Sun, 19 September 2021
Channi to take oath as Punjab CM tomorrow
20:41 Kerala to impose stringent lockdown where COVID cases are at high level
Special intensified, stringent lockdown restrictions will be enforced in areas of Kerala, where the spread of COVID-19 is at critical-levels, the State government said on Sunday.
The stringent lockdown restrictions would be in force in areas where the weekly infection population ratio (WIPR) is above 10 and the affected places would be notified by the district disaster management authority (DDMA) on a weekly basis, said an order from Chief Secretary V P Joy.
The order said the affected areas would be publicised through websites and other media.
The District Collectors shall further notify micro-containment zones as per guidelines and enforce the lockdown restrictions therein, the order read.
It said contact tracing and quarantine shall also be monitored and strengthened in all districts.
Today, the State reported 19,653 fresh COVID-19 cases and 152 deaths, which took the caseload to 45,08,493 and fatalities to 23,591 till date.
The number of people who recovered from the infection since Saturday was 26,711 which brought the total recoveries to 43,10,674 and the number of active cases to 1,73,631, an official press release said.
19:59 Channi to take oath as Punjab CM tomorrow
Channi, who was elected the Congress Legislature Party leader on Sunday, met the governor in the evening and said, "The oath-taking ceremony will take place at 11 am on Monday."
He was flanked by state Congress chief Navjot Singh Sidhu and other leaders.
Channi will be the first Dalit to hold the post in the state.
Channi's election as the CLP leader came a day after Amarinder Singh resigned as the chief minister amid a bitter power tussle with Sidhu.
A minister in the outgoing Amarinder Singh cabinet, Channi's selection assumes significance as the dissension-riven Congress faces the Assembly polls in less than five months.
19:38 Delhi Police arrests third suspect linked to NC leader's murder
A third arrest has been made in connection with the killing of of National Conference leader Trilochan Singh Wazir whose highly decomposed body was found at a flat in Moti Nagar in West Delhi, police said on Sunday.
The body of Wazir, a former member of the Jammu and Kashmir Legislative Council, with the head wrapped in a plastic bag was found on September 9 in a washroom of the flat, which was taken on rent by his acquaintance Harpreet Singh (31), a native of Amritsar, according to police.
Deputy Commissioner of Police (Special Cell) Sanjeev Kumar Yadav said the accused, Harmeet Singh, has been arrested from Jammu.
The case of murder was later transferred to the crime branch which along with assistance from the Special Cell of Delhi Police was working on the case to nab the suspects.
This is the third arrest in the case so far while raids are still being conducted to nab Harpreet Singh who is still at large.
Police had earlier arrested two people from Jammu -- Rajender Chaudhary alias Raju Ganja (33) and Balbir Singh alias Billa (67).
The four accused had planned to dump the body at a metro station or IGI airport and visited the places but could not succeed, police had said.
They had been planning his killing for the past two-three months and planted fake evidence to mislead the police, taking inspiration from Bollywood movie "Drishyam", they had said.
19:27 Kerala records 19,653 fresh Covid cases, 152 deaths
Kerala on Sunday reported 19,653 fresh COVID-19 cases and 152 deaths, which took the caseload to 45,08,493 and fatalities to 23,591 till date.
The number of people who recovered from the infection since Saturday was 26,711 which brought the total recoveries to 43,10,674 and the number of active cases to 1,73,631, an official press release said.
As many as 1,13,295 samples were tested in the last 24 hours, the release said.
Of the 14 districts, Ernakulam recorded the highest with 2,810 cases followed by Thrissur (2,620), Thiruvananthapuram (2,105), Kozhikode (1,957), Palakkad (1,593), Kollam (1,392), Malappuram (1,387), Kottayam (1,288) and Alappuzha (1,270), it said.
Of the new cases, 84 were health workers, 105 from outside the State and 18,657 infected through contact with the source of it not clear in 807 cases.
There are currently 5,12,854 people under surveillance in various districts, of whom 4,87,587 are in home or institutional quarantine and 25,267 in hospitals.
18:16 Charanjit Singh Channi to be next CM of Punjab
The Congress announced on Sunday that Charanjit Singh Channi has been elected as the leader of the Punjab Congress Legislative Party (CLP), paving the way for his appointment as the chief minister.
The development comes a day after Congress veteran Amarinder Singh resigned as chief minister amid a bitter power tussle with state Congress chief Navjot Singh Sidhu with less than five months to go for the Assembly polls.
"It gives me immense pleasure to announce that Sh. #CharanjitSinghChanni has been unanimously elected as the Leader of the Congress Legislature Party of Punjab," AICC general secretary Harish Rawat said in a tweet.
17:43 Following Covid restrictions, Ganesh idols immersed in Pune sans procession
For the second year in a row, Lord Ganesh's idols were immersed without public processions on the last day of the ten-day festival here in Maharashtra on Sunday because of COVID-19 restrictions.
Amid chants of "Ganpati bappa morya", idols of the five "Manache (prominent) Ganpati"- Kasba Ganesh, Tambdi Jogeshwari, Guruji Talim, Tulshibaug, and Kesari Wada- were immersed in artificial tanks set up at their respective pandals.
As per the tradition, the idol of Kasba Ganesh, the first ''manacha Ganpati'', was placed in a palanquin which was carried amidst the chants of "Ganpati Bappa Moraya". It was immersed in the decorated water tank in the pandal premises.
"Keeping the restrictions in mind and the scare of COVID-19, we simply celebrated the whole festival. As Kasba Mandal believes in discipline, the immersion took place in the presence of ten devotees at the pandal premises," said Shrikant Shete, one of the trustees of the mandal.
Kasba Ganapati is a 'gramdaivat' (town deity) of Pune city and is thus called the first 'manacha' Ganapati.
Shete said many devotees preferred virtual darshan of Lord Ganesh in the last ten days in view of curbs on social gatherings.
"We received a huge response to the virtual darshan facility. Over three lakh views (of devotees) were recorded on the social media platforms," Shete added.
Besides Kasba Ganesh, idols of Lord Ganesh from the other four Mandals were immersed at their respective pandals by 2 pm.
Meanwhile, police seized dhol and other musical instruments outside the Tulshibaug mandal as some devotees gathered there started dancing and tried to take out a procession.
"As some devotees started playing dhols and other instruments, we immediately stopped them," said Ravindra Shisave, joint commissioner of police (law and order).
He said all the mandals are cooperating with the administration by adhering to the COVID-19 rules and regulations.
In normal times, big processions are taken out on the last day of the festival called "Anant Chaturdashi".
All shops under the non-essential category remained closed in the municipal corporation limits of Pune and Pimpri Chinchwad and in three cantonment areas on Sunday to avoid crowding on roads.
17:34 ATS arrests Mumbra man linked to Delhi terror bust
The Maharashtra Anti-Terrorism Squad has arrested one more person in connection with the Pakistan-supported terror module busted by Delhi Police recently, an ATS official said on Sunday.
The man, whose identity was not revealed by the ATS, was nabbed from Mumbra town in neighbouring Thane district on Saturday night after information received about him from Zakir Hussain Shaikh (45), an accused who was arrested by the ATS from Jogeshwari in Mumbai on Friday, he said.
Based on information revealed by Shaikh, the state ATS conducted multiple raids and nabbed the man from Mumbra, the official said, adding that they were probing his role into the terror module.
The Delhi Police's Special Cell on Tuesday busted a 'terror module' with the arrest of six men, including two terrorists trained by Pakistan's intelligence agency ISI.
The module was allegedly planning to carry out blasts across the country.
Jan Mohammad Shaikh, one of the six suspects, is a resident of Dharavi in Mumbai.
Zakir Shaikh, whose name cropped up during the interrogation of arrested suspects, was in touch with Jan Mohammed Shaikh, sources earlier said.
A separate FIR under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act was registered against Zakir Shaikh in Mumbai.
The ATS told a Mumbai court on Saturday that Zakir Shaikh was arrested in connection with a criminal conspiracy to carry out terror attacks using explosives in Maharashtra and elsewhere.
He was in touch with one 'Anthony' from a "neighbouring country", and the ATS wanted to find out who was this person and what was his role in the conspiracy, it had said.
The court on Saturday sent Zakir Shaikh in the ATS custody till September 20.
17:07 Former BJP Union minister Babul Supriyo says life changed after joining TMC
Former union minister and BJP MP Babul Supriyo, who switched over to West Bengal's ruling TMC in a surprise move, on Sunday said life has now opened a new avenue for him from the prospect of being "retired hurt" from public affairs.
Supriyo also said he has nothing to prove to anybody, and he has been involved in politics from the grassroots level since becoming an MP in 2014 on a BJP ticket from Asansol.
"Life has opened a new avenue for me from the prospect of being retired hurt from public life," Supriyo said, addressing a press conference at the Trinamool Congress headquarters here.
"I received a lot of love and support from a party (TMC) with which I had a very tumultuous relationship," he said.
Blowing hot and cold for several weeks after being dropped from the Narendra Modi government, the BJP MP sprang a surprise on Saturday when he joined the TMC and asserted he will work for the development of the state.
Supriyo, a two-term MP from Asansol, had earlier declared he will quit politics, before being persuaded by the BJP leadership to continue as a Lok Sabha member.
16:12 Treasure hunt at Jagannath Temple for lost hoard
A treasure hunt has started at the Emar Mutt (Monastery), located in the southeastern corner of the 12th Jagannath Mandir, with teams of archeologists armed with metal detectors searching for a lost hoard.
The search started on Thursday is being carried out following a request by the Narayan Ramanuj Das, the Mahant (head) of Uttarparshwa Mutt, who is in charge of Emar Mutt. The Mutt authorities as well as historians suspect that a hoard of valuables is buried inside the premises.
The belief that a stash is buried underground comes from discoveries of two earlier troves. In 2011, the police had stumbled on a treasure trove of 522 silver ingots weighing 18 tonnes inside the Mutt worth about Rs 90 crore. Earlier in April this year 45 more silver ingots weighing about 35 kg each were found inside the Mutt.
Apart from silver ingots, a silver tree and silver flowers, about 16 antique swords, and a bronze cow sculpture were also recovered from the Mutt, stablished by Ramanujacharya in 1050 when he came to Puri.
A special team of the State Archaeology Department in presence of officials of Shree Jagannath Temple Administration (SJTA), Puri district collector Samarth Verma, Puri SP KV Singh and trust member of the Emar Mutt, began the search inside the premises of the Emar Mutt in the pilgrim town on Thursday to trace hidden valuables.
Puri Sub-Collector, Bhabataran Sahu said: "As of now, no material was detected during Thursday's inspection. We will take appropriate action on the report of the technical team which scanned the premises."
The treasures recovered earlier from the mutt are now kept in the state treasury in Puri and guarded by armed police.
As many as 18 mutts belonging to Ramanuja sect was established in Puri by Ramanujacharya. All these mutts are closely linked to the Shree Jagannath Temple and are involved in rituals associated with the Temple.
15:29 AICC wants Sukjinder Randhawa as next Punjab CM
After discussion with the Punjab MLAs, AICC has proposed the name of Sukhjinder Randhawa for the post of chief minister, a meeting is going on at the residence of Rahul Gandhi with Ambika Soni in Delhi, sources told ANI.
Meanwhile Congress MLA Pritam Kotbhai said in Chandigarh that all MLAs have named Sukhjinder Randhawa for CM before Congress high command, and he will become the CM.
15:10 BJP's Murugan likely to be elected unopposed in RS bypoll from MP
Union minister L Murugan is likely to be elected unopposed in the Rajya Sabha bypoll from Madhya Pradesh next month as the main opposition Congress has decided not to field its candidate.
The BJP on Saturday announced Murugan's name for the bypoll will be held on October 4.
The vacancy emerged in Madhya Pradesh after the then Union minister Thaawarchand Gehlot resigned following his appointment as Karnataka governor in July this year.
Talking to PTI on Sunday, MP Congress spokesman Bhupendra Gupta said, "We are not going to field a candidate. MP party chief and Leader of Opposition in the Assembly Kamal Nathji has decided not to field any candidate for the RS bypoll in the state."
A senior state BJP leader expressed confidence that Murugan would have a comfortable entry to the Rajya Sabha.
Before Murugan's name was announced, the name of BJP Scheduled Caste Morcha's national president Lal Singh Arya, as well as of senior party leaders Kailash Vijaywargiya and Uma Bharti were doing the rounds for the seat in the Upper House of Parliament, according to party insiders.
In the 230-seat MP Assembly, the BJP has 125 MLAs, while the Congress has 95. Besides, two seats are held by the Bahujan Samaj Party, one by the Samajwadi Party and there are four Independents, while three seats are lying vacant.
Out of the 11 Rajya Sabha seats in the state, the BJP currently has seven and the Congress three.
Right now, the BJP Rajya Sabha members from the state are M J Akbar, Jyotiraditya Scindia, Dharmendra Pradhan, Ajay Pratap Singh, Kailash Soni, Sumer Singh Solanki and Sampatiya Uike.
The Congress's members to the Upper House of Parliament from the state are Digvijaya Singh, Vivek Tankha and Rajmani Patel.
As per the Election Commission, the last date of filing nominations for the Rajya Sabha bypoll is September 22, and last date of withdrawal of nomination is September 27.
14:54 India to make its own GSLV-Mk III and SSLV: DoS
The Department of Space (DoS) plans to realise entirely-built rockets -- GSLV-Mk III and SSLV -- from Indian industry partners, in addition to PSLV, according to a top official of its commercial arm NSIL.
NSIL (NewSpace India Limited) has received three bids -- HAL-L&T, BEL-Adani-BEML, and BHEL, in response to the request for proposal (RFP) floated by it for end-to-end production of PSLV (Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle).
"We are now going through the techno-commercial evaluation (in respect of the three bids)", NSIL Chairman and Managing Director, Radhakrishnan D, told PTI here.
He said the process will be completed within the next two months with one of the bidders bagging the contract. The selected bidder will be responsible for realisation of five numbers of PSLV.
Immediately after selection of the bidder to produce the entire PSLV, NSIL will release Expression of Interest (EOI) for end-to-end production of another operational rocket -- GSLV-Mk III (Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle) -- in a similar fashion, Radhakrishnan said.
"I am targeting before the end of this year (to release EOI for GSLV-Mk III)", he said.
NSIL also has plans to realise SSLV (Small Satellite Launch Vehicle), being developed by the Indian Space Research Organisation (SSLV) with the first development flight expected by this year-end, through Indian industry partners.
"We are waiting for the first mission (of SSLV) to happen successfully", Radhakrishnan said. "This (SSLV) will be an ideal candidate for industry production".
SSLV is a three-stage all solid vehicle and has a capability to launch up to 500 kg satellite mass into 500 km low earth orbit (LEO) and 300 kg to Sun Synchronous Orbit (SSO).
The new generation compact rocket has been designed to meet "launch on demand" requirements in a cost-effective manner for small satellites in a dedicated and rideshare mode, according to officials of Bengaluru-headquartered ISRO.
Industrialisation of space activities is gaining momentum in India.
About 40 space startups and industries are in consultation with ISRO for support related to various domains of space activity such as development of satellites, launch vehicles, develop applications and provide space-based services.
India's Foreign Direct Investment policy in the space sector is also getting revised which, the ISRO Chairman and DoS Secretary K Sivan believe, will open up huge avenues for foreign companies to invest in the country.
Earlier this month, the DoS entered into a Framework MoU with two spacetech startups -- Skyroot Aerospace and Agnikul Cosmos -- for access to ISRO facilities and expertise towards the development and testing of subsystems/systems of space launch vehicles.
14:20 3.1 magnitude tremor hits Kutch, no casualty
A tremor of 3.1 magnitude hit Gujarat's Kutch district on Sunday, but there was report of any casualty or property loss, officials said.
The tremor was recorded at 8.38 am, with its epicentre 26 km North-North East (NNE) of Dudhai, at a depth of 9.3 km, the Gandhinagar-based Institute of Seismological Research (ISR) said in its update.
There was no report of any casualty or damage to property, officials of the Kutch district disaster management unit said.
Kutch, located in a 'very high seismic zone', over 300 km from Ahmedabad, witnesses mild tremors regularly.
On August 21 this year, the district recorded a 4.1 magnitude earthquake, with its epicentre near Dholavira, officials earlier said.
As per the Gujarat State Disaster Management Authority, the 2001 earthquake in Kutch was the third largest and second most destructive in India over the last two centuries, killing around 20,000 people.
14:01 LIVE! Guj ATS seizes Iranian boat with Rs 250 cr drugs
An Iranian boat with seven crew members and a huge consignment of heroin was apprehended in Indian waters off the Gujarat coast, in an operation carried out jointly by the state Anti-Terrorist Squad and the Coast Guard, officials said on Sunday.
The boat, seized during the operation conducted on Saturday night, carried an estimated 30 to 50 kg of the contraband, worth about Rs 150 to Rs 250 crore in the international markets, but the exact amount of the drug present in the vessel will be known after its rummaging, they said.
The seven crew members, all Iranian nationals, were apprehended, the officials said.
"On an intelligence based joint act, @IndianCoastGuard with ATS #Gujarat apprehended #Iranian boat in #Indian waters with 07 crew carrying #drugs. The boat is brought to the nearest port for further rummaging and investigations," a defence PRO of Gujarat said on their official Twitter handle.
Gujarat ATS DIG Himanshu Shukla told PTI that the operation was launched on the basis of information that an attempt was being made to smuggle in heroin through the sea route.
"A joint operation was launched with the Indian Coast Guard, and the Iranian boat and its seven crew members were apprehended. We presume that somewhere between 30 and 50 kg of heroin, worth Rs 150 crore to Rs 250 crore, was loaded on the boat. The consignment may be more, as the exact amount can be known only after rummaging of the boat," Shukla said.
13:24 Don't do anything to damage Congress's interest: Gehlot to Captain
A day after Congress veteran Capt. Amarinder Singh resigned as the Punjab chief minister, Rajasthan CM Ashok Gehlot implored him to think about the party's interests and not do anything that may damage it.
His remarks come after Singh on Saturday indicated that the dissension-driven party could see more tension.
After submitting his resignation, Singh had said, "As far as my future politics is concerned, there is always an option and I will use that option when time comes."
On Sunday, Gehlot said Singh is a respected leader and advised him to listen to his "inner voice" and keep the party's interest in forefront.
"I hope that Captain Amarinder Singh will not take any such step which will harm the Congress party. Captain Sahib himself said the party had kept him as the Chief Minister for nine-and-a-half years. He has served the people of Punjab by working to the best of his capacity," Gehlot said in a statement posted on Twitter.
"I personally believe that the Congress president chooses the chief minister at the risk of inviting displeasure of several leaders who are in the race for chief ministership. However, when the same CM is changed, he/she is displeased and holds the decision wrong," he said, adding that the high command sometimes has to take decisions in the interest of the party with feedback from MLAs and the people.
Gehlot said the time now is to rise above oneself and think of the country and the Congress party.
"The direction in which the country is moving due to fascist forces is a matter of concern for all the people. Therefore, at such a time, the responsibility of all of us Congressmen increases in the interest of the country. We have to rise above ourselves and think in the interest of the party and the country," he said.
13:02 Anupam Kher gets Hindu studies PhD from US univ
The Florida-based university conferred upon Kher the Degree of Honorary Doctor of Philosophy in Hindu Studies at a special event here on Saturday.
"First of all, the kind of work that people are doing over here in the field of education, especially the teachings of Hinduism that I believe in and have grown up with, I thought it was an honour that I had to accept," he added.
While in the US, Kher also travelled to several cities with his new show Zindagi Ka Safar, in which he has lively interactions with the audience.
The actor said he had a "feel good" and "therapeutic experience" with the show, particularly as the COVID-19 pandemic forced people to stay at home and curtailed face-to-face interactions.
Kher, who also shot for his film Shiv Shastri Balboa in the country, met several Indians and discovered that after the disruption caused by the pandemic, people have this great need to communicate.
He said he felt that it's important to have social interactions "to celebrate life all over again, to spread the message of hope because according to me, hope is the heart of life."
Kher said he had not planned how the show Zindagi Ka Safar would pan out.
"The whole idea of the show was basically to reach out to people and tell them it is fine, everything will be fine. It was therapeutic for me and it was therapeutic (for the audience).
"I had no idea what I was going to do. So I told them my life story, played 'antakshari' with them. I was making fun of myself the most, telling them about my childhood days. It was basically a feel-good experience," he said, adding that his Shiv Shastri Balboa co-star Jugal Hansraj coordinated the show.
Kher has been getting offers to take the show to other cities in the US and around the world, he shared.
"The show worked very well because people were wanting to hear somebody with an experience, people were ready to talk with somebody who had a sense of humour. It was not just a show, it was a therapy with a lot of laughter and some tears also."
Even during the pandemic, Kher has been busy and has done three films, including The Last Show and Kashmir Files and also wrote a book.
"Sometimes you have to be an example and not let the circumstances of life bog you down. You need to reinvent yourself as a person," he said.
Recalling his father's teachings, the actor said "failure is an event, never a person".
"When you are faced with a situation where you say there's a fear of failure, let me push my boundaries, you discover that you have the courage, you have the strength and you can look for new horizons.
"At this stage of my life, I think I'm much more successful as a person. I know my flaws, I can work on them. I know my plus points and I can enhance them. I understand life. I don't carry the burden of Anupam Kher on my shoulders. The lighter I am, the higher I go."
Post his return to India, Kher will start shooting for his next film Oonchai with filmmaker Sooraj Barjatya.
12:15 India may soon reopen to tourists with free visas
Amid a decline in Covid cases in the country, India may soon reopen its doors for foreign tourists for the first time in one-and-a-half years, officials said.
First five lakh foreign tourists will be issued visas free of cost, in an attempt to revive the tourism, hospitality and aviation sectors, badly hit by the COVID-19 pandemic since March 2020 when a nationwide lockdown was announced.
Top Union home ministry officials are deliberating with all stakeholders on the expected date and modalities for opening up of the country for foreign tourists.
A formal announcement allowing foreign tourists to visit India may come within the next 10 days, an official from the Home Ministry said.
The decision is being taken in view of the declining number of COVID-19 cases in the country.
On Sunday, 30,773 new cases were reported while active cases had come down to 3.32 lakh.
India's COVID-19 vaccination coverage has also crossed 80 crore as on Saturday.
The free visa to the tourists will be issued till March 31, 2022 or the issuance of five lakh visa, whichever is earlier. The total financial implication for this would be Rs 100 crore.
The free visa move is expected to incentivise short-term tourists visiting India, the official said.
The cost for a month-long e-tourist visa is country specific but is around USD 25. A year-long multiple entry e-tourists visa charge is around USD 40.
The e-tourist visa has been suspended since March 2020.
The home ministry officials said they are still deliberating whether the entry of foreign tourists will be allowed with certain conditions like limiting it to only vaccinated travellers for now and having a negative list of countries where COVID-19 cases remain a concern.
The opening up is also expected to be phase-wise to see the response and implications, another official said.
Many countries, including some of those in Europe, have already opened up for tourism.
12:03 Over 78.58 cr Covid vaccine doses provided to states, UTs so far: Centre
More than 78.58 crore COVID-19 vaccine doses have been provided to states and UTs so far, the Union Health Ministry said on Sunday.
Further, more than 1.16 crore doses are in the pipeline.
The ministry said over 5.16 crore balance and unutilised vaccine doses are still available with the states and UTs to be administered.
The vaccination drive has been ramped up through availability of more vaccines, advance visibility of vaccine availability to states and UTs for enabling better planning, and streamlining the vaccine supply chain, the ministry said.
11:33 No consensus on CM yet, Punjab CLP meet deferred
A meeting of the Punjab Congress Legislative Party, which was slated for 11 am on Sunday, has been deferred, with party sources saying that a consensus is yet to be made on the name of the new CLP leader.
A party leader said the Congress Legislative Party (CLP) meeting has been deferred.
Party sources said a consensus is yet to be made on the name of the new CLP leader, who will be the new chief minister of Punjab after the resignation of Amarinder Singh on Saturday.
The names of former Punjab Congress chief Sunil Jakhar, current state state unit president Navjot Singh Sidhu, Tript Rajinder Singh Bajwa and Sukhjinder Singh Randhawa are doing the rounds.
We will abide by whatever the party leadership decides, said a party leader.
AICC general secretary and Punjab affairs in-charge Harish Rawat and party's central observers Ajay Maken and Harish Chaudhary are currently in the city.
Punjab Congress legislators on Saturday had authorised party president Sonia Gandhi to pick a new CLP leader.
Congress veteran Capt. Amarinder Singh resigned as chief minister of Punjab with less than five months to go for the Assembly polls after a bruising power struggle with state party chief Navjot Singh Sidhu, and had said that he felt "humiliated" over the way the party handled the protracted crisis.
The 79-year-old Amarinder Singh, one of the Congress' powerful regional satraps, had put in his papers after speaking to the party president and shortly before a crucial meeting of the CLP here on Satruday evening.
He had later launched a no-holds-barred attack against Sidhu, describing his bete noire, a cricketer-turned-politician, as a "total disaster".
Congress sources had said the party -- also battling dissensions in Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh where its governments are in power -- is trying to balance equations in the poll-bound state and is likely to appoint a Hindu face like Jakhar to the top post. Jakhar, who is not an MLA, is believed to be close to the top Congress leadership.
11:17 Ruskin Bond among 7 others nominated for Sahitya Akademi Fellowship
Eminent English author Ruskin Bond, Hindi writer Vinod Kumar Shukla and six others were on Saturday selected for the Sahitya Akademi Fellowship.
The National Academy of Letters said in a statement that the general council of Sahitya Akademi which met under the chairmanship of its president Dr Chandrashekhar Kambar announced its highest honour, the Fellowship.
The others who received the Fellowship are Sirshendu Mukhopadhyay (Bengali), M Leelavathy (Malayalam), Dr. Bhalchandra Nemade (Marathi), Dr Tejwant Singh Gill (Punjabi), Swami Rambhadracharya (Sanskrit), Indira Parthasarthy (Tamil).
Bond, who has written over 300 short stories, essays and novels and more than 30 books for children besides several other works, is the recipient of Sahitya Akademi Award, Sahitya Akademi's Bal Sahitya Puraskar, Padma Shri and Padma Bhushan among other prestigious awards.
With 20 published books including poetry collections, novels, and short stories to his credit, Shukla is a member of the General Council of Sahitya Akademi.
He is also the recipient of Sahitya Akademi Award, Shikhar Samman of the Madhya Pradesh Government, Hindi Gaurav Samman, Raja Puraskar, Rashtriya Maithilisharan Gupta Samman among others.
Mukhopadhyay, who is a major Bengali novelist and short story writer began his career as a teacher and later took up productive journalistic writing. He is a recipient of the Sahitya Akademi Award, Ananda Puraskar, Vidyasagar Puraskar, Saratchandra Media, and Bhaulka Puraskar.
An eminent Malayalam writer, literary critic, and educationist, Leelavathy has more than 60 published books to her credit including books on literary criticism, essays collections, and translations.
Leelavathy has won many prestigious awards and honours like the Padma Shri, Sahitya Akademi Award, Kerala Sahitya Academy Award, Vallathol Award, Basheer Award, Ezhuthachan Puraskaram, and Guptan Nair Memorial Award.
Marathi author Nemade has around 15 published books which have won him honours as the Padma Shri, Sahitya Akademi Award, Jnanpith Award, H N Apte Award, Yashwantrao Chavan Award, and R S Joag Award.
Gill, an eminent Punjabi writer and scholar, has written 25 books and has translated works of Punjabi poetry, drama and fiction into English and Garcia Marquez's "One Hundred Years of Solitude" into Punjabi.
An eminent spiritual leader and Sanskrit scholar, Rambhadracharya is the recipient of a number of awards including five gold medals at the All India Sanskrit Conference, Sahitya Akademi Award, Vishishta Puraskar, President's Certificate of Honours, Vachaspati Award, Tulasi Award, and Dev Bhumi Award among others.
Tamil writer and scholar Parthasarathy has more than 40 published books to his credit including plays, novels, collection of short stories and anthologies of novellas.
He is also a recipient of the Sahitya Akademi Award, Padma Shri, Saraswati Samman, Sangeet Natak Akademi Award, Tamil Nadu Government Award, Bharatiya Bhasha Parishad Award among others.
11:03 Raj CM's OSD quits over tweet on Punjab Cong crisis
Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot's OSD Lokesh Sharma submitted his resignation on Saturday night, hours after he posted a tweet which was seen as an indirect criticism of the Congress over the change of leadership in Punjab.
The tweet appeared to refer to a strong person being made helpless and a mediocre person being elevated.
The officer on special duty to the Rajasthan chief minister submitted his resignation on Saturday night, seeking an apology for his tweet.
Sharma has been associated with Gehlot for over a decade now and he has been looking after his social media. He was made the OSD after Gehlot came to power in December 2018.
"Majboot ko majboor, mamuli ko magroor kiya jaye... baad hi khet ko khaay, uss fasal ko kaun bachaye!" Sharma had tweeted after Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh resigned on Saturday.
In the resignation letter, the OSD said he has been active on Twitter since 2010 and has not tweeted beyond party lines.
Sharma said he never posted any political tweet after being given the responsibility of OSD by Gehlot.
However, he sought an apology if his tweet hurt the party high command and the state government in any way.
The Delhi police had registered a case against Sharma in March on Union Minister Gajendra Singh Shekhawat's complaint.
During the political crisis in Rajasthan due to rebellion by deputy chief minister Sachin Pilot and 18 other MLAs last year, purported audio clips of conversations between Shekhawat, BJP leader Sanjay Jain and Congress MLAs Bhanwarlal and Vishvendra Singh were leaked.
They were allegedly discussing a plan to topple the Congress government in the state.
It was alleged that Sharma had circulated the audio clips, a charge denied by him. -- PTI
10:47 WHO panel to take call on EUL for Covaxin on Oct 6
The Strategic Advisory Group of Experts on Immunization of the World health Organisation would be meeting in October to make its recommendations on Bharat Biotech's COVID-19 vaccine Covaxin on Emergency Use Listing.
Bharat Biotech is expected to give a presentation on the Vaccine's safety and efficacy data of clinical trials (phase 1-3 trial results and post marketing)and Risk management plans and other implementation considerations, according to the SAGE draft agenda.
SAGE is authorised with advising WHO on overall global policies and strategies, ranging from vaccines and technology, research and development, to delivery of immunization and its linkages with other health interventions. Hanna Nohynek, member of SAGE, will be presenting a draft recommendation for the vaccine and the session will make its recommendations.
The session will thoroughly discuss the clinical data on Covaxin from phase 1, 2, 3 trials and post marketing studies on safety, immunogenicity, efficacy and effectiveness, besides update on global, regional and country level plans for vaccine safety monitoring, the agenda said.
Bharat Biotech recently said it has submitted all the data pertaining to Covaxin to the WHO for EUL and is awaiting feedback from the global health watchdog.
The WHO is currently reviewing the data submitted by the vaccine maker and the date for a decision on the jab is yet "to be confirmed," according to the update available on the WHO website.
In an update on its website, the WHO said it began rolling data of the vaccine on July 6.
Rolling data allows the WHO to start its review right away, as information continues to come in, to accelerate the overall review process.
Covaxin is one of the six vaccines that have received emergency use authorisation from India's drug regulator and is being used in the nationwide inoculation programme, along with Covishield and Sputnik V. -- PTI
10:11 India logs 30,773 new COVID-19 cases
With 30,773 people testing positive for coronavirus infection, India's total tally of COVID-19 cases rose to 3,34,48,163, while the active cases declined to 3,32,158, according to the Union health ministry data updated on Sunday.
The death toll climbed to 4,44,838 with 309 fresh fatalities, according to the data updated at 8 am.
The active cases comprise 0.99 per cent of the total infections, while the national COVID-19 recovery rate was recorded at 97.68 per cent, the ministry said.
A reduction of 8,481 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
10:06 Sharad Pawar frowns over new language of politics
Nationalist Congress Party chief Sharad Pawar on Saturday expressed disapproval about the "new type of discourse" in politics, referring to a phrase which refers to disembowelment.
The Marathi word kothala (intestines) was recently used by Shiv Sena MP Sanjay Raut figuratively while rebutting former Sena ally BJP's accusation of `stabbing in the back'.
Pawar was speaking at the inauguration of an art gallery named for late socialist leader Mrinal Gore in suburban Goregaon.
"When Mrinal-tai was the leader of opposition in the Maharashtra Assembly, I faced severe criticism (from her), but we would set aside our differences after the session was over. We would discuss issues related to the welfare of the state," Pawar said.
"Nobody in those days would use words like 'kothala'. Now a days, one is seeing a different type of discourse," he added.
Raut, who is incidentally considered to be close to Pawar, had said during a function on September 4 that Shiv Sena does not stab in the back; it attacks from the front and "disembowels" the enemy.
He was responding to Maharashtra BJP chief Chandrakant Patil's jibe that `back-stabbing' is now associated with a new face. Patil was apparently referring to chief minister Uddhav Thackeray who severed ties with the BJP in 2019 and formed alliance with NCP and Congress.
Pawar had in the past faced allegations of "back-stabbing" when he defected and pulled down a Congress government led by Vasant Dada Patil in 1978 and became the youngest chief minister of Maharashtra by forming alliance with other parties. -- PTI
09:30 4 SpaceX tourists returns to Earth after 3 days
Four SpaceX tourists returned to Earth from a three-day extra-terrestrial excursion on Saturday evening, marking the end of the first-ever flight to Earth's orbit flown entirely by tourists or otherwise non-astronauts.
SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule splashed down in the Atlantic Ocean off coast Florida.
"After orbiting Earth for three days, four astronauts of Inspiration4 flying aboard SpaceX's Dragon spacecraft safely splashed down in the Atlantic Ocean off coast Florida, US today, marking the completion of world's first all-civilian human spaceflight to orbit," said SpaceX.
"Thanks so much, SpaceX, it was a heck of a ride for us," billionaire and mission commander Jared Isaacman could be heard saying over the company's live stream, reported CNN.
The tourists were shown watching movies and occasionally heard responding to SpaceX's mission control inside their fully autonomous spacecraft before it began the nail-biting process of re-entering the Earth's atmosphere.
During a Netflix documentary about the Inspiration4 mission, SpaceX and its CEO, Elon Musk described a capsule going through reentry as "like a blazing meteor coming in."
"And so it's hard not to get vaporized," he added.
The passengers included the 38-year-old Isaacman, who personally financed and arranged the trip with Musk; Hayley Arceneaux, 29, a childhood cancer survivor and St Jude Children's Research Hospital physician assistant; Sian Procotor, 51, a geologist and community college teacher with a PhD; and Chris Sembroski, a 42-year-old Lockheed Martin employee and lifelong space fan who claimed his seat through an online raffle, reported CNN.
08:44 Appoint Rahul as prez: Resolution passed by IYC
The Congress social media department on Saturday passed a resolution to make Rahul Gandhi party president at the earliest, saying his leadership will bring new energy into the party cadre.
The resolution was passed unanimously at the social media department's national executive meeting "Drishti 2021".
This comes after similar resolutions were passed at the national executive meetings of the Indian Youth Congress, the NSUI and the Congress SC/ST department.
Rahul Gandhi attended the social media department meeting and urged party workers to continue their fight against the ruling dispensation with humility, truth and love.
Social media department head Rohan Gupta said Gandhi inspired party workers and spoke to them candidly about their lives and answered each of their questions with empathy and patience.
He also commended the social media workers for their hard work and dedication to the party and commitment to fight and defeat the ruling dispensation, he said.
"We believe that only the rights-based approach, the policies of justice or NYAY of Shri Rahul Gandhi can save the country today. He is the only leader in the country who has shown the courage and conviction to hold the fort of truth and welfare of the citizens.
"We believe leadership of Shri Rahul Gandhi will bring a new energy into the party cadre across India. We therefore, unanimously pass the resolution that Shri Rahul Gandhi should take over as President of the Indian National Congress at the earliest," said the resolution passed Saturday at the conclusion of the two-day meeting.
In another resolution adopted at the meeting, the party said social media is being used as a weapon to spread hate and create division among various sections of the society by the "fascist forces" ruling the country.
"We resolve to fight for the Idea of India as conceived by the Gandhian and Nehruvian philosophy to save the country from the policies of division by the ruling dispensation.
"We resolve to use social media as a tool to unite people from across all sections of the society. The ruling regiment has been on a rampage spreading fake news and misinformation using social media to run their agenda," the resolution said.
It further stated that the party will expose "fake news being propagated by them" and ensure that truth and reality take the centre stage.
"The RSS-BJP government is hiding their incompetence and mis-governance using PR and headline management and using event management to distract people from their failures. We resolve to bring forth their reality without any fear and with absolute conviction," it said. -- PTI