Fri, 26 November 2021
Modi may attend US online summit for democracy
23:35 Modi may attend US online summit for democracy
Prime Minister Narendra Modi has been invited to the 'Summit for Democracy' convened by US President Joe Biden next month and he is likely to participate in the virtual meet, sources said on Friday.
On December 9 and 10, President Biden will host the first of two Summits for Democracy, which will bring together leaders from government, civil society, and the private sector to set forth an affirmative agenda for democratic renewal and to tackle the greatest threats faced by democracies today through collective action, according to the US Department of State.
Sources said India has been invited to the 'Summit for Democracy' and Prime Minister Modi is likely to participate in the virtual meet.
For the United States, the summit will offer an opportunity to listen, learn, and engage with a diverse range of actors whose support and commitment is critical for global democratic renewal, the US department of state said. -- PTI
23:11 Sitting MLC Kavitha elected to T'gana legislative council
Telangana Rashtra Samithi MLC K Kavitha and five other TRS candidates were on Friday elected uncontested to the Telangana legislative council in the biennial election from local authorities' constituencies.
Kavitha, daughter of TRS president and Chief Minister K Chandrasekhar Rao, was elected from the Nizamabad local authorities' constituency, an official release said.
Kavitha, who represented Nizamabad in Lok Sabha during 2014 to 2019, lost her re-election bid to Bharatiya Janata Party's D Aravind in the general elections two years ago.
The other TRS candidates who were elected to the council are -- Pochampally Srinivas Reddy (Warangal), K Damodar Reddy and Kasireddy Narayan Reddy (both from Mahabubnagar Local Authorities' constituency) and Patnam Mahender Reddy and Sunkari Raju (both Ranga Reddy local authorities' constituency).
They were declared elected on Friday, the last date for withdrawal of candidatures.
The election is being held from nine local authorities' constituencies for 12 seats due to retirement of sitting members on January 4, 2022.
Polling would be held on December 10 for six seats. -- PTI
22:46 Maoists partially blow up under-construction police stn in Jharkhand
An under-construction police station in Jharkhand's Gumla district has been partially damaged when suspected CPI-Maoist ultras tried to blow it up, a police officer said on Friday.
About 35 per cent of the building, where 80 per cent of work had been done, was damaged in the attack that took place on Thursday night, the officer said.
A three-day bandh called by the Maoists across four states ended on Thursday night.
Superintendent of police, Gumla, Ehtesham Waquarib said the suspected CPI-Maoist elements tried to blow up the under-construction structure at Jhirmi, about 3 km from the present police station building at Kurumgarh police station, in protest against the arrest of their top leader Prashant Bose alias Kishan Da by Jharkhand police.
Raids are being conducted to nab the extremists, he said. -- PTI
22:26 India talks to Pak on Srinagar-Sharjah flight row
India on Friday said it has taken up with Pakistan the matter of overflight clearances for flights from Srinagar to Sharjah, but has not got a response yet.
Earlier this month, government officials said Pakistan has denied use of its airspace to Go First's Srinagar-Sharjah flight.
According to officials, till October 31, the flight was going through Pakistan airspace.
Asked about the issue at a media briefing, ministry of external affairs spokesperson Arindam Bagchi said, "We have taken up the matter with the government of Pakistan for overflight clearances of flights from Srinagar to Sharjah. We have not received a response."
Asked if India was considering reciprocal measures and stop overflight clearances to PIA flights to Kuala Lumpur and Singapore, Bagchi said, "I don't have any indication of whether we are looking at the kind of steps you had alluded to." -- PTI
21:57 Lalu Prasad admitted to emergency dept of AIIMS Delhi
Rashtriya Janata Dal leader and former Bihar chief minister Lalu Prasad Yadav was admitted to the emergency department of All India Institute of Medical Sciences Delhi, on Friday, hospital sources said.
The veteran politician is learnt to be suffering from fever and is drowsy.
His condition is not serious and is stable.
His blood samples have been sent for investigations and reports are awaited, a source said. --PTI
21:38 10 biggest falls in Sensex
The Sensex nosedived 1,688 points while the Nifty slumped below the 17,100-level on Friday as a new and potentially vaccine-resistant coronavirus variant sent shockwaves through global markets.
The 30-share BSE Sensex plummeted 1,687.94 points or 2.87 per cent to close at 57,107.15 following an across-the-board selloff.
Similarly, the NSE Nifty plunged 509.80 points or 2.91 per cent to 17,026.45. -- PTI
21:31 Elderly man held for video threats to Guj CM
A man in his late 60s was detained by Banaskantha police in Gujarat on Friday for allegedly issuing a video in which he demanded Rs 1 crore from Chief Minister Bhupendra Patel and threatened the latter with consequences if he failed to pay within 11 days, an official said.
Batuk Morari, also known as Mahesh Bhagat, was held from neighbouring Rajasthan during the day and has been brought in for questioning, said Banaskantha district in-charge superintendent of police Pooja Yadav.
"As kin have claimed that Bhagat is mentally unstable and may have done the alleged act due to such a condition, we will take further action only after a detailed probe. We have only detained Bhagat, who does not have any criminal background," Yadav informed. -- PTI
21:19 Kamal Haasan is stable, recovering well: MNM vice pres
Makkal Needhi Maiam president and actor Kamal Haasan, who was admitted to a hospital after he tested positive for COVID-19, is recovering well.
The 67-year old actor-politician had shared his diagnosis on social media earlier this week.
He is currently undergoing treatment at city's Sri Ramchandra Medical Center.
In a statement issued on Friday, AG Mourya, vice president, Makkal Needhi Maiam, said Haasan is stable.
"Kamal Haasan is admitted to Sri Ramchandra Medical Center and is recovering well. Heartfelt gratitude to all who are praying for his speedy recovery, his condition continues to be stable and we thank you all for your prayers and concern," the statement read.
Earlier, the actor had said he had mild cough following his return from the US.
"When I tested, the coronavirus infection was confirmed. I have isolated myself in hospital. Everyone should be on guard realising that the COVID-19 spread has not faded," he had posted on Twitter. -- PTI
20:56 Belagavi police tell pastors to lie low
A section of church-going Christians in Belagavi are alarmed by a so-called 'friendly warning' by the Belagavi police against conducting prayer meetings. The police action appears ill-motivated to many observers considering the insecurities in the Christian community over a string of recent attacks on them by militant Hindutva groups. Instead of going after those threatening law and order, the police have decided to ask Christians to lay low, reports Pooja Prasanna in the News Minute, here.
20:40 Nitish Kumar leads Bihar's pledge against liquor
Asserting that the liquor prohibition law in Bihar will be enforced 'more effectively' henceforth, Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, along with other public servants of the state, on Friday took an oath to abstain from alcohol consumption for the rest of their lives.
The CM appealed to people to cooperate in the mission as 'liquor is bad for health and society.'
"Liquor consumption is not just bad but also dangerous. The recent hooch-related deaths in the state must be highlighted to spread this message to people," said Kumar at Gyan Bhawan in Patna.
He also pointed out that rise in the number of tourists over the past few years is a significant pointer to the fact that the prohibition was not a detriment for those visiting Bihar.
Kumar, during the programme, took a pledge to keep away from all activities involving liquor.
"I, Nitish Kumar, today on November 26, 2011, at the premise of Gyan Bhawan, with complete probity taking oath that I will not consume liquor for the whole life. Whether I be on duty or not, I will not indulge in liquor-involving activities even in daily life," he pronounced.
His cabinet colleagues and other elected representatives followed suit. -- PTI
20:27 5 illegal Bangladeshi immigrants nabbed in Bengaluru: K'taka HM
Five illegal Bangladeshi immigrants were nabbed in the city on Friday, Karnataka home minister Araga Jnanendra said, terming such entrants as a threat to national security and assuring that the state government was taking efforts to identify those bringing them in.
Official sources said the city crime branch,with the assistance of other agencies,traced and arrested the Bangladeshis from Kadugodi area in Bengaluru, following which a case was registered against them under the Foreigners Act.
"Today (Friday) our CCB have taken five illegal Bangladeshi immigrants into custody.... further investigations are on regarding how they came or were brought in. They were arrested in Bengaluru," Jnanendra said.
Speaking to reporters in Bengaluru, he said, illegal immigrants are a danger to national security and hence they are being nabbed.
"Our government has taken special caution regarding illegal immigrants. Police have been directed to make a list of illegal immigrants in their police station limits and bring them to our detention centre," he added.
Responding to a question, the Minister, while conceding that there are reports of illegal Bangladeshi immigrants working as labourers in coffee estates and building construction workers, said "our aim is to finish the forces that are bringing them in. So our police are investigating to identify the source." -- PTI
19:50 Tomato prices hit Rs 75 per kg in Delhi
Retail tomato price on Friday shot up to Rs 75 per kilogram in the national capital while the rates in some parts of South India softened but were still high, according to government data.
In Chennai, retail tomato price declined to Rs 63 per kg on Friday from the peak of Rs 100 per kg on November 22. Similarly, in Thiruvananthapuram, the price dropped to Rs 80 per kg from Rs 103 per kg in the said period, the data maintained by the Consumer Affairs Ministry showed.
On Friday, in Puducherry, tomato price declined to Rs 45 per kg from Rs 100 per kg on November 22. However, in Hyderabad, the price softened slightly to Rs 72 per kg from Rs 90 per kg that prevailed during two days.
In Bangalore, tomato price in retail markets continued to rule high at Rs 88 per kg. At Port Blair, the price jumped to Rs 143 per kg on Friday from Rs 113 per kg on November 22.
According to the data, the retail tomato price in the national capital increased to Rs 75 per kg on Friday from Rs 63 per kg on November 22.
However, retail prices of onion and potato in Delhi showed signs of softening. Retail onion prices were ruling at Rs 35 per kg and potato at Rs 20 per kg.
There has been a sharp rise in retail tomato prices in major cities of south India due to widespread moderate to heavy rainfalls since the first week of November. As a result, the tomato crop has been damaged causing a tight supply situation.
Even supply of tomato to other parts of the country from key growing states of Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka has been affected.
The average all India maximum retail price of tomato rose to Rs 143 per kg on Friday from Rs 113 per kg on November 22 while all India modal price was ruling at Rs 60 per kg as against Rs 67.5 per kg in the said period, as per the government data.
19:35 COVID worries spook currency mkts, rupee skids 37 paise against the dollar
The rupee on Friday plunged by 37 paise or 0.50 per cent against the US dollar to close at a nearly month's low as investors turned cautious in view of massive selloffs in domestic equities and worries over a new variant of COVID-19.
The rupee erased all of its gains in the month while suffering its worst weekly loss of 59 paise since October 8 due to month-end dollar demand and on anticipation that the US Fed will accelerate asset tapering and hike interest rates around mid-2022, analysts said.
The local currency opened at 74.60 against the previous close of 74.52 and witnessed an intra-day high of 74.58 and a low of 74.92 against the US dollar in day trade. The rupee settled at 74.89 a dollar, the lowest closing level since October 28.
The dollar index, which gauges the greenback's strength against a basket of six currencies, was trading down 0.34 per cent at 96.44 but capped its losses on worries about newly discovered strain of coronavirus that causes COVID-19.
"Rupee erased all the gains of the month following risk-off moods after worries over a new variant of COVID-19 surges. Month-end dollar demand and unwinding of carry trade in global forex markets also weighed on rupee," Dilip Parmar, Research Analyst, HDFC Securities.
The rupee registered its biggest weekly fall after October 8, Parmar said.
A level above 75 will clear the way for 75.68, weakest level of the year, Parmar said, adding that "now, the support has been shifted from 73.80 to 74.30".
"After a sharp appreciation of around 1.4 per cent witnessed during the month, the Indian rupee has given up all of the gains and is treading into the negative trajectory as the month draws to a close," Sugandha Sachdeva, Vice President - Commodity and Currency Research, Religare Broking Ltd.
The greenback has been on a strong run scaling to its highest levels for the year as markets are anticipating that the US Federal Reserve will accelerate asset tapering and hike interest rates around mid-2022, with inflation running at levels not seen in decades, Sachdeva said.
Besides, concerns about the new highly-mutated coronavirus variant and lockdown fears in Europe are weighing on the sentiments.
According to Jateen Trivedi, Senior Research Analyst at LKP Securities, the rupee depreciated due to dollar strength and capital market sell-off on the back of new COVID strain found in South Africa. "Going ahead the rupee can be seen in a range of 74.75-75.40."
Meanwhile, Brent crude futures, the global oil benchmark, declined 5.50 per cent to USD 77.70 per barrel.
On the domestic equity market front, the BSE Sensex ended 1,687.94 points or 2.87 per cent lower at 57,107.15, while the broader NSE Nifty declined 509.80 points or 2.91 per cent to 17,026.45.
Foreign institutional investors were net sellers in the capital market on Thursday as they offloaded shares worth Rs 2,300.65 crore, as per exchange data.
M G Ramachandran
19:27 Niece who donated kidney to MGR passes away
AIADMK founder M G Ramachandran's niece Leelavathi, who donated her kidney to him in 1984, died in Chennai on Friday following a brief illness, the party said.
She was 71 years old.
MGR's elder brother M G Chakrapani's daughter Leelavathi, who was admitted to a hospital in Chennai after an illness, passed away, the AIADMK said.
Condoling her death and expressing grief, AIADMK top leaders O Panneerselvam and K Palaniswami said it was Leelavathi who had donated a kidney to MGR in 1984.
MGR, who held the reins of power for a decade in Tamil Nadu (1977-87) as chief minister, passed away on December 24, 1987.
19:10 New Covid strain not detected in India: INSACOG
The Indian SARS-CoV-2 Genomics Consortium (INSACOG) is closely tracking the new variant of COVID-19 called B.1.1.529 and its presence has not been detected in the country yet, officials said on Friday.
The new variant, feared to have a high amount of spike mutations, has been detected in South Africa, with the authorities there confirming 22 positive cases associated with it on Thursday.
Commenting on the development, a senior scientist with INSACOG said the consortium is closely tracking the new variant of COVID-19 called B.1.1.529 and its presence has not been detected yet in the country.
Health Ministry sources said INSACOG is "very closely monitoring" the situation to check for the presence of this variant and expedite the results of genomic analysis of positive samples of international travellers.
A review meeting on the matter was also learnt to have been held.
There has been no isolation of the variant so far, a source said. Samples of all international passengers are being collected as usual and positive samples will be specifically looked for B1.1.529 on priority. The Ministry of Health and the Department of Biotechnology have already reviewed the situation, the source said.
The Centre on Thursday asked all states and union territories to conduct rigorous screening and testing of all international travellers coming from or transiting through South Africa, Hong Kong and Botswana where the new COVID-19 variant of serious public health implications has been reported.
In a letter addressed to additional chief secretary/principal secretary/secretary (Health) of all states and union territories, Union Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushan asked them to ensure that samples of travellers turning positive are sent to designated genome sequencing laboratories promptly.
It has now been reported by National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) that multiple cases of a COVID-19 variant B.1.1529 have been reported in Botswana (three cases), South Africa (six cases) and Honk Kong (one case), Bhushan said in the letter.
18:57 Two Udhampur-Durg express coaches catch fire in MP, no casualties reported
Two AC coaches of Udhampur Express train caught fire on Friday afternoon near Hetampur station between Morena and Dholpur in Madhya Pradesh, police said.
No injury to any passenger was reported as the fire was brought under control in time, they said.
The train was on its way to Durg from Udhampur.
The fire started in the A1 coach around 3.30 pm and spread to the A2 coach as the train was near Hetampur station.
The train was halted immediately.
The passengers managed to come out by breaking the window panes, local Saraichola police station in-charge Rishikesh Sharma said.
There were over 70 passengers in the two coaches, according to railway officials.
Smoke from the two coaches also entered another AC bogie and the generator van, eyewitnesses said.
The A1 and A2 coaches and passengers' luggage got damaged, police said.
The damaged coaches were separated from the train.
Local people played a major role in dousing the flames in time, eyewitnesses said.
18:39 5% GST on auto-rickshaws via Uber, Ola etc
Auto-rickshaw services provided through e-commerce platforms would attract 5 per cent GST from January 1, 2022.
The Revenue Department under the Finance Ministry through a notification dated November 18 withdrew the GST exemption available to auto rickshaws providing passenger transport services through e-commerce platforms.
While the passenger transport services provided by auto rickshaw drivers through offline/ manual mode would continue to be exempt, such services when provided through any e-commerce platform would become taxable at 5 per cent effective January 1, 2022.
"This amendment shall have a direct impact in the case of e-commerce industry players who provide an online platform to a large number of auto rickshaw drivers for connecting with riders. E-commerce industry has established a very crucial place in the market when it comes to facilitating passenger transport services owing to its cheaper, convenient and flexible manner of booking rides.
"The newly inserted provision would render rides booked through e-commerce platform costlier thereby creating tax disparity for the same service when provided through offline vis--vis online mode," EY India Tax Partner Bipin Sapra said.
18:34 Serum Institute resumes COVID-19 vaccine exports
Serum Institute of India -- the world's largest vaccine maker -- on Friday said it has resumed exports of Covishield vaccine to low- and middle-income countries with the first batch of consignment leaving its Pune facility.
The vaccine maker has cumulatively produced 1.25 billion doses so far, a company statement said.
"The first batches of its COVISHIELD COVID-19 vaccine left the SII manufacturing facility in Pune earlier today, for distribution to low- and middle-income countries via the COVAX mechanism," it said.
"SII's supply of doses via COVAX is expected to increase substantially into Quarter 1 2022," it added.
The losing scrips today
18:00 Investors lose Rs 7.35 lakh cr as markets plummet
Investors' wealth tumbled by over Rs 7.35 lakh crore on Friday, with the BSE benchmark Sensex plummeting 1,688 points amid a global selloff triggered by a new coronavirus variant.
The 30-share index tumbled 1,687.94 points or 2.87 per cent to close at 57,107.15.
During the day, it tanked 1,801.2 points or 3.06 per cent. Tracking the weak trend, the market capitalisation of BSE-listed companies slumped by Rs 7,35,781.63 crore to reach Rs 2,58,31,172.25 crore.
"It was expected that today we could have a dull day amid a holiday in the US market but surprisingly we wake up with negative cues of a new COVID variant from South Africa that led to black Friday on global markets.
"Indian markets that were already underperforming joined the global market mayhem where Nifty and Sensex lost about 3 per cent in a day. Other than the COVID new variant, FIIs' selling is a key concern for the Indian equity market because they are selling relentlessly in our market for the last many days," said Parth Nyati, founder, Tradingo.
IndusInd Bank tanked 6.01 per cent, followed by Maruti, Tata Steel, NTPC, Bajaj Finance and HDFC which declined up to 5.27 per cent.
17:39 Scheduled international flights resume from Dec 15
Scheduled international flights to and from India will be resumed from December 15, the Civil Aviation Ministry said on Friday.
Scheduled international flights have been suspended in India since March 23 last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. However, special international passenger flights have been operating since July last year under air bubble arrangements formed with approximately 28 countries.
In an order, the Civil Aviation Ministry stated: "The matter of resumption of scheduled commercial international passenger services to and from India has been examined in consultation with the Ministry of Home Affairs, the Ministry of External Affairs and the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare and it has been decided that scheduled commercial international passenger services to and from India may be resumed from December 15, 2021." PTI
PM Modi with Russian President Putin in 2019
17:28 Putin to visit India on December 6
Russian President Vladimir Putin will pay official visit to India on December 6 for 21st India-Russia annual summit: MEA.
The 1st meeting of 2+2 dialogue between Foreign & Defence Ministry of India and Russia will be held in Delhi on 6th December.
Defence Minister Rajnath Singh and EAM Dr S Jaishankar will represent the Indian side, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu will visit on 5-6 December.
17:18 Sunburn to take place on a smaller scale in Goa
Two days after Goa Chief Minister Pramod Sawant announced that the 15th edition of the Sunburn festival will not be held this year, the organisers, on Friday, issued a new statement, saying they are conducting the music event on a smaller scale.
The statement was shared on the festival's official Instagram page.
"This press note is issued with respect to the recent speculation about Sunburn festival Goa in the media. Percept Live would like to clarify that an initial application was made to host Sunburn Festival at Vagator in Goa at a similar mega scale as it used to take place earlier. Under advice from the Government of Goa, it was decided to not pursue this mega festival any further due to covid pandemic. Hence the Sunburn mega festival is not taking place in Goa this year," the statement read.
17:16 Serious if Covid variant bypasses immunity: AIIMS
Dr Sanjay Rai, Centre for Community Medicine, AIIMS on the new Covid variant: "It's a new variant. Wait and watch, we don't know its overall infectivity but probability is that it may bypass your existing immunity either acquired through vaccine or natural infection. If it bypasses, it'll be a serious issue."
16:59 'Kejriwal Travels' adds Kartarpur to pilgrimages
The Delhi government will send senior citizens of the city on free pilgrimage to Kartarpur Sahib in Pakistan on January 5 next year, an official statement said on Friday.
Kartarpur Sahib and Velankanni Church in Tamil Nadu have been added to the Mukhyamantri Tirth Yatra Yojna' after Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal's orders, it said.
The first batch of pilgrims to Kartarpur Sahib will leave on January 5, 2022 in a deluxe bus from Delhi, and the first train for Velankanni Church will leave on January 7 next year, it said.
Meanwhile, Delhi Revenue Minister Kailash Gahlot reviewed preparations for the pilgrimages under the scheme in a high-level meeting on Friday.
WHO Spox Christian Lindmeier
16:58 Weeks to know impact: WHO on Covid variant
WHO Spox Christian Lindmeier on the new COVID variant:
"Early analysis show that this variant has a large number of mutations that require and will undergo further study. It'll take a few weeks for us to understand what impact this variant has. Researchers are working to understand more," Lindmeier says.
Advisers to the World Health Organization are holding a special session today to flesh out information about a worrying new variant of the coronavirus that has emerged in South Africa, though a top expert says its impact on COVID-19 vaccines may not be known for weeks.
The technical advisory group on the evolution of COVID-19 was meeting virtually to discuss the so-called B.1.1.529 variant that has caused stock markets to swoon and led the European Union to recommend a pause in flights to southern Africa.
16:38 Bihar, Jharkhand, UP emerge as poorest states in India: Niti Aayog
Bihar, Jharkhand and Uttar Pradesh have emerged as the poorest states in India, according to Niti Aayog's first Multidimensional Poverty Index (MPI) report.
As per the index, 51.91 per cent population of Bihar is poor, followed 42.16 per cent in Jharkhand, 37.79 per cent in Uttar Pradesh.
While Madhya Pradesh (36.65 per cent) has been placed fourth in the index, Meghalaya (32.67 per cent) is at the fifth spot.
Kerala (0.71 per cent), Goa (3.76 per cent), Sikkim (3.82 per cent), Tamil Nadu (4.89 per cent) and Punjab (5.59 per cent) have registered the lowest poverty across India and are at the bottom of the index. While among union territories (UTs), Dadra and Nagar Haveli ( 27.36 per cent), Jammu & Kashmir, and Ladakh (12.58), Daman & Diu (6.82 per cent) and Chandigarh( 5.97 per cent), have emerged as the poorest UTs in India, Puducherry having 1.72 per cent of its population as poor, Lakshadweep (1.82 per cent ), Andaman & Nicobar Islands (4.30 per cent) and Delhi (4.79 per cent) have fared better.
Bihar also has the highest number of malnourished people followed by Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh and Chhattisgarh. Bihar also ranks worst when it comes to percentage of population deprived of maternal health, percentage of population deprived of years of schooling, school attendance and percentage of population deprived of cooking fuel and electricity.
16:06 New Covid variant: How worried should we be?
The variant is called B.1.1.529 and is likely to be given a Greek code-name (like the Alpha and Delta variants) by the World Health Organization on Friday.
It is also incredibly heavily mutated.
Prof Tulio de Oliveira, the director of the Centre for Epidemic Response and Innovation in South Africa, said there was an "unusual constellation of mutations" and that it was "very different" to other variants that have circulated.
16:02 Sensex nosedives 1,688 pts amid new Covid scare
Equity benchmark Sensex plummeted 1,688 points on Friday, tracking a massive selloff in global markets as concerns over a new COVID-19 variant spooked investors across the world.
The 30-share index ended 1,687.94 points or 2.87 per cent lower at 57,107.15.
Similarly, the NSE Nifty plunged 509.80 points or 2.91 per cent to 17,026.45.
IndusInd Bank was the top loser in the Sensex pack, tanking over 6 per cent, followed by Maruti, Tata Steel, NTPC, Bajaj Finance, HDFC and Titan. On the other hand, Dr Reddy's and Nestle India were among the gainers.
Photographer Steve McCurry with Sharbat Gula
15:54 'Afghan Girl' from National Geographic magazine cover granted refugee status in Italy
The "Afghan Girl" made famous after featuring on the cover of National Geographic magazine in 1985 has been granted refugee status by Italy's Prime Minister Mario Draghi, according to an Italian government press office statement.
The striking portrait of then 12-year-old Sharbat Gula, a Pashtun orphan in a refugee camp on the Afghan-Pakistan border, was taken in 1984 and published the next year. Gula was tracked down decades later living in Pakistan, after no one knew her name for years.
Read more here.
15:49 Haryana CM's passion has just been discovered
Haryana Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar has enrolled himself for a three-month online basic certificate course in Japanese culture and language started by Kurukshetra University here.
A KU release said on Friday that Khattar has become the first student to recently enrol for this course. The release quoting Khattar said that there is no age limit to get an education and learn.
"One should keep on improving one's skills and knowledge," said the 67-year-old BJP leader. Khattar said he had a passion for learning foreign languages from the very beginning, so he has enrolled in the Japanese language course started by Kurukshetra University.
15:34 Kharge calls for Oppn meet on Monday
Senior Congress leader and Leader of Opposition in Rajya Sabha Mallikarjun Kharge has called a meeting of the Opposition parties on November 29, informed sources.
Earlier on Thursday, Congress leaders reached party interim president Sonia Gandhi's residence for a meeting of the party's Parliament Strategy Group to discuss the issues that the party will raise in the winter session of the Parliament beginning on November 29.
The party is likely to several issues including raise price rise in the winter session.
Earlier, on November 25, Congress general secretary KC Venugopal had told ANI, "We will raise the issue of inflation in the upcoming session of Parliament. Congress Parliamentary Strategy Group will meet in New Delhi on November 25 to finalize the strategy for the upcoming Parliament session."
The government's agenda for the winter session includes 26 new bills including legislation on cryptocurrency and another to repeal three farm laws. -- ANI
15:30 African lions at Singapore Zoo recover from COVID-19
African lions at the Singapore Zoo have fully recovered from COVID-19 and will be exhibited to public from Saturday, a senior official of the wildlife group that manages the zoo said on Friday.
Five African lions and nine Asiatic lions at the Singapore Zoo were isolated in two separate groups as a result of the infections.
The Asiatic lion exhibit was closed on November 7, while the African lion exhibit was closed on November 9.
"The lions have fully recovered after testing positive for SARS-CoV-2 on November 9, 2021. As a precaution, the whole lion pride had been quarantined and closely monitored by our veterinarians and animal care team," said a spokesperson of the Mandai Wildlife Group.
"The Animal and Veterinary Service (AVS) lifted the isolation order on the African lions on November 23, 2021, as the lions no longer showed any symptoms," the Channel News Asia quoted the spokesperson as saying.
The Night Safari's Asiatic lions are still in isolation though, as they continue to show mild symptoms of COVID-19. However, they are all bright, alert and recovering well, said the spokesperson. The animal care and veterinary teams continue to provide them with the necessary care and ensure they stay well-hydrated, said the official. -- PTI
15:28 Chhole-poori as farmers celebrate 1 yr of protests
Hundreds of tractors bedecked with lights and posters rolled through the Singhu border protest site as loud Punjabi and Haryanvi songs filled the air on Friday to mark one year of the protest against the three farm laws that the government is set to formally withdraw.
Farmers flaunting colourful turbans, sunshades, long beards and twirling moustaches danced on tractors, distributed sweets and hugged each other to mark the occasion that seemed like a festival.
Children and elderly, men and women, carried flags of their farmer unions and raised slogans of victory "Inquilab Zindabad" and "Mazdoor Kisan Ekta Zindabad" amid passionate non-stop beating of drums.
The assembly area near the centrestage saw a large gathering resembling the early days of the protest. The attendees included businessmen, lawyers and teachers among others, who belonged to families of farmers.
Sarender Singh (50) from Patiala, who has spent six months at the protest site managing crowd near the centrestage, said, "It's a special day. It's like a festival. It's after long that such a large number of people have gathered here." The special day called for a special breakfast. "Aaj jalebi, pakode, kheer aur chole poori bane hain," he said.
On Friday morning, farmers held special prayers to pay tributes to those who died during the course of the protest. Lakhan Singh (45) from Barnala in Punjab was protesting against the farm laws at the Delhi-Haryana border when he lost his father early this year.
"It would have been better had he been here today. But I know his soul will be at peace now," Lakhan said. Bhagwan Singh (43) from Mavi village in Patiala lost his friend Najar Singh (35) in the seventh month of the protest and burst into tears remembering him.
"My friend, the sole breadwinner of his family, left behind three small daughters and elderly parents. We miss him," he said.
Farmers remembered how they walked and cycled for days to reach the site of the protest a year ago and kept the fire burning despite the government "trying to scuttle the movement".
Kirpal Singh (57), who reached the Singhu border December last year, showed an injury mark on his right leg he got from police baton. "Batons, barricades, treats, nails... nothing could stop us. We won!" he said.
14:51 BJP will form govt in Maha by March 2022: Rane
Union Minister Narayan Rane on Friday claimed that the Bharatiya Janata Party will form the government in Maharashtra by March 2022.
While speaking to media, Rane said, "Very soon, the BJP will form government in Maharashtra and you will see the expected change."
Asked how the BJP will form government in March, Rane said, "Some talk that has to be kept secret. The three-party Maha Vikas Aghadi govt will not be surviving for long in Maharashtra."
Shiv Sena had parted ways with the BJP after the 2019 Assembly polls and formed the government with the Nationalist Congress Party and the Congress after the 2019 Maharashtra Legislative Assembly election. -- ANI
14:31 India asks Pak to expedite trial in 26/11 Mumbai terror attacks case
India on Friday summoned a senior diplomat of the Pakistani High Commission on the 13th anniversary of the 26/11 Mumbai terror attacks, and pressed for an expeditious trial in the case, saying the families of 166 victims from 15 countries are still awaiting closure.
In a note verbale handed over to the diplomat, the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) also asked Pakistan to abide by its commitment to not allow territories under its control for terrorism against India.
"A note verbale reiterating India's call for an expeditious trial in the Mumbai terror attacks case, and calling on the Government of Pakistan to abide by its commitment to not allow territories under its control for terrorism against India was handed over to him," the MEA said.
"It is a matter of deep anguish that even after 13 years of this heinous terror attack, the families of 166 victims from 15 countries across the globe still await closure, with Pakistan showing little sincerity in bringing the perpetrators to justice," it said in a statement.
The MEA asserted that the terror attack was planned, executed and launched from Pakistani territory.
"We once again call on the government of Pakistan to give up double standards and to expeditiously bring the perpetrators of the horrific attack to justice," it said.
"This is not just a matter of Pakistan's accountability to the families of the innocent victims who fell to terrorists, but also an international obligation," the MEA said. It said India will continue to make every effort to seek justice for the families of the "victims and the martyrs" of the attack. -- PTI
14:22 Param Bir to appear before commission on Monday
A single-member commission probing the allegations of corruption levelled by senior IPS officer Param Bir Singh against former Maharashtra home minister Anil Deshmukh on Friday directed Singh to appear before it on November 29.
The Justice K U Chandiwal commission, formed in March this year to probe the allegations against Deshmukh, an NCP leader, gave the direction to the former Mumbai police commissioner.
On Thursday, the commission had warned that if Singh did not appear before it, he would face the execution of the bailable warrant issued against him earlier.
As the matter came up for hearing on Friday, Singh's lawyer told the commission that the senior IPS officer won't be able to appear during the day as he is in Thane in connection with a case registered against him. The lawyer said Singh was ready to appear on Saturday, but the commission directed him to remain present before it on Monday instead.
Earlier, the commission had fined Singh on multiple times for failing to appear before it.
Also, a bailable warrant had also been issued against him by the commission.
The former Mumbai police commissioner, declared absconding by a court, appeared before the Mumbai police's crime branch on Thursday to record statement in an extortion case registered against him. The IPS officer is facing several cases of extortion cases in Maharashtra, including two in Thane city
14:14 Singapore restricts travellers from 7 African countries hit by new Covid strain
Singapore will restrict entry of people with recent travel history to seven African countries after reports that a potentially more contagious COVID-19 variant may be circulating there, the Ministry of Health said on Friday.
From 11.59 PM (local time) on Saturday, all long-term pass holders and short-term visitors with travel history within the last 14 days to Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa and Zimbabwe will not be allowed to enter Singapore or transit in the city state.
The restrictions also apply to those who have obtained prior approval for entry into Singapore.
Singapore citizens and permanent residents returning from these countries will have to serve a 10-day stay-home notice at a dedicated facility.
There have been recent reports of a potentially more contagious variant of the COVID-19 virus, the B.1.1.529, which may be circulating in Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa and Zimbabwe, the Channel News Asia quoted the MOH as saying. -- PTI
RIL is among the top losers today
14:04 New Covid variant spooks Sensex, down 1450 pts
Indian equity benchmarks nosedived on Friday with the benchmark S&P BSE Sensex falling more than 1,500 points and Nifty 50 index dropping below its important psychological level of 17,100 on weak global cues after investor sentiment was dented by detection of a new and possibly vaccine-resistant coronavirus variant.
Reliance Industries, HDFC, HDFC Bank, ICICI Bank, Kotak Mahindra Bank, Infosys and State Bank of India were among the top drags on the Sensex.
Many countries have begun booster doses for Covid, but not India
13:45 11 fully vaccinated IFS officers test Covid +ve
Eleven out of the 48 Indian Forest Service officers, who had gone for a mid-career training programme to Lucknow from the Indira Gandhi National Forest Academy in Dehradu, have tested positive for COVID-19 on their return.
Eight of them tested positive on their way back in Delhi on November 19 and three more on November 24 after returning to Dehradun, District Surveillance Officer, Rajeev Kumar Dikshit, said on Friday.
The infected officers have been kept under isolation at the Academy's old hostel and the area has been converted into a containment zone, he said.
All the infected officers are fully vaccinated and have only mild symptoms of COVID-19, Dikshit said.
The group, which returned to Dehradun via Delhi, had a smooth passage to Uttarakhand as Covid SOP has been relaxed in the state with people coming from outside now exempted from the mandatory formality of producing a negative RT-PCR test report at the borders.
The first positive COVID-19 case in Uttarakhand had also been reported from the Academy.
The official said Covid cases may have gone down in recent months but the threat of a possible third wave has not gone away. "So people must not lower their guard. They must wear masks and maintain social distancing to stay safe," he said.
The new variant is believed to be resistant to vaccination
13:23 Deadly Covid variant not found in India so far
The new COVID-19 variant B.1.1.529, which is causing an increase in new COVID-19 infections in South Africa, has not been found in India so far, said official sources on Friday.
Newly identified COVID-19 variant -- B.1.1.529 -- is causing an increase in new COVID-19 infections in South Africa.
The World Health Organization (WHO) has called for a special meeting to discuss the new Covid variant.
"We don't know very much about this yet. What we do know is that this variant has a large number of mutations. And the concern is that when you have so many mutations, it can have an impact on how the virus behaves," Dr Maria Van Kerkhove, WHO's the technical lead on Covid-19, said in a briefing. -- ANI
13:11 Dalit groom stoned for riding horse in Rajasthan
Six people were detained after they pelted stones at a Dalit man's marriage procession after he rode a mare against their wish, police said on Friday.
Nearly a dozen people were injured in the incident that took place in Jaipur's Kotputli town late on Thursday, police said.
"Some people from a certain community had objected to Dalits riding a mare during marriage ceremonies," Pragpura Station House Officer Shiv Shankar said.
"Anticipating trouble, the Dalit groom's family members had given a police complaint prior to the marriage. Accordingly, a police team was deployed to ensure smooth conduct of the ceremony. However, some people managed to pelt stones at the procession," the offices said.
The accused have been booked under Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989, and the Indian Penal Code, Shankar said. He said another person from the victim's family is slated to get married a few days later, and adequate protection will be provided to them. PTI
Follow masking, vaccination, observe Covid protocol
13:09 Karnataka college Covid cases rise to 182
As many as 116 more people, mostly students, from SDM College of Medical Sciences and Hospital, Dharwad, have tested positive for COVID-19, taking the total number of infections there to 182, official sources said on Friday.
Two hostels of the institution were sealed on Thursday, after 66 medical students had tested positive.
According to official sources, 690 people including students, staff and primary contacts have been tested so far.
Dharwad Deputy Commissioner Nitesh Patil on Thursday had said, a students' event almost a week ago, might have resulted in the spread of infection.
Noting that some parents had also attended the event, officials said, all parents who attended have also been asked to undergo tests.
All those who tested positive have been isolated, they said, adding that those infected were all fully vaccinated, and have shown very mild symptoms. PTI
12:46 SIT formed to probe cases against Param Bir Singh
The Thane police commissioner has formed a Special Investigation Team (SIT) to probe an extortion case registered against former Mumbai Police commissioner Param Bir Singh.
A Deputy Commissioner of Police (DCP) level officer is investigating the case.
Meanwhile, the former Mumbai police commissioner submitted his statement regarding a complaint registered against him by Sonu Jalan at a police station in Thane.
Singh had also filed an application for the cancellation of a court proclamation order against him in Esplanade Magistrate's court, which declared him "absconding".
The court will hear the matter on November 29.
12:27 Dynastic parties against democracy: PM
PM Modi delivering his speech in Parliament on Constitution Day, takes a dig at the Congress, National Conference.
"Constitutional spirit is hurt when political parties lose their democratic character. Look at dynastic political parties from Kashmir to Kanyakumari, this is against the democratic spirit. Dynastic parties are matter of concern to people committed to Constitution.
"If a party is run for generations by a family and entire party system is with a family then that is biggest problem for healthy democracy."
Constitution Day is celebrated in the Central Hall of the Parliament
President Ram Nath Kovind, Vice President M Venkaiah Naidu, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Lok Sabha Speaker Om Birla and others are taking part in the event.
"Party for the family, by the family... do I need to say more? If a party is run by one family for many generations, then, it isn't good for a healthy democracy," said PM Modi in the Central Hall of Parliament.
"The spirit of the Constitution has also been hurt, every section of the Constitution has also been hurt, when political parties lose their democratic character in themselves. How can the parties which have lost their democratic character protect democracy?" asked the Prime Minister.
12:06 Covaxin 50% effectiveness against Delta Covid 'not bad': Experts
The decline in the effectiveness of Covaxin, India's indigenous COVID-19 vaccine, from 77.8 per cent to 50 per cent during a Delta-driven case surge in April and May this year is neither bad nor surprising, say scientists.
The differing figures led to some concern, particularly among those who had received Covaxin, but several scientists allayed the misgivings, pointing to the potency of the Delta strain, the intensity of the second Covid wave in India and the level of exposure among healthcare workers.
The results of the first real-world assessment of Covaxin published in The Lancet Infectious Diseases journal on Wednesday showed that two doses of the vaccine, also known as BBV152, are 50 per cent effective against the symptomatic disease.
The study assessed 2,714 hospital workers at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) in Delhi, from 15 April to 15 May, who were symptomatic and underwent RT-PCR tests.
Earlier, an interim study based on Phase 3 clinical trials showed that two Covaxin doses had 77.8 per cent efficacy against symptomatic disease and present no serious safety concerns.
One possible reason for this drop is also infection period when Delta variant was the most prominent. The original 77 per cent figure is for Wuhan strain.
In general, all vaccines are at least marginally less effective against the Delta variant as compared to Wuhan strain, said Vineeta Bal from Pune's Indian Institute of Science Education and Research. Immunologist Satyajit Rath added that it is not clear whether the decrease in protection between the two studies is a real difference. -- PTI
11:54 Some people didn't celebrate Constitution Day: PM
PM Modi addresses Parliament on Constitution Day.
Constitution Day is celebrated in the Central Hall of the Parliament
President Ram Nath Kovind, Vice President M Venkaiah Naidu, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Lok Sabha Speaker Om Birla and others are taking part in the event.
"Today on the anniversary of the 26/11 terrorist attacks in Mumbai, I pay tribute to all brave soldiers of the country who sacrificed their lives while fighting the terrorists," the PM says.
"Constitution Day is the day to salute this House, where many of India's leaders brainstormed to give us the Constitution of India. We also pay tribute to Mahatma Gandhi and all those who fought during India's independence struggle.
"Our Constitution binds our diverse country. It was drafted after many hindrances and united the princely states in the country.
"The PM's barbs against political parties, primarily the Congress party, a constant in every speech.
He says, "Constitution Day should have been celebrated each year after 1950 to educate all about what went into the making of the Constitution. But some people did not do so. This day should also be celebrated to evaluate whether what we do is right."
"During this 'Azaadi Ka Amrit Mahotsav', it is necessary for us to move forward on the path of duty so that our rights are protected."
11:29 Protesting farmers mark one year of stir
The farmers at the Gazipur border on Friday marked the first anniversary of the protest against the farm laws.
The completion of one year of farmers' protest coincides with the repeal of three farm laws, which was announced by Prime Minister Narendra Modi last week.
As the government climbed down on the three farm laws just a few months ahead of the crucial elections in five states, the protesting farmers see this as an opportunity to push for the law on minimum support price.
Speaking to ANI, Kawarveer Singh, a farmer from Pilibhit district, said, "In the last one year, during the protest, almost two farmers have died per day at Delhi borders while agitating against the farm laws. The future generation would understand that how farming and land were saved by the farmers."
"However, the ground reality has not changed. Over the years, prices of diesel, insecticides, and pesticides are soaring. We are now realising the side effects of the Green Revolution. We can recover our cost only if you pay us the actual cost of the produce. So for this, we are protesting and demanding a law on MSP," he added.
Meanwhile, the Delhi police have beefed up security arrangements at various points of the national capital. -- ANI
11:12 Bryan Adams tests Covid positive for 2nd time
Canadian musician Bryan Adams has once again tested positive for coronavirus.
The 62-year-old singer tested positive soon after arriving in Milan, Italy ahead of the unveiling of the 2022 Pirelli calendar, which he photographed.
This marks the second time the singer has caught the virus in the past
"Here I am, just arrived in Milano, and I've tested positive for the second time in a month for Covid. So it's off to the hospital for me. Thanks for all your support," Adams wrote on Instagram on Thursday.
The singer also shared pictures of him at the Milan Malpensa airport and in an ambulance.
Adams also tested positive for COVID-19 on October 30 when he had to pull out from his scheduled appearance at Tina Turner's Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony.
The singer was to perform a medley of songs including It's Only Love, which is a duet between Adams and Turner from his 1984 album.
10:59 Earthquake of 6.1 magnitude rocks north-east
A 6.1 magnitude earthquake rocked the north-east region, including Assam and Mizoram, in the early hours of Friday, the national seismology department said.
There has been no report of loss of life or damage to property so far.
The quake was epicentered near the boundary with Myanmar near Mizorm, as per data shared by the department. It was recorded at 5.15 am, at a depth of 35 km, the data showed.
The tremors were felt in several places in Assam, Mizoram, Manipur and Tripura.
The northeastern region sits on a high seismic zone, making earthquakes frequent in the area.
A 6.4 magnitude quake had shaken Assam and parts of the region on April 28.
10:35 Param Bir seeks cancellation of 'absconder' tag
Former Mumbai Police commissioner Param Bir Singh has filed an application for the cancellation of a court proclamation order against him in Esplanade Magistrate's court, which declared him 'absconding'.
The court will hear the matter on November 29.
Singh, who has been declared 'absconding' by a Mumbai court, had arrived at Crime Branch unit 11 office in Kandivali to join the investigation of the Goregaon extortion case.
Later on Thursday, Singh appeared before the Mumbai Police Crime Branch in connection with an extortion case registered against him.
The top court granted him interim protection from arrest and directed him to join the investigation.
A Bench headed by Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul asked Singh to join the investigation and issued notices to the Maharashtra government and Central Bureau of Investigation on Singh's plea.
The apex court now posted the case for hearing on December 6. -- ANI
10:30 Nation grateful to security forces: Kovind on 26/11
President Ram Nath Kovind on Friday paid tributes to the martyrs and homage to the victims of the 26/11 Mumbai terror attacks, and said the nation will always be grateful to the security personnel who laid down their lives in the line of duty.
On November 26, 2008, 10 Lashkar-e-Tayiba terrorists from Pakistan arrived by sea route and opened fire, killing 166 people, including 18 security personnel, and injuring several others during the 60-hour siege in Mumbai
"My heartfelt tributes to the martyrs and homage to the victims of the 26/11 Mumbai terror attacks. The nation will always be grateful for the bravery and sacrifice of the security forces who laid down their lives in the line of duty," Kovind tweeted.
10:08 Active Covid cases rise after several days
India logged 10,549 new coronavirus infections taking the country's total tally of COVID-19 cases to 3,45,55,431, while the active cases rose to 1,10,133, according to the Union health ministry data updated on Friday.
The death toll climbed to 4,67,468 with 488 fresh fatalities, according to the data updated at 8 am.
The daily rise in new coronavirus infections has been below 20,000 for 49 straight days and less than 50,000 daily new cases have been reported for 152 consecutive days now.
The active cases comprise 0.32 per cent of the total infections while the national COVID-19 recovery rate was recorded at 98.33 per cent, the health ministry said.
An increase of 193 cases has been recorded in the active COVID-19 caseload in a span of 24 hours.
India's COVID-19 tally had crossed the 20-lakh mark on August 7, 2020, 30 lakh on August 23, 40 lakh on September 5 and 50 lakh on September 16. It went past 60 lakh on September 28, 70 lakh on October 11, crossed 80 lakh on October 29, 90 lakh on November 20 and surpassed the one-crore mark on December 19.
India crossed the grim milestone of two crore on May 4 and three crore on June 23. -- PTI
Representative image only
09:28 Army foils infiltration bid, Pak ultra killed
A Pakistani terrorist was killed in Bhimber Gali village of Rajouri in Jammu and Kashmir, the Indian Army informed on Friday.
"On the night of November 25, 2021, Pak terrorist attempted an infiltration bid along LoC in Bhimber Gali sector (J&K). Alert Indian Army troops successfully foiled the infiltration attempt and One Pak terrorist has been eliminated," PRO Jammu said.
The body of the terrorist along with weapons and ammunition has been recovered.
Further investigation is underway. -- ANI
08:50 Search operation in Poonch still on: J-K DGP
Jammu and Kashmir police chief Dilbag Singh on Thursday said the combing and search operation in Poonch district is still on as security forces suspect the presence of terrorists in the Bhatta Durrian forests where nine soldiers were killed in October.
Efforts are being made from Pakistan to increase infiltration of terrorists in Jammu and Kashmir but a majority of those are being foiled, he said.
"Bhatta Durrian combing and search operation has been going on for quite some time. The operation is still on," the director general of police (DGP) told reporters in Jammu.
"After infiltration in that area, we suspect the presence of some terrorists there. The operation continues and our troops who are deployed there will be able to account for that," he said.
Armed with sophisticated weapons, a large number of Army personnel and policemen have been battling the threat of ambushes and IEDs to carry out cleaning up operations in dense forests, valleys and cave hideouts in Poonch.
The operation was initially launched to flush out a group of terrorists who attacked Army search parties on October 11 and 14, killing nine soldiers, including two Junior Commissioned Officers.
Over a dozen people, including two women, were detained for questioning after it came to light that they had allegedly provided logistic support to the terrorists, officials said, adding during this operation, four IEDs planted by terrorists were detected and defused safely.
About infiltration attempts, the DGP said efforts are being made from the Pakistan side to increase infiltration. But the border grid is very strong and working effectively to foil the attempts, he said.
Several infiltration bids have been foiled in Baramulla, Kupwara, Bandipora in Kashmir and Rajouri and Poonch in Jammu region. No active terrorist is left in Srinagar, Singh said but underlined that there is the presence of 'hybrid terrorists'.
"We have identified them and taken action. The number of the terrorists operating in Jammu and Kashmir are the lowest now," the DGP added. -- PTI
08:28 New Covid strain: WHO calls emergency meet
The World Health Organisation (WHO) is convening an emergency meeting on Friday to discuss the potentially rapidly spreading COVID strain found in South Africa and Botswana, the Financial Times reported, citing sources.
Earlier, the Daily Mail reported that scientists from the United Kingdom had warned of the appearance of a coronavirus strain, which contains 32 mutations, in Botswana.
Many of the mutations indicate its high transmissibility and resistance to vaccines, the strain has more changes in the spike protein than all other COVID-19 variants.
The South African National Institute of Infectious Diseases later also confirmed that the new strain had been found in South Africa, with 22 cases to date. -- ANI/Sputnik
01:30 Assam, Mizoram CMs meet to discuss border row
Assam and Mizoram on Thursday decided to increase the fencing along their inter-state border, which has seen violence that claimed the lives of five Assam Police personnel and a civilian last July.
Mizoram Chief Minister Zoramthanga described his about two-hour long meeting with Assam counterpart Himanta Biswa Sarma as "cordial".
The two chief ministers met to resolve their boundary disputes apparently following an intervention of the Union home ministry, officials said.
Assam and Mizoram share a 164-km-long border.
"We had a very good meeting. We are like brothers. Tomorrow we will meet the Union Home Minister (Amit Shah) together. We will try to increase our fencing all along the border," Zoramthanga told reporters after the meeting.
However, Sarma said they did not discuss anything except enjoying the dinner together.
"We enjoyed the dinner together since we are good friends. We will meet the home minister tomorrow. Nothing discussed today," Sarma said.
Zoramthanga also said he was looking forward to many more of such "progressive meetings".
"Thank you for your warm hospitable reception Shri @himantabiswa ji and Shri @ATULBORA2 ji. Cordial discussions on various developmental topic for the welfare of Northeast India was discussed. Looking forward to many more progressive meeting," Zoramthanga tweeted with the hashtag #peace.
He also tagged Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Union Home Minister Amit Shah in his tweet.
Atul Bora is Assam's border affairs minister.
According to an official, the central government wants a peaceful resolution of the border dispute between Assam and Mizoram and the Union home minister is believed to be in regular touch with the two chief ministers for a peaceful resolution of the issue.
Following the July 26 violence, both Assam and Mizoram Police registered separate cases naming each other's political leaders and police and civil officials.
However, some of these cases were withdrawn following a truce.
The chief secretaries and DGPs of the two states on July 28 attended a meeting chaired by Union Home Secretary Ajay Bhalla where the decision to deploy a neutral central force (CRPF) at the clash site was taken.
Five Assam Police personnel and a civilian were killed and over 50 others, including a superintendent of police, were injured when the Mizoram Police opened fire on a team of the Assam officials on July 26 following clashes along the two states' border.
While the Mizoram government claimed that a 509 square-mile stretch of the inner-line reserve forest notified in 1875 under the Bengal Eastern Frontier Regulation of 1873 belongs to it, the Assam side insisted that the constitutional map and boundary drawn by survey of India in 1933 was acceptable to it.