.
Some 11,500 new infections were registered in the latest daily figures, a sharp rise from the 8,500 cases confirmed the previous day.
In contrast, daily infections were averaging between 200 and 300 in mid-November in the country, health officials said.
Omicron, which was first identified in South Africa exactly a week ago, now has been detected in at least 24 countries around the world, according to the WHO.
"We are deploying a surge team in Gauteng province to support surveillance and contact tracing," Dr Salam Gueye, WHO Regional Emergency Director for Africa, said in a media briefing on Thursday, adding that a team is already working in South Africa on genomic sequencing.
The Gauteng province, which is the economic hub of South Africa, has accounted for almost 80 per cent of the infections over the past week.
The National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD) said at the same briefing that around 75 per cent of samples tested positive for the new variant.
"For the month of November, we had 249 sequences and of those, 183 have been considered to be Omicron," said NICD clinical microbiologist professor Anne von Gottberg.
According to the Africa Centers for Diseases Control and Prevention, the continent recorded 52,300 new COVID-19 cases compared to the previous week --- a 105 per cent increase.
WHO's Africa director Dr. Matshidiso Moeti said on Thursday that countries "must adjust their COVID-19 response and stop a surge in cases from sweeping across Africa and possibly overwhelming already-stretched health facilities."
Gauteng premier David Makhura confirmed in a separate media briefing that the province was on the cusp of a fourth wave.
"We are monitoring the situation very closely; getting feedback from our clinical teams also on the full impact of this. As we see the (rising) numbers every day, we are very concerned about it," Makhura said, as he made a plea to residents of the province to step up to get vaccinated.
The premier said that since Monday, there were over 50,000 vaccinations a day from the low of 30,000 daily before the announcement of the new variant.
"If we sustain the daily vaccination of 50,000 throughout this period into the festive season, it will help us to reach at least another half a million people before they leave Gauteng," he said.
Makhura was referring to the annual exodus to rural areas outside the province by workers in Gauteng as business and industry shuts down from mid-December for several weeks until early in the new year.
"We need to catch people here in Gauteng and vaccinate them because we know that during the festive season millions of people leave our province. We don't want people to be carrying this variant to other provinces, especially those who are not vaccinated," he explained. -- PTI
00:30 GFP's Jayesh Salgaonkar quits as MLA, to join BJP
Goa Forward Party MLA Jayesh Salgaonkar on Thursday resigned as legislator ahead of assembly elections in the coastal state early next year.
He would be joining the ruling the Bharatiya Janata Party on Friday afternoon, Goa BJP chief Sadanand Shet Tanavade told reporters.
Salgaonkar on Thursday evening handed his resignation to assembly speaker Rajesh Patnekar.
Minutes later, Chief Minister Pramod Sawant said "anyone who wants to join BJP is welcome."
With Salgaonkar's resignation, effective strength of the 40-member Goa Assembly has been reduced to 38.
Luizinho Faleiro had resigned earlier this year to join Trinamool Congress Party.
Tanavade said that Salgaonkar has not been assured ticket from Saligao constituency and he would be joining the BJP unconditionally.
The party will conduct a survey in the constituency before deciding on the ticket, the state BJP chief added.
Salgaonkar was not available for comment.
Reacting to the development, GFP chief Vijai Sardesai tweeted, "The 'loose tooth' who has been flirting with the @BJP4Goa has fallen off at night! The desperation of @DrPramodPSawant and his party cronies, shaken b our unity with @INCIndia, to deny #Goans a future at any cost is now apparent. Immoral and unethical acts have taken place. FOR SURE!'
The GFP's strength in the House is now reduced to two from three.
The BJP has 27 members, Congress four, Maharashtrawadi Gomantak Party and Nationalist Congress Party one each and there are three independents. -- PTI
00:17 Cyclone slated to hit Odisha-Andhra coast on Dec 4
The well marked low pressure area over southeast Bay of Bengal has intensified into a depression and is likely to take the form of a cyclonic storm in the next 24 hours and reach Odisha-Andhra Pradesh coast on December 4, the India meteorological department has said in its bulletin on Thursday.
In view of the possible cyclone, the Odisha government has geared up its preparedness by keeping adequate men, machinery and logistics ready to meet the challenge.
Based on the IMD's suggestions the state government has ensured that all fishermen returned to the shore by Thursday evening, special relief commissioner PK Jena said.
According to the IMD bulletin issued on Thursday evening the system has moved west-northwestwards and has concentrated into a depression.
At 5.30 pm it lay centered over southeast Bay of Bengal, about 960 km south-southeast of Vishakhapatnam (Andhra Pradesh), 1020 km south-southeast of Gopalpur (Odisha) and 1060 km south-southeast of Paradip (Odisha).
Though the meteorological department forecast extreme rainfall activities from Friday and wind speed reaching 100 kmph when the cyclone reaches close to Odisha coast on Saturday, it is yet to give details about the possible place of the land fall and also the exact wind speed to be faced by the people.
The bulletin said that most of the models are indicating that the current depression will intensify into a cyclonic storm on Friday.
However, there is some divergence among them. These indicate that the system will move west-northwestwards initially and there will be gradual changes in movement to northeast/northnorthwest till December 4 evening, it said.
The system will then re-curve north-northeastwards and some models indicate that the system will cross north Andhra Pradesh-south Odisha coast in the late night hours of December 4.
Jena said the state government has kept 249 teams comprising 17 of NDRF, 60 of ODRAF and 172 teams of fire service personnel ready and has deputed them to the districts for deployment.
"As soon as we get detailed information they will be deployed, he said. The district collectors of some vulnerable districts have been asked to evacuate people from low lying areas and those living in kutcha houses as there was fear of tidal surge during the possible cyclone," Jena said.
The Indian Coast Guard has already deployed over 10 ships for issuing weather advisory at sea regarding the impending cyclone.
A total of 220 boats have been shepherded back safely to harbours. 20 Disaster Relief Teams are ready for the assistance, the defence PRO, Chennai tweeted.
The SRC said that if any fisherman is in the sea, he will certainly return to the shore by Friday morning. -- PTI