Fri, 22 January 2021
Mallya applied for 'another route' to stay in UK
23:19 Mallya applied for 'another route' to stay in UK
Vijay Mallya has applied to Home Secretary Priti Patel for "another route" to be able to stay in the UK, the liquor tycoon's barrister representing him in bankruptcy proceedings in the High Court of London confirmed during a remote hearing on Friday.
The 65-year-old businessman, whose legal challenge to the Indian government's extradition request was turned down at the Supreme Court level in the UK last year, remains in Britain on bail until Patel signs off on the order for him to be extradited to India to face charges of fraud and money laundering related to the now-defunct Kingfisher Airlines.
The UK Home Office has so far only confirmed on background that a confidential legal process remains ongoing before the extradition order can be executed.
This had raised widespread speculation that Mallya had sought asylum in the UK, details of which are neither confirmed nor denied by the Home Office in Britain while an application is pending.
"The extradition was upheld but he [Mallya] is still here because as you know there is another route for him to apply to the Secretary of State [Patel] for status," said Mallya's barrister Philip Marshall, when specifically asked by Deputy Insolvency and Companies Court Judge Nigel Barnett about the status of the extradition proceedings.
It is likely that the reference is to an asylum route which, according to legal experts, would depend upon whether Mallya applied for asylum prior to the extradition request or after.
"He would need to argue much stronger grounds. There are specific rules that detail when asylum is a bar to extradition, it is clear that claiming asylum after all appeals have been exhausted is unlikely to be considered a valid claim to asylum protection," explains Toby Cadman, co-founder of Guernica 37 International Justice Chambers and a UK-based extradition specialist.
22:55 Ivanka leases luxury condo in Miami
Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner have moved out of their Washington, DC, home, and have signed a one-year lease on a luxury condo in Miami at the Arte, an expensive oceanfront residential building, a source familiar with the couple's move confirmed to CNN.
The last of their moving trucks departed the now-vacant property in the Kalorama neighbourhood of DC Thursday. Trump's and Kushner's items are scheduled to be delivered to Miami, said a source with information on where the trucks were headed.
The Wall Street Journal was first to report the Trump-Kushner Miami rental.
22:38 Pawan Kalyan donates Rs 30 lakh for Ram Temple construction
The Jana Sena Party president Pawan Kalyan on Friday donated a sum of Rs 30 lakh for the construction of the Ram Temple in Uttar Pradesh's Ayodhya.
The JSP president handed over the cheque for the amount to the RSS leader Bharat earlier today, in presence of BJP leader and former minister Kamineni Srinivas. Kalyan also handed over a cheque of Rs 11,000 as a donation from his personal staff.
President Ram Nath Kovind, West Bengal Governor Jagdeep Dhankhar, and Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan earlier too had donated their contribution towards the construction of Ram Temple.
After the Supreme Court gave the verdict for the construction of the Ram temple in Ayodhya, Prime minister Narendra Modi performed Bhoomi Pujan for the temple on August 5, 2020 at the temple site.
22:06 'No request received from Pak for Covid vaccine'
India on Friday said it has not received any request for coronavirus vaccines from Pakistan and that it is undertaking commercial supplies of the doses to a number of countries, including Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Brazil and Morocco.
So far, India has sent consignments of coronavirus vaccines under grant assistance to Bhutan, Maldives, Nepal, Bangladesh, Myanmar, Mauritius and Seychelles.
"I am not aware of any request for the supply of Indian-made vaccines to Pakistan on a G2G (government-to-government) basis or commercial basis," Spokesperson in the Ministry of External Affairs Anurag Srivastava said at a media briefing.
When asked whether India would do if Pakistan requests for the vaccines, he declined to answer saying the question is "hypothetical at this stage".
On Friday, India began commercial exports and sent two million doses each to Brazil and Morocco.
India began sending coronavirus vaccines as grant assistance to the neighbouring countries on Wednesday.
22:03 Miss England Dr Bhasha Mukherjee gets COVID-19 jab, endorses safety
First Indian-origin Miss England and frontline National Health Service doctor Bhasha Mukherjee has received her first of the two COVID-19 jabs and endorsed the safety of the vaccines being rolled out among those most at risk from coronavirus.
The 25-year-old beauty queen and a medical professional has been working on the COVID frontlines at Pilgrim Hospital in Lincolnshire and Royal Derby Hospital in eastern England ever since she flew back from a humanitarian tour of India at the peak of the pandemic in April 2020.
As a healthcare ambassador for the British Indian community, the junior doctor has been active in spreading safety messages among ethnic minority groups which have been acknowledged as being at a higher risk from the deadly virus.
"It's good to know I'm protected and I'm sure my colleagues feel the same," said Mukherjee.
"I'm thankful as being BAME [black, Asian, minority ethnic], I'm in a high-risk group. I feel so grateful to be in the position to have received the vaccine when millions are in the waiting line across the globe. My prayers are with everyone who's waiting patiently at home, including my own family members who I hope will get their vaccines soon too," she said.
In reference to no adverse side effects from the jab, she added: "After a few hours, I even did a Zoom home workout and press-ups, all to celebrate."
21:35 Punjab govt to give job to kin of farmers who died during stir against farm laws
Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh on Friday announced job for a member of the family of each farmer from the state who died during the agitation against the Centre's new farm laws.
Singh said he has received a report that 76 farmers from the state have died so far.
"All Punjabis are concerned about our farmers sitting on the Delhi borders. They are there to persuade the Centre to repeal that laws that were implemented without taking us into confidence," he said.
"Lots of old people are sitting there at the (Delhi) borders not for themselves but for the future of their children and grandchildren," said Amarinder Singh, adding that "we are losing our farmers to the cold every day, with an estimated 76 farmers dying so far".
In addition to the Rs 5 lakh compensation being given to the families of the dead farmers, his government will also give job to a member of their family, he added during the 20th edition of his Facebook Live #AskCaptain session.
The CM also slammed the Shiromani Akali Dal and AAP for spreading "lies" over the farm laws and dubbed the Centre's refusal to repeal them as "inhuman".
Farmers from Punjab and Haryana have been camping at Delhi's borders for several weeks, demanding the repeal of the farm laws and a legal guarantee on the minimum support price for crops.
21:14 Trump impeachment trial poised to start on Mon
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said that the House's article of impeachment will be delivered to the Senate on Monday, triggering the start of the Senate's impeachment trial of former US President Donald Trump.
"I have spoken to Speaker Pelosi who informed me that the articles will be delivered to the Senate on Monday," Schumer said on the Senate floor.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell had proposed delaying the trial until mid-February in order to give Trump's legal team time to prepare, but Schumer's comments suggest the trial will begin next week.
The Constitution says the trial begins the afternoon after the articles are delivered to the Senate.
21:05 Lalu Prasad tests negative for COVID-19, being treated for lung infection
Former Bihar Chief Minister Lalu Prasad, who is admitted at Rajendra Institute of Medical Sciences in Ranchi, has tested negative for coronavirus and is recovering, a senior doctor said on Friday.
"We are taking Lalu Prasad Yadav for HRCT (High Resolution CT) test to another department of our hospital. His health is recovering. He has tested negative for coronavirus in RT-PCR test too," Dr Vivek Kashyap, Medical Superintendent, RIMS, told reporters. The doctors had said on Thursday that Rashtriya Janata Dal leader has been diagnosed with lung infection.
Lalu Prasad's son Tejaswi Yadav, who is the leader of opposition in the state assembly, said in Patna that the family members including her mother Rabri Devi will go to Ranchi to visit him in the hospital.
"We have sought special permission to meet him. The entire family is worried about him after we learnt that he is facing difficulty in breathing," Tejaswi said.
"He is a heart patient, diabetic and has been diagnosed with pneumonia. His kidneys are working at 25 per cent capacity," he added.
Lalu Prasad has been convicted in the fodder scam cases.
20:24 Ayodhya: Work restarts at Ram temple site
The work restarted at the Ram temple site in Ayodhya, two months after it stopped due to a problem caused by the groundwater.
A member of the Shri Ram Janmabhoomi Teertha Kshetra, the trust overseeing the temple construction, said they have finalised the design of its foundation after discussions with engineers from the Larsen and Toubro and Tata Consulting Engineers Ltd.
A two-day puja was also performed at the temple site to mark the restarting of construction activity.
Temple trust member Dr Anil Mishra said after the puja, digging has started and it will take almost 70 days to remove the debris.
In the puja, Ram temple construction panel chairman Nripendra Mishra took part.
20:14 Over 2.2 lakh people vaccinated against COVID-19 on 7th day
As many as 2,28,563 beneficiaries were vaccinated against COVID-19 on Friday which was the seventh day of the countrywide massive exercise. With this, the total number of beneficiaries who received jab surpassed 12.7 lakh (12,72,097), said Union health ministry.
A total of 6,230 sessions were held on Friday for the Pan-India vaccination drive. So far 24,397 sessions have been conducted for the drive. "The cumulative number of healthcare workers vaccinated against COVID19 has surpassed 12.7 lakh (12,72,097) (till 6 pm today) through 24,397 sessions, as per the provisional report," the ministry said in a release.
"2,28,563 beneficiaries were vaccinated till 6 pm today through 6,230 sessions, the seventh day of nationwide COVID19 vaccination. Final reports would be completed for the day by late tonight," it added.
According to the ministry, 267 cases of Adverse Effect After Vaccination have been reported till 6 pm on the seventh day of the vaccination drive.
Billed as the world's largest vaccination program, covering the entire length and breadth of the country, the COVID-19 vaccination drive which began on January 16 aims to first vaccinate millions of its healthcare and frontline workers and reach an estimated 3 crore people by the end of its first phase.
19:54 India, China agree to talks soon: MEA
India and China have agreed to hold the next round of the senior commander levels meeting soon, said the ministry of external affairs on Friday.
MEA spokesperson Anurag Srivastava said at the regular media briefing that the two sides are in close communication through diplomatic and military channels for holding the next round of senior commander levels meeting. "Both sides have agreed to hold the next round of the senior commander levels meeting soon and we are in close communication over diplomatic and military channels in this regard," he said.
India and China are in a standoff in Eastern Ladakh as a result of actions by the Chinese army.
In the last Working Mechanism for Consultation and Coordination meeting held on December 18, both sides agreed to maintain close consultations at the diplomatic and military levels.
Fr Stan Swamy
19:21 UN representative calls for release of Bhima-Koregaon accused
The Indian American Muslim Council on Thursday released a report titled 'Crushing Dissent: 2021 Status Report on Human Rights in India', detailing the human rights abuses in India.
At the launch of this report, UN Special Rapporteur Mary Lawlor called upon the Indian government to immediately release 16 human rights defenders who have been imprisoned in the 'Bhima-Koregaon Case', the IAMC said in a press release.
"These people should not be in jail. They are our modern-day heroes and we should all be looking to them and supporting them and demanding their release,' the release quoted Lawlor saying.
Along with Father Stan Swamy, the octogenarian Jesuit priest against whose "arbitrary detention' she has already written to the Indian government, Lawlor said 15 others jailed in the same case must also be released.
Lawlor, whose three-year term as UN Special Rapporteur began last May, also called out the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA), under which the Bhima-Koregaon accused have been charged, as among the "several prominent pieces of legislation that would appear on paper and in practice to undermine rights contained in the covenant and the work of human rights defenders'," the release added.
Describing India's human rights situation as "very serious," Lawlor said she sent "six communications" to the Indian government since May to "convey our concerns on human rights issues". India had responded to just one.
In June she wrote to the Indian government raising concerns over the arrest of 11 human rights defenders for protesting the Citizenship (Amendment) Act. "However, this communication has gone unanswered'," the release said.
19:13 Disgruntled MLA expelled from TMC
The ruling Trinamool Congress in West Bengal on Friday expelled disgruntled MLA Baishali Dalmiya from the party for anti-party activities, sources said.
The Bally legislator has been publicly speaking against a section of the TMC leadership.
She had also claimed that there is no place for 'honest and sincere people in the party'.
In a statement, the TMC said that its disciplinary committee met on Friday and decided to expel Dalmiya from the party.
Her expulsion came hours after senior TMC leader Rajib Banerjee resigned from the Mamata Banerjee cabinet, joining the growing list of dissenters who have put the ruling camp in a tight spot ahead of the assembly election.
Dalmiya criticised the party leadership for Banerjee's resignation also. -- PTI
19:12 After discontent among ministers, Yediyurappa changes portfolios
Amid reports of unhappiness among his ministers over portfolio allocation, Karnataka Chief Minister B S Yediyurappa on Friday made some changes in portfolios.
He made the changes a day after he had allocated portfolios following the expansion of cabinet last week.
Aravind Limbavali has been given Kannada and Culture Department today in addition to the Forest Department portfolio he had earlier.
K Gopalaiah has been given the Excise portfolio. Horticulture Department, Sugarcane Development and Directorate of Sugar of the Industries and Commerce Department have been taken from him.
N Nagaraj has been given Municipal Administration and Development and Directorate of Sugar of Industries and Commerce Department.
He had the Excise Department earlier.
R Shankar has also been allocated Horticulture department.
The Municipal Administration Department has been taken from him.KC Narayana Gowda has Youth Empowerment and Sports Department, Planning Programme monitoring and statistics department.
Haj and Wakf Department has been taken from him.
J C Madhuswamy has been given Haj and Wakf Department in addition to the Medical Education Department.
Kannada and Culture Department has been taken from him.
After allocating the portfolios on Thursday, Chief Minister B S Yediyurappa had denied reports of unhappiness among the ministers and had said that there was no difference of opinion among the new ministers.
He had said that the newly-appointed ministers were happy and would be attending the cabinet together.
The chief minister had inducted seven members of legislative assembly (MLAs) into his cabinet on January 13. -- ANI
19:01 No vaccine link to Gurugram medic's death: CMO
A woman healthcare worker died in Gurugram in Haryana on Friday, days after she had received a COVID-19 vaccine, but an official said that there was nothing yet to suggest any link with the vaccination.
The 55-year-old woman died at her Gurugram home.
"She had been administered COVID-19 vaccination on January 16. Her family reported her sudden death at her home today, but there is nothing yet to suggest and link with the vaccination," Chief Medical Officer of Gurugram Virender Yadav said over phone.
"However, we have sent her viscera for investigation and details will be known once the report comes," he added.
Vaccination against COVID-19 began in Haryana on Saturday with several health workers, the foremost warriors in the battle against the pandemic, getting the shots on the opening day. -- PTI
18:44 Sonu Sood moves SC against HC order on illegal construction notice
Actor Sonu Sood moved the Supreme Court Friday challenging the Bombay high court order which dismissed his appeal against a Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation notice over alleged illegal construction at his residential building in Mumbai's Juhu area.
Advocate Vineet Dhanda, who has filed the plea in the top court, told PTI that Sood has challenged the high court order.
As per the BMC, the Bollywood actor had carried out structural changes in the six-storey residential building 'Shakti Sagar', and converted it into a hotel without taking requisite permissions.
The BMC earlier this month also filed a complaint at the Juhu police station, seeking a first information report to be lodged against Sood for allegedly converting the residential building into a hotel without permission.
The complaint letter was sent to the police after the BMC inspected the building and found that Sood had allegedly not complied with the requisitions and was continuing unauthorised construction even after the notice was served to him in October last year.
The police is yet to register FIR in the case. -- PTI
Protesting farmer leaders said on Friday their proposed January 26 tractor rally will take place on Delhi's busy Outer Ring Road as decided earlier, after their eleventh round of talks with the government ended in a deadlock.
Coming out of the meeting, farmer leader Balbir Singh Rajewal said it is for the government to ensure that the rally is peaceful.
"Tractor march on January 26 will take place as decided by us on Outer Ring Road. We have informed the police that it is for the government to ensure that it should be peaceful," Rajewal said.
The government's negotiations with protesting farm unions hit a roadblock on Friday as protesting unions stuck to their demands for a complete repeal of three farm laws, even after the Centre asked them to reconsider its proposal for putting the Acts on hold for 12-18 months.
Unlike the last 10 rounds of talks, the 11th round could not even reach a decision on the next date for the meeting as the government also hardened its position saying it is ready to meet again once the unions agree to discuss the suspension proposal.
Union leaders said they will intensify their agitation while keeping it peaceful.
Thousands of farmers, mostly from Punjab and Haryana, have been camping at several Delhi border points since November 28, demanding a repeal of three farm laws and a legal guarantee on minimum support price for their crops. -- PTI
Birthday of some of the members of Kisan unions was celebrated outside Vigyan Bhavan
17:34 Big ZERO: 11th round of talks with farmers a dud
The government's negotiations with protesting farm unions hit a roadblock on Friday as the farmer leaders stuck to their demands for a complete repeal of three farm laws they find pro-corporate and a legal guarantee for MSP, even as the Centre asked them to reconsider its proposal for putting the Acts on hold for 12-18 months.
Unlike the last 10 rounds of talks, the 11th round could not even reach a decision on the next date for the meeting as the government also hardened its position saying it is ready to meet again once the unions agree to discuss the suspension proposal.
This followed a big climbdown made by the Centre during the last round when they offered to suspend the laws and form a joint committee to find solutions. Farmer leaders said they will intensify their agitation now and alleged that the government's approach was not right during the meeting.
While the meeting lasted for almost five hours, the two sides sat face to face for less than 30 minutes.
In the very beginning, the farmer leaders informed the government that they have decided to reject the proposal made by the government in the last round of talks on Wednesday.
The three central ministers, including Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar, urged the union representatives to reconsider their stand, after which the two sides went for a lunch break. The break, during which the farmer leaders had their langar (community kitchen) food, lasted for more than three hours.
The break also saw the 41 farmer leaders holding consultations among themselves, at times in smaller groups, while the three central ministers waited in a separate room at Vigyan Bhawan.
After the meeting, Bharatiya Kisan Union (Ugrahan) leader Joginder Singh Ugrahan said the discussions have broken down as the unions rejected the government's proposal.
The ministers told the unions that they have been given all possible options and they must discuss internally the proposal of suspending the laws. Tomar told the farmer leaders that the government would be ready for another meeting if farmers want to discuss the proposal, sources said.
The minister also thanked unions for their cooperation and said while there were no problems with the laws, the government offered to suspend them as respect for the protesting farmers.
Coming out of the meeting venue, farmer leader Shiv Kumar Kakka said there was no headway in the discussions and the government asked unions to deliberate on its proposal again. Kakka was the first to leave the meeting, but said it was for "some personal reasons". In the last round of meetings held on Wednesday, the government had offered to put on hold the three laws and set up a joint committee to find solutions.
However, after internal consultations on Thursday, the farmer unions decided to reject the offer and stick to their two major demands -- the repeal of the three laws and a legal guarantee of the minimum support price (MSP).
"We told the government that we will not agree to anything other than the repeal of the laws. But the minister asked us to discuss separately again and rethink the matter and convey the decision," farmer leader Darshan Pal told PTI.
BKU leader Rakesh Tikait said: "We conveyed our position clearly to the government that we want a repeal of the laws and not a suspension. The ministers asked us to reconsider our decision." Some leaders expressed apprehensions that the movement will lose its momentum once the farmers go away from Delhi borders. -- PTI
17:29 BSF one of the 'finest forces', TMC's allegation unfortunate: CEC
Referring to Trinamool Congress' (TMC) allegation that the Border Security Force (BSF) is coercing voters to favour one party, Chief Election Commissioner Sunil Arora on Friday said the remark is 'unfortunate'.
Briefing the media, Arora said, "It is unfortunate that a party made averments about the BSF. I have asked for concrete instances. They are (BSF) one of the finest forces in the country. There is no point in castigating any force, ad nauseam."
"We had an in-depth interaction with political parties. Most had concerns about law and order situation. They spoke of high voltage electioneering which could precipitate into political violence and threaten to vitiate the electoral process," he added.
CEC's comments came a day after the delegations of various political parties in West Bengal met the top Commission of India (ECI) officials regarding the upcoming Assembly polls. During the meeting, TMC leaders alleged that the BSF was intimidating people in border areas of West Bengal to cast their votes in favour of a 'particular political party'.
On the other hand, BJP chief Dilip Ghosh urged the ECI to deploy Central Forces in the state at the earliest claiming there is a 'sense of fear' among people ahead of elections. Ghosh also asked ECI to take its cognisance of the issue of alleged inclusion of Rohingyas in the voter's list in the border areas.
Arora said, "The political parties wanted optimal deployment of Central Armed Police Forces (CAPFs). Some political parties also cited anomalies in the electoral rolls."
17:08 IPL auction likely on February 18: BCCI
The IPL players auction ahead of the 2021 season is likely to be held on February 18, a BCCI official told PTI on Friday. "The auction will be held on February 18. The venue is yet to be decided," the official said.
The BCCI is also yet to decide whether the IPL will happen in India or not even though Board President Sourav Ganguly has repeatedly asserted that everything possible would be done to keep the glitzy event at its home. The 2020 edition was held in the UAE in September-November due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
A smooth conduct of India's home series against England from next month should pave the way for the lucrative league to be held at home. The player retention deadline ended on January 20 and the trading window closes on February 4. Top Australian draws like Steve Smith and Glenn Maxwell were released from Rajasthan Royals and Kings XI Punjab respectively on the last day of the retention deadline. PTI
16:40 Production of BCG, Rota vaccines hit by fire: SII
Serum Institute of India officials said that they have suffered financial losses due to the fire that broke in an under-installation building of SII plant at Manjari, Pune and this will impact production of BCG and Rota vaccines in the future: SII statement to ANI.
Top officials from fire wings of three Maharashtra government agencies on Friday launched a probe to ascertain the cause of the blaze that killed five workers at Serum Institute of India's premises.
Heads of fire departments of the Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC), Pune Metropolitan Region Development Authority (PMRDA) and Maharashtra Industrial Development Corporation (MIDC) are part of the joint probe team.
Five contractual labourers had died in the fire which broke out in a five-storeyed under-construction building in the Serum Institute of India's Manjari premises on Thursday. The fire damaged the top two floors of the building located in 'SEZ 3' area of the premises of the vaccine major.
Asian Paints was among the losers
16:15 Sensex tanks 746 pts; Nifty ends below 14,375
Equity benchmark Sensex plunged 746 points to close at 48,878.54 on Friday, tracking losses in index majors Reliance, HDFC twins and ICICI Bank amid a weak trend in global markets.
The 30-share BSE index ended 746.22 points or 1.50 per cent lower at 48,878.54.
Similarly, the broader NSE Nifty tumbled 218.45 points or 1.5 per cent to 14,371.90. Axis Bank was the top loser in the Sensex pack, shedding over 4 per cent, followed by Asian Paints, SBI, IndusInd Bank, ICICI Bank, Bajaj Finance, HDFC and Reliance. On the other hand, Bajaj Auto, Hindustan Unilever, UltraTech Cement, TCS, Bajaj Finserv and Infosys were the gainers.
Elsewhere in Asia, bourses in Shanghai, Hong Kong, Seoul and Tokyo ended in the negative territory. Stock exchanges in Europe were also trading on a negative note in early deals.
16:11 HC directs SPCA to take custody of hippo confined with circus
The Delhi High Court Friday directed the Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animal to immediately take the 9-year-old hippopotamus who has been illegally kept by the Asiad Circus management and place it in the zoo.
The high court also issued non-bailable warrants against the proprietor of Asiad Circus, whose licence had been revoked by the authorities in 2017, to ensure his presence at the next hearing on April 15.
Justice Prathiba M Singh noted that despite repeated directions, the proprietor of the circus Riazuddin Khan has failed to take a stand on the issue and has not disclosed the location of the male hippopotamus. Delhi SPCA to immediately take steps for seizure of hippopotamus from the circus or any other person.
Security and assistance shall be provided by the police to the officials of SPCA team going for seizure of the animal, the court said, asking SPCA to file a report after taking action.
It also directed the high court registry to give default notice to Khan's advocate, who vakalatnama was on record as no one appeared to represent him in the case.
The court said if the hippopotamus is seized, it be temporarily placed in Delhi Zoo and if the animal is recovered from some other place and there is problem in transportation, he shall be placed in the local zoo there.
15:33 Bhajan singer Narendra Chanchal passes away at Delhi hospital
Bhajan singer Narendra Chanchal died at a private hospital here on Friday following some health complications, sources said. He was 76. Chanchal breathed his last at 12:15 pm at Apollo Hospital here, the sources said. He was admitted to the south Delhi hospital on November 27 and died after suffering from brain complications, they said. PTI
15:17 Covaxin is safe in Phase 1 trials: Lancet
India's first indigenous vaccine against COVID-19, Covaxin, showed enhanced immune response without any serious side effects in the participants enrolled for the phase 1 trials, according to the results published in The Lancet Infectious Disease journal.
Developed by Bharat Biotech in collaboration with the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) and the National Institute of Virology (NIV), Pune, the vaccine has been granted emergency use authorisation in clinical trial mode' by the Indian government.
Covaxin, which is now undergoing phase-3 trials, had raised concerns among experts over its emergency approval earlier this month by India's drug regulator.
The vaccine, codenamed BBV152, was well tolerated in all dose groups with no vaccine-related serious adverse events, noted the authors of the study funded by Bharat Biotech. The same results were earlier published in the preprint server medRxiv in December.
However, there has been no new data released in the public domain which could demonstrate further safety and efficacy of the preventive. The authors said that all adverse events were mild and moderate, and were more frequent after the first dose, adding that one adverse event was reported but was unrelated to the vaccine.
The randomised phase 1 trial to assess the safety and immunogenicity of BBV152 was carried at 11 hospitals across India. Adults aged 18-55 years who were deemed healthy by the investigator were eligible.
Between July 13 and 30, last year, 827 participants were screened, of whom 375 were enrolled. Among the enrolled participants, 100 each were randomly assigned to the three vaccine groups, and 75 were randomly assigned to the control group. Two intramuscular doses of vaccines were administered 14 days apart.
"BBV152 led to tolerable safety outcomes and enhanced immune responses. The vaccine was well tolerated in all dose groups with no vaccine-related serious adverse events," the authors of the study said.
The most common adverse event was pain at the injection site, followed by headache, fatigue, and fever. Covaxin is an inactivated vaccine developed by chemically treating novel coronavirus samples to make them incapable of reproduction.
This process leaves the viral proteins, including the spike protein of the coronavirus which it uses to enter the human cells, intact. Given as two doses, three weeks apart, the viral proteins in the vaccine activate the immune system and prepare people for future infections with the actual infectious virus. According to Bharat Biotech, the therapeutic can be stored at room temperature for at least a week. -- PTI
15:03 Was mentally hurt: TMC minister on resignation
TMC leader Rajib Banerjee who resigned as forest minister: "I was troubled and mentally hurt for a while and I had to take this step. It pains me and breaks my heart but I had to do it. I am grateful to Mamata Banerjee for guiding me for all the years. I reiterate my commitment towards working for the people of Bengal."
His resignation letter read, "It has been a great honour and privilege to serve the people of West Bengal. I heartily convey my gratitude for getting this opportunity."
Rajib Banerjee has now joined the league of leaders who have recently resigned from the TMC government.
Former Transport Minister in the TMC government, Suvendu Adhikari among several others joined the BJP in the presence of Union Home Minister Amit Shah at a rally in Midnapore in West Bengal on December 19 last year.
14:08 10 lakh Indians vaccinated against Covid-19
Nearly 10.5 lakh beneficiaries have received anti-coronavirus shots under the countrywide COVID-19 vaccination exercise as ondate, the Union Health Ministry said on Friday. In a span of 24 hours, 2,37,050 people were vaccinated across 4,049 sessions.
A total of 18,167 sessions have been conducted so far. On the testing front too, India continues to register growing numbers, the ministry said. The expansion in testing infrastructure has given a boost in India's fight against the global pandemic. The cumulative testing has crossed 19 crore, it underlined.
A total of 8,00,242 samples were tested for COVID-19 in a span of 24 hours which has increased India's total cumulative tests to 19,01,48,024. "Comprehensive and widespread testing on a sustained basis has resulted in bringing down the positivity rate. The cumulative Positivity Rate stands at 5.59 per cent as of today," the ministry said. Steadily following the trend set over the past weeks, India's active caseload has fallen to 1.78 per cent of the total cases. India's Active Caseload presently stands at 1,88,688. A total of 18,002 new recoveries were registered in a span of 24 hours. This has led to a net decline of 3,620 cases from the total COVID-19 active caseload in a day.
The total recovered cases have surged to10,283,708 pushing the growing gap between the recovered and the active cases to 1,00,95,020 ( 54.5 times). The ministry said that 84.70 per centof the new recovered cases are contributed by ten states and UTs. Kerala saw 6,229 persons recovering from COVID.
Maharashtra and Karnataka reported 3,980 and 815 new recoveries, respectively. A total of 14,545 new positive cases were registered in a span of 24 hours. Eight states and UTs have contributed 84.14 per centof the new cases. Kerala reported 6,334 cases in a span of24 hours. Maharashtra recorded 2,886 new cases, while Karnataka registered 674 daily cases.
Over 82 per centof the 163 case fatalities that have been reported in the past 24 hours are from nine states and UTs. Maharashtra has reported the maximum new daily deaths with 52 deaths. Kerala also saw a fatality count of 21.PTI
14:04 SC allows journalist Siddique Kappan to talk to his mother via video conferencing
The Supreme Court on Friday said it will allow journalist Siddique Kappan, who was detained on October 5 while he was en route to Hathras in Uttar Pradesh, to talk to his ailing mother via video conferencing.
A Bench headed by Chief Justice of India SA Bobde said it will allow the plea of Kappan to have chat with his mother through video conferencing after senior advocate Kapil Sibal said an application has been filed in this connection.
Sibal, appearing for the Kerala Union of Working Journalists (KUWJ) told the Bench that Kappan's mother wants to have a video conferencing with the journalist, who is lodged in Uttar Pradesh jail.Sibal said the mother of Kappan was mostly unconscious and wants to see her son whenever she regains consciousness.
"Please allow her to talk to him through video conferencing so that she can see her son while she lives. We have filed an application. Court says it can be allowed subject to jail rules but jail rules do not allow video conferencing. Please allow us," Sibal submitted.
The Bench said it will allow the request. Solicitor General Tushar Mehta appearing for the Uttar Pradesh asked court to leave it to him.The Bench then adjourned the matter to next week on a request by Solicitor General Tushar Mehta.
Dilip Walse Patil with Cyrus Poonawala
13:42 Maha minister visits SII after yesterday's fire
A fire broke out at Manjari Plant of Serum Institute of India in Pune yesterday, claiming five lives. A Forensic team visited the site today to collect samples for investigation. Maharashtra Minister Dilip Walse Patil visited SII and met its Chairman and Managing Director Cyrus Poonawalla.
13:20 Bengal minister resigns from Mamata cabinet
Update: In yet another jolt for the TMC dispensation, ahead of the assembly polls, West Bengal forest minister Rajib Banerjee on Friday quit the Mamata Banerjee cabinet. Banerjee, in a letter to the chief minister, said he was tendering his resignation as a cabinet minister, but did not cite any reason.
"It has been a great honour and privilege to serve the people of West Bengal. I heartily convey my gratitude for getting this opportunity," he said in the letter.
The Domjur MLA, who had been airing his grievances against a section of ruling party leaders over the past few weeks, joins the string of TMC leaders and legislators who recently quit the Mamata Banerjee camp.
Most of them, including his former cabinet colleague Suvendu Adhikari, have switched over to the BJP. Banerjee also said that a copy of the resignation letter has been forwarded to Governor Jagdeep Dhankhar for "necessary action". PTI
12:41 11th round of talks between farmers, govt begins
Farmer leaders and representatives reach the Vigyan Bhawan building to participate in the 11th round of talks with the government over the three new farm laws.
"There isn't much expectation. Govt made proposals which we took to leadership and general body. After discussion almost unitedly they rejected proposals. Govt must understand movement's mood and work accordingly," H Mollah, All India Kisan Sabha Gen Sec, on upcoming govt-farmer talks.
"Kisans'(farmers) have started coming to the outer Ring Road and they will come. We can't change the program. The rally will be held as declared."
12:19 This is what Sonia said on Arnab WhatsApp leaks
Congress president Sonia Gandhi on Friday launched a fierce attack on the Centre over the farmers' agitation and said the government has shown "shocking insensitivity and arrogance going through the charade of consultations".
Addressing a crucial meeting of the Congress Working Committee, she alleged that it was now abundantly clear that the three farm laws were prepared in haste and Parliament was consciously denied an opportunity to examine in any meaningful detail their implications and impacts.
"The agitation of farmers continues and the government has shown shocking insensitivity and arrogance going through the charade of consultations," she said.
The crucial meeting, being held virtually, will also finalise the plan for organisational elections, including that of the next Congress president. Gandhi said the Congress position on the issue of the farm laws has been clear from the very beginning.
"We reject them categorically because they will destroy the foundations of food security that are based on the three pillars of MSP, public procurement and PDS." Discussing the budget session of Parliament, she said there are many pressing issues of public concern that need to be debated and discussed, but it remains to be seen whether the government will agree to a discussion.
On the purported WhatsApp chat leaks of Arnab Goswami, she said, "There have been very disturbing reports on how national security has been so thoroughly compromised.
"The silence from the government's side on what has been revealed has been deafening. Those who give certificates of patriotism and nationalism to others now stand totally exposed," she said.
Gandhi expressed the hope that the process of the COVID-19 vaccination drive will continue and be completed to the fullest extent. The government, she added, has inflicted untold suffering on the people of the country by the manner in which it has managed the COVID-19 pandemic.
"It will take years for the scars to heal," she alleged. The economic situation remains grim and large parts of the economy like MSME and the informal sector have been decimated with the government refusing to extend a lifeline, the Congress president said.
11:58 Equity indices flat on weak global cues, auto stocks surge
Equity benchmark indices swung between minor gains and losses during early hours on Friday amid some uncertainty about the near-term outlook for global economy.
At 10:15 am, the BSE S&P Sensex was down by 33 points or 0.07 per cent at 49,592 while the Nifty 50 ticked lower by 17 points or 0.12 per cent to 14,573.Sectoral indices at the National Stock Exchange were in mixed. Nifty auto advanced by 2.6 per cent and IT by 0.7 per cent but Nifty private bank was down by 0.9 per cent and pharma by 0.7 per cent.
Among stocks, Tata Motors continued to zoom ahead with gains of 4.7 per cent to Rs 304.25 per share. Bajaj Auto gained by 6 per cent, Hero MotoCorp by 4.1 per cent, Eicher Motors by 2.6 per cent and Maruti Suzuki by 1.5 per cent.
However, private lenders lost with Axis Bank dipping by 2 per cent, HDFC Bank and ICICI Bank by 0.8 per cent each, and Kotak Mahindra Bank by 0.5 per cent.
Meanwhile, Asian shares eased from record highs as investors pulled back funds after a recent rally that was driven by hopes a massive US economic stimulus plan by incoming President Joe Biden to help temper the COVID-19 impact.
MSCI's broadest gauge of Asia Pacific stocks outside of Japan was off by 0.2 per cent while Japan's Nikkei eased by 0.4 per cent. Hong Kong's Hang Seng slipped by 0.1 per cent. -- ANI
11:40 Sonia holds CWC meet to discuss polls
Congress Working Committee (CWC), chaired by party interim President Sonia Gandhi, on Friday discussed prevailing economic conditions in the country and party's strategy for the upcoming Assembly polls.
The CWC also discussed the ongoing political development and farmers agitation against Centre's three agri laws. The CWC meeting is currently underway.
"CWC meeting begins. Congress President, Smt. Sonia Gandhi addresses the CWC," Congress spokesperson Randeep Singh Surjewala tweeted.Sources had earlier said that the date of the election for the post of party President is likely to be decided at the meeting of the party's highest decision-making body.
The meeting is being held a week before the start of the budget session of Parliament.
The Central Election Authority of Congress had earlier submitted a note to interim party President Sonia Gandhi that they were ready for the elections.
A group of 23 leaders had written to Sonia Gandhi in August last year demanding internal elections from block to the level of party chief and "full-time" active leadership. They had also demanded elections to CWC.
The party had subsequently called a CWC meeting in which Sonia Gandhi desired that elections must be held within six months. -- ANI
11:16 CBI files case against Cambridge Analytica for FB data theft
The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) has filed a case against UK-based political consulting firm Cambridge Analytica for the alleged illegal harvesting of personal data of 5.62 lakh Indian Facebook users.
The agency has also named Global Science Research (GSRL), another company based out of that country, in the same case.
Union Minister of Electronics and Information Technology Ravi Shankar Prasad had informed Parliament earlier that there will be a CBI probe into the Facebook-Cambridge Analytica data theft case.
In its response to the CBI, the social media company had said that GSRL illegally collected personal data of around 5.62 lakh users in India and shared it with Cambridge Analytica. It is alleged that the consulting firm then used the data to influence elections in India.
10:56 Govt hiding poison in sweets, say farmers
11th round of Centre-farmers talks to take place today. "The government's strategy was to throw net at us, to hide poison inside sweets. They want to end protests somehow. In our meeting it was unanimously decided that we reject their proposal. In today's meeting we will discuss MSP and repeal of the three farm laws," says SS Pandher, Kisan Mazdoor Sangharsh Committee.
The government on Wednesday proposed to suspend the three contentious farm laws for one and half years and set up a joint committee to discuss the Acts to end the stalemate, but farmer leaders did not immediately accept the proposal and said they will revert after their internal consultations.
10:44 2 health care workers hospitalised after receiving COVID-19 vaccine
Two health care workers were admitted to hospital as they reported Adverse Event Following Immunisation (AEFI) after receiving jab of COVID-19 vaccine in Odisha, official sources said.
The condition of both the health care workers in Jagatsinghpur and Bargarh district was stated to be stable, they said on Thursday. A 45-year-old female ASHA worker of Jagatsinghpur district was administered COVID-19 vaccine on January 19, following which she developed a headache and fainting attack on the very day.
She was then admitted to the District Headquarters Hospital, where her condition was stated to be stable, an official said. A 27-year-old female staff nurse of Bargarh district received COVID-19 vaccine shot on January 16. She developed fever on the same day and was admitted to hospital in Bargarh for observation. Her condition is currently stable, the official said. -- PTI
10:40 I'm a doctor and I've taken Covaxin: TN health minister
Tamil Nadu Health Minister, Dr C Vijayabaskar takes a Covaxin shot in Chennai. He tweets, "I am doing this as a doctor and member of IMA, to instill confidence among health care workers. I request all to get vaccinated and safeguard themselves from Covid-19."
Doctors in Karnataka are refusing to take Covaxin for fear of proper trials in the third phase.
10:19 Biden launches '100 days mask challenge'
United States President Joe Biden has signed a series of executive orders to address COVID-19 challenges, including making coronavirus test followed by quarantine mandatory for all travellers coming from overseas.
"In addition to wearing masks, everyone flying to the United States from another country will need to test before they get on that plane, before they depart, and quarantine when they arrive in America," Biden said at a White House event wherein he signed the orders.
"Our national plan launches a full-scale wartime effort to address the supply shortages by ramping up production and protective equipment, syringes, needles, you name it. And when I say wartime, people look at me like wartime? Well, as I said last night, 4,00,000 Americans have died. That's more than World War II... this is a wartime undertaking," he said.
The death toll will likely top 5,00,000 next month, he said, adding that the cases will continue to mount.
"We didn't get into this mess overnight and it's going to take months for us to turn things around but let me be equally clear we will get through this, we will defeat this pandemic, and to a nation waiting for action, let me be the clearest on this point, help is on the way, he said.
Unveiling a national strategy on COVID-19 and executive actions to beat the pandemic, Biden said this plan reflects the ideas he set forward during the campaign and they have been further refined over the last three months.
The national strategy is comprehensive and detailed, and is based on science and truth not politics and denial, he said.
Biden said the plan starts with mounting an aggressive, safe, and effective vaccination campaign to meet the goal of administering 100 million shots in the first 100 days in office.
"We are on day one. This will be one of the greatest operational challenges our nation has ever undertaken, and I am committed to getting it done; we're committed to getting it done. We will move heaven and earth to get more people vaccinated for free and create more places for them to get vaccinated to mobilise more medical teams to get shots in people's arms and to increase vaccine supply and get it out the door as fast as possible," he said.
Biden said that he has directed the Federal Emergency Management Agency to start standing up the first federally supported community vaccination centres. The goal is to stand up 100 centres within the next month, he said.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will launch the federal pharmacy programme to make vaccines available to communities beginning early February.
"We will also task the Department of Health and Human Services to prepare and expand the pool of medical professionals who can administer the vaccine, and ensure that we have enough vaccinators to meet the nation's needs and quickly," he said.
Biden also signed an executive action to use the Defense Production Act and all other available authorities to direct all federal agencies and private industry to accelerate the making of everything that's needed to protect, test, vaccinate, and take care of people. -- PTI
10:03 Woman withdraws rape complaint against Munde
The Mumbai-based woman who had accused Maharashtra cabinet minister Dhananjay Munde of rape has withdrawn her police complaint, an official said on Friday.
The woman told the investigating officer that she is taking back the complaint against Munde, but did not cite any reason, the police official said.
The police asked the complainant to submit a notorised affidavit in this regard, he said.
The woman had approached the police with the complaint against the Social Justice Minister (45) on January 11, accusing him of rape and sexual assault on pretext of marriage in 2006.
The police had started an inquiry and the woman had visited the Oshiwara police station to record her statement.
Munde, a senior Nationalist Congress Party leader from Beed district, has denied the rape charges and dubbed them has an attempt to blackmail him.
The minister, however, has admitted that he was in a relationship with the complainant woman's sister.
As the complaint came to light, the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party demanded Munde's resignation from the cabinet.
However, the NCP ruled out any action against Munde till the charges were proved. -- PTI
09:42 India lodges protest with Sri Lanka over death of fishermen
India on Thursday lodged a strong protest with Sri Lanka over the death of three Indian fishermen in a collision between their vessel and a naval craft of the island nation, and said steps should be taken to ensure that such incidents do not recur.
The ministry of external affairs said a strong demarche was made to Sri Lanka's Acting High Commissioner here while the Indian envoy in Colombo also lodged a protest with the country's foreign ministry.
"We are shocked at the unfortunate loss of lives of three Indian fishermen and one Sri Lankan national following a collision between their vessel and a Sri Lankan naval craft," the MEA said in a statement.
The fishermen were from Tamil Nadu and they had set out for fishing on January 18.
"Our strong protest in regard to this incident was conveyed by our High Commissioner to the Sri Lankan Foreign Minister today," the statement said.
It further said, "A strong demarche was also made to the Sri Lankan Acting High Commissioner in New Delhi."
The MEA said India expressed "deep anguish" over the incident and emphasised the need to deal with issues pertaining to fishermen in a humanitarian manner.
"Existing understandings between the two governments in that regard must be strictly observed. Utmost efforts should be made to ensure that there is no recurrence," it said. -- PTI
09:26 Facebook's oversight board to decide on Trump's ban
Facebook has asked its independent experts to take a decision on continuation of its ban on former US President Donald Trump.
Facebook and its photo and video sharing social networking service, Instagram, suspended Trump after his supporters stormed the US Capitol on January 6 that left five people dead and led to his second impeachment.
The Oversight Board, an independent body created by Facebook three years ago, on Thursday said it has accepted a case referral from the social media giant to examine its decision to indefinitely suspend Trump's access to post content on Facebook and Instagram.
Facebook has also requested policy recommendations from the board on suspensions when the user is a political leader.
Facebook's decision to suspend Trump's access to post on Facebook and Instagram has driven intense global interest. The Oversight Board has been closely following events in the US and Facebook's response to them, and the board is ready to provide a thorough and independent assessment of the company's decision, it said.
"A decision by the Board on this case will be binding on Facebook, and determine whether Mr Trump's suspension from access to Facebook and Instagram for an indefinite amount of time is overturned, the board said in a press release.
Facebook has committed not to restore access to its platforms unless directed by a decision of the Oversight Board. Facebook must consider any accompanying policy recommendations from the board and publicly respond to them, it said.
According to the Oversight Board, in the coming days, the case will be assigned to a five-member case review panel. After the panel reaches a decision, its findings are shared with the entire board. Sign-off by a majority of the board is required for a case decision to be issued. -- PTI
09:05 Pak Army chief visits ISI headquarters
Pakistan Army Chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa on Thursday visited the headquarters of spy agency Inter-Services Intelligence and lauded its efforts for national security.
The Army, in a statement, said ISI chief Lt. Gen. Faiz Hameed received the army chief on arrival at its headquarters in capital Islamabad.
General Bajwa was given a comprehensive briefing on the regional and national security situation during the visit and he "appreciated the tireless efforts of ISI for national security and expressed his satisfaction over professional preparedness".
Prime Minister Imran Khan had visited the ISI head office in November last year and was briefed about national security. -- PTI
08:55 K'taka: Major explosion jolts Shivamogga, 6 dead
An explosion of a truckload of explosives, suspected to be meant for mining, killed at least six people in Karnataka's Shivamogga district on Thursday night and sent shockwaves in neighbouring areas, police said.
The massive explosion took place near a gravel and boulder crushing facility around 10.30 pm, sending shockwaves not only in Shivamogga, but also in neighbouring Chikkamagaluru and Davangere districts.
So strong was the blast that window panes shattered while many houses and even roads developed cracks, said an eye-witnesses.
As the jolt was mistaken to have been caused by an earthquake, geologists were contacted, who ruled out recording tremors in any of their observatories.
"There was no earthquake. But an explosion did take place at Hunsur on the outskirts of Shivamogga under the Rural Police station limits," a police officer told PTI.
Another police officer said, "There has been a blast in a truck carrying gelatin. Six labourers in the truck were found dead. The vibrations were felt locally."
He added that the death toll might increase.
The victims were reportedly transporting the explosives meant for mining when the explosion occurred.
The vehicle was badly mangled and the bodies of the victims were dismembered beyond recognition.
Senior district and police officials including the superintendent of police of Shivamogga have rushed to the spot. -- PTI
08:06 Biden has no plans to call Trump: White House
United States President Joe Biden has no plans to call his predecessor Donald Trump, the White House has said.
"There's no call planned," White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki told reporters at a news conference on Thursday.
She was responding to questions on the remarks made by Biden a day earlier when he said that Trump has left him a "very generous" letter in the Oval Office, and he plans to talk to him.
Trump did not attend his inauguration, a rare for an outgoing president.
"What he was conveying is that he didn't want to release a private note without having agreement from the former president. But I wouldn't say he's seeking it through a phone call, he was just trying to be respectful in that moment of a private letter that was sent," Psaki said.
It is customary for outgoing presidents to write their successors a letter and leave it for them on the Resolute Desk in the Oval Office.
However, given that the former president broke several of the past traditions, including skipping Biden's inauguration ceremony and never formally congratulated him on his election win, it was unclear until Wednesday whether Trump would maintain the tradition of outgoing presidents leaving notes for their successors.
"The president wrote a very generous letter. Because it was private, I will not talk about it until I talk to him. But it was generous," Biden had told reporters in the Oval Office of the White House on Wednesday. -- PTI