Thu, 04 March 2021
EC seeks report on PM's pic on vaccine document
23:29 EC seeks report on PM's pic on vaccine document
The Election Commission has sought a report from the West Bengal chief electoral officer on the Trinamool Congress' complaint that the picture of Prime Minister Narendra Modi on the COVID-19 vaccination certificate violates the model code.
A functionary said on Thursday that the state CEO has been directed to file a report to verify the veracity of the TMC's complaint.
Based on the CEO's report, the poll panel would decide the future course of action, the functionary explained.
The ruling TMC in West Bengal had on Tuesday approached the poll panel about the PM's image on vaccination certificates generated through the Co-Win platform being a violation of the model code of conduct in Bengal and other poll-bound states.
It had termed the picture a misuse of official machinery by the prime minister.
The model code came into force on February 26, the day the Election Commission had announced assembly polls in Assam, West Bengal, Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Puducherry.
22:53 PM to address conference of top military leadership; jawans to participate for first time
Prime Minister Narendra Modi will address a conference of the county's top military leadership in Gujarat's Kevadia on Saturday, which will also see the participation of jawans and junior commissioned officers for the first time, according to an official statement on Thursday.
The Combined Commanders' Conference, a premier brainstorming event of the military officials, is taking place after three years in Kevadia from Thursday to Saturday, the Department of Military Affairs said in a statement.
It said that in a major departure from the past, the scope of this year's conference has been expanded to make it a "multi-layered, interactive, informal and informed event with the added participation of about 30 officers and soldiers of various ranks from the three services."
Jawans and JCOs will be attending specific sessions related to human resource issues during the conference.
Defence Minister Rajnath Singh, the military commanders, and a team of secretary-level officers from the Ministry of Defence will join deliberations from Friday onward, the DMA noted.
22:29 Prioritise vaccines for journalists: Press body
The Press Association urged the Centre to include accredited journalists on a priority basis for COVID-19 vaccination considering that the media played a vital role in fighting the pandemic.
"A delegation of office-bearers, executive committee members and members of the Press Association met the Principal Director General of the Press Information Bureau (PIB) and demanded that the government should include the accredited journalists on a priority basis for COVID-19 vaccination," an official statement issued by the Press Association said.
It said the government has rightly highlighted the vital role of the media in fighting the pandemic like other corona warriors.
"Like health professionals, security persons and many others, a number of journalists have also lost their lives on the line of duty. Like all other essential services, media houses also remained open during the whole calamity," the press body said.
It said that the Association has welcomed the "groundbreaking steps" of vaccinating all those who are fighting the COVID-19 pandemic".
"The Association took note and highly appreciated that for the first time the government has sanctioned Rs 5 lakh each to the family members of journalists who died of COVID-19 during the pandemic all over the country," it said.
During the meeting, the Press Association also urged the PIB to revive the railways concessions to the accredited journalists, which has been discontinued during the pandemic, and said that the journalists travel in trains while on professional duty.
21:57 2 observers to arrive in West Bengal on Friday, oversee poll preparedness
Special observer for the assembly elections in West Bengal Ajay Nayak and police observer Vivek Dubey will arrive on Friday to overview preparedness for the polls, a senior official said.
"They will be meeting officials in districts where the first phase of polling will be held and take stock of the situation," he said.
The official also said the chief electoral officer of the state, after receiving complaints from officials being trained for the elections about not getting proper lunch
in a few districts, has decided to transfer Rs 170 each to their bank accounts for the duration of the training.
The 8-phase West Bengal assembly elections will begin from March 27.
21:37 Over 10.93L COVID vaccine doses given today
The ministry of health and family welfare has informed that 10.93 lakh COVID-19 vaccine doses were administered in the country on Thursday.
With this the cumulative number of COVID-19 vaccine doses administered in the country has crossed 1.77 crore on the forty-eighth day of the nationwide COVID-19 vaccination drive, the ministry said. According to a statement issued by the ministry, a total of 1,77,11,287 vaccine doses have been given, as per the provisional report till 7 pm on Thursday.
These include 68,38,077 healthcare workers who have taken the first dose and 30,82,942 HCWs who have taken the second dose, 60,22,136 front line workers (1st dose), 54,177 FLWs (2nd dose), 14,95,016 beneficiaries more than 60 years old and 2,18,939 beneficiaries aged 45 and above with specific co-morbidities.
Total 10,93,954 vaccine doses were given till 7 pm today, the forty-seventh day of nationwide COVID-19 vaccination. Out of which 8,34,141 beneficiaries were vaccinated for 1st dose and 2,59,813 HCWs and FLWs received 2nd dose of vaccine as per the provisional report.
The countrywide vaccination drive was rolled out on January 16 and vaccination of the FLWs started from February 2. The next phase of COVID-19 vaccination has commenced from March 1 for those who are over 60 years of age and for people aged 45 and above with specified co-morbid conditions.
21:24 Indian politicians and the journalists they prefer
Indian politicians were plotted based on the number of times they retweeted a member of the press. The goal of this was to understand politicians engagement with the press, and their use of various news sources in informing their constituents. We used data from 2019 to understand press engagement during the election season.
Read the findings HERE
21:14 Barbados PM thanks Modi for supply of Covid vaccines
Barbados Prime Minister Mia Amor Mottley has thanked Prime Minister Narendra Modi for the supply of made-in-India COVID-19 vaccines, saying he made it possible for more than 40,000 people in Barbados and tens of thousands elsewhere to receive first dose of Covishield. PM Modi @narendramodi made it possible for more than 40K persons in Barbados and tens of thousands elsewhere, to receive their 1st dose of COVISHIELD via Vaccine Maitri before receiving his. A genuine demonstration of generosity. Thank you and we wish you continued good health, Mottley tweeted on Wednesday.
Responding to her tweet, Modi said, Thank you PM @miaamormottley. Special friendship between our nations has always helped us bridge geographic distances. Vaccine Maitri is proud to support vaccination efforts of Barbados and other CARICOM countries.
In a major announcement, India on January 19 said it will send vaccines under grant assistance to several countries. It has also supplied vaccines on commercial basis. India is one of the worlds biggest drugmakers, and an increasing number of countries have already approached it for procuring anti-coronavirus vaccines. While Oxford-AstraZenecas Covishield is being manufactured by the Serum Institute, Covaxin is being produced by Bharat Biotech.
20:35 Will abolish EVMs if SP comes to power: Akhilesh
Samajwadi Party chief Akhilesh Yadav said on Thursday that his party will win the 2022 Uttar Pradesh assembly elections "by a huge majority" after which 'Samajwadi people' will work towards abolishing electronic voting machines.
The SP chief cited last years US presidential elections, which happened on ballot paper, to claim that nobody trusts EVMs anymore.
"On EVMs, I still say that no one trusts them. Recently in the USA, the polls were conducted on ballot papers, and counting took several days. People trust only ballot papers, but this fight cannot be fought right now," he said at a press conference.
19:50 Modi, Shah, Nadda meet to finalise BJP candidates
The central election committee of the Bharatiya Janata Party began its meeting on Thursday evening and is likely to finalise its first list of candidates for the assembly polls in Assam, West Bengal, Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Puducherry.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Union Home Minister Amit Shah, BJP chief Jagat Prakash Nadda, and other senior party leaders are attending the meeting at the party headquarters in New Delhi.
BJP's Bengal chief Dilip Ghosh and the party's central observer for West Bengal Kailash Vijayvargiya are also part of the meeting.
On Wednesday, Nadda, Assam Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal and his cabinet colleague Himanta Biswa Sarma met Shah at his residence to discuss the strategy for the Assam assembly elections ahead of the CEC meeting.
Polling in four states -- Assam, West Bengal, Kerala and Tamil Nadu -- and the Union territory of Puducherry will be held between March 27 and April 29. The counting of votes will be held on May 2.
19:47 TMC seeks removal of deputy election commissioner
Bengals ruling Trinamool Congress on Thursday wrote to the Election Commission of India, seeking the removal of deputy election commissioner Sudeep Jain who is in charge of the assembly polls. Jain is partial towards the Bharatiya Janata Party and the polls will not be fair if held under his watch, the TMC alleged in its letter.
Jain has already visited the state twice to hold talks with bureaucrats and police officers. A large number of Central police personnel have arrived in the state and been deployed in trouble-prone regions.
In the two-page letter, TMCs leader in the Rajya Sabha, Derek O Brien, cited deployment of state police under Central Armed Police Force officers during the 2019 Lok Sabha polls and called it a violation of the Constitution. He also referred to the ECIs decision to stop poll campaign after the vandalism at Kolkatas Vidyasagar College, which resulted in the damage to a bust of 19th century social reformer and educationist Ishwarchandra Vidyasagar, during a roadshow of Union Home Minister Amit Shah prior to the Lok Sabha polls.
19:29 7.1 magnitude quake strikes in New Zealand
An earthquake of magnitude 7.1 was reported near Auckland, New Zealand on Thursday evening, according to India's National Center for Seismology.
The epicentre of the earthquake was 414 km east of Auckland, New Zealand, the agency said. The earthquake struck at 6:57 pm IST at a depth of 10 km from the surface.
19:12 BJP meet on Bengal candidates over
The West Bengal Assembly election 2021 is likely to witness a direct contest between friends-turned-foes Suvendhu Adhikari and Mamata Banerjee at Nandigram.
The decision is understood to have been taken at the BJPs core committee meeting on candidates in Bengal on Thursday.
West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee has already announced to contest as the Trinamool Congress candidate from Nandigram.
In the BJP meeting, chaired by BJP president JP Nadda, Suvendu Adhikari told the party leadership he wanted to contest from Nandigram.
Suvendu Adhikari was one of Mamata Banerjees most trusted aides and face of the Nandigram movement in Bengal that catapulted the TMC to power in the state 10 years ago. He had switched to the BJP in December 2020. His departure set in motion a rush among the TMC leaders to follow the suit.
18:58 Zimbabwe becomes first African country to authorise use of COVAXIN
Zimbabwe has authorised the use of India's indigenous vaccine COVAXIN, becoming the first African country to do so.
"Zimbabwe has authorized the use of COVAXIN, India's indigenous COVID-19 vaccine, becoming the first country in Africa to do so. Trying to get it to Zimbabwe at an early date," the Indian embassy tweeted.
This comes after phase three results of the COVAXIN has shown an interim vaccine efficacy of 81 per cent in preventing the virus. The vaccine has been developed by the Indian Council of Medical Research in partnership with Bharat Biotech International Limited.
Zimbabwe has reported over 36,000 coronavirus cases and 1,478 death due to the virus so far. The African country began its COVID-19 vaccine program on Feburary 18.
On Monday, Prime Minister Narendra Modi received the first dose of Covaxin at AIIMS in Delhi as the second phase of the vaccination drive in the country began.
18:32 200+ seats in Bengal after May 3: Tejasvi Surya
The Bharatiya Janata Party will have its first ever chief minister in West Bengal on May 3, when the results for the assembly election are expected to be declared, BJP MP Tejasvi Surva has promised, adding the party will win at least 200 of the Trinamool-ruled state's 294 seats.
"BJP will win more than 200 seats in West Bengal. (Chief Minister) Mamata Banerjee's days as a chief minister are numbered. On the 3rd of May, West Bengal will have a BJP chief minister," Surya was quoted as saying.
"This is the legacy of the communists which Mamata Banerjee has carried forward but there will be no more bloodshed and political murder politics in West Bengal because BJP will have its chief minister," he added.
Bengal BJP chief Dilip Ghosh said the party will win much more than 200 seats as they had begun preparing for the elections five years ago, when Banerjee had retained power with a massive mandate.
"We will not get less than 200 (seats). It will definitely be more than 200. We did not begin preparations today, we had started five years back," Ghosh said.
18:12 TMC to release candidate list tomorrow
Trinamool Congress will release its full list of candidates for the coming assembly poll on Friday and its election manifesto early next week, party sources said.
TMC supremo Mamata Banerjee will release the candidate list like in the previous elections, the sources said.
According to TMC sources, the party has decided to omit from the candidates list the names of several sitting MLAs who are 80 years old or are more. The party plans to nominate more youths, women, and leaders with clean image and acceptability in their respective areas, they said.
Nearly 30 per cent of the 294 constituencies, including those held by 19 MLAs who have switched over to BJP, are likely to have new candidates, the sources said.
In 2016 the TMC had won 211 seats in the 294-member House. The Left-Congress alliance had bagged 77 seats and the BJP three.
The election this time, which will see a stiff contest between the TMC and the BJP, will be held in eight phases beginning with polling for 30 seats on March 27. Votes will be counted on May 2.
17:46 Kerala man petitions EC over PM's pic on vaccine
A Democratic Youth Federation of India (DYFI) leader on Thursday lodged a complaint with the Election Commission demanding the removal of the image of Prime Minister Narendra Modi from the COVID-19 vaccination certificate, issued to people in poll-bound Kerala.
In the brief letter, Midhun Shah, who is also the state co-coordinator of the Kerala State Youth Commission, pointed out that the model code of conduct was already in force in the southern state, where Assembly election is scheduled on April 6.
"The certificate, issued for receiving the free COVID-19 vaccine in the state, carries photo of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and excerpts of his speech. As it may influence the election procedure, I request you to take necessary steps to remove it," he said.
Shah later said that the complaint was lodged based on the provisional certificate which he got after receiving the shot at a vaccination centre in Thiruvananthapuram this morning.
"As the state-coordinator of the Youth Commission, I received the first dose of the vaccine this morning. I was surprised to see the Prime Minister's colour photo and wordings in it. I feel it is a violation of model code of conduct and so approached the EC seeking its removal," he told PTI.
The EC had on Wednesday directed all petrol outlets and other agencies to remove hoardings advertising central government schemes and carrying images of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, from the premises within 72 hours, citing violation of the model code of conduct. PTI
17:32 BJP complains to EC over TMC's khela hobe comment
A BJP delegation reaches the Election Commission office in New Delhi to lodge a complaint against TMC MLA Hamidul Rehman over his remark at a public meeting made on March 2. "Our ancestors have said - 'jiska namak khate hain, uska namakharami nahi karte hain... After polls, we will have to meet those who would cheat us. Khela Hobe (the game will be played) with dishonest people. We all want to see Didi as our CM," Rahman had said.
17:22 What caused the Siraj-Stokes-Kohli spat in the middle
The delightfully candid Mohammad Siraj, telling Murli Kartik why Ben Stokes and he exchanged a word or two on Day 1 of the 4th Test match against England.
"Usne mere ko gaali di bouncer ke baad. Mein ne Viratpaaji ko kaha..."
And Kohli got into the act, defending his India and RCB team-mate, generating such heat with Stokes that a visibly perturbed Umpire Nitin Menon raised a restraining arm, to separate the best batsman and best all-rounder in the cricketing world.
Request to Star Sports: Please could we have more post-match interviews with the bubbly Siraj who bowled the best two balls in the English first innings? He is FUN!
17:01 Cops submit report on Kangana's 'terrorist' video
Mumbai Police on Thursday submitted before a magistrate court a report of their inquiry into a complaint against actor Kangana Ranaut and her sister for posting alleged hateful messages on social media.
In October last year, the magistrate court in Mumbai asked suburban Amboli police to conduct an inquiry into a private complaint, filed by lawyer Ali Kashif Khan Deshmukh, related to the alleged objectionable messages and file a report by December 5. The police failed to submit their report within the time-frame given by the court. The court later extended the deadline which, too, was missed.
During a hearing on February 5, the court asked the police to submit a progress report on the inquiry it had ordered into the complaint against Ranaut and her sister and posted the matter for further hearing on March 4.
The police on Thursday filed a report of their probe into the matter. The court heard the arguments and kept the matter for orders on April 5. According to the complaint, Ranaut's sister Rangoli Chandel had posted an objectionable message on Twitter in April last year, targeting a particular community, following which her account was suspended.
Ranaut then posted a video in support of her sister and in the clip allegedly referred to members of a particular community as "terrorists", the complainant said, seeking a police investigation and action against the two. PTI
16:50 Curbs on movement of Hurriyat leader Mirwaiz Umar Farooq lifted
The Jammu and Kashmir authorities on Thursday lifted restrictions on the movement of moderate Hurriyat Conference chairman Mirwaiz Umar Farooq who was placed under house arrest in August 2019 following the abrogation of Article 370 provisions.
"The police has informed the Mirwaiz that there were no restrictions on his movement anymore and that he was free to visit Jamia Masjid on Friday," a close aide of the Hurriyat chairman told PTI.
However, the administration neither confirmed nor denied the claim made by the Mirwaiz's aide. The Mirwaiz, who is also the chief priest of Kashmir, was among hundreds of political leaders -- both separatist and mainstream -- who were taken into custody or placed under house arrest as the Centre revoked Jammu and Kashmir's special status under Article 370 of the Constitution 19 months ago. While most leaders were released by March last year, some including the Mirwaiz continued to be under detention.
Former FTII chairman Gajendra Chauhan
16:45 Yudhishthir' to essay PM in biopic 'Ek Aur Naren'
A biopic inspired by the life of Prime Minister Narendra Modi called 'Ek Aur Naren' will be made and will feature Gajendra Chauhan, who essayed the role of Yudhishthira in B R Chopra's mega TV serial on the epic Mahabharat, in the lead role.
Film director Milan Bhowmik told PTI on Thursday that 'Ek Aur Naren' will have two strands in its story - one dealing with the life and work of Swami Vivekanada who was born Narendranath Dutta and the other projecting the vision of Narendra Modi. The director said the film encapsulates the lives of two personalities - Vivekananda who spent his life to spread the message of universal brotherhood and how the Indian culture espoused inclusiveness. The other personality - Modi who, he said, has taken India to a new height and is one of the most popular icons in the field of politics.
"Both personalities have elevated Bharat to another height globally with their ideologies and service to the people," he said.
Chauhan had told reporters recently that there had been discussions about the film for a long time with the director. It was a coincidence that the film was announced after the notification for election to a number of state assemblies, including West Bengal, was announced, he said.
The actor said that he knew Modi personally for 20 years. "I will seek to explore the towering personality of Narendra Modi, his way of thinking, his way of interaction with masses, his connect with the people, his beliefs." As an artiste it is a great opportunity for him to portray such a character, he said. Chauhan shared a picture of the event, where he had dressed up as Modi, on Twitter. He tweeted It is a matter of great honour that I will be playing the role of our honble prime minister in a Hindi film Ek Aur Naren." The narration for the film in Hindi is by Sanjib Tewary. It is produced by a production house of Kolkata. Bhowmik had earlier made films on the brutal Nirbhaya rape and death and on Jan Sangh founder Syama Prasad Mukherjee. PTI
Odisha CM Naveen Patnaik with Lakshmi Mittal (left)
16:06 Sensex tumbles 599 pts trailing global meltdown
Snapping its three-session winning run, the BSE Sensex plunged by around 599 points to crack below the key 51,000-level on Thursday amid a meltdown in global shares triggered by a surge in US bond yields. Intra-day, the 30-share BSE index fell as much as 905 points before ending the session at 50,846.08, showing a decline of 598.57 points or 1.16 per cent.
The broader NSE Nifty too closed with a loss of 164.85 points or 1.08 per cent at 15,080.75. On the Sensex chart, HDFC, L&T, SBI, Axis Bank, Bajaj FinServ and HDFC Bank were major laggards dropping up to 2.62 per cent.
Of 30 Sensex shares, 25 closed with losses. "Domestic equities traded lower today mainly on weak global cues. Financials and Metals indices were keg drags today, while FMCG, Pharma and IT indices were resilient. A sharp 6 bps rise in 10-Year USA treasury yield made investors jittery today, said Binod Modi, Head - Strategy at Reliance Securities.
Over the previous three sessions, the Sensex had risen by 2,344.66 points or 4.77 per cent, while the Nifty had added 716.45 points or 4.93 per cent. Foreign investors had bought equities worth Rs 2,088.70 crore on a net basis in Indian capital markets on Wednesday, according to exchange data.
15:58 India attracts $67.54 bn FDI from April-Dec
India attracted foreign direct investments (FDIs) totalling 67.54 billion dollars from April to December last year, marking the highest ever amount for first ninth months of a financial year, the government said on Thursday.
The amount was 22 per cent higher as compared to 55.14 billion dollars received in first ninth months of 2019-20, according to a statement released by the Ministry of Commerce and Industry. The FDI equity inflow grew by 40 per cent to 51.47 billion dollars in first nine months of FY21 as compared to 36.77 billion dollars in the year ago period.
The FDI inflow increased by 37 per cent in third quarter of 2020-21 (26.16 billion dollars) compared to third quarter of 2019-20 (19.09 billion dollars). -- ANI
DMK president MK Stalin
15:51 DMK seals poll pact with VCK; Allots six seats
The DMK on Thursday allotted six constituencies to ally Viduthalai Chiruthaigal Katchi for the April 6 assembly elections in Tamil Nadu. An electoral pact was signed by DMK president M K Stalin and VCK chief Thol Thirumavalavan at the Dravidian party headquarters 'Anna Arivalayam' in Chennai.
"We have decided to fight from six segments. Though there was dissatisfaction on the number of seats offered in the party, it was decided to accept the deal to drive out 'Sanathana forces' from Tamil Nadu and to consolidate secular votes," Thirumavalavan told reporters.
In the absence of DMK patriarch M Karunanidhi and AIADMK matriarch J Jayalalithaa, the BJP was trying hard to weaken both the Dravidian parties and working towards destroying politics that was aimed at upholding social justice, he alleged. Days ago, the DMK had set apart three seats to the Indian Union Muslim League and two constituencies to Manithaneya Makkal Katchi. Seat-sharing with Congress and Left parties is yet to be finalised by the DMK.
15:48 Singer Aditi Munshi joins TMC
Singer Aditi Munshi joins TMC in presence of party MP Sougata Roy in Kolkata. She is the wife of North 24 Parganas Trinamool Youth Congress president Debraj Chakraborty. Munshi is primarily a kirtan singer and was a contestant in the talent show Zee Sa Re Ga Ma Bengali a couple of years ago.
15:05 Metro Man Sreedharan BJP's CM face in Kerala
Kerala BJP chief on Thursday announced that 'Metro Man' E Sreedharan will be the party's chief ministerial candidate in the upcoming state Assembly polls.
"E Sreedharan will be BJP's Chief Minister candidate in the upcoming Kerala Assembly Elections 2021," Surendran said. Earlier in the day, E Sreedharan visited the Palarivattom flyover which is being reconstructed now.
He said the people of Kerala will elect his party to power and he is expecting a "big" victory in the Assembly elections.
"People know very well what is good for them and what is good for the state. I am very confident they will elect BJP to power. I am expecting a big victory," he said.
"I have made only one demand to BJP that I want to contest in a constituency not far away from Ponnani where I am residing now," he added.
The BJP leader also said that it is the "mental" age rather than the "physical" age that decides what responsibilities one should take up.
"It is the age of the mind that matters, not only the age of the body. Mentally, I am very alert and young. So far, I don't have any issues with health. I don't think health will be much of an issue. I will not be working as a normal politician. I will continue to work like a technocrat," he said.
Surendran on Wednesday announced a 16-member state election committee which included E Sreedharan, who recently joined the party.
The election for 140-member Kerala Assembly will be held on April 6, the Election Commission of India (ECI) had announced.
14:53 Man who made threat call to bomb Taj Mahal nabbed in UP's Firozabad
The person who threatened to bomb the Taj Mahal has been nabbed in Firozabad, police said on Thursday.A Satish Ganesh, Additional Director General of Police/Inspector General, Agra Range said that the initial impression is that the man is of unsound mind.
"The man who gave the threat to bomb Taj Mahal has been picked by Narkhi police station limit area in Firozabad district. He is being interrogated to find his motive. The initial impression is that he is of an unsound mind. Our teams are trying to gather information from him," Ganesh said.
"He is possibly getting treatment. We are investigating all aspects. Our surveillance teams are finding his location when he made the call," he added.
The Taj Mahal was shut temporarily and tourists were evacuated following the bomb scare call earlier today. However, the iconic monument has been opened. -- PTI
Serum Institute of India CEO Adar Poonawala
14:47 HC asks SII, Bharat for vaccine making capacity
The Delhi High Court Thursday directed Serum Institute of India and Bharat Biotech to disclose their capacities to manufacture Covaxin, Covishield vaccines.
The high court also asked the Centre to explain in affidavit the rationale behind keeping strict control over class of persons who can be vaccinated against COVID-19 currently as under the present system those above the age of 60 years or between 45 to 60 years with comorbidities can receive vaccination.
A bench of Justices Vipin Sanghi and Rekha Palli said the two institutes-- Serum Institute of India and Bharat Biotech -- have more capacity to provide the vaccines but it seems that they are not exploiting it fully.
"We are not utilising it fully. We are either donating it to foreign countries or selling it to foreign countries and are not vaccinating our own people. So there has to be that sense of responsibility and urgency," the bench said.
It also asked the Delhi government to carry out inspection of medical facilities available in court complexes here and to report if COVID-19 vaccination centres could be set up there. The high court was hearing a PIL initiated by it to examine the demand of Bar Council of Delhi to declare all people associated with the judicial functioning, including judges, court staff and lawyers as frontline workers so that they could receive COVID-19 vaccination on priority and without limitations of their age or physical condition. PTI
14:44 EPFO fixes 8.5% interest on EPF deposits for 2020-21
Retirement fund body EPFO on Thursday decided to retain 8.5 per cent rate of interest on provident fund deposits for the current financial year. EPFO has more than five crore active subscribers. The Employees' Provident Fund Organisation's (EPFO) apex decision-making body Central Board of Trustees decided to fix 8.5 per cent rate of interest for 2020-21 at its meeting in Srinagar on Thursday, sources said.
There were speculations that the EPFO would lower interest on provident fund deposits for this fiscal (2020-21) from 8.5 per cent given in 2019-20 in view of more withdrawals and lesser contribution by members amid the coronavirus pandemic.
In March last year, the EPFO had lowered interest rate on provident fund deposits to a seven-year low of 8.5 per cent for 2019-20, from 8.65 per cent in 2018-19.
The EPF (Employees Provident Fund) interest rate provided for 2019-20 was the lowest since 2012-13, when it was 8.5 per cent. The EPFO had provided 8.65 per cent interest rate to its subscribers in 2016-17 and 8.55 per cent in 2017-18.
The rate of interest was slightly higher at 8.8 per cent in 2015-16. It had given 8.75 per cent rate of interest in 2013-14 as well as 2014-15, higher than 8.5 per cent for 2012-13. The EPFO had provided 8.25 per cent rate of interest on provident fund in 2011-12. -- PTI
14:32 In solidarity with Mamata, Shiv Sena not to contest WB polls
Wishing 'roaring' success to West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, Maharashtra Chief Minister Udhhav Thackeray-led Shiv Sena party has decided not to contest the West Bengal Assembly polls, Shiv Sena MP Sanjay Raut announced on Thursday.
The decision was taken after a discussion with Thackeray. Raut, who on January 17 had said Shiv Sena will contest the West Bengal Assembly Elections but on Thursday he said the party will stand in solidarity with West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee.
"A lot of people are curious to know whether Shiv Sena is contesting West Bengal Polls or not? So here's the update after discussions with Party President Uddhav ji Thackeray. Looking at the present scenario, it appears like a 'Didi Vs All' fight. All 'M's - Money, Muscle and Media are being used against 'Mamata Didi. Hence, Shivsena has decided not to contest West Bengal polls and stand in solidarity with her. We wish Mamata Didi a 'roaring' success, 'cos we believe She is the real Bengal Tigress !!," Raut posted a picture containing the text on Twitter.
West Bengal is likely to witness a triangular contest this time with TMC, Congress-Left alliance and the BJP in the fray.
Elections for the 294 Assembly seats in West Bengal will begin on March 27. The state is set to witness eight-phase Assembly polls this year. -- ANI
14:03 Assam: Cong promises 50% quota for women in jobs
The Congress said on Thursday that if the opposition 'Mahajot' or grand alliance is voted to power in Assam, it will ensure 50 per cent reservation for women in government jobs. Addressing a press conference, All India Mahila Congress president Sushmita Dev said the Congress-led alliance will focus more on the upliftment of women and youths.
"When the Congress-led grand alliance will form the government, we will implement 50 per cent reservation for women. This will be one of the first things we're going to do," she said. Dev asserted that the Congress and the grand alliance believe in accountability and the guarantee of jobs.
"Youths and women of Assam don't want charity. They want job opportunities and want to contribute to the economy of the state," Dev said, taking a dig at the BJP-led state government's various schemes of direct benefit transfer
13:56 Maha reports highest Covid cases since Oct
Maharashtra, Kerala, Punjab, Tamil Nadu, Gujarat and Karnataka continue to report a surge in the COVID-19 daily new cases, informed to the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MoHFW) while adding that they cumulatively account for 85.51 per cent of the new cases reported in the past 24 hours.
According to the health ministry, 17,407 new coronavirus cases were registered in the last 24 hours, out of which Maharashtra has reported the highest daily new cases at 9,855. This is the highest number recorded in Maharashtra since October 18 last year when 10,259 new cases were reported. Kerala follows with 2,765 cases while Punjab reported 772 new cases.
India's total active caseload has reached 1,73,413 today and the country's present active caseload now stands at 1.55 per cent of the total positive cases.89 deaths were reported in the last 24 hours.
Six states account for 88.76 per cent of the new deaths. Maharashtra saw the maximum casualties (42). Kerala follows with 15 daily deaths andPunjabreported12 deaths in the last 24 hours.
Twenty-three States/UTs including Madhya Pradesh, Haryana, Rajasthan, Jammu and Kashmir (UT), Odisha, Uttar Pradesh, Himachal Pradesh, Goa, Uttarakhand, Jharkhand, Puducherry, Assam, Lakshadweep, Nagaland, Sikkim, Ladakh (UT), Tripura, Andaman and Nicobar Islands, Manipur, Mizoram, Meghalaya, Daman and Diu, Dadra and Nagar Haveli and Arunachal Pradesh have not reported any COVID19 deaths in the last 24 hours.
13:56 Sitharaman, Manmohan get Covid vaccine
Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Thursday received her first dose of COVID-19 vaccine at Fortis Hospital in Vasant Kunj. Union Minister said that she is fortunate to be in India, where development and dissemination has been prompt and affordable. "Got my first dose of the vaccination against COVID-19 this morning. Thanking Sister Ramya PC for her care and professionalism. Fortunate to be in India, where development and dissemination has been prompt and affordable. #vaccinated," Sitharaman tweeted.
Former prime minister Manmohan Singh on Thursday took his first dose of COVID-19 vaccination at AIIMS in New Delhi. Singh was accompanied by his wife Gursharan Kaur, who also took the vaccine shot. They were administered Covaxin, India's first indigenously developed vaccine by Bharat Biotech.
BJP West Bengal president Dilip Ghosh
12:45 BJP confident of winning 200 seats in Bengal
Ahead of the West Bengal Assembly elections, state party chief Dilip Ghosh said on Thursday said the Bharatiya Janata Party will definitely win by 200 of the total 294 Assembly seats.
"We will not get less than 200 (seats). It will definitely be more than 200. We did not begin preparations today, we had started five years back," said Ghosh.
"We have proceeded phase-wise, we all saw results in Lok Sabha elections and we are going ahead with the mantra of '19 mein half, 21 mein saaf'," Ghosh added, speaking about the party vote share in the 2019 Lok Sabha Election.
Earlier, Dilip Ghosh on Tuesday dismissed speculations of Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) President Sourav Ganguly joining the party, saying he had no idea about it and it had not been discussed. "I have no idea about it, nor has there been any discussion in the meeting," Ghosh said. -- ANI
12:28 SOPs for Maha Covid centres after molestations
Maharashtra Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar on Thursday said a doctor who allegedly tried to molest a woman patient at a COVID-19 care centre in Aurangabad has been removed from service, and SOPs for such facilities will be issued by this month-end.
The incident took place earlier this week and the issue was raised by BJP MLA Manisha Chaudhary in the state Legislative Assembly. She said incidents of rape of women in COVID-19 care centres are not new.
"Such cases are unfortunate. People don't fear the government. We demand immediate response from the state Home minister," the MLA said. Leader of Opposition Devendra Fadnavis said he had written four letters to chief minister on the rise in incidents of crime against women in COVID-19 care centres and sought standard operating procedures (SOPs) to curb them.
"But, I haven't got any reply to my letters and SoPs have also not been published," the former chief minister said. In response, Pawar said the SOPs for COVID-19 care centres will be published by March 31. He said the doctor who tried to molest the woman patient at a COVID-19 care centre in Aurangabad has been removed from service after a preliminary probe into the incident.
"The woman is not ready to complain for fear of her identity being revealed. The doctor and her husband are friends. Strict action will be taken after completion of the inquiry," Pawar said. PTI
11:55 Rahul bats for Taapsee-Anurag on IT raids
Congress leader Rahul Gandhi used three popular Hindi idioms on Thursday to hit out at the government and accuse it of carrying out raids against those who are pro-farmers.
A day after income-tax raids on the homes and offices of Bollywood actor Taapsee Pannu, filmmaker Anurag Kashyap and others, Gandhi used the hashtag 'ModiRaidsProFarmers' with his tweet in Hindi to take a dig at the government. Putting out three popular Hindi idioms Ungliyon pe nachana', Bheegi billi banna' and Khisiyani billi khamba neeche' -- Gandhi stated what he believes they mean in the current context.
In his three pronged attack, he alleged that the Central government makes the Income Tax Department dance to its tunes, friendly media gets cowed down before the Centre and the Central government raids those supporting farmers.
The searches against Pannu and Kashyap as well as his partners who launched the now shuttered production house Phantom Films were carried out across 30 locations in Mumbai and Pune. They were part of a tax evasion probe against Phantom Films, officials said. Pannu and Kashyap, both known to be outspoken in their views on a range of issues, were shooting in Pune and are understood to have been questioned by the tax sleuths as part of the preliminary questioning that takes place during raids. -- PTI
11:25 Bomb hoax at Taj Mahal
Taj Mahal in Agra vacated after bomb call, which later turned out to be hoax.
"We'd received info from control room that a man called them up saying that there are discrepancies in military recruitment and he wasn't recruited. He said a bomb is kept at Taj Mahal which will explode soon. Security check is being done around Taj Mahal," Shiv Ram Yadav, SP (Protocol) Agra, said.
CISF has been alerted. The man's location was traced to Firozabad. Further investigation underway.
11:12 Kejriwal, parents get Covid-19 vaccine
Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal and his parents get the first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine at LNJP hospital. People above 60 years of age and those above 45 years with comorbidities are getting inoculated in this phase of COVID-19 vaccination. The Prime Minister, President, Vice President and several chief ministers have got themselves vaccinated this week.
10:39 Farmers prep for summer
As the the government refuses to see reason over the three farm laws, for over four months now, farmers in Amritsar prepare their tractor trollies for the summer season, before leaving for Delhi where they're continuing their agitation against the laws. Nets to keep away mosquitoes but ensure air circulation, fans, mosquito repellants and water filters were installed.
10:30 17,407 Covid cases in 24 hrs, 1.66 cr jabs so far
India reports 17,407 new COVID-19 cases, 14,031 discharges and 89 deaths in the last 24 hours, as per the Union Health Ministry.
Total cases: 1,11,56,923
Total discharges: 1,08,26,075
Death toll: 1,57,435
Active cases: 1,73,413
Total vaccination: 1,66,16,048
10:05 Sensex slumps over 700 points
The BSE Sensex slumped over 7oo points to slip below the key 51,000-level in early trade on Thursday, tracking meltdown in global shares due to surge in bond yields overseas.
The 30-share Sensex was trading at 50,718.36, showing a fall of 726.29 points or 1.41 per cent.
While the broader NSE Nifty was trading down 197.05 points or 1.29 per cent at 15,048.55.
On the Sensex chart, HDFC duo fell as much as 2.48 per cent, followed by Bajaj FinServ, Kotak Bank and Bajaj Finance dropping up to 2.23 per cent.
Of Sensex shares, 27 traded in the red.
Over the previous three sessions, the Sensex had risen by 2,344.66 points or 4.77 per cent, while the Nifty had added 716.45 points or 4.93 per cent.
Asian shares tumbled on Thursday after an overnight surge in bond yields dragged Wall Street lower.
"Bond yields are now exerting a major influence on stock prices, globally. After spiking to 1.6 per cent on February 25, the US 10-year yield fell to 1.4 per cent and yesterday it has again risen to 1.48 per cent impacting equity markets," said V K Vijayakumar, Chief Investment Strategist at Geojit Financial Services.
09:01 Ram temple trust buys more land to expand complex
The Ram Janmabhoomi Teerth Kshetra has purchased a 7,285 square feet land adjacent to the Ram Janmabhoomi premises in Ayodhya, in accordance with its plan to expand the temple complex area to 107 acres from the present 70 acres, an official of the trust said on Thursday.
The trust that is constructing a grand temple for Lord Ram in this holy town of Uttar Pradesh has paid Rs one crore for the 7,285 square feet land to its owner at a rate of Rs 1,373 per square foot, the official said.
Talking to PTI, trustee Anil Mishra said, "We have purchased the land as we need more space for the Ram temple."
The land purchased by the trust is located next to the Asharfi Bhawan.
Its owner Deep Narain signed a registry deed for the 7,285 square feet land in favour of Champat Rai, the secretary of the trust, on February 20 with Mishra and Apna Dal MLA Indra Pratap Tiwari as witnesses, S B Singh, the sub-registrar of Faizabad in whose office the deed was signed, said.
"I was fortunate to be part of the first purchase deed of the Ram Mandir trust," Tiwari said.
According to sources, the trust plans to acquire more land and is in talks with the owners of temples, houses and open land adjacent to the Ram temple complex.
The sources said the trust wants to expand the project to 107 acres and it still has to acquire 14,30,195 square feet of land to achieve the target.
The main temple will be constructed on five acres of land and the remaining land will be used to develop various facilities, including a museum and a library.
08:50 UP man cuts off daughter's head, takes it to police stn
A man allegedly beheaded his 17-year-old daughter in Uttar Pradesh's Hardoi district on Wednesday evening and then went to a police station with her severed head, officials said.
The accused disclosed that he took the step in a fit of rage after seeing his daughter in an objectionable position, police said.
Sarvesh beheaded his daughter with a sharp-edged weapon at Pandetara village and started walking towards the police station with her severed head, triggering panic in the area. The man was then brought to the Majhila police station, 143 km west of Lucknow, officials said.
Superintendent of Police Anurag Vats said the father had been arrested and further action was being taken. Top police officers of the district reached the spot following the incident. -- PTI
00:19 Kamal Haasan in talks with 'like-minded' parties
Veteran actor and Makkal Needhi Maiam (MNM) founder Kamal Haasan on Wednesday said he is in talks with like-minded parties for a possible electoral alliance for the April 6 assembly election.
Reiterating that he is keen on forging ties with good people, Haasan said several parties have initiated discussions for a possible alliance with the MNM and he shook hands with the All India Samathuva Makkal Katchi (AISMK).
Many parties are holding discussions and some like the AISMK shook hands. We will decide on alliance first before a confab on seat-sharing, Haasan told reporters in Chennai when his attention was drawn to AISMK founder R Sarath Kumar's assertion that an alliance between the two parties has been firmed up.
Addressing his party's general council meeting in the southern coastal district of Thoothukudi earlier in the day, Sarath Kumar claimed his party has firmed up an electoral alliance with the MNM and that Haasan will be its chief ministerial candidate.
After hectic talks, poll ties was confirmed five minutes before midnight yesterday.
In principle, we have decided to journey together. Kamal Haasan will be the chief minister candidate for the emerging alliance, Kumar said. -- PTI