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Wed, 27 January 2021
Red Fort to remain shut for visitors till Jan 31

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23:59   He's innocent: Family of man accused of hoisting flag at Red Fort
The family of a young Punjab man, who was accused of hoisting a religious flag at the Red Fort during a farmers' protest on Republic Day, said Wednesday he was innocent as he climbed up the flagpole after a fellow protester asked him to do so.

Mehal Singh said his grandson Jugraj had gone to the Delhi border with a group of farmers for participating in the farmers' agitation and the tractor parade Tuesday against the Centre's three new farm laws.

There was a massive outrage after a religious flag was hoisted at the Red Fort during the tractor rally.

Mehal, a resident of village Vaan Tara Singh in Tarn Taran, said Jugraj had no intention to hoist the 'Nishan Sahib', a symbol of Sikh religion, at the Red Fort.

"A fellow protester asked him (Jugraj) to climb the flagpole after others could not do so. Jugraj then agreed to climb up the flagpole to hoist the flag," Mehal said about his grandson.

"He is innocent."

He expressed fear that the police would now conduct raids at their house to catch the young man.

Jugraj is son of Baldev Singh who has three other children.

The family owns three acres of farmland in the village.

Wielding sticks and clubs and holding the tricolour and union flags, tens of thousands of farmers atop tractors broke barriers, had clashed with police and had entered the national capital from various points to lay siege to the Red Fort.

After entering the Red Fort, protesters put up the 'Nishan Sahib' and a farmer flag on a flagpole, which triggered massive outrage across the country.

The 'Nishan Sahib' flag, a symbol of Sikh religion, is seen at all Gurdwara complexes.  -- PTI
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23:36   2 policemen dead, several injured in 4 separate blasts in Kabul
Four explosions at separate locations in Kabul on Wednesday left two police personnel dead and injured several others, TOLO News reported.

The first explosion took place in the Despechari area of PD15 in Kabul around 8:04 am and was caused by a magnetic mine, injuring two police personnel, police said.

The second blast occurred in the Salim Karwan area in PD12 of Kabul city and targeted a police vehicle, killing two police and wounded two others, a security source said.

However, The police have not confirmed this, TOLO News reported.

The third blast was reported in the Shahr-e-Naw area of Kabul, with no casualties, said police.

The fourth IED explosion struck a vehicle in the Golayee Dawakhana area in the western part of Kabul city, leaving at least two people wounded.

'An IED explosion struck a vehicle in the Golayee Dawakhana area in the western part of Kabul city, leaving at least two people wounded, sources confirmed. It's the fourth explosion in the city,' TOLO News wrote in a tweet.

No group including the Taliban has claimed responsibility for the blasts. -- ANI
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23:33   Red Fort to remain shut for visitors till Jan 31
The Red Fort will remain closed for visitors from January 27 to January 31, according to an order issued by the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI).

While the order does not mention the reason behind the closure, it refers to earlier orders of January 6 and January 18 whereby the iconic monument was closed from January 19 to January 22 due to a bird flu alert.

The monument was also shut from January 22 to January 26 due to the Republic Day celebrations.

However, it was supposed to be open for visitors on January 27, but it did not, sources said.

Sources said after the violence that erupted in the Red Fort premises on January 26, the ASI has taken a decision to keep the gates shut to take stock of the damages.

Earlier on Wednesday, culture and tourism minister Prahlad Patel visited the site and has sought a report on the incident from the ASI.

'Visited the Red Fort today morning and instructed the ASI DG to prepare a report on the incident and also lodge an FIR,' tweeted Singh after his visit.

While it is not clear if the iconic structure was damaged in any way, during the minister's tour one could see vandalised metal detector gate and ticket counter, and broken shards of glass at the premises of the Red Fort.

The minister had on Tuesday condemned the actions of the protesting farmers who entered the Red Fort and said it violated the symbol of dignity of India's democracy.

'I do not want to say anything on the issue yet. I have sought a report, let it come,' Patel told PTI.

There are 173 monuments in Delhi protected under the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI). It includes UNESCO World Heritage Sites -- Red Fort, Humayun's Tomb and Qutub Minar.   -- PTI

IMAGE: Security tightened at Red Fort, a day after it was stormed by protesting farmers during their tractor march, in New Delhi, on Wednesday. Photograph: Kamal Singh/PTI Photo
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22:53   9 states confirm bird flu outbreak in poultry birds
The central government on Wednesday stated that so far nine states have confirmed Bird Flu in poultry birds and 12 states have confirmed the virus in crow, migratory and wild birds.

In a press release, the ministry of fisheries, animal husbandry, and dairying said, 'Till January 27, outbreaks of Avian Influenza (Bird flu) have been confirmed in nine states for poultry birds.

'The states are Kerala, Haryana, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Chhattisgarh, Uttarakhand, Gujarat, Uttar Pradesh, and Punjab for poultry birds.

'The ministry further said that bird flu has been confirmed in 12 states in crows, migratory and wild birds.

'These states include Madhya Pradesh, Haryana, Maharashtra, Chhattisgarh, Himachal Pradesh, Gujarat, Delhi, Rajasthan, Jammu and Kashmir, and Punjab.'

'Control and Containment Operations are going on in the affected epicenters of Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Punjab, Uttar Pradesh, and Gujarat,' it said.

Surveillance work is also continuing in the places where positive results have been reported in other species of birds excluding poultry, they added.

The ministry added that compensation is paid to farmers whose poultry birds, eggs, and poultry feed are culled or disposed of by the State as per the Action Plan.

The government of Maharashtra has sanctioned a compensation package of Rs 1,30,00,00 for a culling of poultry and other birds and operational cost of disease control, under the Bird Flu Disease Control Program, they added.

The ministry added that all the states are reporting to the Department on a daily basis regarding the control measures adopted by the states based on the Revised Action Plan for Prevention, Control and Containment of Avian Influenza 2021. -- ANI
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22:19   Rajnath speaks to new US Defence Secy
Defence Minister Rajnath Singh on Wednesday spoke to new United States Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin and exchanged views on regional and global issues of mutual interest, in the first high-level engagement between the two sides after Joe Biden was sworn in as the 46th President of the US last week.

Singh said the firm commitment to deepen India-US defence cooperation was reiterated during the talks.

'Spoke with my US counterpart, Secretary Def Austin and conveyed my warm wishes on his appointment,' Singh tweeted.

'We reiterated our firm commitment to deepen India-US defence cooperation. We exchanged views on regional and global issues of mutual interest to strengthen our strategic partnership,' he further said.

It is not immediately known whether the eastern Ladakh standoff between India and China figured in the talks.

The Indo-US defence ties have been on an upswing in the last few years and in June 2016, the US had designated India a 'Major Defence Partner'.

The two countries have also inked key defence and security pacts over the past few years, including the Logistics Exchange Memorandum of Agreement (LEMOA) in 2016 that allows their militaries use each other's bases for repair and replenishment of supplies as well as provides for deeper cooperation.

The two sides have also signed COMCASA (Communications Compatibility and Security Agreement) in 2018 that provides for interoperability between the two militaries and provides for sale of high end technology from the US to India.

In October last year, India and the US sealed the BECA (Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement) agreement to further boost bilateral defence ties.

The pact provides for sharing of high-end military technology, logistics and geospatial maps between the two countries.    -- PTI
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21:15   3rd batch of Rafale fighter jets lands in India
The third batch of three Rafale aircraft landed at an Indian Air Force base a short while ago, the Indian Air Force said.

'They flew over 7,000 km with in-flight refuelling. The aircraft got airborne earlier today from Istres Air Base in France.

'The IAF deeply appreciates the tanker support provided by UAE Air Force,' said the IAF.

The first batch of five Rafale jets arrived in India on July 29, 2020, nearly four years after India signed an inter-governmental agreement with France to procure 36 of the aircraft at a cost of Rs 59,000 crore.

The second batch of three Rafale jets arrived in India on November 3.

The Rafale jets, manufactured by French aerospace major Dassault Aviation, are India's first major acquisition of fighter planes in 23 years after the Sukhoi jets were imported from Russia.    -- ANI/PTI
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21:08   ESIC beneficiaries to get health services in all districts from April 1
Employees' State Insurance Corporation (ESIC) insured persons (IPs) would get access to health services under the ESI scheme in all 735 districts of the country from April 1, an official said.

At present, ESIC's health services are fully available for its IPs in 387 districts and partly in 187 districts, while there are 161 districts that do not have such services at all.

The ESIC provides health services to IPs through its health centres and hospitals as well as empanelled hospitals.

The ESIC has planned to provide health services to IPs through hospitals and health centres empanelled under the Ayushman Bharat Pradhan Mantri Jan Arogya Yojana (ABPMJAY).

An agreement for the purpose was inked a few months ago. S P Tiwari, member of the Standing Committee of the ESIC, told PTI, "The Standing Committee in its meeting held on Wednesday approved the budget proposals for implementing an arrangement under which ABPMJAY empanelled hospitals will provide health services to its IPs across the country in all districts from April 1, 2021."

Tiwari, who is general secretary of the Trade Union Coordination Centre (TUCC), attended the meeting held on Wednesday.

He said to ensure the availability of medical care in newly implemented areas, the ESIC has already entered into a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the National Health Authority to enable the ESIC beneficiaries to access services of ABPMJAY empanelled hospitals.

Under this arrangement, ESIC beneficiaries shall be able to avail benefits from portability of services provided by ABPMJAY empanelled hospitals across the country and vice versa.

Thus, the ABPMJAY beneficiaries would have access to the health services provided by ESIC hospitals and health centres.

In the 221st meeting of the Standing Committee on Wednesday, revised estimates for 2020-21, budget estimates for the next fiscal and performance budget for 2021-22 of the ESIC were approved.

The panel approved the estimate budget for construction of five 100-bedded hospitals in Bawal, Haryana; Bareilly, Uttar Pradesh; Bahadurgarh, Haryana; Tripur, Tamil Nadu; and Visakhapatnam, Andhra Pradesh.

It also approved budget for a 200-bedded hospital in Butibori, Nagpur.

Besides, it approved upgradation of a 300-bedded hospital in Nandnagar, Indore, Madhya Pradesh to 500 beds and upgrading a 50-bedded hospital in Phulwari, Patna, Bihar to 100 beds.  -- PTI
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20:42   Farmer leaders involved in violence: Police chief
A day after the Republic Day violence in Delhi, Police chief S N Shrivastava says that farmer leaders betrayed and did not follow conditions set for tractor parade.

"Some farmer leaders like Satnam Singh Pannu, Darshan Pal gave inflammatory speeches, thereafter protesters broke barricades," the police chief said.

"We held five rounds of meetings with farmer leaders before tractor rally.

"Keeping in mind the interests of the security of the people of Delhi, it was decided that some terms and conditions be imposed, it was given to them in writing -- the rally was to last from 12pm -5pm, it was to be led by farmer leaders and leaders must accompany their groups," he said.

"Farmer unions did not follow conditions set for tractor rally that was supposed to be held from 12 pm to 5 pm," Shrivastava said.

"Farmer leaders were also involved in violence that broke out during tractor rally," he said.

"Police had many options, but remained calm. As many as 394 police personnel were injured, 30 police vehicles damaged in the violence," the Delhi Police Commissioner said.

"Those involved in violence during tractor rally will not be spared, farmer leaders will be questioned," the Delhi Police chief said, adding that they are identifying culprits through CCTV footage, face recognition system.

"Cops dealt with situation in proper way that is why no one was killed due to police action during tractor rally violence," he said.   -- PTI
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19:57   SC stays Yediyurappa's arrest in corruption case
In a relief to Karnataka Chief Minister B S Yediyurappa and former minister for industries Murugesh Nirani, the Supreme Court on Wednesday protected them from arrest in a case pertaining to alleged forgery over withdrawal of approval for a parcel of land in the state. 

The top court however refused to stay the January 5 order of Karnataka high court, by which it had allowed restoration of the criminal complaint against the Yediyurappa. 

You (Yediyurappa) are a sitting Chief Minister. Who can issue arrest warrant against you, the top court observed. 

A bench of Chief Justice Bobde and Justices AS Bopanna and V Ramasubramanian, which issued notices to complainants, one A Alam Pasha and others, in the case agreed to examine the pleas of Yediyurappa and Nirani challenging the order of the high court restoring the complaint. 

Issue notice. There shall be stay of arrest in the meantime, the bench said in its order.
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19:52   Sourav Ganguly to get cardiac stents tomorrow
The Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) president Sourav Ganguly will undergo stenting on Thursday in the presence of Dr Devi Shetty, the Woodlands Hospital informed through a release.  

"He had chest discomfort today and he is taken to Apollo today. Dr Saptarshi Basu and Dr Saroj Mondal are attending. Dr Aftab Khan will do the stenting tomorrow in presence of Dr Devi Shetty," Woodlands Hospital said. 

An earlier medical bulletin issued by the Apollo Gleneagles Hospital said: "Ganguly went for a checkup of his cardiac situation on Wednesday and his vital parameters are stable." 

Ganguly headed to the Apollo Hospital on Wednesday weeks after undergoing a successful angioplasty. Sources close to the former India skipper had said that there was nothing to worry about and it was a routine visit. 

On January 2, the BCCI president was admitted to Woodlands Hospital after he complained of chest pain. He spent about five days in the hospital before being finally discharged on January 7.  

-- ANI
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19:52   Sourav Ganguly to get cardiac stents tomorrow
The Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) president Sourav Ganguly will undergo stenting on Thursday in the presence of Dr Devi Shetty, the Woodlands Hospital informed through a release.  

"He had chest discomfort today and he is taken to Apollo today. Dr Saptarshi Basu and Dr Saroj Mondal are attending. Dr Aftab Khan will do the stenting tomorrow in presence of Dr Devi Shetty," Woodlands Hospital said. 

An earlier medical bulletin issued by the Apollo Gleneagles Hospital said: "Ganguly went for a checkup of his cardiac situation on Wednesday and his vital parameters are stable." 

Ganguly headed to the Apollo Hospital on Wednesday weeks after undergoing a successful angioplasty. Sources close to the former India skipper had said that there was nothing to worry about and it was a routine visit. 

On January 2, the BCCI president was admitted to Woodlands Hospital after he complained of chest pain. He spent about five days in the hospital before being finally discharged on January 7.  

-- ANI
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19:47  
Inernational Monetary Fund's projections for GDP growth for various countries.
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19:17   Movie halls allowed more seating, pools open for all
Cinema halls and theatres have already been permitted up to 50% of seating capacity. Now they will be permitted to operate at higher seating capacity, for which a revised SOP will be issued by ministry of information and broadcasting, the Union home ministry announced on Wednesday. 

The home ministry also issued an order to enforce guidelines for surveillance, containment and caution which will be effective from Feb 1 to Feb 28. Accordingly, states/UTs mandated to continue to enforce containment measures and SOPs on various activities and Covid appropriate behavior, it said.
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18:55   Army patrol attacked in Anantnag, soldier killed
A soldier was killed and three others were injured in a grenade attack by terrorists on an Army patrol team in Jammu and Kashmir's Anantnag district on Wednesday, officials said.

Four soldiers sustained splinter injuries when terrorists lobbed a grenade on a road opening party of the Army at Shamsipora in Anantnag, a defence spokesman said in Srinagar.

The injured soldiers were provided first aid locally and evacuated to 92 Base Hospital here, he said.

Army officials said one of the soldiers succumbed to injuries at the hospital.
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18:41   Delhi violence: 1 police personnel in ICU
One Delhi police personnel, who was among several members of the force injured in violent clashes during the farmers' tractor parade, has been admitted to the intensive care unit of the LNJP Hospital in New Delhi, officials said on Wednesday.

Besides, two farmers who had also sustained injuries during the incident are currently admitted at the Delhi government-run facility.

"One police personnel is in ICU who was injured in the incident yesterday. He has sustained an injury in neck, has suffered a fracture and also an injury in head.

"But, his condition is stable as of now," medical director of the hospital, Suresh Kumar, said.

Several others were brought to the facility, located in central Delhi near ITO, where the clashes first broke out between protesters and the security force personnel, on Tuesday, but most of them have been discharged after administering first aid.

According to a senior official of the facility, by Tuesday night, 22 persons were admitted at the facility, including an SHO and 10 police personnel, and eleven protesters.   -- PTI
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18:38   Nepal launches Covid vaccination drive with vaccines gifted by India
Nepal on Wednesday launched a nationwide COVID-19 vaccination drive with the one million doses of vaccine provided by India under grant assistance in sync with its 'Neighbourhood First' policy.

Prime Minister K P Sharma Oli inaugurated the vaccination campaign at the Prime Minister's residence at Baluwatar on Wednesday morning.

At the same time, government hospitals across the country vaccinated doctors and front-line health workers actively engaged in the field.

Speaking at the inaugural programme, Prime Minister Oli said that all Nepalis would get the vaccine free of cost within three months.

Dr Sagar Rajbhandari, director of Sukraraj Tropical and Infectious Disease Hospital, Teku was the first among the front-line workers to receive the jab, according to Health Ministry sources.

According to officials, around 430,000 frontline workershealth workers, supporting staffers at health facilities, female community health volunteers, security personnel, sanitation workers, elderly people living in care homes, and prisoners will be inoculated in 65 districts across the country.

One million doses of the COVID-19 vaccine donated by India last week was jointly developed by the University of Oxford and the pharmaceutical giant AstraZeneca and produced in India by the Serum Institute of India.

Prime Minister Oli last week thanked the Indian government for sending one million doses of the COVID-19 vaccine.

'I thank Prime Minister Shri @narendramodi ji as well as the Government and people of India for the generous grant of one million doses of COVID vaccine to Nepal at this critical time when India is rolling out vaccination for it's own people,' Oli tweeted.

'Nepal appreciates this gesture from a friendly neighbour,' he added.

Responding to his tweet, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said that India remains committed to assist the people of Nepal in fighting the COVID-19 pandemic.

'The vaccines being made in India will also contribute to the global efforts to contain the pandemic,' Modi tweeted.

Nepal has so far registered 270,375 COVID-19 cases while 2,020 people have died.

Nepal has so far recorded 265,069 recoveries.

India, one of the world's biggest drugmakers, has been approached by numerous countries for its anti-coronavirus doses.

India has already rolled out a massive coronavirus vaccination drive under which two vaccines, Covishield and Covaxin, are being administered to frontline health workers across the country.   -- PTI
The 'Nishan Sahib' flag being hoisted on the Red Fort ramparts
The 'Nishan Sahib' flag being hoisted on the Red Fort ramparts
18:19   BJP planted Deep Sidhu to create chaos: AAP
The Aam Aadmi Party on Wednesday alleged that the BJP planted its "stooge" actor Deep Sidhu to create "chaos" in farmers' tractor parade in Delhi on Republic Day. The tractor parade on Tuesday that was to highlight the demands of the farmer unions to repeal the three new agriculture laws descended into anarchy as tens of thousands of protesters broke through barriers, fought with police, overturned vehicles and hoisted a religious flag from the ramparts of the iconic Red Fort. 

 Clashes broke out in multiple places, leading to violence in well-known landmarks of Delhi and its suburbs, amid waves of violence that ebbed and flowed through the Republic Day. Punjabi actor Deep Sidhu has been blamed by the farmer union leaders and politicians for inciting violence during the tractor rally. 

 At a press conference, AAP spokesperson Raghav Chadha, while questioning the connection between Sidhu and BJP, showed several photos purportedly of the actor with various BJP leaders. "The BJP planted their stooge Deep Sidhu to create chaos in farmers' tractor parade," Chadha said. 

 Sidhu was among protesters at the Red Fort where flags were put up. He was an aide of Deol when the latter contested from the Gurdaspur seat in Punjab during the 2019 Lok Sabha elections. 

Deol, who is now a BJP MP, had distanced himself from Sidhu in December last year after he joined the farmers' agitation. Amid a massive outrage over protesters hoisting a religious flag at the Red Fort during the tractor rally on Republic Day, Sidhu defended their action, saying they did not remove the national flag and had put up the 'Nishan Sahib' as a symbolic protest. 

 The 'Nishan Sahib' flag, a symbol of Sikh religion, is seen at all gurdwara complexes.
Rakesh Tikait
Rakesh Tikait
17:11   R-Day violence: FIR against farmer leader Rakesh Tikait
The Delhi Police has registered an FIR against farmer leader Rakesh Tikait and others in connection with the violence in the national capital during the tractor rally on Republic Day, officials said on Wednesday. 

Police detained 200 people and have registered 22 FIRs so far in connection with the violence that left over 300 policemen injured, officials said on Wednesday. 

When asked to comment about the case lodged against him, Tikait said FIR against any farmer leader is FIR against farmers of the country. The tractor parade on Tuesday that was to highlight the demands of the farmer unions to repeal the three new agriculture laws descended into anarchy as tens of thousands of protesters broke through barriers, fought with police, overturned vehicles and hoisted a religious flag from the ramparts of the iconic Red Fort. 

Clashes broke out in multiple places, leading to violence in well-known landmarks of Delhi and its suburbs, amid waves of violence that ebbed and flowed through the Republic Day. PTI
Sardar VM Singh, All India Kisan Sangharsh Coordination Committee
Sardar VM Singh, All India Kisan Sangharsh Coordination Committee
16:59   Two farmers' unions withdraw from protests
 A day after the national capital witnessed unprecedented violence during Republic Day tractor rally - which also saw groups of farmers  entering the forecourt of the iconic Red Fort, climbing its ramparts, and hoisting a religious flag on a mast outside, the All India Kisan Sangharsh Coordination Committee said it was withdrawing from the protests immediately.

"We can't carry forward a protest with someone whose direction is something else. So, I wish them the best but we are withdrawing from this protest right away.

"The protest will continue until we get MSP guarantee but the protest will not go on in this form with me. We have not come here to get people martyred or beaten up: 

"I have nothing to do with the protest which is being led by them and over here being represented by Rakesh Tikait on their behalf."

Another farmers' union Bharatiya Kisan Union (Bhanu) headed by Thakur Bhanu Pratap Singh, who is camped at the Chilla border, also withdraws from the protests. "I am deeply pained by whatever happened in Delhi yesterday and ending our 58-day protest."
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16:40   Farmer who died at ITO protest had returned from Australia recently to celebrate his wedding
He had returned from Australia to his hometown in Uttar Pradesh's Rampur to celebrate his recent wedding. And there was a gathering indeed at his home at Dibdiba village in Bilaspur on Wednesday. But no celebration. Navreet Singh's family and friends were mourning his death a day earlier.

The 27-year-old farmer got crushed underneath the tractor he was driving after it toppled on the road when he tried to break through a police barricade at central Delhi's ITO during a farmers' tractor parade, police have said. 

A police officer told PTI Wednesday the body reached Rampur Tuesday night and post-mortem was conducted. Navreet had come to his native place from Australia to throw a wedding party after he tied the knot abroad some time back, his family members said. 

Persuaded by his uncles, Singh visited the national capital on Republic Day to participate in the farmers' protests against the Centre's agriculture laws and drove a blue tractor at high speed, according to footage circulating on social media. As the tractor rammed into the yellow police barricade, it flipped and Navreet came under the toppled vehicle leading to his death, the Delhi Police had said Tuesday. 

"We came together to participate in the parade but never knew it would happen," a neighbour said. A rumour spread like wildfire that Navreet fell to a police bullet, but the Delhi Police denied it saying the CCTV footage did not record any gunshot sound. Scores of locals reached the bereaved family's home Wednesday to pay homage as the body was kept at Dibdiba village for pre-cremation rites. -- PTI
Indian National Lokdal leader Abhay Singh Chautala
Indian National Lokdal leader Abhay Singh Chautala
16:37   BKU spokes Tikait in Delhi Police FIR for rioting
Farmers protest updates: 
1. Indian National Lokdal leader Abhay Singh Chautala resigns from the membership of Haryana Legislative Assembly in support of the farmers protesting in Delhi against three farm laws; resignation accepted by the Speaker. 

2.  BKU spox Rakesh Tikait's name mentioned in an FIR by Delhi Police. The FIR mentions multiple IPC sections, including sec 307 (attempt to murder), 147 (punishment for rioting) & 353 (assault/criminal force to deter public servant from discharge of his duty): Delhi Police.

3. The post mortem report clarifies that he (farmer who died during the tractor rally in Delhi yesterday) was not shot. He succumbed to the antemortem injuries which he received after his tractor turned turtle as seen in the viral video: Avinash Chandra, ADG Bareilly in Rampur, UP.

4. We can't carry forward a protest with someone whose direction is something else. So, I wish them the best but VM Singh and All India Kisan Sangharsh Coordination Committee are withdrawing from this protest right away: VM Singh, All India Kisan Sangharsh Coordination Committee.
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16:23   Amit Shah reviews law and order in Delhi
A day after farmers' tractor rally turned violent in Delhi, Union Home Minister Amit Shah on Wednesday took stock of the security situation and measures taken to ensure peace in the city, officials said. Union Home Secretary Ajay Bhalla and senior officers of the Ministry of Home Affairs and Delhi Police attended the meeting. 

The home minister reviewed the law and order situation in Delhi, which witnessed violence during the farmers' tractor rally on Tuesday, a Home Ministry official said. Shah was also briefed by the officials about the steps taken to ensure peace in the national capital, the official said. There is a possibility of police taking action against farmers leaders, who signed an agreement with the police on the carrying out peaceful tractor rally through designated routes but failed to keep the promise, another official said. 

 The central government has already deployed around 4,500 paramilitary troops to assist the Delhi Police in maintaining law and order. After the violence, the MHA on Tuesday had ordered temporary suspension of Internet for 12 hours in parts of Delhi. Rapid Action Force personnel have also been repositioned in the national capital and vigil has been intensified in view of the evolving situation. 

 Tens of thousands of farmers broke barriers to storm the national capital on Tuesday, their tractor parade to highlight their demands dissolving into unprecedented scenes of anarchy as they fought with police, overturned vehicles and delivered a national insult hoisting a religious flag from the ramparts of the Red Fort, a privilege reserved for India's tricolour. From Rajpath to Red Fort, the day unfolded in scenes of contrasts. One that Indians have seen for seven decades and the other that seared itself into collective memory with its imagery of protesters demanding a repeal of the three farm laws storming the Mughal era monument, the centrepiece of India's Independence Day celebrations. 

 Clashes broke out in multiple places, leading to violence in well-known landmarks of Delhi and its suburbs, amid waves of violence that ebbed and flowed through the day. While there were no exact estimates of how many farmers were hurt, Delhi Police officials said 86 of their men were injured through the day. Of these, 41 were injured at the Red Fort. A protester died after his tractor overturned near ITO, one of the major flashpoints of trouble. PTI 
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16:03   'Shunned' Covaxin neutralises UK variant: Report
Covaxin, developed by Bharat Biotech, has the ability to neutralise the UK variant of the coronavirus, according to a preprint review by bioRxiv, a free online archive and distribution service for unpublished preprints in the life sciences. 

The archive is operated by Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, a not-for-profit research and educational institution in New York. Bharat Biotech performed the plaque reduction neutralisation test (PRNT50) using sera collected from the 26 recipients of Covaxin and tested them against the UK variant and heterologous strain, the report said. 

"A comparable neutralisation activity of sera of the vaccinated individuals showed against UK-variant and the heterologous strain with similar efficiency, dispel the uncertainty of possible neutralisation escape," the preprint review published in bioRxivs website said. 

Covaxin is India's totally indigenous COVID-19 vaccine developed in collaboration with the Indian Council of Medical Research and National Institute of Virology. 

It is developed and manufactured in Bharat Biotech's BSL-3 (Bio-Safety Level 3) bio-containment facility, one of its kind in the world. The vaccine is currently under Phase-3 trials and is being used as part of the nationwide immunisation programme for healthcare workers after the Central Licensing Authority granted permission for the sale or distribution of Covaxin for restricted use in emergency situations.

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15:56   Violence preplanned to derail protest: Farmers union
Farmers' body the Samyukta Kisan Morcha Wednesday alleged "antisocial" elements like actor Deep Sidhu attempted to "torpedo" their peaceful agitation under a conspiracy, but asserted they won't allow "the government and other forces inimical to the peaceful movement to break this struggle". 

The morcha, which represents 41 farmer unions, has called an emergency meeting later in the day to decide the future course of action. 

Referring to the violence during Tuesday's tractor rally, the union body slammed actor Deep Sidhu and Kisan Mazdoor Sangharsh Committee, alleging they attempted to torpedo the farmers' agitation. 

In a statement, the Morcha said, 'The Union government has been severely shaken by this peasant agitation. Therefore, a dirty conspiracy was hatched with Kisan Mazdoor Sangharsh Committee and others against the peaceful struggle of other farmer organisations, who had set up their own separate protest site after 15 days of beginning of this farmers' agitation. They were not part of the organisations which jointly undertook the struggle." 

The Samkyukt Kisan Morcha is leading the protest against the three central farm laws at several border points of Delhi. 

"When the farmer organisations declared a programme of Kisan Parade on 26 January, antisocial elements like Deep Sidhu and others, along with the said farmer organisation attempted to torpedo the farmers' agitation. 

"Under this conspiracy, the said Kisan organisation and other persons announced that they would march on Ring Road and unfurl a flag on the Red Fort. As a corollary of conspiracy, the Kisan Mazdoor Sangharsh Committee started marching on the Ring Road, two hours before the scheduled march of the struggling organisations. It was a deep rooted conspiracy to knock down the peaceful and strong farmers' struggle," it said. 

The farmers' union body appealed to the farmers to stay on the protest venues and continue their struggle peacefully. 

 "The farmers' organisations resolved to continue this agitation and harshly condemned the government and its administration, the said farmers' organisation and anti-social elements, who tried to damage the peaceful farmers struggle. 

"We will not to allow the government and other forces inimical to the peaceful movement to break this struggle. Yesterday's events exposed and isolated the anti-farmer forces clearly. An emergency meeting of 32 organizations is called today to chalk out the future programme," he said.

-- PTI
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15:52   INLD's Abhay Chautala resigns as MLA over farmers' stir
Just In: Indian National Lok Dal legislator Abhay Singh Chautala has resigned from the Haryana assembly over the new farm laws.
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15:49   Sensex tanks 937.66 points
Just In: Sensex tanks 937.66 points to end at 47,409.93; Nifty dives 271.40 points to 13,967.50.
VK Sasikala
VK Sasikala
15:25   Wait and see: TTV Dhinakaran on Sasikala's release from jail
Responding to if former All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) leader VK Sasikala's release will change the political spectrum of Tamil Nadu, her nephew and Amma Makkal Munnetra Kazhagam (AMMK) leader TTV Dhinakaran on Wednesday said 'wait and see'. 

"Today Sasikala has been formally released. It is the happiest moment for us. After the doctor's advice, we will decide upon her return to Tamil Nadu. People are eagerly waiting for her," said the AMMK leader.  

"Wait and see," he said when asked if her release will change the political spectrum in Tamil Nadu. 

The inauguration of Jayalalithaa's memorial today itself proves the celebration of Chinnamma's (Sasikala) release, he added. 

The close aide of Jayalalitha was earlier admitted to Lady Curzon Hospital following complaints of fever and later she was admitted to BMCRI and tested positive for Covid-19 in an RT-PCR test on January 21. She was serving a sentence in a disproportionate assets case. 

In 2019, the income tax department had attached properties worth Rs 1,600 crore belonging to the former AIADMK leader under the provisions of the Benami Transactions (Prohibition) Act. 

After spending four years in jail in connection with the case, Sasikala was released earlier today from the Central Prison in Bengaluru. 

Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Edappadi K Palaniswami also unveiled a memorial built for former CM Jayalalithaa at the Marina Beach in Chennai earlier today. 

Jayalalithaa, who was born in 1948, served five terms as the chief minister of Tamil Nadu for over 14 years between 1991 and 2016. In 1982, when MG Ramachandran was the chief minister, Jayalalithaa joined the AIADMK, the party he founded.

-- ANI
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15:07   No protection from arrest for 'Tandav' makers
The directors and actors of web series 'Tandav', and head of Amazon Prime India Aparna Purohit failed to get protection from arrest from Supreme Court on Wednesday.

The case was heard by a bench of justices Ashok Bhushan, RS Reddy and MR Shah.

"Your right to freedom of speech is not absolute. You cannot play the role of character that hurts the sentiments of a community," the bench said.

The top court was hearing a bunch of petitions seeking quashing of criminal complaints lodged in various states against Ali Abbas Zafar, the director of the web series, and others for allegedly hurting the religious sentiments.

Besides Zafar and Purohit, producer Himanshu Mehra, the show's writer Gaurav Solanki and actor Mohammed Zeeshan Ayyub had filed three separate petitions against the registration of FIRs in Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Karnataka and Maharashtra.

The web series is facing criminal cases for hurting religious sentiments and insulting religion punishable under Sections 153A and 295 of Indian Penal Code.

At least three FIRs have been lodged against the makers and artistes of 'Tandav' in Uttar Pradesh -- at Lucknow, Greater Noida and Shahjahanpur -- for the alleged inappropriate depiction of UP Police personnel, deities, and adverse portrayal of a character playing the role of prime minister in the show.

Similar FIRs have been lodged against people associated with the making and airing of the web series in states like MP, Maharashtra and Karnataka.
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14:50   Sourav Ganguly rushed to Apollo Hospital in Kolkata
BCCI Chief Sourav Ganguly being taken to Apollo Hospital in Kolkata after he complained of chest pain. 

More details awaited.
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14:47   R-Day violence: Delhi police presser at 4 pm
Update on the R-Day violence: "Delhi Police will hold a press briefing at 4 pm today and all questions regarding the violence during farmers' tractor rally yesterday will be answered. We never said that there is no more scope for discussion with farmers," Union Minister Prakash Javadekar says.

The Culture & Tourism Minister said that he inspected the Red Fort with officers of Culture Ministry & Archaeological Survey of India today. "I gave 2 directions -- report be made at the earliest & handed over to MHA and FIR be registered immediately. Things will be further clarified after report comes."

Samyukt Kisan Morcha said that most of farmer organisations who are part of the ongoing farmers' agitation today held a meeting under chairmanship of Balbir Singh Rajewal. "Sincere appreciation was conveyed to struggling farmers for extending an unprecedented response to Kisan Republic Day Parade."

An FIR by Delhi Police mentions the names of farmer leaders Darshan Pal, Rajinder Singh, Balbir Singh Rajewal, Buta Singh Burjgil & Joginder Singh Ugraha for breach of NOC issued regarding farmers' tractor rally. FIR also mentions the name of BKU spox Rakesh Tikait, the Delhi Police said.
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14:27   IPL auction to be held on Feb 18 in Chennai
The IPL players' auction ahead of the 2021 edition will be held in Chennai on February 18, the league organisers announced on Wednesday. 

The announcement was made via IPL's Twitter handle exactly a week after PTI reported the date. "IPL 2021 Player Auction on 18th February," read part of the post. 

The "mini auction" will take place following the first two Tests between India and England in Chennai. 

The series begins on February 5 while the second Test will be played from February 13 to 17. 

The BCCI is also yet to decide whether the IPL will happen in India even though the 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. The other notable names to be released were Chris Morris, Harbhajan Singh and Aaron Finch. 

A total of 139 players were retained by the franchises and 57 players were released. 

 Kings XI Punjab will enter the auction with the biggest purse (Rs 53.20 crore), followed by Royal Challengers Bangalore (Rs 35.90 crore) and Rajasthan Royals (Rs 34.85 crore).

With Rs 10.75 crore each, Kolkata Knight Riders and Sunrisers Hyderabad have the lowest purse going into the auction.

-- PTI
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13:53   India to sell 3 mn doses of Covishield to Lanka
Sri Lanka will purchase 2 to 3 million doses of Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine from its Indian manufacturing company Serum Institute of India during the next two days, a top Sri Lankan official said on Wednesday.

Lalith Weeratunga, the advisor to President Gotabaya Rajapaksa said that purchasing from India will follow Thursday's arrival of India's free vaccines to Sri Lanka. He said the Indian Covishield vaccine is to arrive tomorrow and the consignment will be accepted by President Rajapaksa at the Colombo international airport. 

A total of 250,000 people, mostly health frontline workers, members of the security forces and police and the vulnerable aged, will get the vaccine on a priority basis. The vaccination programme for which dry runs were made over the weekend will commence on Friday. 

Weeratunga added that 300,000 free vaccines from China are also due and the government would be requesting Russia also for the vaccine. Sri Lanka has recorded a near 60,000 cases till January 26, with 288 deaths from the pandemic since it was found in the island nation in mid March last year. India is one of the world's biggest drug makers and an increasing number of countries have already approached it for procuring the coronavirus vaccines. 

In the last few days, India has sent consignments of domestically produced coronavirus vaccines under grant assistance to Bhutan, Maldives, Nepal, Bangladesh, Myanmar, Mauritius and Seychelles. It is also undertaking commercial supplies of the doses to a number of countries, including Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Brazil and Morocco. -- PTI
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13:38   Some Delhi metro stations remain shut after R-Day violence
A day after violence broke out during the farmers' tractor parade in the national capital, Delhi Metro authorities on Wednesday shut the Lal Quila station and restricted entry to the Jama Masjid station amid heavy security deployment at the Red Fort. 

A large number of metro stations in central, north and west Delhi areas, including Lal Quila, ITO, Jama Masjid,Delhi Gate, Indraprastha, were shut on Tuesday soon after the tractor parade had taken a violent turn. 

"Services at Delhi Metro stations, which were closed yesterday, had resumed late night. Lal Quila station has been closed again and entry to Jama Masjid station is restricted as of now. Normal services are there at all other stations," a senior DMRC official said. 

Security has been beefed up in several places across the national capital especially at the Red Fort and farmer protest sites, with deployment of additional paramilitary forces following the violence. Delhi Metro also took to social media to inform commuters. First it tweeted in the morning that "Entry gates of Lal Quila metro station are closed. Exit is permitted at this station. All other stations are open. Normal services on all lines". 

Later in another tweet, it updated that "Entry/exit gates of Lal Quila metro station are closed. Entry gates of Jama Masjid metro station are closed". Average waiting time at Saket metro station on Yellow Line was 35 minutes. In case of any fluctuations in crowd, the waiting time will be informed accordingly, the DMRC had informed in another tweet. 

However, in a successive tweet, it said: "Peak Hour Update The average waiting time for Saket has normalised". The Delhi Metro currently operates on a network of about 390 kilometres with 285 stations spanning 11 corridors (including NOIDA Greater NOIDA). 

The tractor parade on Tuesday that was to highlight the demands of the farmer unions to repeal three new agri laws dissolved into anarchy on the streets of the city as tens of thousands of protesters broke through barriers, fought with police, overturned vehicles and hoisted a religious flag from the ramparts of the iconic Red Fort. PTI
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13:34   IMF: Farm laws can raise income, but safety net?
India's recently-enacted agri laws have the potential to increase farmers' income, but there is a need to provide a social safety net to the vulnerable cultivators, IMF's Chief Economist Gita Gopinath has said. Indian agriculture is in need of reforms, she said. 

There are multiple areas where the reforms are needed, including infrastructure, the Chief Economist of the Washington-based global financial institution said on Tuesday. 

The three agri laws, enacted in September last year, have been projected by the Indian government as major reforms in the agriculture sector that will remove middlemen and allow farmers to sell their produce anywhere in the country. 

Gopinath, in response to a question on the new farm laws, said: "These particular farm laws were in the area of marketing. It was widening the market for farmers. Being able to sell to multiple outlets besides the Mandis without having to pay a tax. And this had the potential to raise, in our view, farmers' incomes. That said, every time a reform is put in place, there are transition costs. One has to make sure and pay close attention that it's not harming vulnerable farmers, to make sure that the social safety net is provided. Clearly there is a discussion right now and we'll see what comes out if it," she said. 

Thousands of farmers in India, mostly from Punjab, Haryana and western Uttar Pradesh, have been camping at several Delhi border points since November 28 last year, demanding a repeal of the farm laws and a legal guarantee on Minimum Support Price (MSP) for their crops. 

So far, 11 rounds of talks have taken place between the government and farmer leaders with both sides hardening their positions. In the last round of talks, the government offered to suspend the laws for 1-1.5 years and form a joint committee to find solutions, in return for protesting farmers going back to their respective homes from Delhi borders. Farmer leaders, however, said they would settle for nothing less than a complete repeal of the laws, which they find pro-corporate, and a legal guarantee for the procurement of crops at government-fixed MSP. -- PTI
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13:30   Tiktok to shut down India business
Chinese social media firm Bytedance, which owns Tiktok and Helo apps, has announced the closure of its India business following continued restrictions on its services in the country. 

Tiktok's global interim head Vanessa Pappas and vice president for global business solutions Blake Chandlee in a joint email to employees have communicated the decision of the company that it is reducing team size and the decision will impact all employees in India. 

The executives expressed uncertainty on the company's comeback to India but expressed hope to do so in times to come. "While we don't know when we will make a comeback in India, we are confident in our resilience, and desire to do so in times to come," the email said. 

According to a source at Bytedance, the company held a town hall on Wednesday where it communicated about the closure of India business. When contacted Tiktok spokesperson said the company has worked steadfastly to comply with the government of India order issued on June 29, 2020 and continually strives to make its apps comply with local laws and regulations. -- PTI
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13:11   Plea in SC for inquiry into R-Day violence
A plea was filed on Wednesday in the Supreme Court seeking setting up of a commission, headed by a retired apex court judge, to inquire the violence during the protesting farmers' tractor rally in the national capital on the Republic Day. 

The plea has also sought direction to the concerned authority to lodge First Information Report (FIR) under relevant penal provisions against the individuals or organisations responsible for the violence and causing dishonour of the National Flag on January 26. 

The tractor parade on Tuesday that was to highlight the demands of farmer unions to repeal three new agri laws dissolved into anarchy on the streets of Delhi as thousands of protesters broke through barriers, fought with the police, overturned vehicles and hoisted a religious flag from the ramparts of the iconic Red Fort. 

Delhi Police has registered 22 FIRs so far in connection with the violence in which over 300 policemen were injured, officials said on Wednesday. 

The plea, filed in the apex court by advocate Vishal Tiwari, has said that a three-member inquiry commission under the chairmanship of a former top court judge and comprising of two retired high court judges should be set up for collecting and recording evidence in the matter and submit a report to the court in a time bound manner. 

It said that farmers' protest against the three new agri laws is going on for over two months but it took a violent turn during the tractor parade. Unfortunately, the tractor march took a violent turn leaving injuries and destruction of public property. This incident also effected the daily life of the public. The internet services were interrupted as government ordered the operators to suspend the same. 

In the present time, the internet services are very essential to carry out the work in different professions especially in advocacy as the courts and our Supreme Court of India is functioning online, Tiwari has said in his plea. The petition said that clash between the farmers and police on the Republic Day has caught the attention of the entire world. -- PTI
Munawar Faruqui
Munawar Faruqui
13:09   The joke has been jailed in India
The new year has been a dark one so far for standup comic Munawar Faruqui, who was arrested in Indore ahead of his January 1 show for 'insulting Hindu sentiments'. 

But what exactly happened? 

Writes Soutik Biswas in bbc.com: 'In a mobile phone video recorded by an audience member, Faruqui is seen pleading with Eklavya Gaud, the son of a ruling BJP politician, that he also jokes about Muslims in his shows and that he should be allowed to continue. 

"I just want to make people laugh. If anyone feels offended I will never do it again," he tells Mr Gaud.' 

'According to reports, Mr Gaud left the show in minutes and called in the police. That night Munawar Faruqui and four others, including another comic, were arrested and charged with outraging religious feelings and performing a "negligent act likely to spread infection of diseases dangerous to life", alluding to the pandemic,' writes Biswas.  

Interestingly, the show hadn't begun and Faruqui hadn't started his routine yet when this happened. Which means, he had been arrested for a joke he didn't crack! 

'He was arrested for jokes he didn't crack. Munawar hadn't even begun the show when he was interrupted. A presumption of and anticipation of a so-called criminal act cannot be an offence. The police registered a case and arrested him without verifying the facts,' Anshumaan Shrivastava, the comic's lawyer, tells Biswas in the report, which quotes eye-witnesses telling reporters that Faruqui hadn't made any jokes when he was arrested. '

'The police later admitted they had no evidence that the comic had done so, and that the complainant had "overheard some jokes" that the comic was preparing for the show,' writes Biswas.  

All of which doesn't spell good news for standup comics, an irreverent breed. 

 As one of them, Sanjay Rajoura, tells Biswas, 'In a civilised society, such brazen acts have no place. If you don't like it, don't go for it.'   

"For now," says Rajoura, "the joke has been incarcerated in India," Biswas writes, here.
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12:35   We weren't using force against farmers: Del police
ANI tweets this image of an injured cop who was hospitalised after the violence and clashes between the protesting farmers and the police. PC Yadav, a policemen who was on duty at Red Fort told ANI, "I was taking  an injured colleague who had been hit very brutally, as we moving out we were beaten too. We were not using force because they were farmers. We were only trying to stop their movement forward."

The Samkyukt Kisan Morcha, an umbrella body of 41 farmer unions, is leading the protest against the three central farm laws at several border points of Delhi.

The Kisan Morcha has disassociated itself from those who indulged in violence during the tractor parade and alleged that some "antisocial elements" infiltrated their otherwise peaceful movement.

It has called a meeting later on Wednesday to discuss the violence that broke out during the farmers' tractor parade in the national capital.
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12:29   204 additional suburban services in Mumbai from Jan 29
The Indian Railways will run 204 additional suburban services in Mumbai from January 29, said Union Minister Piyush Goyal on Wednesday.

Passengers permitted by the Ministry of Railways and the Government of Maharashtra are only allowed to travel by suburban trains and others have been requested not to rush to the railway stations. 

"Railways to run 204 additional suburban services in Mumbai from January 29. With this, around 95 per cent of the total suburban services will be restored. Passengers, who are not allowed to travel yet, may refrain from rushing to the stations," Goyal tweeted.

Passengers have been advised to adhere to all norms related to COVID-19 during the boarding, travel and at the destination. -- ANI
Inside the vandalised Red Fort
Inside the vandalised Red Fort
12:26   Important to respect peaceful protests, non-violence: UN chief's spokesman on farmers' stir
In the wake of violence and clashes between farmers and police in India, a spokesperson for UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has said it is important to respect peaceful protests, freedom of assembly and non-violence. Tuesday's tractor parade in New Delhi, which was to highlight the demands of the farmer unions to repeal three new agri laws, dissolved into anarchy on the streets of the city as tens of thousands of protesters broke through barriers, fought with police, overturned vehicles and hoisted a religious flag from the ramparts of the iconic Red Fort. The Delhi Police has registered 22 FIRs so far in connection with the violence that broke out during the farmers' tractor parade, leaving over 300 policemen injured. One person died in the incident.
Luggage scanning machines destroyed by vandals inside the Red Fort
Luggage scanning machines destroyed by vandals inside the Red Fort
12:00   Inside the vandalised Red Fort
 Unprecedented chaos was unleashed upon Delhi on the 72nd Republic Day as the tractor rally by protesting farmers went off the designated course and rolled into the Iconic Mughal-era Red Fort in the Old City. 

A protester died on the way, the police said it was an accident. The farmers entered the forecourt of the fort, climbed its ramparts, and hoisted a religious flag on a mast outside. The police, wielding batons, managed to remove them from inside the fort. The violence started in the morning as farmers broke barricades and entered Delhi ahead of time. 

One of the key farmer groups has called off the tractor rally, accusing anti-social elements of being responsible for the violence.
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11:52   IMF predicts 11.5% GDP growth for India
With International Monetary Fund (IMF) projecting that India will reclaim the status of world's fastest-growing economy and projected its growth at 11.5 per cent in 2021, experts on Wednesday said that India is rebounding to achieve the target of a USD 5 trillion economy.Commerce and Industry Minister Piyush Goyal termed the IMF projections for India as "Bright star in the global economy." 

"Bright Star in Global Economy: India to continue its growth story at rapid pace under PM @NarendraModi ji, with @IMFNews projecting an impressive 11.5% growth rate for India in 2021. It makes India only major economy to register double-digit growth in 2021," Goyal tweeted.
Sasikala with J Jayalalithaa
Sasikala with J Jayalalithaa
11:37   LIVE! Jayalalithaa's aide Sasikala released from jail
Expelled AIADMK leader V K Sasikala, who is undergoing COVID-19 treatment at a hospital in Bengaluru, was released after completion of all formatilities, say authorities. Sasikala was released after completion of a four year jail term in connection with an assets case, say authorities in Bengaluru.

Sasikala had contracted the virus on January 20, days ahead of her scheduled release. She was admitted to Bengaluru's Bowring hospital and later shifted to the Victoria hospital.  

She had developed symptoms of Severe Acute Respiratory Illness, a trait of COVID-19, but her earlier Rapid Antigen and RT-PCR test reports turned negative. However, on suspicion, fresh tests were conducted last Thursday, which confirmed the COVID-19 infection.

 Sasikala's nephew and Amma Makkal Munnetra Kazhagam general secretary TTV Dhinakaran, who came to Bengaluru on learning about her illness, had told reporters she was stable.
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11:28   RIL shares decline over 2%; Future Retail tanks 5%
Shares of Reliance Industries on Wednesday declined over 2 per cent amid concerns over the Future Group deal. The heavyweight stock opened the day on a weak note and further dipped 2.43 per cent to Rs 1,892.55 on the BSE. At the NSE, it declined 2.56 per cent to Rs 1,891.15. 

Shares of Future Retail also tanked 4.98 per cent to Rs 77.25 on the BSE. US online retailer Amazon has filed a petition in the Delhi High Court seeking detention of Future Group founders, including CEO Kishore Biyani, and seizure of their assets as it sought to block Future Group from selling retail assets to Reliance Industries.

In the petition, Amazon sought enforcement of the Singapore arbitrator's ruling in October against its partner Future's Rs 24,713 crore deal with Reliance. Amazon, which wants the deal to sell retail assets to Reliance to be stopped, also asked the court for a direction for "detention of the directors (of Future Group entities) in civil prison". Future Retail, in a regulatory filing on Monday said it would defend the matter through its legal counsels. PTI
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11:20   TN CM unveils Jaya memorial
Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Edappadi Palanisamy unveils former Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa's memorial at Marina Beach. Deputy CM O  Panneerselvam is also present.
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11:18   Tamil thriller 'Master' to release on Amazon Prime on Jan 29
Tamil action thriller "Master", starring Thalapathy Vijay and Vijay Sethupathi, will have its digital premiere on Amazon Prime Video on January 29, the streamer announced on Wednesday. 

The film, written and directed by Lokesh Kanagaraj and produced by Xavier Britto, released in theatres on January 13 during Pongal holiday. "Master" follows John Durairaj, an alcoholic professor (Vijay) is sent to a juvenile school, where he clashes with a gangster named Bhavani (Sethupathi), who uses the children of the school for criminal activities. Vijay said he is "glad" that the fans can enjoy the film on Amazon Prime Video in India and across the world. 

"I am certain that the interesting duel between John and Bhavani will take the audiences on a roller-coaster ride of action, and drama," the actor said in a statement. Kanagaraj said it is "extremely fulfilling" to have the film's global digital release on Amazon. 

"Master' film has brought two very strong actors face to face in the film, that serves as great entertainment hook for people to come and watch the film in theatres. "However, with the film's global digital release on Amazon Prime Video, we are hoping to reach a wider audience that's been at home, and reach regions that otherwise wouldn't have been possible," he added. -- PTI
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11:13   Farm union calls meet to discuss violence on R-Day
Samkyukta Kisan Morcha, an umbrella body of protesting unions, has called a meeting later on Wednesday to discuss the violence that broke out during the farmers' tractor parade in the national capital. 

Before the Morcha meeting, representatives of 32 Punjab unions will also meet at the Singhu border, a major protest site against the three new farm laws. 

A senior farmer leader said, "The Samkyukta Kisan Morcha will meet around 3 pm on Wednesday and discuss all aspects pertaining to violence that happened during the tractor parade in Delhi".

The Samkyukt Kisan Morcha, an umbrella body of 41 farmer unions, is leading the protest against the three central farm laws at several border points of Delhi. After violence broke out during the tractor parade on Tuesday, the Samyukt Kisan Morcha had called off the parade and appealed to participants to immediately return to their respective protest sites. 

The tractor parade on Tuesday that was to highlight the demands of the farmer unions to repeal three new agri laws dissolved into anarchy on the streets of the city as tens of thousands of protesters broke through barriers, fought with police, overturned vehicles and hoisted a religious flag from the ramparts of the iconic Red Fort.

The Delhi Police has registered 22 FIRs so far in connection with the violence in several area that has left over 300 policemen injured. The Kisan Morcha had disassociated itself from those who indulged in violence during the tractor parade, and alleged that some "antisocial elements" infiltrated their otherwise peaceful movement. 

Farmers, mostly from Punjab, Haryana and western Uttar Pradesh, have been camping at several Delhi border points, including Tikri, Singhu and Ghazipur, since November 28, demanding a complete repeal of three farm laws and a legal guarantee on minimum support price for their crops. PTI
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10:51   300+ cops injured in R-Day violence: Delhi police
Additional DCP Central's operator was attacked with a sword at ITO yesterday, says the Delhi Police. The police also said that more than 300 police personnel have been injured after being attacked by agitating farmers on January 26.

Farmer leaders from Punjab will address protesting farmers at one of the key Delhi-Haryana borders this morning, a day after the capital witnessed unprecedented violence as a Republic Day tractor rally by farmers in protest of the centre's agricultural laws went off the scheduled course and rolled into the Red Fort. 

One farmer died on the way to Red Fort, withthe police saying it was an accident. On February 1, the farmers are planning a march to parliament.
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10:42   Delhi's minimum temperature 'rose' to 5C!
And those who root for a Delhi winter versus Mumbai's excuse of a winter, here's what it's like in Delhi.  

Delhi's minimum temperature rose to 5.4 degrees Celsius on Wednesday, though it was still three notches below normal, the India Meteorological Department said. 

A cold wave had gripped the city on Tuesday with the minimum temperature dropping to 2.1 degrees Celsius, seven notches below normal. An IMD official said cold wave conditions are likely to make a comeback in Delhi as the minimum temperature is predicted to dip by four degrees Celsius over the next two days. 

"Icy winds barrelling through the plains are likely to bring the mercury down again," he said. In the plains, the IMD declares a cold wave if the minimum temperature dips to 4 degrees Celsius. A severe cold wave is when the minimum is 2 degrees Celsius or less. Delhi had recorded a "cold day" on Sunday with the maximum temperature dropping to 15 degrees Celsius, six notches below normal and the lowest this month. PTI
File pic
File pic
10:29   It was Mumbai's coldest winter night yesterday
Residents of Mumbai woke up to a chilly Wednesday morning as the minimum temperature slipped to 15.3 degrees Celsius, the lowest so far in the city this year, an IMD official said. Mumbai and several other parts of Maharashtra are experiencing the chill because of the northerly winds, the India Meteorological Department (IMD) official said. 

"The IMD had already predicted a drop in temperature from Wednesday onwards. Today morning, Mumbai city's minimum temperature was 15.3 degrees Celsius, the lowest so far this year," he said.

The northerly winds have resulted in a drop in temperatures in the entire north India, he noted. "Maharashtra's weather conditions are also impacted because of it, bringing in more cool breeze and causing the chill in several parts of the state," he said. The weather conditions are likely to remain same for the next couple of days, the official said. -- PTI
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10:25   Jayalalithaa memorial to be unveiled today
People throng Marina Beach in Chennai where Chief Minister Edappadi Palanisamy will unveil former Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa's Memorial today.
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10:18   Ghazipur Mandi, NH-9 & NH-24 closed to traffic
Delhi Traffic Police on Wednesday issued an advisory after traffic was affected in several parts of the national capital following the violence which broke out yesterday during the farmers' tractor rally.

The Delhi Traffic Police took to Twitter to provide the information. "Ghazipur Mandi, NH-9 and NH-24 have been closed for traffic movement. People commuting from Delhi to Ghaziabad are advised to take Shahdara, Karkari Mor and DND," Delhi Traffic Police said.
Metro services also remain affected.

The Delhi Metro Rail Corporation announced on Wednesday that entry and exit to Lal Quila metro station and entry at Jama Masjid metro station have been closed.

Meanwhile, heavy security has been deployed near the Red Fort where a group of protestors entered the fort and unfurled their flags from its ramparts yesterday.

Farmers broke barricades to enter Delhi and indulged in vandalism across several parts of the national capital during their Kisan tractor rally organised to protest against the Centre's three new farm laws.

-- ANI
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10:05   Mayawati condemns violence by protesting farmers
Bahujan Samajwadi Party chief Mayawati on Wednesday condemned the violence during the farmers' protest in the national capital on Republic Day and said that the central government must take this incident very seriously. She appealed to the Central Government to withdraw the three agricultural laws so that no such incident happens in the future.

"Whatever happened during the farmers' tractor rally on Republic Day in the country's capital, Delhi yesterday, it should not have happened at all. This is very unfortunate and the Central government must also take it very seriously," the BSP chief tweeted. 

"It is an appeal to the Central Government to withdraw the three agricultural laws immediately and end the long-running agitation of the farmers so that no such untoward incident can happen again," she added.

-- ANI
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09:47   Margaret Court says she's not been invited to Australian Open
Tennis champion Margaret Court, who has had a frosty relationship with the Australian Open over her views on sexuality and same-sex marriage in recent years, says she not been invited to this year's tournament in a radio interview with 3AW.

The 24-time grand slam winner, who has won her home grand slam 11 times, said she would not have accepted the invite if she had received it.

"I'm not coming to the Australian Open. No, I wasn't invited," Court told Australian radio channel 3AW on Tuesday.

While Court achievements on the court are unrivalled -- her 24 grand slams are the most in tennis history -- her views on the LGBT community and opposition to same-sex marriage have been criticised.

Read full HERE
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09:42   India records 12,689 new Covid cases
India reports 12,689 new COVID-19 cases, 13,320 discharges and 137 deaths in last 24 hours, as per the Union health ministry.

A total of 19,36,13,120 samples tested for #COVID19 up to 26th January. Of these, 5,50,426 samples were tested yesterday. 

The country's tally stands as:
Total cases: 1,06,89,527
Active cases: 1,76,498
Total discharges: 1,03,59,305     
Death toll: 1,53,724   
Total vaccinated: 20,29,480
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09:25   Union Cabinet meeting to be held today via video conferencing
Meeting of the Union Cabinet is scheduled to be held on Wednesday via video conferencing.

"Union Cabinet meeting to be held today at 10:30 am via video conferencing," an official said. 

The meeting is scheduled to be held post farmers' tractor rally that caused violence in various parts of the national capital on Tuesday.

In the last meeting chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on December 30, 2020, the Cabinet had approved the export of Akash Missile System aiming to achieve the target of $5 billion of defence export and improve strategic relations with friendly foreign countries.

-- ANI
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09:09   SC panel on farm laws postpones meeting
Amid traffic restrictions in place after R-Day violence, the Supreme Court appointed committee, which was scheduled to hold meeting with farmers groups today, has moved the meeting to January 29.

The panel appointed by the apex court last met on January 21 during which it interacted with 10 farmer organisations from eight states, including Uttar Pradesh.

Currently, there are three members in the panel as the fourth, Bhartiya Kisan Union president Bhupinder Singh Mann, has recused himself from the committee.

President of Maharasthra-based Shetkari Sanghatana Anil Ghanwat and agri-economists Ashok Gulati and Pramod Kumar Joshi are the three members of the panel.
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08:59   50 million hit by internet shutdown in NCR
After the tractor rally led by farmers in Delhi turned violent, internet services were suspended by the ministry of home affairs in areas like Singhu, Ghazipur, Tikri, Mukarba Chowk, Nangloi and their adjoining areas within the NCT (national capital territory) of Delhi. 

Over 50 million subscribers are likely to be hit by the internet shutdown as Telecom Regulatory Authority of India data suggests that last October, Delhi has 52.72 million mobile subscribers.

While the MHA order didn't specify the kind of internet services - mobile or home broadband - but users across a large part of the city found it difficult to access the internet on Tuesday.

The telecom companies also informed their subscribers in most parts of the city that the internet services in their areas have been stopped till further notice. Though the MHA order is effective for 12 hours to 23:59 pm on January 26, there are chances of extending the suspension order if the situation remains precarious.

"The internet services are essential for mobilising crowds on a large scale. Today, we saw that the situation went out of control after protests turned violent. Till the government is not comfortable with the law and order situation, the internet services are not coming back," a telecom analyst told Business Today.
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08:50   YouTube extends suspension of Trump's channel indefinitely
US online video sharing service YouTube extended its suspension of ex-President Donald Trump's channel indefinitely, Politico reported.

"In light of concerns about the ongoing potential for violence, the Donald J Trump channel will remain suspended," YouTube spokesperson Ivy Choi said as quoted by Politico. 
"Our teams are staying vigilant and closely monitoring for any new developments," the spokesperson said.

The news outlet said YouTube also restricted Trump adviser Rudy Giuliani's ability to make money off his channel.

Trump's YouTube channel has been prevented from having new content and engagement with viewers in the aftermath of the January 6 riot at the US Capitol, where his supporters stormed the federal legislative assembly building in an attempt to stop lawmakers from certifying the election win of Joe Biden.

-- ANI
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08:43   Security tightened at Red Fort; additional troops deployed
Home ministry officials said additional paramilitary troops will be deployed. 

The exact number of additional troops was not known immediately but officials suggested it could be around 1,500 to 2,000 personnel. 

Security has been tightened at the Red Fort. 

Yesterday, a group of protestors had climbed to the ramparts of the Red Fort and unfurled flags yesterday.

Photograph: ANI/Twitter
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08:17   Farmers' movement to continue peacefully: Union
The farmers' movement will continue peacefully and further steps will be decided soon, the Samyukt Kisan Morcha, farmer unions' body, has said in a statement. 

This comes after the rioting farmers broke barriers to storm the national capital on Tuesday, overturned vehicles and hoisted a religious flag from the ramparts of the Red Fort. 

Clashes broke out at multiple places, leading to violence in well-known landmarks of Delhi and its suburbs amid waves of violence that ebbed and flowed through the day. 

A protester died after his tractor overturned near ITO, one of the major flashpoints of trouble. In a statement, the police said protesting farmers violated the conditions agreed on for their tractor parade. 
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08:07   Metro gates of Lal Quila and Jama Masjid to remain closed
Delhi Metro Rail Corporation in a tweet informed that the entry and exit gates of Lal Quila and Jama Masjid will be closed for service.
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07:58   Biden, Putin hold first phone call, says White House
US President Joe Biden had his first call with Vladimir Putin, raising concerns about the arrest of opposition figure Alexei Navalny while pressing the Russian president on his nation's involvement in a massive cyberespionage campaign and bounties on American troops in Afghanistan, two senior administration officials said.

Biden has looked to establish a sharp break from the warm rhetoric often displayed toward Putin by his predecessor, Donald Trump. 

The new US president told the Russian leader that the two nations should finalise a five-year extension of an arms control treaty before it expires early next month, according to the officials, who were familiar with the call but not authorised to discuss it publicly.

Moscow reached out last week to request the call, according to the officials. Biden agreed but wanted first to prepare with his staff and speak with European allies, including the leaders of the Britain, France and Germany.

And before his call with Putin, Biden spoke to NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, pledging the United States' commitment to the decades-old alliance founded as a bulwark against Russian aggression.
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07:52   World records 100 million Covid-19 cases
More than 100 million Covid-19 cases have now been recorded worldwide as newly-inaugurated US President Joe Biden pledged to ramp up America's struggling vaccine program. 

The number of cases, compiled from data provided by national health agencies, represents just a fraction of the real infections as the coronavirus has spread around the globe. 

The United States, which passed 25 million confirmed cases last weekend, remains the country with the largest outbreak -- and the largest death toll of over 420,000.
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07:28   R-Day violence: 4 FIRs registered for rioting
The Delhi Police has registered four FIRs in connection with the protesting farmers' tractor parade in the national capital, officials said. "Three FIRs were registered in east district and one in Shahdara district on Tuesday," a police official said.

Most of the incidents were reported from Mukarba Chowk, Gazipur, A-Point ITO, Seemapuri, Nangloi T-Point, Tikri Border and Red Fort, reported ANI quoting police sources.

At least 30 police personnel, including the station house officer of Mohan Garden police station, sustained serious injuries in the violence in Dwarka district during today's tractor rally.

"Three FIRs are being registered in this regard. We are keeping a close watch on the situation and also registering cases of violation of lawful directions, rioting, damage to public property and assault on public servants with deadly weapons regarding several incidents reported from various locations," ANI quoted a source in Delhi Police.
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06:40   All Mumbai local train services to run from Fri
Western Railway and Central Railway have decided to start all suburban services by increasing the existing 2,781 services to 2,985 services on Mumbai Suburban network with effect from January 29.

Central Railway has decided to increase the suburban services from the existing 1,580 to 1,685 services and Western Railway has decided to increase the existing 1,201 suburban services to 1,300 services with effect from January 29, the CPRO of both zones informed the press. 

Passengers permitted by the ministry of railways and government of Maharashtra are only allowed to travel by the suburban trains. Others have been requested not to rush to the railway stations.

Passengers have been advised to adhere to all norms, Standard Operating Procedures related to COVID-19 during the boarding, travel and at the destination. 

-- ANI

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