Sun, 13 June 2021
CM post in MVA govt non-negotiable: Raut

Timeline  Refresh

22:38   CM post in MVA govt non-negotiable: Raut
Shiv Sena leader Sanjay Raut on Sunday said that in Maharashtra's three-party Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) government, the post of chief minister will remain with the Shiv Sena for the full five-year term, and it is 'non-negotiable'.

The Shiv Sena, which was one of the oldest allies of the Bharatiya Janata Party, had forged an unlikely alliance with the Nationalist Congress Party and the Congress after the 2019 state polls to form the MVA government, after parting ways with the BJP over the issue of sharing the chief minister's post.

Talking to reporters in Nashik, Raut said, "Shiv Sena's chief minister in MVA will continue for five years. It is a commitment and there is no sharing of the post. It is non-negotiable."

Reacting  to state Congress president Nana Patole's remarks that the Congress will be the largest party in the state after the 2024 assembly polls, Raut said there is a viral video on social media, in which it is said that Patole aspires to be a chief minister.

"There is no harm in aspiring for a post. There are several claimants in all parties. In the Congress, there are several leaders capable even of leading the country," he said.

Raut said the MVA is an alliance of three ideologically different parties.

"We have come together to run a government and now merged into one political outfit. All three have the right to expand their base and strengthen the organisation," he said.

To a question on poll strategist Prashant Kishor's recent meeting with NCP chief Sharad Pawar, the Sena's Rajya Sabha member said Kishor has met several political leaders before and has worked even for Narendra Modi.   

If all opposition parties come together to put up a good fight against Narendra Modi in 2024, what's wrong in that? he said.

To a question on BJP leader Devendra fadnavis remarks that Modi will be re-elected in 2024, Raut responded saying, "When did we say that it will not happen. Fadnavis is just putting forth his party's stand."

Modi is the top leader of the BJP. If all opposition parties come together to put up a formidable fight against Modi, what's wrong, he asked.            

Can't say what will happen in politics. In West Bengal assembly polls, media says Modi and (Amit) Shah lost and not the BJP, he said.   -- PTI
20:44   Will be part of Cabinet after expansion: JD-U
Amid the speculations of the Union Cabinet expansion, R C P Singh, national president of the National Democratic Alliance partner Janata Dal-United on Sunday said that the JD-U is part of the alliance of the ruling NDA coalition at the Centre and the party will be part of the Cabinet whenever there is an expansion.

Speaking to the media personnel in Patna, Singh said, "There is no confusion. We are a part of NDA. Whenever there will be an expansion in the cabinet in Centre, JD-U will be part of it."

At present, the JD-U has no representation in the Union cabinet.

the JD-U contested the 2019 Lok Sabha polls in alliance with the Bharatiya Janata Party.

However, R C P Singh chose not to comment on the inclusion of the Lok Janshakti Party in the 'cabinet expansion'.

Singh also mentioned that everything is good in the alliance in Bihar and there are no clashes in the NDA-led government in the state.

"Everyone is together in the NDA in Bihar. The NDA government will complete its present term in Bihar. Everyone is working towards the development of the state," the JD-U chief said.

"The RJD is spreading rumours that nothing is good in the NDA to keep its MLA together. There is everything good in NDA but there are clashes in the RJD," he added. -- ANI
19:51   No alliance with BJP in future: Rajbhar
Suheldev Bharatiya Samaj Party (SBSP) leader Om Prakash Rajbhar on Sunday ruled out tying up with the Bharatiya Janata Party again, accusing the ruling party in Uttar Pradesh of 'deceiving' backward sections of society.

The SBSP had contested the 2017 UP Assembly elections in alliance with the BJP, but later parted ways.

Assembly polls in UP is slated for early next year.

Speaking to PTI, Rajbhar said, "In future there will be no alliance with the BJP.... We are not in touch with any leader of the BJP, and till now no BJP leader has contacted me."

He said the BJP might try to woo leaders of backward classes and dalits ahead of the assembly polls, and cautioned them against the saffron party.

He also alleged the BJP passed over backward leaders and even deputy chief minister Keshav Prasad Maurya was 'ignored' in the Yodi Adityanath dispensation.

"The BJP has deceived the backward section, and in the coming elections the farewell of the government is certain," he said, terming the BJP 'Bharatiya Jhooth Party'.

In the 2017 Assembly elections, SBSP contested in eight seats and won four.

Rajbhar was made a Cabinet minister, but he resigned later.   -- PTI
19:29   SIT summons Parkash Singh Badal in 2015 police firing case
Former Punjab chief minister Parkash Singh Badal has been summoned by the special investigation team probing the 2015 Kotkapura police firing incident to appear before it on June 16.

Badal was the chief minister when the sacrilege and subsequent police firing incidents took place in Faridkot in 2015.

According to the summons, the nonagenarian leader has been asked 'to appear in person with the relevant record before the Special Investigation Team on date 16.06.2021 at 10:30 am at PSPCL, Rest House, Phase-8 SAS Nagar (Mohali)' for investigation of the cases.

Reacting to the summons, Harcharan Bains, principal advisor to the Shiromani Akali Dal president, said, "We will fully cooperate with the SIT."

Badal had been questioned in 2018 by the previous SIT probing the matter.

He had then said the SIT probe was politically motivated and an attempt to defame him.

The Punjab government had formed the new SIT led by Additional Director General of Police L K Yadav to probe the Kotkapura police firing incident following the directions of the Punjab and Haryana high court.    

The new SIT is investigating the two FIRs registered on October 14, 2015 and August 7, 2018 in connection with the Kotkapura incident.

The high court on April 9 this year had quashed a report by an earlier Punjab Police SIT into the 2015 firing at people protesting in Kotkapura over the alleged desecration of the Guru Granth Sahib in Faridkot district.

The court had then directed the state government to set up a new SIT, without Kunwar Vijay Pratap Singh, the Indian Police Service officer who was part of the earlier team.

Singh later took voluntary retirement after the court order.

Police had also opened fire at a similar demonstration in Behbal Kalan, also in Faridkot, where two people were killed.

A separate probe is underway in that case.

The new SIT has already questioned former police chief Sumedh Singh Saini and some other police officers.

Meanwhile, Congress MP Partap Singh Bajwa on Sunday dubbed the summoning of Badal by the SIT as a step in the right direction.

'The need of the hour is to conduct a fair investigation wherein the role of the then Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal, the then Deputy Chief Minister Sukhbir Singh Badal and the then DGP Sumedh Singh Saini are brought out,' said Bajwa in a statement in Chandigarh.

Once the investigation is concluded within a month, an application must be filed for day-to-day hearing of the case before the trial court in Faridkot, he said.

After the high court quashed the report of the earlier SIT, a section of Congress leaders, including Navjot Singh Sidhu, has been targeting their own government for the alleged delay in delivery of justice in sacrilege and subsequent police firing incidents in 2015.

The Congress in Punjab has repeatedly targeted the Shiromani Akali Dal, which was in power then in the state, over the incidents.   -- PTI
19:09   Mumbai: Concrete floor caves in, car sinks
A video of a car sinking into a pool of water in Mumbai following the caving in of the concrete floor on which it was parked went viral on social media on Sunday.

The incident took place in a residential society on Cama Lane in Ghatkopar West on Sunday morning, police said, adding that no one was injured in the incident.

"The housing society had covered a well with reinforced concrete cement and residents were using the area to park their cars. A team from the local police as well traffic police reached the spot and brought the car out of the water body. The spot has been cordoned for the safety of residents," the official added.   -- PTI
Image only for representation.
Image only for representation.
18:21   NCB finds 'edible weed' in cakes at Mumbai bakery
The Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB) has seized marijuana and 830 grams of 'weed cakes' from a bakery in suburban Malad and arrested three persons including a woman in this connection, an official said on Sunday.

According to the NCB, it was the first such case in India wherein 'edible weed' was used for baking cakes.

During the raid conducted on the bakery on Saturday night, 'brownie weed cakes', 'edible pot brownie and 'weed pot brownie' weighing 830 grams along with 35 gram of marijuana were seized, he said.

The NCB also took three persons, including Jagat Chaurasia suspected to be the main supplier of the contraband from Bandra, in custody and seized 125 grams of marijuana from him, the official said.

According to the NCB, a new trend is seen among youngsters to consume substances by mixed and baking 'brownie weed pot' cakes.

Edible cannabis or 'edible weed pot brownie' is a food product (either homemade or produced commercially) that contains cannabis extract as an active ingredient.

Edible weed pots are a way to consume cannabis.

Cannabis edibles may affect people for a longer period than smoked cannabis, according to the NCB.

The NCB has registered a case against the trio under various sections of the Narcotics Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act.   -- PTI
17:32   Mumbai Cong chief booked for flouting Covid curbs
A first information report was registered against Mumbai Regional Congress Committee (MRCC) president Ashok alias 'Bhai' Jagtap and 50 workers for allegedly violating the COVID-19 pandemic norms while staging a demonstration in suburban Goregaon against the hike in prices of fuel, a police official said on Sunday.

Jagtap and others had gathered at the SV Road Junction in the suburb on Saturday in violation of the guidelines.

Some of them were not wearing the face mask during the protest, he said.

During the protest, the Congress workers raised slogans against the central government over the continuous rise in the prices of petrol and diesel.

A case was registered under sections 188 (Disobeying the order of public servant) and 269 (negligent act likely to spread infection) of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) and the Maharashtra Police Act.

Nobody is arrested so far, he added.   -- PTI
16:24   Cong govts should cut tax on petrol: Pradhan
With petrol and diesel prices climbing to record high, Oil Minister Dharmendra Pradhan on Sunday asked Congress governments in Rajasthan and Maharashtra to cut sales tax if the party was concerned about fuel price burden on common man, but did not say if Bharatiya Janata Party-ruled states like Madhya Pradesh and Karnataka, where petrol has crossed Rs 100 mark, would do the same.

Petrol and diesel have risen to all-time high across the country after fuel rates rose by Rs 5.72 to Rs 6.25 per litre in less than six weeks.

This is due to a combination of rising international oil prices and record high central and state taxes.

Talking to reporters on the sidelines of an event organised to inaugurate oxygen plant set up by Indraprastha Gas Ltd at Maharaja Agrasen Hospital, he said central and state governments need additional money from the taxes on petrol and diesel to meet expenses for fighting pandemic as well as development work.

"I accept that fuel prices are pinching consumers," he said, adding the government is spending Rs 1 lakh crore on providing free food grains to poor this year alone besides spending money on vaccines and healthcare infrastructure.

Asked about Congress leader Rahul Gandhi's repeated attacks on the Modi government for skyrocketing fuel prices, Pradhan said, "Why is fuel expensive in Maharashtra, Rajasthan and Punjab (which are ruled by the party)?"

"If Rahul Gandhi is concerned about the poor being hit by fuel prices, he should ask chief ministers of Congress-ruled states to cut taxes. He should ask (Maharashtra Chief Minister) Uddhav Thackeray to reduce taxes," he said.

He, however, did not say if BJP-ruled states like Madhya Pradesh and Karnataka, which too have seen petrol price cross Rs 100 a litre mark due to local taxes, would follow suit.

Fuel prices differ from state to state depending on the incidence of local taxes such as VAT and freight charges.

And because of this, petrol retails at over Rs 100 per litre mark in seven states and union territories -- Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Karnataka and Ladakh.

Of these states, Congress is in power in Rajasthan and is a coalition partner with Shiv Sena and Nationalist Congress Party in Maharashtra.

BJP rules Madhya Pradesh and Karnataka and Ladakh too is under central rule. Andhra Pradesh has Yuvajana Shramika Rythu-Congress in power while Telangana Rashtra Samiti rules in Telangana.

Rajasthan levies the highest value-added tax (VAT or sales tax) on petrol and diesel in the country, followed by Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana and Karnataka.

While international oil prices have crossed $72 per barrel in anticipation of demand recovery following the rollout of vaccination programme by various countries.

Last year when rates collapsed to two-decade low, the union government instead of passing on the benefit to consumers raised excise duty to record high.

The excise tax on petrol was Rs 9.48 per litre when the Modi government took office in 2014, and that on diesel was Rs 3.56 a litre.

Excise duty on petrol now is Rs 32.90 per litre and makes up for 34 per cent of retail selling price.

The duty of Rs 31.80 a litre makes up for 36.5 per cent of retail diesel rates.

Sri Ganganagar district of Rajasthan near the India-Pakistan border was the first place in the country to see petrol hit Rs 100 a litre mark in mid-February and on Saturday it also earned the distinction of diesel crossing that psychological mark.

Petrol in New Delhi is sold at Rs 107.22 a litre -- the highest rate in the country, and diesel comes for Rs 100.05.

Premium or additive laced petrol in the town sells for Rs 110.50 a litre and same grade diesel at Rs 103.72.

In Delhi, petrol has hit an all-time high of Rs 96.12 a litre, while diesel is now priced at Rs 86.98 per litre.

Mumbai on May 29 became the first metro in the country where petrol was being sold at over Rs 100 a litre.

Petrol now costs Rs 102.30 a litre in the city and diesel comes for Rs 94.39.

Petrol and diesel prices have been raised on 23 occasions since May 4, when state-owned oil firms ended an 18-day hiatus in rate revision they observed during assembly elections in states like West Bengal.

In 23 increases, petrol price has risen by Rs 5.72 per litre and diesel by Rs 6.25 a litre.  -- PTI
15:42   Given over 26 cr jabs to states so far: Centre
The Centre has provided more than 26 crore COVID vaccine doses to States and Union Territories UTs so far, the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare said on Sunday.

'More than 26 crore (26,64,84,350) vaccine doses have been provided to States/UTs so far, through the Government of India (free of cost channel) and through the direct state procurement category.

'Of this, the total consumption, including wastages is 25,12,66,637 doses,' reads the official statement.

According to Union Health Ministry, more than 1.53 crore (1,53,79,233) COVID Vaccine doses are still available with the States/UTs to be administered.

Furthermore, more than 4 lakh (4,48,760) vaccine doses are in the pipeline and will be received by the States/UTs within the next three days, said the Union Health Ministry.

Notably, implementation of the 'Liberalised and Accelerated Phase-III' strategy of COVID-19 vaccination has started from May 1, 2021.

The Union health ministry has informed that around 25,31,95,048 COVID vaccine doses have been administered so far under the nationwide vaccination drive.

With 80,834 COVID-19 reported cases in the last 24 hours India continued its declining trend of new infections and reported the lowest single-day count in 71 days, the Union ministry of health and family welfare said on Sunday.

The new cases pushed the COVID case tally in the country to 2,94,39,989. India has been witnessing a continuous fall in the active caseload and the current active number of COVID cases stands at 10,26,159 with a net decrease of 54,531 cases in the last 24 hours.

The weekly positivity rate further dropped to less than 5 per cent and currently stands at 4.74 per cent while the daily positivity rate stands at 4.25 per cent today.

It has remained less than 10 per cent for 20 consecutive days now.

According to the Union Health Ministry, a total of 3,303 deaths were reported in the last 24 hours, taking the death toll to 3,70,384 in the country.

As many as 1,32,062 patients recovered from the disease in the last 24 hours taking the total number of recoveries in the country to 2,80,43,446.

With this, the recovery rate increases to 95.26 per cent.  -- ANI
15:04   Eriksen stable, sends greetings to teammates
Denmark midfielder Christian Eriksen remained in hospital and was in stable condition on Sunday, after collapsing during his side's Euro 2020 opening match with Finland and being given CPR on the pitch on Saturday, the Danish football association said.

'This morning we have spoken to Christian Eriksen, who has sent his greetings to his teammates. His condition is stable, and he continues to be hospitalized for further examination,' Danish FA DBU said on Twitter.

Eriksen, 29, collapsed suddenly in the 42nd minute of the match while running near the left touchline after a Denmark throw-in.

As a hush fell over the 16,000-strong crowd, his teammates gathered around him while he was treated on the pitch and then carried off on a stretcher. 
14:43   Left parties to hold nationwide protests
Left Parties will hold a fortnight nationwide protest starting from Wednesday against the rising prices of fuel, essential commodities and medicines.

Left Parties including the Communist Party of India (Marxist), Communist Party of India, All India Forward Bloc, Revolutionary Socialist Party and Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist)-Liberation have issued a joint statement on Sunday.

According to the statement, the protest will start on June 16 and end on June 30.

The parties demand the central government to roll back increased fuel price and control the prices of essential commodities and drugs.

"More assaults on people's livelihood are being mounted by this relentless rise in prices of all essential commodities.

"Instead of helping people to combat the ravages of the COVID health catastrophe, the Narendra Modi government hiked the prices of petroleum products by at least 21 times after the announcement of the results of the recent assembly elections on May 2, 2021," alleged the Left parties.

"This is leading to a cascading inflationary spiral with the Wholesale Price Index (WPI) rising to an eleven-year high. The prices of food articles have risen by nearly 5 per cent in April. Primary commodities saw a rise of 10.16 per cent and manufactured products have risen by 9.01 per cent.

"By the time these commodities reach the retail markets, the consumers are charged much more," reads the Left parties' joint statement.

Left parties said the price rise is occurring at a time when the economy has been witnessing a 'deep recession, galloping unemployment, collapsing purchasing power and rising levels of hunger'.

"Clearly, unscrupulous black-marketing and hoarding is taking place under state patronage. Modi government must strictly crack down on such black-marketing especially of essential drugs, vital for people's survival," the statement further said.

Left parties demanded that the central government must immediately give direct cash transfers of Rs 7,500 per month for six months to all families not falling in the income tax-paying bracket.

Left parties directed their state unit to hold protests during the fortnight while adhering to the COVID precautions and protocols.

Fuel prices continue to soar across India as petrol prices have breached Rs 100 mark in many states. -- ANI
13:36   Sena was treated as slaves by the BJP: Raut
The Shiv Sena was virtually treated as 'slaves' and attempts were made to finish off the party politically when it was in power with the Bharatiya Janata Party in Maharashtra from 2014 to 2019, Sena MP Sanjay Raut has alleged.

Addressing Sena workers in Jalgaon in north Maharashtra on Saturday, Raut said, "The Shiv Sena had a secondary status in the previous government and was (treated) like slaves. Attempts were also made to finish off our party by misusing the very power which was enjoyed because of our support."

Raut's remarks came days after Maharashtra Chief Minister and Shiv Sena president Uddhav Thackeray met Prime Minister Narendra Modi in Delhi separately, setting off political speculations in the state.

The Shiv Sena-BJP alliance crumbled in 2019 over the issue of chief ministership.

The Sena, which was one of the oldest allies of the BJP, later formed an unlikely alliance with the Natinoalist Congress Party and Congress to form the Maha Vikas Aghadi government in Maharashtra.

Raut said he always thought that the Sena should have its chief minister in Maharashtra.

"Even if Shiv Sainiks don't get anything, we can proudly say the state's leadership is now in the hands of the Shiv Sena. The Maha Vikas Aghadi government was formed with this sentiment (in November 2019)," he said.

Recalling the drama preceding the formation of the tripartite government in November 2019 after the Assembly elections, Raut said senior NCP leader Ajit Pawar, who briefly switched sides to form a government with the BJP under Devendra Fadnavis, is now the 'strongest spokesman' of the MVA.

The second Fadnavis-led government which was formed with Ajit Pawar had lasted for just 80 hours.

"....Anything can happen in politics. Ajit Pawar, the deputy CM of Maharashtra, is now working shoulder to shoulder with Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray," Raut said.  -- PTI
AP CM Y S Jaganmohan Reddy
AP CM Y S Jaganmohan Reddy
13:24   Rebel YSRCP MP writes to Jagan to include his name in party website
Yuvajana Shramika Rythu Congress Party rebel MP K Raghu Ramakrishna Raju has written a letter to party president Y S Jaganmohan Reddy to include his name in party website, or to officially announce his expulsion from the party.

He mentioned that his name is not in the MPs' list in the party's official website.

He has observed that recently elected Tirupati MP M Gurumurthy's name is in the website.

He also expressed doubt whether it is a mistake or an intentional act.

He wrote in the letter that, 'If it is intentional removal , I am deemed to consider this act of yours as expulsion and make myself free from party activities. If not, as President of the party, it is your moral and legal responsibility to uphold the dignity of your party's elected MP and take necessary action against those who have committed this mistake.'

He further wrote, 'However, if the party chooses to remove my name for any reason, unknown to law , that may be expressed by the president, by expelling me or informing the Parliament that I no longer belong to the political party.'

Raju also added that if his name won't be included in 48 hours, he will take suitable reactive measures. -- ANI
12:40   Delhi eases Covid curbs; markets, malls to open
Announcing easing of lockdown in New Delhi, Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal said all shops in markets and malls will be open from tomorrow in Delhi, while restaurants to open with 50 per cent capacity.

"Weekly markets in Delhi to open from tomorrow, only one market to be allowed in each zone," the CM said.

However, he said schools and educational institutions will continue to remain closed in Delhi.

"Covid situation in Delhi under control to larger extent, preparations are on for possible third wave. If spike in Covid cases is observed in next week, restrictions will again be imposed on markets and restaurants," Kejriwal said.

Social, political, cultural gatherings will continue to remain prohibited in Delhi.   -- PTI
11:51   Cooperate with Covid probe: WHO chief to China
World Health Organisation (WHO) chief Tedros Ghebreyesus has called on China to cooperate with the ongoing investigation into the origins of the COVID-19 amid renewed call to further probe the virus.

Dr Tedros made these remarks after taking part in the Group of Seven (G7) summit by video conference on Saturday, The Wall Street Journal (WSJ) reported.

The WHO Director-General hoped there would be better cooperation and transparency when the next phase of the probe into the virus's origin is underway.

"As you know we will need cooperation from the Chinese side," he said.

"We need transparency to understand or know or find the origin of this virus...after the report was released there were difficulties in the data sharing, especially in the raw data."

He further said that the preparations for the probe's next steps were underway and that the issue of the origin of the virus was discussed by G7 leaders on Saturday, WSJ reported.

Earlier this week, the United States and the United Kingdom had extended support to a 'timely, transparent and evidence-based independent process' for the next phase of the WHO-convened study of COVID-19 origins.

'We will also support a timely, transparent and evidence-based independent process for the next phase of the WHO-convened COVID-19 origins study, including in China, and for investigating outbreaks of unknown origin in the future,' a joint statement said after US President Joe Biden met British Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Thursday.

This comes amid growing calls for a timely, transparent, and evidence-based independent process for the next phase of the WHO-convened origin study.

Recently, the calls to investigate further the origins of the virus have intensified.

President Biden has also ordered a fresh US intelligence inquiry into the origins of the pandemic.

The origin of novel coronavirus that caused havoc around the world has remained a mystery even after 1.5 years the first case of infection was reported in the Chinese city of Wuhan.

Now, scientists and world leaders are calling for further investigations to figure out whether the virus originated naturally or leaked from the Wuhan Institute of Virology.  -- ANI
11:29   11 killed, 37 injured in gas explosion in China
At least 11 people were killed and 37 others seriously injured in a huge gas explosion in central China's Hubei Province on Sunday, official media reported.

The blast took place at about 6.30 am local time in the Zhangwan district of Shiyan city.

Media reports said a market in the district was hard hit.

Eleven people were killed and 37 others injured in the explosion which has destroyed several buildings, state-run CGTN-TV reported.

Hong Kong-based South China Morning Post reported that the explosion took place at the Yanhu market in Shiyan when many residents were having breakfast or buying vegetables in the market.

The city's municipal office initially said 'many' people were trapped after the incident.

Images and video footages circulating on social media platform Weibo showed rescue workers working through the wreckage of flattened houses. The cause of the accident is under investigation.   -- PTI
10:55   Kejriwal likely to ease Delhi's Covid lockdown
Arvind Kejriwal could announce relaxations in Delhi's Covid-19 induced lockdown when the chief minister addresses a press conference on Sunday with cases of the coronavirus disease on the decline in the national capital. 

"Honourable CM Shri @Arvind Kejriwal will address an important digital press conference today at 12 noon," the Kejriwal-led Aam Aadmi Party tweeted on Sunday morning.

The relaxations, if announced, will mark the beginning of the third phase of the Capital's exit from the lockdown. The lockdown came into force on the night of April 19 and was scheduled to end in the early morning hours of April 26. However, it witnessed several extensions and continues to be in force, but with the city's daily Covid-19 cases on the decline, it started unlocking from May 31, with construction and factory works being the first two sectors to be exempted from the lockdown.
10:23   Over 50 shanties of Rohingya refugees gutted in fire in Delhi; no casualty
More than 50 shanties were gutted in a fire that broke out at a Rohingya refugee camp near Kalindi Kunj Metro station in south east Delhi, officials said on Sunday.

The incident took place on Saturday and the fire department received information about it around 11.55 pm, a senior fire official said.

No one was injured in the fire, the official said.

Five fire tenders were rushed to the spot near Kalindi Kunj Metro station, Madanpur Khadar. The fire was brought under control around 3 am, the official said. 

According to police, a PCR call regarding the fire at the Rohingya camp was received at Kalindi Kunj police station.

Police reached the spot in Kanchan Kunj, Madanpur Khadar. Later, the fire was brought under control, a senior police officer said. 

"Fifty-six shanties, housing around 270 Rohingya refugees, were gutted in the fire. The cause of the fire is yet to be ascertained and appropriate legal action is being taken," Deputy Commissioner of Police (Southeast) R P Meena said.

-- PTI
10:14   Chinese researchers find new coronaviruses in bats
Amid the growing calls to probe into the origins of Covid-19, Chinese researchers have found a new batch of coronaviruses in bats. One of them, Rhinolophus pusillus virus, maybe genetically the second-closest to the Covid-19 virus till now, the Chinese researchers have said.

The discoveries in a single, small region of Yunnan province in China indicate just how many coronaviruses can exist in bats and how many have the potential to spread to people and a wide range of domestic and wild animals, including pigs, cattle, mice, cats, dogs, and chickens.

In early 2020, a novel coronavirus, SARS-CoV-2, was identified as the causative agent of a pneumonia outbreak in Wuhan, China, that eventually turned into a global pandemic, killing lakhs of people.

The researchers collected 283 fecal samples, 109 oral swabs and 19 urine samples from small, forest-dwelling bats in a tropical botanical garden and adjacent areas in a county in Yunnan province between May 2019 and November 2020.

In a report published in the journal Cell, the Chinese researchers from Shandong University said, "In total, we assembled 24 novel coronavirus genomes from different bat species, including four SARS-CoV-2 like coronaviruses."

The Chinese researchers said one of the viruses was very similar, genetically to the SARS-CoV-2 virus that's causing the ongoing pandemic.
09:45   Stalin to meet PM this week, request for more COVID vaccines
Tamil Nadu Health Minister Ma Subramanian on Sunday said that the Chief Minister MK Stalin will meet Prime Minister Narendra Modi this week and request for more COVID vaccines.

Subramanian said, "When Tamil Nadu Chief Minister MK Stalin meets PM Modi in Delhi next week he will request to provide more vaccine doses to Tamil Nadu." 

"Death numbers are expected to decrease in coming days. Vaccination is the only solution to get rid of corona infection so people should come forward to get Vaccination," he added.

Health Minister Ma Subramanian, Health Secretary J Radhakrishnan, Chennai Corporation Commissioner Gagandeep Singh Bedi jointly reviewed the vaccination drive which is going on for vegetable shop vendors in Chennai Koyambedu.

Speaking about the drive, Subramanian said, "Koyambedu market was a hot spot in first wave. So Chennai corporation, CMDA, and health department are in the Vaccination drive process here. 9,655 people have been vaccinated in Koyambedu. More than 10,000 will get administered today which will be a huge number per day in a single place."

"Vendors are eager to get vaccinated. We have received 1.6 vaccine doses, out of which 98 lakh vaccine doses have been used till now, as per CM's advice," he added.

He also informed that the Tamil Nadu government is probably the first in India where handicapped were vaccinated at their place. 5000 handicapped have been vaccinated in the state.

-- ANI
09:15   India logs 80,834 new Covid cases
India registered 80,834 new Covid-19 cases and 3,303 deaths in the last 24 hours.

Top five states which have registered maximum cases are Tamil Nadu with 15,108 cases, followed by Kerala with 13,832 cases, Maharashtra with 10,697 cases, Karnataka with 9,785 cases and Andhra Pradesh with 6,952 cases. At least 69.74% of the new cases are reported from these five states, with Tamil Nadu alone responsible for 18.69% of the new cases.

Maximum deaths were reported in Maharashtra (1,966), followed by Tamil Nadu with 374 daily deaths.

In the last 24 hours, active cases declined by 54,531, bringing the active caseload to 10,26,159.

A total of 1,32,062 patients recovered in the last 24 hours, which brings the total recoveries to 2,80,43,446 across the country.

India has administered a total of 34,84,239 doses in the last 24 hours, which brings the total tally of doses administered to 25,31,95,048.
09:07   Saudi Arabia bars foreigners from Hajj due to Covid
Saudi Arabia announced this year's hajj pilgrimage will be limited to no more than 60,000 people, all of them from within the kingdom, due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

The announcement by the kingdom comes after it ran an incredibly pared-down pilgrimage last year over the virus, but still allowed a small number of the faithful to take part in the annual ceremony.

A statement on the state-run Saudi Press Agency quoted the kingdom's Hajj and Umrah Ministry making the announcement. It said this year's hajj, which will begin in mid-July, will be limited to those ages 18 to 65.

Those taking part must be vaccinated as well, the ministry said.

The kingdom of Saudi Arabia, which is honoured to host pilgrims every year, confirms that this arrangement comes out of its constant concern for the health, safety and security of pilgrims as well as the safety of their countries," the statement said.

In last years hajj, as few as 1,000 people already residing in Saudi Arabia were selected to take part in the hajj. Two-thirds were foreign residents from among the 160 different nationalities that would have normally been represented at the hajj. One-third were Saudi security personnel and medical staff.
08:39   Centre may fly drones to deliver Covid vaccines in 'hard to reach' areas
The Centre has come up with a novel plan to deliver Covid-19 Vaccines by Unmanned Aerial Vehicles to areas in the country with difficult terrains, after a study by the Indian Institute of Technology, Kanpur said it is feasible.

The HLL Infra Tech Services Limited, a subsidiary of Government-owned HLL Lifecare which is procuring all vaccines in the country for the government, has on the behalf of the Indian Council of Medical Research invited an Expression of Interest on Friday for delivery of vaccines and drugs by UAVs to select locations in India which have difficult terrains. So far, only Telangana was toying with this idea of UAV vaccine delivery.

UAVs have been sought by ICMR which can travel upto 35 kms with the supplies and fly at an altitude of at least 100 meters. To strengthen the delivery of vaccines, ICMR has successfully conducted a feasibility study to deliver vaccines by UAVs in collaboration with IIT, Kanpur," the bid document mentions.
07:49   PM thanks G7 for help with 2nd Covid wave
Prime Minister Narendra Modi has committed the country's support for "collective endeavours" to improve global health governance and emphasised the need for a "One Earth One Health" approach to this. Speaking virtually at the first Outreach Session of the G7 Summit on Saturday, he expressed appreciation for its support, as well as that of some guest countries, during the second Covid wave in India, a government release said.

Over 2 lakh people died in India of Covid between January and May, during which the country faced an unprecedented crisis of resource shortage. The country received aid, including oxygen cylinders and regulators, from several countries like the US and Canada.    

PM Modi's call to keep open supply chains for vaccine raw materials and components to help enhance vaccine production in countries like India received widespread support, the statement said.

The session, titled "Building Back Stronger - Health", focused on global recovery and strengthening the resilience against future pandemics.

The PM highlighted India's "whole of society" approach to fighting COVID-19, which involved synergising the efforts of the government, industry, and civil society. He also conveyed India's willingness to share its experience and expertise with other developing countries.

Calling for global unity, leadership, and solidarity to prevent future pandemics, he emphasised the special responsibility of democratic and transparent societies.