Fri, 05 March 2021
Govt makes airbag mandatory for front passenger

Timeline  Refresh

23:19   Meghan to get front-page statement after privacy win in UK
A UK judge ruled on Friday that the 'Mail on Sunday' must publish a front-page statement about Meghan Markle, the Duchess of Sussex, winning her privacy claim against the newspaper's publishers Associated Newspapers Limited over articles that published extracts of a letter to her estranged father. 

Lord Justice Mark Warby said in his high court ruling the newspaper must print a single statement on the front page, referring readers to a further statement on page three. The 'MailOnline' website must also publish the statement "for a period of one week".

"The defendant [ANL] devoted a very considerable amount of space to the infringing articles, which it continued to publish for over two years," the ruling notes.

"It has devoted a very considerable number of further column inches, and many hundreds if not thousands of words, to coverage of earlier stages of this litigation and commentary upon them. The wording sought is modest by comparison and factual in nature," it reads.

Last month, Markle won her privacy claim and most of her copyright claim as the judge ruled the letter to her father Thomas Markle was "personal and private" and the 39-year-old former American actress and the wife of Prince Harry had a "reasonable expectation that the contents of the letter would remain private".

-- PTI
23:03   Govt makes airbag mandatory for front passenger
The government on Friday said it has made airbag mandatory for passenger in the front seat of a vehicle.
A gazette notification regarding mandatory provision of an airbag was issued, the  Ministry of Road Transport and Highways said.
"Ministry has issued Gazette notification regarding mandatory provision of an airbag for passenger seated on front seat of a vehicle, next to driver. This has been mandated as an important safety feature & is also based on suggestions of Supreme Court Committee  
on Road Safety," it said.
The ministry further said that it has been mandated that the vehicles manufactured on and after the first day of April 2021, in the case of new models, and 31st day of August, 2021, in the case of existing models, shall be fitted with airbag for the person occupying the front seat, other than the driver. 
The step aims at improving passenger safety in case of accident. 

-- PTI
22:44   Canada clears Johnson & Johnson vaccine, first to approve 4
Canada is getting a fourth vaccine to prevent COVID-19 as the country's health regulator has cleared a Johnson & Johnson shot that works with just one dose instead of two, officials said Friday.

Health experts are eager for a one-and-done option to help speed vaccination. Canada has also approved vaccines from Pfizer, Moderna and AstraZeneca and Health Canada is the first major regulator to approve four difference vaccines, said Dr Supriya Sharma, Health Canada's chief medical adviser. 

Canada has pre-purchased 10 million Johnson & Johnson doses, with options to buy another 28 million. It was not immediately clear when Canada would get its first shipment.

"This is the fourth vaccine to deemed safe by Canada's health experts and with millions of doses already secured, we're one stop closer to defeating this virus," Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau tweeted. 

The US approved Johnson and Johnson last month. The US Food and Drug Administration said J&J's vaccine offers strong protection against what matters most: serious illness, hospitalisations and death.
22:19   Govt forms panel for 75 yrs of independence
The government on Friday set up a 259-member high-level national committee, headed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, to commemorate 75 years of India's independence.
The members of the panel include former president Pratibha Patil, Chief Justice of India SA Bobde, NSA Ajit Doval, 28 chief ministers, artistes like Lata Mangeshkar, Nobel laureate Amartya Sen, senior BJP leader LK Advani, almost all Union ministers and several governors.

Opposition leaders like Congress chief Sonia Gandhi, CPI-M general secretary Sitaram Yechury, NCP leader Sharad Pawar, TMC supremo Mamata Banerjee and former Uttar Pradesh chief ministers Mulayam Singh Yadav and Mayawati are also part of the committee.

Earlier, a National Implementation Committee under the chairmanship of Union Home Minister Amit Shah had been constituted for the 75 years independence celebrations. A Committee of Secretaries has also been set up for this purpose.

"The government has now constituted a national committee under the chairmanship of the Prime Minister of India with 259 members, for which a gazette notification has been issued today," an official statement said.

The panel includes dignitaries and eminent citizens from all walks of life, it added.

The committee will provide policy direction and guidelines for formulation of programmes for the commemoration of the 75th anniversary of Indian Independence, at the national and international levels, a statement from the union ministry of culture said.

-- PTI
22:03   Punjab CM trashes allegation of rejecting COVAXIN
Punjab Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh on Friday trashed the Bharatiya Janata Party's allegation of Congress-ruled states rejecting COVAXIN and termed it 'a complete lie' and 'part of the ruling party's false and politically motivated propaganda.'

The CM was responding to a question during an informal media interaction after taking the first shot of the COVID-19 vaccine at Civil Hospital in Mohali. 

Categorically denying the charge, he slammed the BJP spokesperson Sambit Patra's claim that Punjab, along with other Opposition-ruled states, had expressed doubts and refused to accept the vaccination.

When asked how he was feeling after the COVID-19 vaccine jab, Singh said, "He was in 'Chardi Kalan' and was feeling absolutely fine."

An official of the Punjab health ministry later disclosed that the state had received 1.34 lakh COVAXIN doses, of which 2500 had already been administered.

The CM, in response to another question on the slow pace of vaccination in the state, said the media was contributing to scaring the people. He urged the media to spread awareness about the importance and efficacy of vaccines.

Admitting that COVID cases in Punjab were on the rise, having crossed 1000 after more than a month, Captain said, "It was a matter of concern. Our government was keeping a close watch on the situation."

He also blamed the casual and carefree attitude of the people of Punjab for the resurgence in cases.

-- ANI
21:44   Kashyap-Pannu raids political vendetta: Sena
Raids by the Income Tax department  on film personalities like Anurag Kashyap and Tapsee Pannu were part of the Centre's political vendetta against people who dared to speak out, the Shiv Sena said on Friday.

In an editorial in its mouthpiece 'Saamana', the erstwhile ally of the BJP questioned if financial transactions of film personalities who openly support the government at the
Centre were clean and transparent.

Some people have spine and show that they are exactly like the characters they portray on screen, the editorial stated, possibly a reference to Pannu who has played feisty,
combative roles in films like 'Pink', Thappad' and 'Badla'.

It further said people may not agree with the views of Kashyap, an outspoken filmmaker, but that he had every right to air them.

The editorial on Friday also touched upon the recent controversy over legendary personalities tweeting in favour of the Centre after some foreign celebrities commented in support of the farm protests.
-- PTI
21:27   Punjab becomes new Covid hotspot in India
New cases of coronavirus are on a sharp rise in Punjab. The state recorded 1,071 new Covid-19 cases on Thursday, the highest since November 2020. The daily number of active cases in Punjab surged by 671, while the number of daily deaths rose by 15. The figures for the daily rise in active cases and deaths are the worst in the country, after Maharashtra.

The five districts in Punjab that have seen the maximum number of daily cases are Jalandhar (242), Shahid Bhagat Singh Nagar (147), Hoshiarpur (115), S.A.S Nagar (111), and Ludhiana (106). 

Punjab, Karnataka, and Kerala are the only three states where the number of new Covid-19 cases is more than 1,000 so far. The infection has sharply increased in Punjab and Maharashtra, while it has moderately risen in Kerala.
20:51   MEA slams Freedom House over 'partly free' country downgrade
The ministry of external affairs on Friday slammed US government-funded NGO Freedom House over its report downgrading India's status to a "partly free" country, saying India has well established democratic practices and does not need "sermons" from those who cannot get their basics right.
Democracy watchdog Freedom House, in a new report, has demoted India from "free" to "partly free", while flagging sustained erosion of civil liberties in the country.

Asked about the report, MEA spokesperson Anurag Srivastava said, "The political judgements of Freedom House are as inaccurate and distorted as their maps."

Srivastava was referring to a wrongful depiction of India's map by Freedom House.

"For example on the COVID-19 situation, there is a widespread appreciation in the world of our response, of our high recovery rate and of our low fatality rate," he said.

"India has robust institutions and well established democratic practices. We do not need sermons especially from those who cannot get their basics right," Srivastava asserted. 

-- PTI
20:26   Mazumdar-Shaw slams calls for free vaccines
Biotechnology industry veteran Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw has slammed calls from some experts and politicians to provide COVID-19 vaccines at private hospitals for free, terming them irrational.
The Executive Chairperson of biotech major Biocon Limited noted that people have a choice to pay or get a free vaccine.
"So if they want to opt for a private hospital they must agree to pay for the vaccine too", she said.
"They are getting free vaccine at any government hospital".
The health ministry said last week that private hospitals functioning as COVID-19 vaccination centres may recover a charge, subject to a ceiling of Rs 250 per dose.     Some experts and politicians questioned this move, pointing to the practice in many countries where vaccination is free in private facilities.
Mazumdar-Shaw said: "Government is providing free vaccines for the poor and rich (at government hospitals).
The private sector must cater to the paying population and no one will complain.
If people are willing to pay for COVID-19 tests, which are Rs 500-1000 per test, why would they crib for a life protecting vaccine?".
Congress leader and former Karnataka Chief Minister Siddaramaiah said the government's decision to allow private healthcare centres to charge Rs 250 will adversely impact the
efforts to ensure immunity to everyone and to contain the spread.
He claimed that more than 70 per cent of the population will find it difficult to afford the vaccine and may prevent them from accessing it.
Mazumdar-Shaw said: "I don't agree with Siddaramaiah. This is an irrational request from Siddaramaiah".
"If you want a free vaccine, you go to a government hospital."
-- PTI
19:56   Oppn doing politics over COVID vaccine: BJP
Keeping up its attack on the Opposition over the COVID-19 vaccine issue, the BJP on Friday said all that its rivals, especially the Congress, have contributed to the matter is "politics and confusion".

BJP spokesperson Sambit Patra hit out at opposition-ruled states like Chhattisgarh, Punjab and Kerala for "refusing" to use the indigenous Covaxin, developed by Bharat Biotech, and said they are playing with the lives of people for their "petty" politics. 
On the other hand Prime Minister Narendra Modi has sent out a big message to the world by getting the Covaxin jab, he told reporters here. 
"The politics being played in the opposition-ruled states is an insult to the country's scientists and also hurts the 'aatmanirbhar bharat' sentiments," Patra said. 
"I want to ask do you not trust scientists and doctors of your country? Over 40 countries have placed order for Covaxin. But in India, we have people doing politics over it for their selfish political interests," the BJP spokesperson said.

Bharat Biotech's Covaxin vaccine, whose emergency use approval before finishing final stage testing had triggered a row, has shown an 81 per cent efficacy in preventing symptomatic COVID-19 disease in an interim analysis of the advanced clinical trial, the company said on Wednesday, boosting prospects of its usage.
Patra alleged that opposition leaders would tease the government by asking why doesn't Prime Minister Modi prove its efficacy by opting for its jab. 
Modi did it when his turn came, by following all protocols, he said, noting that President Ram Nath Kovind and Vice President M Venkaiah Naidu also opted for Covaxin.

-- PTI
19:33   Assam polls: BJP releases list of 70 candidates
The BJP on Friday released its first list of 70 candidates for the Assam assembly polls and announced that allies Asom Gana Parishad and United People's Party Liberal will contest on 26 and eight seats respectively.
Party general secretary Arun Singh told a press conference that Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal will contest from Majuli and minister Himanta Biswa Sarma from Jalukbari, constituencies these two top BJP state leaders currently represent in the 126-member assembly.

Besides Sonowal and Sarma, leaders of the Asom Gana Parishad and the United People's Party Liberal  were also present at the press conference.

The BJP in the first list has replaced 11 sitting MLAs with new faces, Singh said.

The three-phase assam assembly polls will be held on March 27, April 1 and April 6. In the first phase, 47 constituencies will go to polls, in the second phase, polling will be held in 39 constituencies and in the third phase, polling will be held in 40 constituencies.

The BJP central election committee had met here on Thursday to finalise these names.

The saffron party is pulling out all the stops to retain power in the state where it had formed government for the first time in 2016.

-- PTI
19:04   Mehbooba Mufti summoned by ED on March 15
Former Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti has been summoned by the Enforcement Directorate to its office on March 15, sources said.

Mufti was released in October last year after being detained by the government for nearly 14 months, since it scrapped special status to Jammu and Kashmir and divided the state into two Union Territories in August 2019.

Mufti is a fierce critic of the move to scrap special status to the state.

After her released, she joined hands with rival National Conference's Farooq Abdullah and others to form the People's Alliance for Gupkar Declaration.
18:52   UK's Prince Philip moves hospitals after successful heart procedure
Britain Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh, has moved back to the private King Edward VII's Hospital in central London after a "successful procedure" for a pre-existing heart condition at a cardiac specialist hospital, Buckingham Palace said on Friday.

The 99-year-old husband of Queen Elizabeth II had been shifted to St. Bartholomew's Hospital, a National Health Service facility in the City of London, where he underwent the procedure earlier this week.

"Following The Duke of Edinburgh's successful procedure at St. Bartholomew's Hospital on Wednesday, His Royal Highness has been transferred to King Edward VII's Hospital this morning," Buckingham Palace said in a statement.

"The Duke is expected to remain in hospital for continuing treatment for a number of days," the statement added.

The Duke of Edinburgh, who turns 100 in June, is the UK's longest-serving monarch's consort. He was initially admitted to hospital on February 16 as a "precautionary measure" after feeling unwell. The exact reason for his admission was not disclosed, but it was confirmed that it did not relate to coronavirus.
-- PTI
18:39   In 2013 too: Nirmala on Taapsee, Anurag raids
In comments seen as defending income tax raids on Bollywood actor Taapsee Pannu and filmmaker Anurag Kashyap, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Friday said the same persons were raided in 2013 as well, but no issue was made out then as it is being done now.

Refusing to comment on individual cases, she said it is in the national interest to know if some evasion is happening.

"First of all, I am not commenting on any A or B individual. (But) since the names were taken, (I want to say) the very same names were raided in 2013," she said in an interaction with journalists at IWPC (Indian Women's Press Corps).

It "wasn't an issue (in 2013). It's an issue now," she said.

She, however, did not talk about the outcome of the 2013 raids and if any follow-up action was taken in the last seven years.

The Income Tax Department on March 3 began raids on the homes and offices of Pannu and Kashyap as well as his partners, who launched the now-shuttered production house Phantom Films.

The searches, part of a tax evasion probe against Phantom Films, carried out across 30 locations in Mumbai and Pune, also covered Reliance Entertainment group CEO Shibhasish Sarkar and some executives of celebrity and talent management companies KWAN and Exceed.

Asked to comment on the raids, Sitharaman spoke of the 2013 raids not being an issue and they suddenly become one now.

"Answer it for the hypocrisy or answer it, saying from then this is happening till now, what's the matter (with now)," she said. "In the national interest, do we want to know if there is some evasion happening."

-- PTI
18:21   Legal process has to be followed through, can't shortcut that: UK on Mallya extradition
Noting the urgency and desire on the part of India to extradite people accused of corruption, the UK on Friday said a "legal process" is on in Vijay Mallya's matter and it has to be followed through as there cannot be any shortcut.
In May last year, the fugitive businessman lost his appeals in the British Supreme Court against his extradition to India to face money laundering and fraud charges.

Asked when can Mallya be extradited to India and if some kind of legal issue is still pending in the matter, new British High Commissioner to India, Alex Ellis, without pointing to any particular case, said he recognises the urgency, importance and the desire to get back people who are accused of corruption to India.

"Extradition is a mixture of an administrative and a judicial process, and so it goes to the courts. The home secretary has done what needs to be done from the executive's point of view in the case of Vijay Mallya. But it (the matter) is part of a judicial process and our courts work their way through those processes. It is something controlled by the judges," he said.

Asked about what kind of issue was holding up Mallya's extradition, the British envoy said, "There is a process going on. I think it is a legal process and has to be followed through, can't short cut that. That is why you have legal processes."

India has been pressing the UK to extradite Mallya after he lost his appeals in the British Supreme Court.

-- PTI
18:00   IndiGo flyer says he's Covid+, before take-off
A passenger on board an IndiGo flight announced just before take-off from Delhi that he was COVID-19 positive, prompting the pilot to return to the parking bay for safety of the passengers, sources have said.

The IndiGo flight 6E-286 was preparing for take-off for Pune on Thursday when the man told the cabin crew that he was COVID-19 positive and showed them documents to prove it.

The pilot of the Airbus A320 Neo then radioed the ground controllers about the situation and decided to return, the sources said.

An announcement was made by the pilot that passengers on three rows of seats - from 6 to 8 - should get down first and wait in a coach for containment. The COVID-19 positive passenger sat in one of these rows.

The seats had to be disinfected and seat covers changed before the flight could take off again.

While the passengers were waiting for the safety measures to be completed in the aircraft, they were provided with PPE gowns and were asked to wear them for the entire duration of the flight, sources said.

The COVID-19 positive passenger was sent to south Delhi's Safdarjung Hospital's Covid facility in an ambulance.
17:44   Apple to upgrade Find My iPhone feature to block tracking
Apple's Find My iPhone app might get a new safety feature soon as the company is working on rolling out a new feature to prevent stalking. 

As per The Verge, the safety feature would automatically prevent unknown tracking devices from broadcasting location details. 

The feature, called 'Item Safety Alerts', spotted in the iOS 14.5 beta, will notify users if an unknown device being tracked on Find My iPhone is "moving with you" so you can remove it or disable it. 

The feature seems to be designed to counteract a scenario where a Find My-compatible device is hidden in a pocket or bag and then used to track someone's movements. 

The 'Item Safety Alerts' setting was found in early versions of iOS 14.3, according to AppleInsider, but was removed until its reappearance in iOS 14.5. The setting is enabled by default in the beta and Apple seems to want it to stay on. If users turn off the setting, then the system will warn them that unknown devices can see their location without them being notified. 

Addressing the risk of stalking in Find My iPhone is important because of Apple's plans to open up the app to third-party accessories. Hiding an iPhone, iPad, or MacBook in someone's bag to track them is difficult, but a small keychain-sized device like Samsung's Galaxy SmartTag or Tile's upcoming ultra-wideband (UWB) tracker could be a lot easier. 

Apple's rumoured AirTags could also be a candidate for misuse, and reintroducing this feature into iOS might mean they are on their way to release. 

While it is not necessarily as powerful as a GPS beacon with a cellular radio, Apple's Find My iPhone network may have more reach than users think. If an Apple device comes near one of these supported trackers, it can update its location, even if the tracker doesn't have its own connection to the internet.
17:17   Car owner in Ambani bomb scare found dead
Mansukh Hiren, the man whose Scorpio was found abandoned outside Mukesh Ambani's home Antilia has been found dead. Naupada Police recovered Hiren's body on Friday.

Initial inputs suggest that Mansukh Hiren died by suicide. Police officials believe he jumped into the Kalwa creek.

On February 25, Mumbai Police was alerted about a Scorpio abandoned near Reliance Industries owner Mukesh Ambani's residence Antilia. Upon further inspection, officials recovered unassembled gelatin sticks (explosives used in quarries) and a threatening letter addressed to the Ambani family.

Investigators were able to track the registered owner of the Scorpio vehicle, one Mansukh Hiren.

In his statement to the Mumbai Police, Mansukh Hiren had claimed that his car had not been in use for over a year and that he recently drove the vehicle because he wanted to sell it.

Mansukh Hiren had said to police officials that his car broke down and he decided to park it on the Mulund-Airoli Link Road on February 16. When he returned to the spot the next day, the vehicle had been stolen.

According to the police, Mansukh Hiren had even filed a complaint about his stolen Scorpio with the Vikhroli police.
Cops recover illicit hooch in Gopalganj in 2016
Cops recover illicit hooch in Gopalganj in 2016
17:03   9 get death sentence for 2016 Bihar hooch tragedy
Nine persons were awarded the death sentence and four women were imprisoned for life by a court in Gopalganj on Friday in connection with a hooch tragedy that claimed close to 20 lives a few months after Bihar went dry. 

All the 13 surviving accused in the August 2016 case were convicted by additional district judge Luv Kush Kumar. According to special public prosecutor Ravi Bhushan Srivastava, altogether 14 people had been named as accused in the illicit liquor case and one of them had died pending trial. 

Altogether 19 people had died in the district's Khajurbani locality on August 16, 2016, upon consuming spurious liquor, four months after the Nitish Kumar government banned the sale and consumption of alcohol across the state. 

The hooch tragedy had led to a massive outcry and several police personnel were placed under suspension in its wake. 

A raid conducted in Khajurbani, a cluster of about 25-30 households, all involved in illicit liquor trade, had led to the recovery of more than 500 litres of alcohol. 

The then district magistrate had ordered the imposition of "collective fine" on the locality in a bid to deter the residents from continuing with their earlier occupation.

Those facing the gallows following the court order are Chhathu Pasi, Kanhaiya Pasi, Nagina Pasi, Lalbabu Pasi, Rajesh Kumar, Sanoj Kumar, Sanjay Chaudhary, Ranjit Chaudhary and Munna Chaudhary. 

The women co-accused getting lifers are Laljhari Devi, Kailasho Devi, Indu Devi and Rita Devi. 
16:36   How the Rupee fared today
Here's an illustration of how the rupee fared vis-a-vis the dollar
16:29   Assam BJP chief slams Priyanka's 'tea stunt'
Taking a dig at Congress general secretary for Uttar Pradesh Priyanka Gandhi's visit to the tea gardens in poll-bound Assam and an attempt at plucking the leaves, BJP Assam chief Ranjit Dass said women working at tea gardens will vote for BJP government schemes and not for the stunt ahead of elections.

Recently, Gandhi had visited the tea gardens in Assam and got photographed while plucking tea leaves with a basket on her head.

Responding to whether Congress will benefit from such visits in the elections, Dass played down Gandhi by comparing her with the benefits women workers are receiving from the BJP-ruled state and central governments.

"They are putting up foreign land tea gardens. In our tenure, pregnant women workers will get ₹ 12,000 in their bank accounts and also they will get maternity leave for six months. So, will they look at Gandhi plucking tea leaves or look at ₹ 12,000 while voting?" Dass said.

Dass also credited the government for opening of bank accounts.

"Will they (women tea garden workers) look at ₹5,000 that they get in their bank accounts or they look at five leaves plucked by Priyanka Gandhi," he asked.

The tea garden tribe community comprises 17 per cent of the state's population. A driving political force for more than 40 seats, all political parties are trying to woo this tribe ahead of polls.

The BJP had been critical of the Congress-ruled alliance that had put photographs from Taiwan instead of Assam in one of the political tweets by the party.

On Congress making a promise of 50 per cent job reservation in Assam, Dass said Congress always makes promises.

-- ANI
15:41   Arnab need not appear in court in suicide case: HC
The Bombay high court on Friday granted interim exemption to TV journalist Arnab Goswami from appearing before a magistrate's court at Alibaug in Raigad district in connection with an abetment to suicide case. 

The relief has been granted till April 16. 

Goswami, Republic TV editor-in-chief, and two others are accused of abetting the suicide of Alibaug-based interior designer Anvay Naik, who killed himself in 2018 over alleged non-payment of dues by the companies of the accused. They were arrested on November 4, 2020. 

The accused failed to get relief from the HC after which they approached the Supreme Court which granted them bail on November 11. 

On Friday, Goswami's advocate Sanjog Parab told a division bench of Justices S S Shinde and Manish Pitale that his client has been directed to appear before the chief judicial magistrate at Alibaug, a coastal town 100 km from Mumbai, on March 10 for committal of the trial in the case to a sessions court. 

The HC was hearing a petition filed by Goswami challenging the FIR lodged against him by the Raigad police in the case and the subsequent chargesheet submitted in the local court. 

The 47-year-old journalist, who has denied charges levelled against him in the case, has sought the HC to quash the FIR. Parab sought the HC to grant Goswami exemption from appearance in the local court. 

'Since we are seized of the matter, we grant the petitioner (Goswami) protection with regard to exemption from appearance till April 16 when we will hear the plea further,' the court said in its order.
15:12   All Akali MLAs suspended from Punjab assembly
Members of the Shiromani Akali Dal were on Friday suspended for the remaining part of the Budget session of the Punjab Assembly for disrupting the proceedings of the House.

Marshals then evicted the suspended MLAs from the House.

The House witnessed uproar when Chief Minister Amarinder Singh was replying on the Governor's address and legislators of the SAD rushed to the well of the House and started shouting slogans.

Speaker Rana K P Singh adjourned the House twice and asked Akali Dal members not to disrupt the proceedings.

When the Akalis continued to shout slogans in the well of the House, the Speaker first named all the members of the SAD and suspended them for the remaining part of the session.

He even asked the watch and ward staff of the assembly to remove them from the House.

When the House was adjourned, the Akalis sat on the floor of the House.

The watch and ward staff then removed them from the House.

The session would continue till March 10.   -- PTI

IMAGE: Shiromani Akali Dal legislators and others march towards Punjab Vidhan Sabha on bullock Carts on Thursday. Photograph: ANI Photo
14:56   50 women, 42 Muslims on Mamata's candidates list
Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on Friday announced the Trinamool Congress's candidate list for 291 seats out of 294 constituencies in West Bengal. 

The remaining three seats, all in Darjeeling, will be contested by TMC allies. 

The list of candidates has 50 women and 42 Muslim candidates, she announced. 

"I will contest from Nandigram, and my party colleague Sovandeb Chattopadhyay will be fighting from Bhawanipore seat," Banerjee said. "I am going to Nandigram on 9th March. On 10th March, I will file the nomination at Haldia." 

"I thank Tejashwi Yadav, Arvind Kejriwal, Hemant Soren and Shiv Sena for extending their support to me," she added.
14:49   ICICI Bank too cuts interest on home loans to 6.70%
ICICI Bank on Friday cut interest rate on home loans to 6.70 per cent, at par with market leader SBI, as part of a limited period offer. 

The second largest private sector lender said the interest rate offering, which is valid till March 31, is the lowest in a decade. 

Over the last week, there have been a slew of similar announcements by lenders on interest rates which were at 16-year-low at the systemic level. 

SBI cut its rate first to 6.70 per cent to best rated borrowers, which was followed up quickly by smaller rival Kotak Mahindra Bank that slashed its rate to 6.65 per cent and non-bank leader HDFC also reviewing it down. 

"We see resurgence in demand from consumers, who want to buy homes for their own consumption, in the past few months. We believe that this is an opportune time for an individual to buy his/her dream home, considering the prevailing low interest rates," ICICI Bank's head for secured assets Ravi Narayanan said. 

The new home loan rates are effective from March 5, the bank said, adding that borrowers of up to Rs 75 lakh will get credit at 6.70 per cent, while those above that threshold will need to pay 6.75 per cent. 
14:20   TN: EPS to contest from Edappadi, OPS from Bodinayakanur
Even as the seat-sharing talks with chief ally Bharatiya Janata Party remained inconclusive, the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam on Friday released its first list of six candidates and their constituencies for the coming assembly elections. 

Chief Minister Edappadi K Palaniswami will contest from Edappadi and Deputy Chief Minister O Panneerselvam will contest from Bodinayakanur. 

Fisheries Minister D Jayakumar will contest from Royapuram, Law Minister C Ve Shanmugam will contest from Viluppuram. 

Party functionaries S P Shanmuganathan and S Thenmozhi will contest from Srivaikundam and Nilakkottai respectively.
14:10   Suspension of 5 Congress MLAs from HP assembly revoked
The suspension of five Congress legislators from the Himachal Pradesh assembly was revoked unanimously on Friday, Speaker Vipin Parmar said. 

Leader of Opposition Mukesh Agnihotri and MLAs Harsh Vardhan Chauhan, Satpal Raizada, Sunder Singh and Vinay Kumar were suspended from the assembly on February 26 for allegedly manhandling Governor Bandaru Dattatreya. 

A resolution moved by Parliamentary Affairs Minister Suresh Bhardwaj for the revocation of their suspension was passed unanimously in the House. 

The suspension of the five lawmakers was revoked just a day before the presentation of the state budget for 2021-22 on Saturday.
14:07   OTT guidelines have no teeth, law needed, says SC
The Supreme Court of India on Friday said the new guidelines of the government on regulating OTT platforms like Netflix and Amazon Prime have "no teeth" as there is no provision of prosecution. 

The apex court said a law has to be framed to put in place a mechanism to control OTT platforms instead of mere guidelines. 

The court made these observations in the hearing on Tandav web series on Amazon Prime. in which it directed that the platform's Aparna Purohit shall not be arrested. It also told Purohit to co-operate in the ongoing investigation.
13:34   TMC MLA Samir Chakraborty opts out of polls
Amid exodus of a number of public representatives and workers, another Trinamool Congress MLA Samir Chakraborty said on Friday that he would not like to contest the West Bengal assembly elections.

The TMC leadership said that they will talk to Chakraborty on the issue.

'I have informed party supremo (Mamata Banerjee) that I don't want to contest the elections but will campaign for the party,' Chakraborty said in a Facebook post.

Chakraborty, a first time MLA from Taldangra constituency in Bankura district, is a familiar face in vernacular television news channel talk shows representing the TMC's views on various issues.

Bharatiya Janata Party leader Sayantan Basu said that in the 2019 Parliament elections, TMC was way behind the BJP in Taldangra assembly segment, which is part of the Bankura Lok Sabha constituency that was won by the saffron party's candidate Subhas Sarkar.   -- PTI
13:13   No Covid deaths reported in 18 states, UTs
As many as 18 states and union territories did not report any COVID-19 deaths in the last 24 hours, the health ministry informed on Friday morning.

The states and union territories that did not report any COVID-19 deaths in the last 24 hours are -- Andaman and Nicobar Islands, Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Chandigarh, Dadra and Nagar Haveli, Gujarat, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Ladakh, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland, Odisha, Puducherry, Sikkim, Tripura and Uttarakhand.

A total of 113 Covid-19 deaths were reported in the last 24 hours in the country, the ministry stated adding that six states account for 88.5 per cent of the new deaths.

According to the ministry, Maharashtra saw the maximum casualties -- 60, followed by Punjab and Kerala which registered 15 and 14 deaths respectively.

Karnataka and Tamil Nadu recorded four deaths each while Chhattisgarh reported three deaths.

A total of 20 states and union territories have less than 1,000 active cases.   -- ANI
12:21   Naidu offers prayers at Tirumala Balaji temple
Vice President M Venkaiah Naidu on Friday morning offered prayers at the Lord Balaji temple in Andhra Pradesh's Tirumala district.  

Naidu, who was accompanied by his wife Usha and other family members, reached the temple through the Vaikuntham Queue Complex. 

"Vice President M Venkaiah Naidu today had darshan of Lord Venkateswara at Tirumala along with his wife, Usha Naidu and other family members," read a tweet on the official handle of the vice president. 

"Naidu prayed for peace, prosperity and the well-being of the people in India and the world," it added. 

Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanams (TTD) officials gave him a traditional welcome at the Maha Dwaram area of the temple. 

After offering prayers, the vice president was rendered the Vedasirvachanam by Vedic pundits. Later he was presented with a portrait of Sri Venkateswara Swamy by a TTD executive officer.
12:04   NCB chargesheet in Sushant case names 33 accused
UPDTAE: Narcotics Control Bureau files charge sheet in Sushant Singh Rajput related drug case in Special Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act court in Mumbai.

Chargesheet names 33 accused and statements of 200 witnesses.

More than 12,000 pages in hard copy and about 50,000 pages in digital format submitted in court today, the NCB said.  -- ANI
Representational image
Representational image
11:57   Tech adoption powered Feb hiring in IT-software sector, says report
Hiring in the IT-software/software services industry registered a record growth of over 33 per cent in February compared to January because of the increased adoption of digital technologies in India, according to the Naukri JobSpeak Index for February 2021. 

Naukri JobSpeak Index for February witnessed an uptick of over 22 per cent in hiring activity at 2,356 job listings as compared to January at 1,925. 

Naukri JobSpeak is a monthly index that calculates and records hiring activity based on the job listings on website month-on-month. 

The report further revealed that with the country going back to normalcy, majority of the industries saw a positive sequential uptick in recruitment activities for the first time after the Covid-19 outbreak. 

The telecom sector has registered a sequential jump of over 24 per cent in February while other key sectors such as medical/healthcare witnessed a growth of 28 per cent, education/teaching (25 per cent), FMCG (20 per cent), and BFSI (17 per cent) too have shown growth in month-on-month hiring while the insurance sector saw a flat with 1 per cent decline in hiring trend. 

All six metros and key tier-II cities witnessed positive hiring activities in February compared with January, it observed. 

Hiring in metros showed double digit growth led by Bengaluru (31 per cent), Hyderabad (28 per cent), and Pune (24 per cent), while tier-II cities such as Ahmedabad with 31 per cent and Vadodara with 20 per cent growth witnessed positive trend sequentially. 

With the opening of schools and colleges/universities, demand for professionals in teaching/education grew by 49 per cent in February compared with January. 

Job roles in IT-software grew 31 per cent, HR/recruitment by 28 per cent and travel/ticketing by 27 per cent sequentially. 

Hiring across experience bands saw an average increase of over 23 per cent with 8-12 years band being at the top of the table with 27 per cent month-on-month increase in hiring activities. 

"Record growth in sequential hiring of 33 per cent and a significant year-on-year growth of over 12 per cent in the IT sector indicates that the wave of digital transformation will make India the epicenter of the next tech boom. 

"Around 88 per cent IT recruiters have confirmed that new jobs will be created in the coming few months as per the latest Naukri Hiring Outlook survey, further confirming that the wave of digitisation will spread rapidly," Chief Business Officer Pawan Goyal said.
11:25   Bishan Singh Bedi shifted to private room from ICU; recovering well
Former India captain Bishan Singh Bedi, who underwent a surgery to remove a blood clot in his brain a few days ago, has been shifted to a private room from the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) and is doing well, a source close to the legendary spinner said.

The 74-year-old is admitted at a city hospital.

"He (Bedi) has been shifted to a private room yesterday, He is fine now. They (doctors) will monitor him for a few more days," the source told PTI.

Bedi had undergone bypass surgery at the hospital last month after he complained of heart problems.

He underwent the procedure to remove the blood clot just after the bypass surgery.

Bedi, one of the most successful left-arm spinners from India, represented the country in 67 Tests and 10 ODIs between 1967 and 1979, scalping 266 and seven wickets respectively.

In December last year, Bedi had protested against the Delhi and District Cricket Association's (DDCA) decision to name the Feroz Shah Kotla stadium after its late ex-president and former union minister Arun Jaitley.

He had threatened to take legal action against the DDCA if his name was not removed from a spectators' stand at the stadium.   -- PTI
11:09   Sushant case: NCB to file chargesheet today
Narcotics Control Bureau to file charge sheet in Sushant Singh Rajput related drug case in Special Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act court today.

Actor Rhea Chakraborty, her brother and others are accused in the case.   -- ANI
Representational image
Representational image
11:07   Maharashtra FDA shuts 5-star hotel's store
Maharashtra's Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has found hygiene-related lapses in a five-star hotel in Bandra and sealed the store of its kitchen. 

 The action was taken following a routine inspection at the hotel under the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) norms on Thursday night. 

The FDA has sealed the store and the hotel has stopped its kitchen activities for the time being. 
10:45   Hike in platform ticket cost temporary: Railways
Amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the Ministry of Railways has termed the hike in platform ticket rates as a 'temporary measure' in the interest of the safety of passengers and to prevent overcrowding at stations.

This comes after the Indian Railways in a notification reportedly announced a hike in platform ticket rates at most stations.

Issuing the clarification, the Ministry said that regulation and controlling of the crowd at stations is the responsibility of the Divisional Railway Managers (DRMs).

'It is a temporary measure and field activity undertaken by the railway administration in the interest of the safety of passengers and to prevent overcrowding at stations,' the ministry said in a statement.

'Deterring more persons to visit the station, the platform ticket charges are increased from time to time after assessing the ground situation. The power to change charges of platform tickets has been delegated to DRMs due to field management requirements,' it added.

The ministry said the measure is in practice for many years and is used occasionally as a short-term crowd control measure and 'there is nothing new about it'.

In February, the Railways had announced the 'slight hike' in the ticket fares of short-distance passenger trains to discourage people from unnecessary travel. -- ANI
10:36   Glenmark Pharma signs on Rohit Sharma as brand ambassador
Drug major Glenmark Pharma on Friday said it has signed cricketer Rohit Sharma as brand ambassador for its product Candid Powder. 

Sharma has "officially signed on to represent Glenmark's Candid Powder, a legacy brand of the company's consumer care division", the company said in a statement. 

Sharma will be the official face of the brand as part of its 360-degree communication. 

Glenmark said Candid Powder brand is a market leader in its category, with a market share of 64 per cent in the medicated powder category. 

Glenmark's Candid Dusting Powder is used to treat four key skin problems of redness, irritation, sweat rash and fungal infections. 

Shares of Glenmark Pharma were trading 0.34 per cent lower at Rs 472.40 apiece on the BSE.
10:21   Sensex tanks by 440 pts, Nifty slips below 15k
The BSE benchmark Sensex tumbled over 440 points and the NSE Nifty cracked below the key 15,000-level in early trade on Friday in line with a slump in other Asian markets as United States bond market turmoil continued to fan investor worries globally.

The BSE gauge Sensex was trading at 50,405.99, showing a drop of 440.09 points or 0.87 per cent in the opening session.

Similarly, the NSE barometer Nifty was quoted lower by 124.75 points or 0.83 per cent at 14,956.

On the Sensex chart, IndusInd Bank, ICICI Bank, SBI, PowerGrid and HDFC Bank emerged as major laggards -- dropping as much as 3 per cent. Of the Sensex shares, 21 traded in the red.

Elsewhere in Asia, equity markets continued their decline on Friday following a retreat on Wall Street amid concerns over rising yields in bond markets.

"The 'bond bears vs equity bulls' game continues in the US market with similar reverberations in other developed and emerging markets. The highly valued Nasdaq appears to be in a short-phase of reversion to mean, having declined 10 per cent from record highs.

"The US 10-year yield has again spiked to 1.575 per cent giving further ammunition to bond bears," said V K Vijayakumar, Chief Investment Strategist at Geojit Financial Services.

Back home, both Foreign institutional investors (FIIs) and Domestic institutional investors (DIIs) turned sellers on Thursday, impacting market sentiments, he added.

On Thursday, the Sensex had shed 598.57 points or 1.16 per cent, and the Nifty had lost 164.85 points or 1.08 per cent.

Foreign investors had offloaded equities worth Rs 223.11 crore on a net basis in Indian capital markets on Thursday, according to exchange data.

Meanwhile, global crude oil benchmark Brent was trading 0.77 per cent higher at $64.32 per barrel.   -- PTI
10:09   BJP election committee meet cancelled
UPDATE: The meeting of the Bharatiya Janata Party Central Election Committee (CEC) scheduled to be held today has been cancelled.  -- ANI
10:04   India reports 16,838 new Covid cases, 113 deaths
India reports 16,838 new COVID-19 cases, 13,819 discharges and 113 deaths in the last 24 hours, as per the Union health ministry.

Total cases: 1,11,73,761
Total discharges: 1,08,39,894
Death toll: 1,57,548
Active cases: 1,76,319
Total vaccination: 1,80,05,503

Meanwhile, more than 13.8 lakh (13,88,170) vaccine doses have been administered across the country in the last 24 hours, the ministry of health and family welfare said.   -- ANI
09:45   BJP to announce Bengal, Assam candidates soon
The Central Election Committee (CEC) of the Bharatiya Janata Party has discussed the candidates for two phases of the assembly elections for West Bengal and Assam.

The party is likely to announce the list of candidates for both states soon.

Top leaders including Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Union Home Minister Amit Shah, Union Minister Nitin Gadkari, BJP chief J P Nadda and other members of the party held a meeting with leaders of Assam and West Bengal on Thursday, in New Delhi at the party headquarters.

The BJP and its two alliance partners have sealed the seat-sharing deal for 126-members Assam Assembly.

According to sources, BJP will contest on 92 seats, Asom Gana Parishad (AGP) will fight on 26 seats and United People's Party Liberal (UPPL) will field its candidates on 8 seats.

In the meeting held yesterday, the candidates for 84 seats were discussed and finalised, sources said adding that the candidate list is likely to be announced soon after a problem with the alliance partners is sorted out.

In yesterday's meeting, the CEC also discussed the candidate list for the first two phases of seats in West Bengal were discussed and finalised.

Sources said that the crucial constituency Nandigram from where Suvendu Adhikari is the current MLA was also discussed.

Adhikari, once a close aide of West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee and Trinamool Congress (TMC) leader switched to BJP in December, last year.

BJP state leaders want Adhikari to fight against Banerjee from the Nandigram seat.

A few days ago, Adhikari himself announced that he wants to contest against Banerjee.

The West Bengal chief minister had on January 18 announced that she would contest from Nandigram as well as Bhowanipur seats.

In case, Adhikari does not contest the polls from the Nandigram seat against the TMC chief, then a minister from the central government is likely to be fielded against Banerjee but the discussion is yet to be finalised, sources said.

After further discussions and issues are resolved, BJP will announce its list of candidates most likely today or tomorrow, sources added.

West Bengal Assembly elections will be held in eight phases starting from March 27 with the final round of voting taking place on April 29.

Assam Assembly elections will be held in three phases beginning from March 27 with the final round of voting taking place on April 6.

The counting of votes in both states will take place on May 2.    -- Kumar Gaurav/ANI
09:02   China hikes defence budget to $209 billion
China on Friday hiked its defence budget to $209 billion, maintaining a single-digit growth for the sixth consecutive year with a 6.8 per cent increase in 2021.

The budget hike was announced by Chinese Premier Li Keqiang at the country's Parliament, the National People's Congress (NPC).

Defending the increase, Zhang Yesui, spokesperson for the NPC, told the media here that China's efforts to strengthen the national defence do not target or threaten any country.

Whether a country poses a threat to others depends on what kind of defence policy it pursues, he said, adding that China is committed to the path of peaceful development and adheres to a defence policy that is defensive in nature.

Last year, China allocated 1.268 trillion yuan (about $196.44 billion), according to the state-run Global Times.

China's annual defence budget maintains a single-digit growth for a sixth consecutive year, state-run Xinhua news agency reported.

This year's planned defence spending will be about 1.35 trillion yuan (about $209 billion), it said.

China's defence budget is about one quarter of the US figure, which is $740.5 billion for the 2021 fiscal year, it said.

As the world's second largest economy and the most populous country, China's planned defence spending per capita in 2021 will be less than 1,000 yuan ($154), it said.

China applies strict mechanisms of fiscal allocation and budget management on its defence expenditure, which is mainly assigned to personnel, training and sustainment, and equipment, it said.

China has voluntarily downsized its armed forces by over four million troops since 1978, according to a white paper released in 2019.   -- PTI
08:03   Indian national killed in firing by Nepal police
An Indian national sustained injuries in police firing at the Indo-Nepal border allegedly after an argument with the Nepal police and died at a hospital, said Uttar Pradesh Police on Thursday.

The deceased was identified as Govinda, 26, who had gone to Nepal with two other men, Pappu Singh and Gurmeet Singh.

Pilibhit Superintendent of Police Jai Prakash said, "We have received information that three Indian nationals who had gone to Nepal had a confrontation with Nepal Police on some issue.

"One man has been shot and succumbed to injuries at a hospital. Another one crossed the border and entered the India side to save his life, while the third one is still missing."

After this incident, tension has increased in the area. The police are monitoring the situation. -- ANI
00:17   Worrying Covid resurgence in Europe, warns WHO
The World Health Organization has warned of a concerning resurgence in coronavirus cases in central and eastern parts of Europe.

New cases are also on the rise in several western European countries where rates were already high, Dr Hans Kluge, WHO regional director for Europe, said during a news conference.

"The continued strain on our hospitals and health workers is being met with acts of medical solidarity between European neighbors. Nonetheless, over a year into the pandemic, our health systems should not be in this situation, he added.

During the WHO news conference, it was also revealed that recent data around the Pfizer/BioNTech and AstraZeneca vaccines have been promising and could lead to further recommendations on dosing intervals.

The recent data on the Pfizer and AstraZeneca vaccines are encouraging, and I think this will lead us to the review of the earlier recommendations being made, said Dr. Siddhartha Datta, WHO Europes program manager for vaccine preventable disease and immunization. 

A total of 45 countries have started vaccinations in the European region. So far, 1.9 per cent of the population in 40 countries and 24.5 per cent of health workers in 20 countries have received both doses of a vaccine.