Sat, 15 January 2022
EC issues notice to SP over violation of Covid norms
21:02 EC issues notice to SP over violation of Covid norms
The Election Commission on Saturday issued a notice to the Samajwadi Party for organising a public gathering "in the name of virtual rally" at its Lucknow office in violation of COVID-19 norms.
Referring to Friday's event in the run-up to the Uttar Pradesh assembly polls, the notice stated that after considering the available material and extant instructions in the matter, the poll panel has decided to provide the party an opportunity to explain its stand regarding the "violations".
"Your explanation shall reach the Commission within 24 hours of receipt of this notice, failing which the Commission shall take appropriate decision in the matter without further reference to you," the notice to the SP general secretary read.
Assembly polls in Uttar Pradesh will be held in seven phases between February 10 and March 7.
Currently, there is a ban on public meetings and rallies in view of the pandemic. -- PTI
20:23 Mumbai logs highest 1-day Covid deaths in 6 months
Mumbai on Saturday reported 11 new coronavirus-related deaths, the highest single-day toll since July 29 last year, and 10,661 fresh infections, the civic body said.
As many as 21,474 patients were discharged, taking the total of recoveries to 8,99,358.
The number of new infected patients has been decreasing for the last three days, as per the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation's (BMC) data.
Further, only 722 of the new 10, 661 patients found during the day were admitted to hospitals, which raised the number of hospitalized COVID-19 patients to 5,962.
As many as 8,955 or 84 per cent of the new patients were asymptomatic.
The city on July 29, 2021, had reported 13 deaths and the mortality figure had started declining after that.
Mumbai had reported 16,420 new COVID-19 cases on Wednesday, 13,702 cases on Thursday and 11,317 on Friday, thus showing a steady decline.
20:14 Cong MLA dropped for Sonu Sood's sister joins BJP
After the Congress denied ticket to him for the upcoming Punjab assembly polls, Moga MLA Harjot Kamal on Saturday joined the Bharatiya Janata Party in the presence of its senior leadership, including Union minister Gajendra Singh Shekhawat.
The Congress on Saturday released its first list of 86 candidates for the February 14 state assembly polls, refusing tickets to four sitting legislators, including Kamal.
The ruling party gave a ticket to Malvika Sood Sachar, the sister of actor-philanthropist Sonu Sood, from the Moga assembly seat.
"I joined the BJP today," Kamal said and thanked the party leadership, including president J P Nadda and Shekhawat.
Noting that he worked for the Congress for 21 years, the sitting Moga legislator questioned the Congress's choice of ignoring him and giving Sood the ticket.
"What are her qualifications? She is just Sonu Sood's sister," Kamal said while slamming Chief Minister Charanjit Singh Channi and state Congress chief Navjot Singh Sidhu.
He said it was "below the dignity" of their positions to bring Malvika Sood into the party fold.
She had joined the Congress on January 10.
Kamal had threatened to fight from Moga as an independent if he was not given the ticket, despite Channi promising said that he would be suitably adjusted. -- PTI
20:01 Farmer unions contesting Punjab polls not part of SKM
The farmer unions contesting the Punjab assembly polls will no longer be part of the Samyukt Kisan Morcha, the umbrella body that spearheaded the agitation against the now-repealed agri laws said on Saturday.
SKM leaders in a press conference after their meeting at Kondli on the Singhu border also said that BKU leader Rakesh Tikait will visit Lakhimpur Kheri in Uttar Pradesh for three days in January to press for sacking of Union Minister Ajay Mishra whose son is accused of mowing down protesting farmers last year.
"Tikait will meet victims, jailed farmers and officials. If there is no progress, a siege may be laid in Lakhimpur by farmer organisations," said Yudhvir Singh.
Singh also said that the SKM does not agree with farmer organisations participating in the election in Punjab and they will not be part of it.
"Those organisations taking part in polls are not part of SKM. We will decide about our relation with them in a meeting of SKM four months later," he said.
SKM leader Joginder Singh Ugrhan said, "SKM has nothing to do with them."
Two prominent leaders of the SKM Gurnam Singh Chadhuni and Balbir Singh Rajewal, who were part of the year-long anti-farm law protests at Delhi borders last year, have joined the fray in Punjab.
Chaduni has formed his own political party. The Punjab unit of the Samyukta Kisan Morcha (SKM) has formed Samyukt Samaj Morcha to contest the Punjab assembly elections.
The Samyukt Samaj Morcha comprising several farmer organisation has announced contesting the election under the leadership of Balbir Singh Rajewal. -- PTI
19:35 CBI books GAIL director in alleged bribery case, carries out searches
The Central Bureau of Investigation has booked E S Ranganathan, director (marketing) of public sector undertaking GAIL, and others in connection with an alleged bribery case, officials said Saturday.
Following the registration of the case, CBI teams carried out searches at several locations in Delhi-NCR including the residence of Ranganathan, they said. -- PTI
19:19 Everything has to come to a halt: Virat in statement
Virat Kohli's full statement.
It's been 7 years of hard work, toil and relentless perseverance everyday to take the team in the right direction.
I've done the job with absolute honesty and left nothing out there.
Everything has to come to a halt at some stage and for we as Test Captain of India. it's now.
There have been many ups and also some downs along the journey, but never has there been a lack of effort or lack of belief.
I have always believed in giving my 120 percent in everything I do, and if I can't do that.
I know it's not the right thing to do.
I have absolute clarity in my heart and I cannot be dishonest to illy team.
I want to thank the BCCI for giving me the opportunity to lead my country for such a long period of time and more importantly to all the teammates who bought into the vision I had for the team from day one and never gave up in any situation.
You guys have made this journey so memorable and beautiful.
To Ravi Bhai and the support group who were the engine behind this vehicle that moved us upwards in Test Cricket consistently, you all have played a massive role in bringing this vision to life.
Lastly. a big thank you to MS Dhoni who believed in me as a Captain and found me to be an able individual who could take Indian Cricket forward.
18:40 UP poll: Sitting BJP MLAs make way for Yogi, Maurya
Sitting Bharatiya Janata Party legislators have made way for Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath and his deputy Keshav Prasad Maurya to contest from the Gorakhpur Urban and Sirathu assembly seats in the Uttar Pradesh elections.
While four-time MLA Radha Mohan Das Agarwal has been replaced by Adityanath in Gorakhpur Urban seat, Sheetla Prasad paved way for Maurya in Sirathu in Prayagraj district in the list of 107 candidates released by the BJP for the first two phases of polls.
Mukesh Chaudhary has benefited from the exit of former minister Dharam Singh Saini with the party naming him from Nakur constituency in Saharanpur.
Adityanath will be contesting the assembly polls for the first time. Maurya was an MLA from Sirathu in 2012.
While releasing the list of nominees in Delhi, Union minister Dharmendra Pradhan told reporters that the BJP's list has 63 sitting MLAs, while 20 have made way for others.
The present ministers who figured in the list are Laxmi Narayan Chaudhary (Chhata in Mathura), Suresh Rana (Thana Bhavan in Shamli), Shrikant Sharma (Mathura), Suresh Khanna (Shahjahanpur), Kapildev Aggarwal (Muzaffarnagar), Atul Garg (Ghaziabad), Anil Sharma (Shikarpur in Bulandshahr), Sandeep Singh (Atrauli in Aligarh), GS Dharmesh (Agra Cantt), Gulabo Devi (Chandausi in Sambhal), Baldev Singh Aulakh (Bilaspur in Rampur) and Mahesh Gupta (Budaun).
Former minister Dharampal Singh has been fielded from Aonla (in Bareilly) assembly constituency. Former Uttarakhand governor and now BJP vice-president Baby Rani Maurya, a Dalit, has been fielded from Agra (rural).
Pankaj Singh, son of Defence Minister Rajnath Singh, will again contest from Noida seat.
Sitting BJP MLA Sangeet Som has been given ticket from Sardhana (in Meerut).
Highlighting the BJP's outreach to marginalised communities, Pradhan said the party has fielded a Dalit candidate from a general category seat and will give tickets to more such people in the next lists for the Uttar Pradesh polls. -- PTI
18:01 State polls: EC extends ban on public rallies till Jan 22
Amid a surge in Covid-19 cases, the Election Commission on Saturday extended its ban on physical rallies and roadshows until January 22 in the five poll-bound states.
The poll panel, however, granted a relaxation for the political parties to the extent that indoor meetings of maximum 300 persons or 50 per cent of the capacity of the hall, or the prescribed limit set by state disaster management authorities, an official statement said.
The Commission also directed political parties to adhere to the provisions of the model code of conduct and broader guidelines on Covid-19.
The poll panel directed state and district administrations to ensure compliance of all instructions related to the poll code and to the pandemic control measures.
While announcing the poll schedule for Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand Manipur, Goa and Punjab on January 8, the EC had taken an unprecedented step of banning public rallies, roadshows and similar physical campaigning events till January 15. The ban has now been extended by a further one week. -- PTI
17:58 Delta still dominant strain of COVID: Maha health official
Amid the scare caused by the Omicron variant of coronavirus, a senior official of the Maharashtra health department has said that the Delta strain of the virus still accounts for the maximum number of infection cases in the state as revealed by the genome sequencing of the patients' samples.
Dr Pradeep Vyas, additional chief secretary of the health department, in a letter written to his colleagues on Wednesday said that the Delta variant was found in 68 per cent samples, out of the over 4,200 analysed, while the remaining 32 per cent patients were found infected with the Omicron strain.
The Delta variant had wreaked havoc during the second wave of the pandemic last year. The Omicron strain, which was first detected in South Africa in November 2021, started spreading in India from the first week of December. Till Friday night, Maharashtra has reported 1,605 Omicron cases, while its overall COVID-19 infection tally has jumped to 71,24,278.
"Since November 1 last year, the samples of 4,265 COVID-19 patients were sent for genome sequencing. The results of 4,201 cases have been issued, which indicate that Omicron variant was detected in 1,367 cases or in 32 per cent, while the prevalence of Delta variant was found in the remaining 68 per cent cases," Dr Vyas said in the letter.
It also said that of the 2,40,133 active coronavirus cases in Maharashtra till Wednesday (January 12), 90 per cent patients were in home isolation or in COVID Care Centres.
"We have seen three weeks of the present surge in COVID-19 infections. Till January 12, there were 2,40,133 active COVID-19 cases, of which 90.9 per cent were either in home isolation or in COVID Care Centre. Only 21,783 patients or 9.1 per cent of the total active cases were in hospital," the letter said.
Of these hospitalised patients, 16,175 or 74.2 per cent had mild symptoms and 5,608 of them or 2.3 per cent needed ICU or oxygen support. Only 700 patients, which is about 0.29 per cent of the total active cases, were on ventilators, he said.
The official also maintained that the present surge is mainly restricted to cities and areas like Mumbai, Thane, Raigad, Palghar Pune and Nagpur, which relatively have better anti-coronavirus vaccination coverage.
He asked his colleagues that these observations should be taken into consideration while gearing up to tackle the present surge, he said. -- PTI
17:10 Bengal extends Covid restrictions till Jan 31; allows fairs, marriage functions
The West Bengal government on Saturday extended the ongoing COVID-19 restrictions till January 31, allowing fairs on open grounds in a very restricted manner with strict adherence to safety norms, an official order said.
The state government also allowed marriage functions with a maximum of 200 attendees or 50 per cent of the venue's capacity, whichever is lesser, it said.
"Restrictions and relaxation measures and advisory as already stand extended up to 31/01/2022. Marriage-related functions with a maximum of 200 people at a time or 50 per cent seating capacity of the hall/venue whichever is lower. Mela/fair may be allowed in open air venues in a very restricted manner, following COVID-19 protocols," the order issued by Chief Secretary H K Dwivedi said.
All outdoor activities including the movement of people and vehicles shall be strictly prohibited between 10 PM and 5 AM except for health, law and order, transport of essential commodities including agricultural produce, and other emergency services.
The order asked district administrations, police and local authorities to ensure strict compliance with the directives. -- PTI
Congress nominee Archana Gautam
17:07 UP poll: Cong, BJP spar over actor's candidature
The Congress' decision of fielding actor-model Archana Gautam from Hastinapur constituency in the upcoming Uttar Pradesh assembly polls has kicked up a controversy, with the Bharatiya Janata Party accusing the grand old party of indulging in "cheap publicity".
The Congress, however, has maintained that it has given an opportunity to an artiste to enter political space.
"The Congress is not having candidates, and is ready to field any candidate to garner cheap publicity and headlines. There is no feeling of serving the public behind fielding such a candidate. It also shows that there is no seriousness in them (Congress), as they have fielded an apolitical' candidate. It also shows the lack of maturity on their part, UP BJP spokesperson Rakesh Tripathi said.
His remarks come after bikini pictures of the Congress candidate, who has been a beauty pageant winner, surfaced on social media.
Hitting back at the ruling BJP in the state, UP Congress spokeman Ashok Singh said, "Is there any harm in fielding an artiste as a candidate if she is interested to enter politics? As far as the BJP is concerned, it has a number of artistes, and one of them is a minister. If an artiste wants to come to politics and serve people, it is a good sign, and should be appreciated."
He added that the charges levelled by the BJP showcase their bad mindset.
Akhil Bharat Hindu Mahasabha and Sant Mahasabha chief Swami Chakrapani also hit out at the Congress candidate from Hastinapur (SC) assembly constituency in Meerut district, saying "nothing can be expected from a party which has gone mentally bankrupt".
"If any person is entering social life, then he/she should be one who respects our culture. But, the Congress differentiates between 'Hindu' and 'Hindutva'. Nothing should be expected from the leaders of a party which has gone mentally bankrupt. Tomorrow, they can field a criminal as a candidate, and can stoop down to any level to garner votes," he alleged.
16:20 All aspects related to Bengal train accident will be probed: Railway Board Chairman
Railway Board Chairman V K Tripathi Saturday inspected the site where the Bikaner-Guwahati Express had derailed in West Bengal's Jalpaiguri district and said all aspects related to the accident will be thoroughly investigated.
At least nine people were killed and 36 injured after 12 coaches of the train went off the rails on Thursday, near Domohani in Alipurduar subdivision of Northeast Frontier Railway.
"Work is underway to clear the railway tracks at the accident spot and it will be complete soon. All angles in connection with the unfortunate mishap will be probed," Tripathi told reporters.
Several intercity and DEMU trains had been cancelled on the affected route on Friday, while a couple were short-terminated or short-originated. Another 10 long-distance trains were diverted through alternative routes.
Railway Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw had on Friday said preliminary findings suggest there was "some issue" with the equipment of the locomotive that could have caused the accident.
Vaishnaw said the actual reason would be ascertained only after dismantling the engine's equipment.
"The root cause (behind the accident) will soon come out. The Commission of Railway Safety is conducting an inquiry," he had told reporters after visiting the site. -- PTI
15:53 BJP has already sent Yogi home, says Akhilesh
Samajwadi Party chief Akhilesh Yadav on Saturday took a jibe at the Bharatiya Janata Party's decision to field Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath from the Gorakhpur constituency, saying the saffron party has already sent him home.
Gorakhpur is the hometown of Adityanath.
He had been the MP from Gorakhpur Lok Sabha seat since 1998 until he became the chief minister in 2017.
Speaking to reporters in Lucknow, the SP chief said, "As far as contesting elections is concerned, earlier it was said that he (Adityanath) will contest from Mathura, Prayagraj, Ayodhya or Deoband. I am happy that the BJP has already sent him home (Gorakhpur)".
"Although he is in Gorakhpur, he had a ticket dated March 11 (counting of votes on March 10) booked for it earlier. I think that he should stay back in Gorakhpur and there is no need for him to return (to Lucknow). Heartiest congratulations," Yadav said.
The SP chief further said no MLAs or ministers quitting the BJP will be taken into his party anymore.
"I would tell the BJP that I am no longer going to take BJP MLAs or ministers (into SP), you can cut their tickets," he said.
However, he later said that a BJP leader will soon be joining the SP but did not reveal his name.
15:49 Suspected hooch claims 4 lives in dry Bihar
In yet another suspected hooch tragedy in dry Bihar, four persons have died here after allegedly consuming spurious liquor, triggering shock waves in the headquarters of Chief Minister Nitish Kumar's home district of Nalanda, police said on Saturday.
The deceased, all of them in the age group of 50-55 years, belong to Chhoti Pahari and Pahar Talli localities in the Sohsarai Police Station area. Their families have claimed that they consumed liquor late on Friday, fell sick and died.
Bihar Sharif sub-divisional officer Kumar Anurag, who met the bereaved family members, insisted that "consumption of alcohol will be confirmed only after post mortem".
Ban on liquor sale and consumption was imposed in Bihar in April, 2016 though its efficacy has always been questionable.
Last year, around Deepawali, hooch tragedies claimed more than 40 lives in four districts.
One of these districts was West Champaran and on Friday a snide remark by a Janata Dal-United spokesman about Sanjay Jaiswal, the local MP, evoked a strong reaction from the latter who is also the state Bharatiya Janata Party president.
Jaiswal came out with a lengthy Facebook post, asserting that he took the attack as coming from the chief minister's party since his detractor Abhishek Jha was an official spokesman of the JD-U.
Jaiswal said he was strongly in favour of a "review" of the law against liquor which might have been well-intentioned but the implementation of which had brought a bad name to the state.
He claimed to have personal knowledge of many instances in which people from other states had to suffer for carrying liquor though they were merely passing through Bihar.
Jaiswal had raised serious questions over the role of the police in the shoddy enforcement of prohibition law and said that the stringent provision of 10 years in prison ought to be reserved for men in uniform found complicit in illicit liquor business. -- PTI
15:32 Punjab poll: Channi to contest from Chamkaur Sahib
The Congress on Saturday released its first list of 86 candidates for the upcoming assembly elections in Punjab, fielding Chief Minister Charanjit Singh Channi from Chamkaur Sahib and PCC chief Navjot Singh Sidhu from Amritsar East.
The party has also fielded Punjab deputy chief ministers -- Sukhjinder Singh Randhawa from Dera Baba Nanak and Om Prakash Soni from Amritsar Central, the seats they already represent.
Controversial Punjabi singer Sidhu Mussewala, who joined the Congress sometime ago will contest from Mansa and actor Sonu Sood's sister Malvika Sood from Moga.
Party's Rajya Sabha MP Pratap Singh Bajwa will contest from Qadian assembly seat in Gurdaspur.
Former PCC president and campaign committee chief Sunil Jakhar will not contest the assembly polls and his nephew Sandeep Jakhar will contest the Abohar assembly seat instead.
Similarly, Punjab minister Brahm Mohindra will not contest and his son Mohit Mohindra will contest from Patiala rural assembly seat in his place.
Among other sitting Punjab ministers, Manpreet Singh Badal will contest from Bathinda Urban, Vijay Inder Singla from Sangrur, Razia Sultana from Malerkotla, Gurkirat Singh Kotli from Khanna, Rana Gurjit Singh from Kapurthala, Tript Rajinder Bajwa from Fatehgarh Churian, Randeep Singh Nabha from Amloh, Amarinder Singh Raja Warring from Gidderbaha, Pargat Singh from Jalandhar Cantt.
Other ministers like Sangat Singh Gilzian has been fielded from Urmar, Raj Kumar Verka from Amritsar West-SC, Sukhbinder Sarkaria from Rajasansi, Bharat Bhushan Ashu from Ludhiana West.
Former deputy chief minister Rajinder Kaur Bhattal has been fielded from Lehragaga. -- PTI
15:22 EC reschedules polls to 4 municipal corporations in Bengal amid rising Covid cases
The West Bengal Election Commission on Saturday postponed polls to four municipal corporations by three weeks to February 12 in the wake of rising COVID-19 cases.
According to a notification issued by the SEC, polls to Siliguri Municipal Corporation, Chandernagore Municipal Corporation, Bidhannagar Municipal Corporation and Asansol Municipal Corporation would now be held on February 12 instead of January 22.
Polling will be held from 7 am to 5 pm it said.
Earlier in the day, the state government sent a letter to the SEC, giving its consent to reschedule the election dates, owing to the present pandemic situation.
The Calcutta high court had also asked the commission to explore the possibility of postponing the civic polls by four to six weeks in view of the surge in cases. -- PTI
15:00 HDFC Bank net profit rises 18% to Rs 10,342 cr in Q3
The country's largest private sector lender HDFC Bank on Saturday reported an 18.1 per cent rise in its standalone net profit at Rs 10,342.20 crore for the third quarter ended December 2021.
The bank had registered a net profit of Rs 8,758.29 crore in the corresponding quarter of the previous fiscal year.
Total income on a standalone basis rose to Rs 40,651.60 crore in the October-December quarter of FY2021-22, as against Rs 37,522.92 crore in the same period of the previous financial year, HDFC Bank said in a regulatory filing.
However, there was a rise in bank's bad loan proportion with gross non-performing assets (NPAs) rising to 1.26 per cent of gross advances as of December 30, 2021, as against 0.81 per cent in the year-ago period.
However, it was down sequentially from 1.35 per cent by the end of September 2021.
Net NPAs or bad loans too rose to 0.37 per cent year on year from 0.09 per cent, but down from September 2021 quarter's 0.40 per cent sequentially. -- PTI
14:57 Rajdhani Express hits pillar in Gujarat; cops suspect derailment bid
The Mumbai-Delhi Rajdhani Express train hit a cement pillar, which some miscreants had allegedly placed on the railway track near Valsad in south Gujarat, although no passenger was injured, police officials said on Saturday.
The police suspect that the incident, which took place around 7.10 pm on Friday, was an attempt to derail the Delhi-bound train. They have registered a case in this connection.
"The Mumbai-Hazrat Nizamuddin August Kranti Rajdhani Express train hit the cement pillar placed on the railway track close to Atul station near Valsad. After being hit by the train, the pillar got pushed off the track. The incident did not affect the train as it moved on and no passenger was hurt. The loco pilot immediately informed the Atul railway station personnel about it," an official of Valsad rural police station said.
On being alerted, senior police and railway officials rushed to the spot.
"Some miscreants had placed the cement pillar on the track. The train hit the pillar, after which the train manager immediately informed the local station master," Rajkumar Pandian, Range, IG of Surat, told reporters.
It appeared to be a case of attempt to derail the train, he said, adding that the police are conducting an investigation into the matter.
An FIR was lodged against unidentified miscreants at Valsad rural police station, and efforts are on to nab the culprit using technical surveillance and human intelligence, the Valsad rural police official said. -- PTI
14:55 Modi calls for innovating for India, from India
Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Saturday called for innovating for India and from India to tackle challenges facing the country as he counted steps taken by the government in freeing entrepreneurs and innovation from bureaucratic silos.
"Our startups are changing the rules of the game. I believe that startups are going to be the backbone of New India," he said interacting with youngsters from the world of startups. "Let us innovate for India, innovate from India."
India, he said, has over 60,000 startups with 42 unicorns.
The government is focusing on three aspects to strengthen innovation, entrepreneurship and startup ecosystem - "Freeing entrepreneurship, innovation from government and bureaucratic silos; setting up institutional mechanisms to promote innovation, and handholding of youth innovators," he said.
Narrating successes during the recent years, he said 28,000 patents were granted last year as compared to 4,000 patents in 2013-14. Against registration of 70,000 trademarks in 2013-14, 2.5 lakh trademarks have been registered in 2020-21.
"India's ranking on the Global Innovation Index is improving because of the programme on innovation started in the country. India was ranked 81 in 2015 and now it is at No. 46," he said.
Startups are not just bringing innovations but are also evolving as major job creators.
The year 2022 has brought new opportunities and avenues for startups, he said adding January 16 will be celebrated as National Startup Day to help percolate startup culture to the grassroot level.
Modi said easier access to funds as well as making self-certification for compliance of nine labour and three environment laws is helping promote startups.
Innovation and technology based solutions are being encouraged for finding solutions to challenges facing the country, he said. -- PTI
14:42 Kerala CM leaves for the US for treatment
Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan on Saturday left for the United States of America for a two-week long medical treatment.
The CM is accompanied by his wife and personal assistant.
Vijayan did not hand over charge to anyone in the ministry.
According to CMO sources, Vijayan will continue to discharge his official duties online.
He will return to the state on January 29.
In 2018, he had undergone treatment at the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota, US.
Vijayan is now going for follow-up treatment. -- PTI
14:21 NCP in seat-sharing talks with SP for UP polls
Nationalist Congress Party leader Nawab Malik on Saturday said his party is in talks with the Samajwadi Party over the seat-sharing formula for the upcoming elections in Uttar Pradesh, and so far one seat has been decided for the NCP.
He also said the current situation in Uttar Pradesh is similar to that in 1993 when the Bharatiya Janata Party was stopped from occupying power in that state.
Talking to reporters here, Malik, who is NCP's chief spokesperson and Maharashtra minister, said, "The NCP and the Samajwadi Party have decided one seat, which we (NCP) will be contesting. Talks about other seats are going on. The current situation in Uttar Pradesh is similar to 1993, when BJP was ousted from power."
In 1993 Uttar Pradesh elections, SP founder Mulayam Singh Yadav had joined hands with the then Bahujan Samaj Party chief Kanshi Ram to give a jolt to the BJP.
The SP-BSP combine formed the government with the support of other parties, even as the BJP had emerged as the single largest party at that time.
Malik further said, "The people of Uttar Pradesh are rejecting BJP's politics of identity, which is creating dominance of one community over others. Hence, groups like Dalits, OBCs, labourers and farmers are moving away from the BJP for good." -- PTI
14:11 Covid: 24k people permitted to attend R-Day parade
Approximately 24,000 people will be permitted to attend the Republic Day parade on January 26 this year given the COVID-19 situation in the national capital, sources in the defence establishment said on Saturday.
In 2020, before the pandemic struck India, around 1.25 lakh people were permitted to attend the parade, they noted.
Last year's Republic Day parade took place amid the Covid pandemic and close to 25,000 people were allowed to attend it, sources mentioned.
Like last year, this time too the parade may not have any foreign dignitary as the chief guest due to the pandemic, they said, adding India was planning to invite the leaders of Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyz Republic and Tajikistan.
Out of the approximately 24,000 people who will be attending the parade this year, 19,000 would be invited and the rest would be the general public, who can purchase tickets, sources said.
All COVID-19 protocols will be followed at the parade. Social distancing norms would be followed while making the seating arrangements, they mentioned, adding sanitiser dispensers will be available everywhere and wearing masks would be compulsory. -- PTI
13:14 Yogi Adityanath to contest UP polls from Gorakhpur
Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath to contest the upcoming assembly polls from Gorakhpur city, the Bharatiya Janata Party announced today.
Yogi's deputy Keshav Prasad Maurya to contest assembly polls from Sirathu seat.
13:12 Security tightened at Delhi's Ghazipur flower market a day after IED found
Security has been tightened at the Ghazipur flower market in Delhi, a day after an improvised explosive device stuffed with RDX and ammonium nitrate was found inside an unattended bag there ahead of Republic Day, officials said on Saturday.
The IED was defused around 1:30 pm on Friday.
According to police, while the flower market is not exempted from the Covid curbs in the national capital, fruit and vegetable market is spared and is functioning.
"The security has been tightened in the market. The fruit and vegetable market is open as it comes under exempted category. People are requested to follow the Covid- appropriate behaviour," Additional Deputy Commissioner of Police (east) Vinit Kumar said.
Police said that a person who had come to the market on Friday to purchase flowers spotted a suspicious unattended bag near his scooty at an abandoned place. He then informed people and also alerted the Delhi Home Guards deployed there.
The person then made a PCR call around 10.30 am about the unattended bag.
12:42 Lata Mangeshkar continues to be in ICU under observation: Doc
Legendary singer Lata Mangeshkar continues to remain under observation in the Intensive Care Unit of a Mumbai hospital, the doctor treating her said on Saturday.
The 92-year-old singer tested positive for coronavirus with mild symptoms and was admitted to the Intensive Care Unit of the Breach Candy Hospital in south Mumbai last week.
Associate professor Dr Pratit Samdani from the Breach Candy Hospital said Mangeshkar will continue to remain in the hospital for some time.
"She continues to be in the ICU under observation. We have to wait and watch. Pray for her recovery. She will continue to remain in the hospital," Samdani told PTI.
On Thursday, Mangeshkar's niece Rachana Shah had said the singer is doing well.
"She is doing well and we are happy about it. Everyone's prayers have worked. Kindly, keep our privacy in mind," Shah told PTI.
According to Shah, Mangeshkar was admitted to the ICU as she required "constant care" due to her age.
Regarded as one of Indian cinema's greatest singers, Mangeshkar started her career at the age of 13 in 1942 and has over 30,000 songs to her credit in several Indian languages.
In her over seven-decade career, she has sung various memorable tracks such as Ajeeb dastan hai ye, Pyar kiya to darna kya, Neela asman so gaya, and Tere liye, among others.
The singer -- known as Nightingale of India -- has been lauded with numerous awards and honors including the Padma Bhushan, the Padma Vibhushan and the Dada Saheb Phalke Award, and multiple National Film Awards.
She is also a recipient of the Bharat Ratna, India's highest civilian honour.
12:33 R-Day celebrations to start from Netaji's birth anniversary on Jan 23
The Republic Day celebrations will now begin every year from January 23 instead of January 24 to include the birth anniversary of freedom fighter Subash Chandra Bose, government sources said on Saturday.
This is in line with the Narendra Modi government's focus on commemorating important aspects of India's history and culture, they said, noting it had earlier started celebrating Bose's birth anniversary as "Parakram Divas".
Other such days, observance of which have become a yearly affair, are August 14 as Partition Horrors Remembrance Day, October 31 as National Unity Day (birth anniversary of Sardar Patel), November 15 as Janjatiya Gaurav Divas (Birsa Munda's birth anniversary), November 26 as Constitution Day and December 26 as Veer Baal Divas (a tribute to the four sons of Guru Gobind Singh), sources added.
12:29 Won't allow to change status quo: Army chief on LAC
The Indian Army's message is clear that it will not let any attempt to unilaterally change the status quo along the country's borders succeed, Army Chief Gen M M Naravane said on Saturday.
In an address at the Army Day Parade in New Delhi, he said last year was extremely challenging for the Army and cited the developments on the northern borders with China.
Army Day is observed on January 15 to mark Field Marshall K M Cariappa taking over as the first Indian Commander-in-Chief of the Indian Army, replacing his British predecessor in 1949.
Referring to the Eastern Ladakh standoff, Gen Naravane said that to keep the situation under control the 14th round military-level talks were held between India and China recently.
He said joint efforts at various levels have led to disengagement in many areas which in itself is a constructive step.
Gen Naravane said that on the basis of mutual and equal security, efforts would continue to find a solution to the current situation.
He asserted that the morale of the soldiers deployed on snow-capped mountains for the country's security was sky-high.
"Our patience is a sign of our self-confidence, but no one should make the mistake of testing it," Gen Naravane said.
"Our message is clear, the Indian Army won't let any attempt to unilaterally change status quo along country's borders to succeed."
The armies of India and China are locked in a military standoff in eastern Ladakh since May 5, 2020, after a violent clash erupted in the Pangong lake area. Both countries have conducted 14 rounds of military-level talks to resolve the standoff.
12:08 UP poll: Bhim Army chief says no alliance with SP
Bhim Army chief Chandrashekhar Azad today said that his political outfit -- the Azad Samaj Party -- will not ally with the Samajwadi Party for next month's Uttar Pradesh assembly election.
"After all the discussions, in the end, I felt that Akhilesh Yadav does not want Dalits in this alliance, he just wants Dalit vote bank. He humiliated the people of Bahujan Samaj, I tried for 1 month 3 days but the alliance could not happen," the Bhim Army chief said.
On Friday, Azad posted a cryptic tweet over the possible alliance with Samajwadi Party, saying it is not easy to defeat Bharatiya Janata Party without strength and unity.
He said it is the responsibility of the leader of a coalition to respect and take care of the representation of all sections of the society.
11:58 Modi to interact with BJP workers from Varanasi on Jan 18
Prime Minister Narendra Modi will interact with Bharatiya Janata Party members from Uttar Pradesh's Varanasi on January 18, the party said on Saturday.
This will be Modi's first political programme involving party workers after the Election Commission announced the schedule for the elections to five state assemblies, including Uttar Pradesh.
Sources said it is likely to be a virtual interaction.
The Twitter handle of the BJP's Uttar Pradesh unit shared the programme's schedule and asked people to share their ideas and suggestions for it through the NaMo app.
Announcing the Assembly elections, the Election Commission has banned public meetings and roadshows till January 15 because of the surging COVID-19 cases driven by the Omicron variant and will spell out its future guidelines later in the day on Saturday. -- PTI
11:15 Punjab Cong veteran Joginder Mann joins AAP
Ahead of the assembly elections, former Punjab minister Joginder Singh Mann joined the Aam Aadmi Party on Saturday, a day after snapping his 50-year-old ties with the Congress.
AAP leader and Punjab co-incharge Raghav Chadha said that Mann's induction will give a huge boost to the party in the state.
"Inspired by Arvind ji's vision, Punjab's former cabinet minister and three-time MLA Joginder Singh Mann ji joins AAP ending his 50-year-old association with Congress.
He was presently chairman of Punjab Agro Industries Corporation.
"His induction will give a huge boost to the party's unit in Punjab," Chadha said in a tweet and also posted a photo showing Mann joining the AAP in the presence of the party's national convener Arvind Kejriwal. -- PTI
10:46 Pres, PM greet Army personnel, veterans on Army Day
President Ram Nath Kovind and Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Saturday greeted the Army personnel and veterans on Army Day.
Kovind said the Indian Army has been pivotal in ensuring national security and the country is grateful for their service.
Greeting Army personnel and veterans on Army Day, the president said the soldiers have displayed professionalism, sacrifice and valour in defending the border and maintaining peace.
"Greetings to Army personnel and veterans on Army Day. Indian Army has been pivotal in ensuring national security. Our soldiers have displayed professionalism, sacrifice and valour in defending borders and maintaining peace. The nation is grateful for your service. Jai Hind!" Kovind tweeted.
In his message, PM Modi said the Indian Army is known for bravery and professionalism, and words cannot do justice to its invaluable contribution towards national safety.
"Indian Army personnel serve in hostile terrains and are at the forefront of helping fellow citizens during humanitarian crisis, including natural disasters. India is proud of the stellar contribution of the Army in Peacekeeping Missions overseas as well," the prime minister said.
Army Day is observed on January 15 to mark Field Marshall K M Cariappa taking over as the first Indian commander-in-chief of the Indian Army, replacing his British predecessor in 1949. -- PTI
10:38 India logs 2,68,833 new Covid cases, 402 deaths
India registered 2,68,833 new COVID infections in a day taking the tally to 3,68,50,962, which includes 6,041 Omicron variant cases, according to the Union health ministry data on Saturday.
With 402 more deaths, the number of people who have succumbed to the viral disease has risen to 4,85,752.
The case fatality rate was 1.32 per cent. A total of 6,041 Omicron cases has been detected so far, an increase of 5.01 per cent since Friday, the data updated at 8 am showed.
The daily positivity rate was 16.66 per cent while the weekly positivity rate was 12.84 per cent.
Active cases have increased to 14,17,820, the highest in around 223 days, and comprise 3.85 per cent of the total infections.
The national COVID-19 recovery rate has decreased to 94.83 per cent, the health ministry said.
In a day, the active caseload in the country has increased by 1,45,747.
The total number of people who have recuperated from the disease so far has risen to 3,49,47,390.
The cumulative COVID vaccine doses administered in the country has exceeded 156.02 crore. -- PTI
10:03 EC to decide on extending poll rally ban today
The Election Commission of India will hold a meeting at 1 pm on Saturday.
The meeting is to decide if ban on rallies and gatherings in five poll-bound states till January 15 will be extended further or not.
Assembly elections in five states -- Goa, Manipur, Punjab, Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand -- will be held between February 10 and March 7. -- Agencies
09:57 Weekend curbs back in JK amid surge in Covid cases
The Jammu and Kashmir administration on Saturday imposed "complete restriction on non-essential movement" during weekends in the Union Territory amid a surge in COVID cases that rose by 2,456 a day earlier.
Announcing the decision of the state executive committee, which met under the chairmanship of chief secretary AK Mehta, officials said night curfew and online mode of teaching in schools and colleges will continue.
After a weekly review of the COVID-19 situation, Mehta said there was a need for additional steps besides continuing with the existing COVID containment measures in all districts given the uneven trend in daily cases as well as rising positivity rate.
"There shall be a complete restriction on non-essential movement during weekends in entire Jammu and Kashmir," Mehta said in his latest order.
However, asymptomatic people arriving in the Union Territory by air, rail and roads would not be required to undergo RT-PCR or rapid antigen test on arrival if they have a valid and verifiable final certificate report of COVID-19 vaccination or a valid verifiable negative RT-PCR report done within 72 hours of arrival.
"RT-PCR or RAT Covid tests shall, however, be conducted on symptomatic incoming passengers by air, rail and road," the order said. -- PTI
Dara Singh Chauhan
09:07 Ex-BJP minister Dara Singh to join SP on Sunday
Former Uttar Pradesh Minister Swami Prasad Maurya, who resigned this week from the Yogi Adityanath government and the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party ahead of the assembly polls, on Friday said that former state cabinet minister Dara Singh Chauhan will join the Samajwadi Party on Sunday.
Dara Singh Chauhan had resigned as minister from the Uttar Pradesh cabinet on Wednesday.
Speaking to ANI, Maurya said, "As per the strategy, Dara Singh Chauhan will join on January 16 and there will be joining every day. The programme was inside the party office and all of us were following COVID protocols."
The SP leader further said that they are planning to send the BJP to exile, just like 14 years ago, before 2017.
"On March 10, when election results will be announced, the BJP will be cleared from UP and the SP will form the government," said Maurya. -- ANI
08:30 Goa polls: TMC slams Cong, says 'formal' alliance offer made 2 weeks ago
Trinamool Congress Goa in-charge Mahua Moitra on Friday hit out at Congress leader P Chidambaram saying that her party made a 'formal and definitive' offer to Congress in Goa to defeat the Bharatiya Janata Party.
Moitra, who was responding to Chidambaram's statements about the lack of clarity about TMC's proposal, said that if he is not aware of details he should speak to his party leadership rather than making such statements.
"All India Trinamool Congress already made formal and definitive offer to INC on Goa to defeat the BJP. The Indian National Congress leadership asked for time to revert. This was almost two weeks ago. If Chidambaram not aware of details he should talk to his leadership rather than making these statements," TMC MP. -- ANI
08:17 UP polls: Cong fields actor-model Archana Gautam from Hastinapur
The Congress has fielded actor and beauty pageant winner Archana Gautam from Hastinapur constituency in the Meerut district to contest the Uttar Pradesh assembly elections.
Gautam got a ticket within two months of joining the party.
She had joined Congress in November 2021.
On Thursday, the party rolled out its first list of 125 candidates for the assembly elections which are due to be held in seven phases in Uttar Pradesh from February 10 and the list includes 50 women candidates.
Speaking to ANI on Friday, the actor-model said that if she wins the Hastinapur seat, then the main focus will be on development work and tourism will be promoted.
"Hastinapur is a tourist place and there are lots of ancient temples but people are not able to come here because of the connectivity. The first thing as an MLA I will do that I will build a bus stand and railway station for connectivity. Because when tourism will increase here then people will get employment," she added. -- ANI
08:09 Modi to interact with startups at 10.30 am today
As a part of azadi ka amrit mahotsav, a week-long event, "celebrating innovation ecosystem," Prime Minister Narendra Modi will interact with more than 150 startups on Saturday at 10:30 am via video conferencing.
According to Prime Minister's Office, the event is being hosted by the department for promotion of industry and internal trade, ministry of commerce and industry, from January 10 to 16.
The event marks the 6th anniversary of the launch of the Startup India initiative.
The aim of the interaction is to understand how startups can contribute to national needs by driving innovation in the country.
"Startups from various sectors including agriculture, health, enterprise systems, space, industry 4.0, security, fintech and environment will be part of this interaction," it said.
"More than 150 startups have been divided into six working groups based on themes including growing from roots; nudging the DNA; from local to global; technology of future; building champions in manufacturing; and sustainable development," the statement reads.
The PMO said that each group will make a presentation before the Prime Minister on the allotted theme in the interaction. -- ANI
00:14 Centre denies under-reporting of Covid deaths
The central government on Friday refuted media reports alleging a 'significant undercount' of COVID-19 deaths in the first two waves in India, saying that these are baseless, misleading and ill-informed.
Ministry of Health and Family Welfare in a statement refuted some media reports alleging a 'significant undercount' of the actual number of people who have died in India due to COVID-19 in the first two waves, claiming that the final toll may be 'substantially greater' crossing the figures of about three million.
'It is clarified that such media reports are fallacious and ill-informed. They are not based on facts and are mischievous in nature. India has a very robust system of birth and death reporting which is based on a Statute and is carried out regularly from the Gram Panchayat level to the District-level and state-level. The whole exercise is carried out under the overall oversight of the Registrar General of India (RGI),' it said.
Moreover, the government of India has a very comprehensive definition to classify COVID deaths, based on globally acceptable categorisation.
'All deaths are being independently reported by states, and are being compiled centrally. The backlog in COVID19 mortality data being submitted by the states at different times are being reconciled in the data of Govt of India on a regular basis,' the ministry said.
The ministry said that a large number of states have regularly reconciled their death numbers and have reported arrear deaths in a broadly transparent manner. Therefore, to project that deaths have been under-reported is without basis and without justification.
It further clarified that there is an extreme difference in COVID caseload and linked mortality between the Indian States.
'Any assumptions putting all states in one envelope would mean mapping skewed data of outliers together with States reporting lowest mortality which is bound to stretch the median towards higher and wrong results,' it added.
Furthermore, there is an incentive in India to report COVID deaths as they are entitled to monetary compensation. Hence, the likelihood of underreporting is less, it said.
'During a disruptive situation like the pandemic, the actual mortality could be more than the reported deaths due to many factors, even in the most robust health systems. However, any analysis with the view to deduce information collected from extremely varied caseload and outcome situations among Indian states is bound to be incomplete and incorrect,' the statement reads.
It said that these current media reports on 'significant undercount' of the actual number of people who have died in India are based on a study which seems biased in nature as only adults with COVID-19 symptoms were captured and cannot be thus representative of the general population.
'There also appears to be selection bias as the survey is restricted to phone-owning people who can also take out time to answer questions comprehensively. The sample could be skewed towards urban areas in that sense, where more cases were reported, and thus, have a higher reporting. They are also people likely to be more aware and have greater reporting bias,' the health ministry said. -- ANI