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First images of final design of Abu Dhabi’s first Hindu temple released


Dubai: The majestic stone fa ade of the first Hindu temple coming up in Abu Dhabi will be adorned with scenes from Hindu epics, scriptures and ancient stories from India, as well as motifs popular in the Gulf countries, according to a media report on Tuesday.

The temple management of the BAPS Hindu Mandir in Abu Dhabi has released the first images of the final design of the traditional stone temple and the hand-carved stone pillars that have been taking shape in India, the Gulf News reported.

The visuals of the final design of the temple have been released through a video that chronicles the progress of the temple right from the inception of its concept till the pouring of the UAE’s largest single pouring of fly ash concrete for the raft foundation of the temple.

The foundation stone of the temple was laid in April last year and work started from December.

Dubbed a spiritual oasis for global harmony, the temple’s final master plan revealed in the video shows a massive amphitheatre overlooking the shrine, the daily reported.

A library, a classroom, a majlis and a community centre have also been featured within the compound in Abu Mureikhah area. Waterfalls flanking the steps to the entrance of the shrine, and water bodies circling the temple complex can also be seen in the video.

The design of the master plan was completed in early 2020, and optimised engineered during the slowdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic, a spokesperson of the temple told the Gulf News.

This is the first time the visuals of the final design have been released through the video, said Ashok Kotecha, BAPS Hindu Mandir spokesperson.

The work on the historic temple is progressing with the support of the community and guidance from the leadership in India and the UAE. While navigating the challenges produced by COVID-19 and adhering to local best practices during the pandemic, stone work has continued in India, Kotecha said.

Kotecha said key values and tales of universal wisdom, and the authentic ancient art and architecture would be revived through the stone carvings used for the temple.

The stories and carvings include diverse portions of India’s geography and Hindu belief systems. This would include [epics] Mahabharata and Ramayana as well as the Puranas and regional histories. In fact, this Mandir will be uniquely identified by its intricate mandovar [fa ade] which will share many traditional value tales from throughout India as well as unique designs of the Gulf, he said.

The intricate carvings of the temple range from figurines only a few inches tall to statues of many metres. The towering facade of the ground floor of the temple has also been revealed.

Kotecha said artisans have carved a whopping 25,000 cubic feet of stone in different sites in Rajasthan and Gujarat.

It is a substantial portion of the Mandir. The marble is from Italy, and the sandstone is from Rajasthan.

Currently, Swami Brahmavihari Das, the head of the temple and BAPS international spokesperson, is visiting the UAE to oversee the next stage of the foundation on site in preparation for the arrival of the carved stones which will be shipped and assembled in the first quarter of 2021, the daily said.

The fact that the temple construction is moving forward at such a steady pace is itself a statement of the vision of the leaders of the UAE and India and of the local community’s commitment to making a lasting contribution to the country which has become their home and heart of success and growth, Kotecha added.

Last month, Sheikh Abdullah Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, and Indian Ambassador to the UAE Pavan Kapoor met members of the BAPS Swaminarayan Sanstha, the organisation working on constructing the temple, to review the progress of the construction.

The Indian community in the UAE constitutes 30 per cent of the total population and is the largest expatriate community in the Gulf country. (PTI)

Baroda bypoll: BJP’s Yogeshwar Dutt defeated by Cong nominee


Chandigarh: Congress candidate Indu Raj Narwal on Tuesday defeated his nearest rival and BJP nominee Yogeshwar Dutt in the Baroda assembly seat of Haryana with a margin of over 10,000 votes, said officials.

The opposition Congress has retained the Baroda seat.

This is the second time that Olympian wrestler Dutt has lost the polls from this constituency.

Dutt had lost the 2019 assembly poll by about 4,800 votes to Congress candidate Krishan Hooda.

The Baroda assembly seat fell vacant in April following the death of Hooda, who had won it thrice in the 2009, 2014 and 2019 assembly polls

Haryana Congress chief Kumari Selja said with their decision, the people of Baroda have given a befitting reply to anti-farmers and anti-labour forces .

The victory of Indu Raj Narwal is a win of farmers and labourers. I assure residents of Baroda that the Congress will live up to their expectations, tweeted Selja. (PTI)

Indian researchers working towards developing effective vaccine strategies against SARS-CoV-2 and HIV


Bengaluru: Indian Institute of Science claimed on Tuesday that researchers led by Raghavan Varadarajan, Professor at IISc’s Molecular Biophysics Unit, are working towards developing effective vaccine strategies against two viruses: SARS-CoV-2 and HIV.

In two studies published in the past week, they reported the design of a ‘heat-tolerant’ COVID-19 vaccine candidate and a rapid method to identify specific regions on the HIV envelopeprotein that are targeted by antibodies, which can help design effective vaccines, an IISc press release said.

The studies were published in the Journal of Biological Chemistry and the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences respectively, according to Bengaluru-based IISc.

The COVID-19 vaccine candidate contains a part of the spike protein of the novel coronavirus called the Receptor Binding Domain (RBD) – the region that helps the virus stick to the hosts cell.

It is being developed by Varadarajans lab in collaboration with Mynvax, a startup co-founded by him and incubated at IISc, as well as several other institutes.

“When tested in guinea pig models, the vaccine candidate triggered a strong immune response”, the statement said.

“Surprisingly, it also remained stable for a month at 37C, and freeze-dried versions could tolerate temperatures as high as 100C.

Such ‘warm’ vaccines can be stored and transported without expensive cooling equipment to remote areas for mass vaccination – most vaccines need to be stored between 2-8C or even cooler temperatures to avoid losing their potency”, it said.

Compared to newer types such as mRNA vaccines, making a protein-based vaccine like this can also be scaled up easily in India where manufacturers have been making similar vaccines for decades, IISc said.

There is another difference between the vaccine candidate being developed by Varadarajans team and many other COVID-19 vaccines in the works: it only uses a specific part of the RBD, a string of 200 amino acids, instead of the entire spike protein.

The team inserted genes coding for this part via a carrier DNA molecule called a plasmid, into mammalian cells, which then churned out copies of the RBD section.

They found that the RBD formulation was just as good as the full spike protein in triggering an immune response in guinea pigs, but much more stable at high temperatures for extended periods – the full spike protein quickly lost its activity at temperatures above 50C, according to the statement.

“Now we have to get funds to take this forward to clinical development, says Varadarajan.

This would include safety and toxicity studies in rats along with process development and GMP manufacture of a clinical trial batch, before they are tested in humans.

“Those studies can cost about Rs 10 crore. Unless the government funds us, we might not be able to take it forward”, he added.

The second study focused on HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, a disease for which there is no vaccine despite decades of research.

The team, which included researchers from multiple institutes, sought to pinpoint which parts of the HIVs envelope protein are targeted by neutralising antibodies – the ones that actually block virus entry into cells, not just flag it for other immune cells to find.

According to the authors, vaccines based on these regions might induce a better immune response. To map such regions, researchers use methods like X-ray crystallography and cryo- electron microscopy, but these are time-consuming, complicated and expensive.

Therefore, Varadarajan and his team explored alternative approaches, and eventually arrived at a simpler, yet effective solution.

First, they mutated the virus so that an amino acid called cysteine would pop up in several places on the envelope protein. They then added a chemical label that would stick to these cysteine molecules, and finally, treated the virus with neutralising antibodies.

If the antibodies could not bind to crucial sites on the virus because they were blocked by the cysteine label, the virus could survive and cause infection.

Those sites were then identified by sequencing the genes of the surviving mutant viruses.

“This is a rapid way of figuring out where antibodies are binding and is useful for vaccine design,” says Varadarajan.

It could also help in simultaneously testing how different peoples sera samples – the portions of their blood containing antibodies – react to the same vaccine candidate or virus, he says.

“In principle, researchers could adapt this methodology to any virus, including SARS-CoV-2”, he said. (PTI)

Cong leader Udit Raj questions reliability of EVMs


New Delhi: After the ruling NDA took an initial lead from the grand alliance in poll trends for Bihar, Congress leader Udit Raj on Tuesday raised questions on the reliability of EVMs asking why they cannot be hacked if satellites can be controlled from the earth.

He also asked if Donald Trump could have lost in the US elections had EVMs been used.

“If the direction of satellites to Mars and Moon can be controlled from the earth, then why can’t EVM be hacked,” Udit Raj said in a tweet in Hindi.

“If elections were held in America with EVMs, could Trump have lost,” he asked.

Dalit leader Udit Raj is the Congress party’s national spokesperson. He was a former BJP MP from Delhi.

In another tweet, he took a swipe at the BJP, saying it has been able to sideline Nitish Kumar with its performance in Bihar.

Initial trends in Bihar showed the NDA taking the lead in the election to the 243-member assembly.

The BJP appeared set to outperform its senior alliance partner JD(U) headed by Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, according to trends available so far.

Several exit polls had predicted victory of the Mahagathbandhan of the RJD, Congress and the Left parties. (PTI)

Korean zombie thriller ‘Peninsula’ to hit Indian screens on Nov 27


Mumbai: South Korean zombie thriller “Peninsula”, directed by Yeon Sang-ho, is slated to be released in Indian theatres on November 27, Zee Studios and Kross Pictures said on Monday.

“Peninsula” is the sequel to the 2016 superhit zombie film “Train to Busan”, also directed by Yeon.

The decision to release the film in India came days after Maharashtra government allowed reopening of theatres and multiplexes outside coronavirus containment zones from November 5.

“Peninsula”, which was a major draw at the Korean box office when the country’s theatres resumed activity after COVID-19 induced lockdown, is set four years after the zombie virus outbreak as depicted in “Train to Busan”.

The film, starring Gang Dong-won and Lee Jung-hyun, follows an ex-soldier who is sent along with his team to retrieve a truck full of money from the wastelands of the Korean peninsula now inhabited by zombies and rogue militia.

Yeon said he imagined what Korea would look like after the outbreak depicted in “Train to Busan” and what kind of scenarios would unfold.

“It is also the culmination of all the anticipation from fans all over the world. I wanted to tell the story of modern people who live in a rational society, and how they react to a new world enveloped in barbarism and contrasted humanism,” the director said in a statement.

According to Shariq Patel, CEO Zee Studios, Korean films have a growing fanbase in India and going by the popularity of its predecessor, “Peninsula” promises to top that experience.

“We are confident that this film will be one of the best theatrical experiences our audiences will have this year,” Patel added.

Hyunwoo Thomas Kim, CEO of Kross Pictures, said, “We’re thrilled to distribute a Korean film in India in conjunction with Zee Studios and feel privileged that it’s Yeon Sang-ho’s much loved ‘Peninsula’, which is one of the biggest hit movies in Korea this year. We hope it will be a great cinema experience for Indian audiences coming out of the long lockdown.”

“Peninsula” was announced as an official Cannes Film Festival 2020 Selection and was set to make its world premiere at the prestigious movie gala, which could not be held in its “original form” in the wake of the pandemic. (PTI)

Taapsee Pannu starts shooting for ‘Rashmi Rocket’


Mumbai: Actor Taapsee Pannu on Monday said she has started filming her upcoming sports drama “Rashmi Rocket”.

Set in Kutch, Gujarat, “Rashmi Rocket” stars Pannu in the title role of a gifted athlete and is directed by Akarsh Khurana, who helmed Irrfan Khan’s “Karwaan”.

Pannu took to Instagram and shared a picture of herself on a race track.

“Let’s do this! #RashmiRocket,” the 33-year-old actor wrote.

The film, backed by producer Ronnie Screwvala’s banner RSVP, began filming last week.

The movie’s shoot was previously set to commence earlier this year but got delayed due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Actor Priyanshu Painyuli, who recently starred in the second season of the Amazon Prime Video web series “Mirzapur”, will feature alongside Pannu in the film.

The film is written by Nanda Periyasamy, Aniruddha Guha and Kanika Dhillon.

Composer Amit Trivedi, known for “Dev D”, “Lootera”, “Queen” and “Kedarnath”, will be scoring the music for the film.

“Rashmi Rocket”, produced by Screwvala along with Neha Anand and Pranjal Khandhdiya, is set to release next year.

Pannu was last seen in Anubhav Sinha’s “Thappad”, which released in February. (PTI)

China successfully launches 13 satellites, including 10 for Argentina, with a single rocket


Beijing: China on Friday successfully sent 13 satellites, including 10 from Argentina, into the orbit in what was stated to be the biggest launch of foreign satellites by the country that could fetch hundreds of millions of dollars to the communist nation.

The satellites, including 10 commercial remote sensing satellites developed by Argentinian company Satellogic, blasted off atop a Long March-6 carrier rocket from the Taiyuan Satellite Launch Centre in north China’s Shanxi Province, state-run Xinhua news agency reported.

According to officials, Friday’s launch was the 351st by the Long March rocket series.

Last year the official media reports said that China plans to launch 90 earth observation satellites for Satellogic.

China has been using its space rockets to put satellites of several countries, including close ally, Pakistan.

Though financial terms of the deal with Argentina were not disclosed, Fu Zhiheng, vice-president of Great Wall, the international arm of State-owned space conglomerate China Aerospace Science and Technology Corp, told state-run China Daily last year that the deal is at the level of hundreds of millions of US dollars.

That makes it one of the largest contracts China has obtained in the international space market in the past several years, he said.

It is also the first time that China will launch such a large number of satellite for a foreign client, Fu said, adding Great Wall will continue to promote the Long March 6 in the international market.

Long-term exposure to air pollution may increase COVID-19 death risk, say scientists


Boston: A new analysis of more than 3,000 counties in the US has found that people with long-term exposure to fine-particle pollutants may be more likely to die from COVID-19, findings which may make policymakers reexamine the harms of air pollution and help reduce deaths during the pandemic.

The research, published in the journal Science Advances, investigated the impact of long-term exposure to PM 2.5 pollutants — tiny particles in the air that are two and one half microns or less in width — on COVID-19 mortality rates in 3089 counties in the US, “covering 98 per cent of the population.”

It found that “higher historical exposure” to these particulate pollutants is associated with greater county-level COVID-19 mortality rates after accounting for several area-level risk factors.

While the study could not provide insights into the mechanism underlying the relationship, the scientists, including those from Harvard University in the US, believe chronic exposure to PM 2.5 may cause over production of the ACE-2 receptor in the lungs, which the novel coronavirus uses to enter host cells.

They believe the prolonged exposure to air pollution may also impair people’s immune system.

“Chronic exposure to PM2.5 causes alveolar ACE-2 receptor overexpression and impairs host defences. This could cause a more severe form of COVID-19 in ACE-2 depleted lungs, increasing the likelihood of poor outcomes, including death,” the scientists wrote in the study.

Citing the limitations of the study, the scientists said they were unable to adjust for individual-level risk factors such as age, race, and smoking status as such data were unavailable.

“This approach leaves us unable to make conclusions regarding individual-level associations,” the scientists said.

However, the researchers said the analyses provide strong justification for follow-up investigations as more and higher-quality COVID-19 data become available.

“Research on how modifiable factors may exacerbate COVID-19 symptoms and increase mortality risk is essential to guide policies and behaviours to minimize fatality related to the pandemic,” they noted in the research. (PTI)

Delhi’s air quality ‘very poor’, may improve slightly


New Delhi: The national capital’s air quality was recorded in the “very poor” category on Friday morning, while government agencies said it is likely to improve slightly in the next 24 hours.

On Thursday, the city’s air quality had dropped to the worst levels since November last year, with farm fires accounting for 42 per cent of its pollution, the maximum this season so far.

Experts said unfavourable meteorological conditions – calm winds and low temperatures – and smoke from farm fires in neighbouring states pushed the air quality index to the “severe” zone on Thursday, the first time since January.

However, higher wind speed picked up later, helping in dispersion of pollutants.

Delhi’s air quality index (AQI) stood at 397 at 10 am. On Thursday, the 24-hour average AQI was 450, the highest since November 15 last year, when it was 458.

The neighbouring cities of Faridabad, Ghaziabad, Greater Noida, Gurugram and Noida also recorded “very poor” to “severe” air quality.

An AQI between zero and 50 is considered “good”, 51 and 100 “satisfactory”, 101 and 200 “moderate”, 201 and 300 “poor”, 301 and 400 “very poor”, and 401 and 500 “severe”.

PM10 levels in Delhi-NCR stood at 415 microgram per cubic meter ( g/m3) at 10 am, down from 563 at 10 am on Thursday — the highest since November 15 last year, when it was 637 g/m3, according to CPCB data. PM10 levels below 100 g/m3 are considered safe in India.

PM10 is particulate matter with a diameter of 10 micrometers and is inhalable into the lungs. These particles include dust, pollen and mold spores.

The levels of PM2.5 – finer particles which can even enter the bloodstream – were reduced to 229 g/m3 at 10 am from 360 g/m3 at 12 noon on Thursday. PM2.5 levels up to 60 g/m3 are considered safe.

According to the India Meteorological Department (IMD), the maximum wind speed was 12 kilometres per hour on Friday and the minimum temperature 11.2 degrees Celsius. Calm winds and low temperatures trap pollutants close to the ground, while favourable wind speed helps in their dispersion.

V K Soni, the head of IMD’s environment monitoring research centre, the air quality is likely to improve slightly, but will remain in the “very poor” category for the next two days.

The Air Quality Early Warning System for Delhi said the farm fire count in Punjab remained “very high” on Thursday and it is likely to impact the air quality of Delhi-NCR and other parts of northwest India.

The Ministry of Earth Sciences’ air quality monitor, SAFAR, said the farm fire count in Punjab, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, and neighboring areas increased significantly and stood at 4,135 on Wednesday, the highest this season so far.

SAFAR said the boundary layer wind direction is northwesterly – favourable for the transport of pollutants from farm fires.

“The share of stubble burning in Delhi’s PM2.5 pollution was estimated at 42 per cent for Thursday,” it said.

Stubble burning accounted for 5 per cent of Delhi’s pollution on Wednesday, 10 per cent on Tuesday, 16 on Monday and 40 on Sunday.

Last year, the stubble contribution to Delhi’s pollution had peaked to 44 per cent on November 1, according to SAFAR data.

Health experts said that during the COVID-19 pandemic, air pollution has become a serious health concern for about the two crore residents of the national capital.

According to a doctor at Sir Ganga Ram Hospital, intake of every 22 micrograms per cubic metre of polluted air is equivalent to smoking a cigarette.

Ajit Jain, the nodal officer for COVID-19 at Rajiv Gandhi Super Specialty Hospital, said air pollution was turning the pandemic catastrophic.

With Delhi witnessing a spike in the number of new COVID-19 cases amid worsening pollution levels, the Delhi government on Thursday announced a blanket ban on firecrackers from November 7 to November 30.

The CPCB taskforce on the Graded Response Action Plan has also suggested government and private offices and other establishments to reduce vehicle usage by at least 30 per cent to control pollution.

Implementing agencies have been asked to step up their efforts, be more vigilant, and ensure quick action, including on redressal of complaints on SAMEER application and other social media platforms to curb polluting activities. (PTI)

Arnab Goswami arrested in two-year-old suicide case


Mumbai: Police on Wednesday arrested Republic TV Editor-in-Chief Arnab Goswami for allegedly abetting the suicide of a 53-year-old interior designer, a police official said.

The official said a team of Alibaug police picked up Goswami from his residence here. Goswami, who was seen being pushed into the police van, claimed he was assaulted by police at his home, while being taken away.

In 2018, an architect and his mother committed suicide over alleged non-payment of dues by Goswamis Republic TV, the official said.

In May this year, Maharashtra Home Minister Anil Deshmukh had announced that a re-investigation has been ordered on a fresh complaint by Adnya Naik, daughter of the architect Anvay Naik.

Deshmukh had said Adnya alleged that the Alibaug police had not investigated the alleged non-payment of dues from Goswami’s channel, which she claimed drove her father and grandmother to suicide in May 2018. PTI 

Counting of votes begin in US; Biden takes early lead


Washington:Democratic candidate Joe Biden has taken an early lead against Republican incumbent Donald Trump as the counting of votes in the crucial US presidential election began on Tuesday night.

Polling was yet to conclude in various states in the West Coast as states in the other parts of the country started counting of votes at the conclusion of their polling late in the evening.

The next occupant to the White House needs to win 270 of the 538 electoral college votes.

As per the early trend, Biden has earned 85 and Trump 61 electoral college votes, with results from key battleground states just started trickling in. Biden, as per experts, has multiple paths to victory, with Trump having very little room to maneuver.

President Trump, who is seeking his re-election for the second consecutive term, in a tweet expressed confidence on the results.


He was watching the election results from the White House. He has invited some 250 select guests for an event in the East room of the White House.

Stay in line, folks, tweeted Biden, Stay in line said his running mate senator Kamala Harris, who is of Indian-origin.

According to experts, North Carolina, Ohio and Pennsylvania hold key to the election results. Trump needs to win all three of them, while Biden can earn the presidency with win in any one of these states.


US approves Taiwan drone purchase as arms sales escalate


Washington: The Trump administration has notified Congress that it has approved the sale of USD 600 million in armed drones to Taiwan, the latest in a series of arms transfers for the island.

The State Department said on Tuesday it had Ok’d Taiwan’s purchase of four “weapons ready” remotely piloted aircraft and related equipment. The move is likely to infuriate China, which regards Taiwan as a renegade province and has reacted angrily to previous weapons sales’ announcements to the island.

“This proposed sale serves US national, economic and security interests by supporting the recipient’s continuing efforts to modernise its armed forces and to maintain a credible defensive capability,” it said. “The proposed sale will help improve the security of the recipient and assist in maintaining political stability, military balance, economic and progress in the region.”

It said the sale would improve Taiwan’s defence by bolstering its intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities and could help deter military action against it.

Just last week, the administration approved plans for a USD 2.37 billion sale of Harpoon missile systems to Taiwan. That came hours after Beijing had announced sanctions on US defence contractors, including Boeing, the lead contractor on the Harpoon deal, over a previous weapons deal.

China’s ruling Communist Party claims Taiwan, which split with the mainland in 1949 during a civil war, as part of its territory and has threatened to invade. Washington promised in the 1980s to reduce and eventually end weapons sales to Taiwan but insists its dispute with Beijing must be settled peacefully.

Chinese-US relations have plunged to their lowest level in decades amid disputes about security, technology, the coronavirus pandemic and human rights.

Taiwan has long been an irritant in relations. Washington has no formal relations with the island’s democratically-elected government but is its main ally. US law requires the government to ensure Taiwan can defend itself. Weapons sales to the island have increased in quantity and quality. (AP)

Control of Senate at stake as Trump’s allies face Democrats


Washington: Control of the Senate was a razor-close proposition in Tuesday’s election as Republicans fought to retain their majority against a surge of Democrats challenging President Donald Trump’s allies across a vast political map.

Both parties saw paths to victory, though the outcome might not be known on election night.

From New England to the Deep South and the Midwest to the Mountain West, Republicans are defending seats in states once considered long shots for Democrats. The Trump administration’s handling of the COVID-19 crisis, its economic fallout and the nation’s uneasy mood all seemed to be on the ballot.

Trump loomed large over the Senate races as did Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden. Their campaigns swooped into key states, including Iowa, Georgia and Michigan, in the final days of the race. Voters ranked the pandemic and the economy as top concerns, according to AP VoteCast, a national survey of the electorate.

In South Carolina, where one of the nation’s most well-known senators, Republican Lindsey Graham, was in the campaign of his career against Democrat Jamie Harrison, more than 13,000 votes in one county will have to be counted by hand by Friday’s deadline to certify returns.

In North Carolina, where GOP Senator Thom Tillis was struggling to fend of Democrat Cal Cunningham, the state Board of Elections voted on Tuesday to keep four polling places open longer — 45 minutes at most — because they opened late, and that was expected to delay statewide reporting of results.

Securing the Senate majority will be vital for the winner of the presidency. Senators confirm administration nominees, including the Cabinet, and can propel or stall the White House agenda. With Republicans now controlling the chamber, 53-47, three or four seats will determine party control, depending on who wins the presidency because the vice president can break a tie.

“Let’s run through the tape,” said Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, making a final campaign swing on Monday in Kentucky. His opponent was Democrat Amy McGrath, a former fighter pilot.

McConnell said he hoped to remain majority leader alongside Trump, but acknowledged that tough Senate races could flip control to the Democrats.

The campaigns were competing across an expansive map as Democrats put Republicans on defence deep into Trump country.

Stuck in Washington to confirm Trump’s Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett a week before Election Day, senators quickly fanned out — some alongside the president — for last-ditch tours, often socially distanced in the pandemic, to shore up votes.

Tillis joined Trump’s rally in Fayetteville, North Carolina, on Monday as Tillis struggled against Cunningham despite the married challenger’s sexting scandal with a public relations strategist.

In South Carolina, Graham acknowledging the tight contest after Harrison raised a whopping USD 100 million by October, an unheard-of sum for the state. The senator, making TV appeals for cash, said he, too, hit the USD 100 million mark over the weekend.

Democrats have more than one route to secure the three or four seats needed to capture the majority, and GOP strategists privately acknowledged that the incumbents will almost certainly suffer defeats in some races.

Younger voters and more minorities are pushing some states toward Democrats. In Colorado, the parties have essentially stopped spending money for or against GOP Senator Cory Gardner because it seems he was heading toward defeat against Democrat John Hickenlooper, a former governor.

Arizona could see two Democratic senators for the first time since last century if former astronaut Mark Kelly maintains his advantage over GOP Senator Martha McSally for the seat once held by the late Republican John McCain.

Even the open seat in Kansas, which has not elected a Democrat to the Senate since 1932, was being contested.

The biggest risks to Democrats were in Alabama and Michigan.

Republicans were expecting to reclaim the seat in Alabama, where Democrat Doug Jones pulled off a rare 2017 special election win in the Trump stronghold. Now, however, he was in an uphill campaign against Republican Tommy Tuberville, a former Auburn football coach.

In the presidential battleground of Michigan, Republicans have made an aggressive push for John James, a Black Republican businessman, against Democratic Senator Gary Peters.

“We think the numbers are moving,” said Senate Leadership Fund president Steven Law.

Still, voter turnout during the COVID-19 crisis remains key, and volatile, as more Americans than ever are voting.

Both Biden and Trump touched down in Georgia, where the state was seeing a boost of new voters. Georgia’s two Senate seats were at stake and could very well push to a January 5 runoff if no candidate reached beyond the 50 per cent threshold.

GOP Senator David Perdue, the former business executive Trump calls his favourite senator, tried to fend off Democrat Jon Ossoff, another candidate who has benefitted from the “green wave” of campaign donations.

Separately, GOP Senator Kelly Loeffler faced Republican Rep. Doug Collins, as well as Democrat Raphael Warnock, in a special election for the seat she was appointed to fill after the retirement of GOP Senator Johnny Isakson.

The Maine race between GOP Senator Susan Collins and Democrat Sara Gideon was another contest that could push past Election Day if no candidate breaks the 50 per cent threshold. Collins has typically rallied support as a centrist with an independent streak, but the tight contest shows the difficulty GOP senators have appealing to Trump’s most ardent backers while also retaining support from more moderate voters.

The political landscape is quickly changing from six years ago, when most of these senators last faced voters. It is a reminder of how sharply the political climate has shifted in the Trump era.

In Montana, Republican Senator Steve Daines was trying to hold off Democrat Steve Bullock, the governor, in a state where Trump was popular. Democrats created an opening by working hard to recruit a well-known candidate in Bullock, who also ran in the party’s primary for president.

Iowa Senator Joni Ernst was fighting for a second term against Democrat Theresa Greenfield. Texas Senator John Cornyn faced an upstart Democrat, MJ Hegar, in the once solidly Republican state.

And in Alaska, newcomer Al Gross, a doctor, broke state fundraising records in part with viral campaign ads as he took on GOP Senator Dan Sullivan. (AP)

US set to witness highest voter turnout in a century as over 160 million votes expected to be cast in Election 2020


New York: The US appears to be on track to see over 160 million votes cast in the 2020 presidential election, a turnout rate of about 67 per cent, which is higher than the country has witnessed in more than a century, as President Donald Trump and his Democratic rival Joe Biden campaigned through the final day to get more voters to the polling booths.

Voting across the nation was largely smooth as voters lined up early in the morning across polling stations in the country to cast their ballots in one of the most consequential and polarised elections in US history that took place in the shadow of a devastating coronavirus pandemic.

The pandemic as well as a strong drive among Americans to have their voices heard on the ballot box resulted in a record 101 million early votes cast in person and by mail before the polls even opened on Election Day.

The New York Times reported that the 2020 presidential campaign was shaping up to be one for the record books, on pace to attract the highest turnout in more than a century.

The NYT quoted University of Florida professor Michael McDonald, who compiles data from across the nation, as saying that America appeared to be on track to see roughly 160 million total votes cast. “That would mean a turnout rate of about 67 per cent of the eligible voting population — higher than the United States has seen in more than a century,” the NYT said, adding that the last time the turnout was more than 65 per cent was 1908, according to the United States Elections Project.

“The huge turnout appeared to be spurred by the momentous issues that have upended the lives of nearly every American, including the surging coronavirus outbreak and the struggling economy, the political passions of the Trump era, and the steps that many states took this year to make voting easier and safer during the pandemic,” the NYT report said.

The NYT reported that at least six states — Texas, Colorado, Washington, Oregon, Hawaii and Montana — recorded more votes in early voting than they did during the whole 2016 election. Several battleground states, including Florida, Georgia and North Carolina, were nearing their 2016 totals.

Throughout the day, Trump and Biden were on the road to continue to meet with party workers and exhorting voters to turn up at the polling stations to cast their ballots.

Trump, visiting his campaign headquarters in Virginia, was asked by reporters if he had prepared victory or concession speeches ahead of the election results. The president said he was “not thinking about (a) concession speech or acceptance speech yet. Winning is easy. Losing is never easy. Not for me, it is not”.

During the day, Trump tweeted: “Get out & VOTE! Under my Administration, our ECONOMY is growing at the fastest rate EVER at 33.1%. Next year will be the GREATEST ECONOMIC YEAR in American History!”

Biden too strongly urged voters to make their votes count, saying if they had not voted early, they should vote on Tuesday and stay in line as long as it takes. “Our democracy is at stake,” he said.

“Folks, time is running out to make your voice heard in this election…Every moment of the last four years comes down to today.”

In another tweet, he said: “This is our moment to prove that: Love is more powerful than hate. Hope is more powerful than fear. Light is more powerful than dark. Today is your absolute last chance to vote in this election.”

Former US president Barack Obama said in a tweet, “This Election Day, everything is on the line. Our jobs. Our health care. Whether or not we get this pandemic under control. But here’s the good news: today, you can choose change. You can elect” Biden and Kamala Harris. “Let’s win this thing.”

Harris tweeted: “This is our time. Let’s use our vote, our power, to choose the America we can be — and the future our children and grandchildren deserve,” and said in another tweet: “Now is the time to stand up. Now is the time to speak out. Now is the time to vote. Your voice is your power — don’t let anyone take it away.”

Harris also said what Trump fears the most is not Biden or her but “the power of the people”. She said Biden “knows that no matter where we come from or where we live, no matter our race or gender, background or faith, no matter how we identify or who we love, no matter the language your grandmother speaks — what we have in common is so much stronger than what divides us”.

The NYT said in a report that Republican voters were more likely to vote on Election Day, while Democrats were more likely to vote early, especially by mail. Democrats have also historically voted in higher numbers in the evening, after work. “Precincts in predominantly white, Hispanic and Black neighbourhoods showed only a trickle of voters, suggesting most people had voted early, either by mail or in person,” it said.

According to voter data analysed by the Collective PAC, which is dedicated to electing Black lawmakers, Black voters were on pace to greatly surpass turnout during the presidential election in 2016. Quentin James, the founder of the PAC, said more than 616,000 Black people had already cast ballots in Texas — more than the 582,000 who had voted in 2016 — and that the turnout of Black voters in Nevada, Georgia, North Carolina and Arizona was on pace to easily overtake the 2016 levels, the NYT report said.

Source: PTI

Trump or Biden? Big turnout, few hiccups as voters choose


Washington: Millions of voters braved coronavirus concerns and occasional long lines on Tuesday to choose between President Donald Trump and Democratic challenger Joe Biden in an epic election that will influence how the US confronts everything from the pandemic to race relations for years to come.

Those who turned out in person joined 102 million fellow Americans who voted days or weeks earlier, a record number that represented 73 per cent of the total vote in the 2016 presidential election.

Spirits were high — and positive — in many polling places after a long, exceptionally divisive campaign.

“The most important issue is for us to set aside our personal differences that we have with each other,” said Eboni Price, 29, who rode her horse Moon to her polling place in a northwest Houston neighbourhood.

Biden entered Election Day with multiple paths to victory, while Trump, playing catch-up in a number of battleground states, had a narrower but still feasible road to clinch 270 Electoral College votes. Control of the Senate was at stake, too: Democrats needed to net three seats if Biden captured the White House to gain control of all of Washington for the first time in a decade. The House was expected to remain under Democratic control.

With the worst public health crisis in a century still fiercely present, the pandemic — and Trump’s handling of it — was the inescapable focus for 2020.

The president began his day on an upbeat note, predicting that he would do even better than in 2016. But during a midday visit to his campaign headquarters, he spoke in a gravelly, subdued tone.

“Winning is easy,” Trump told reporters. “Losing is never easy, not for me, it is not.” Trump left open the possibility of addressing the nation Tuesday night, even if a winner had not been determined.

Biden had scheduled a nighttime speech from his Delaware hometown but, hours before slated to deliver it, he turned noncommittal, saying, “If there is something to talk about tonight, I will talk about it. If not, I will wait till the votes are counted the next day.”

“I am superstitious about predicting what an outcome is going to be until it happens…but I am hopeful,” said Biden, who earlier had made a last pitch in the critical state of Pennsylvania. “It is just so uncertain … you cannot think of an election in the recent past where so many states were up for grabs.”

The momentum from early voting carried into Election Day, as an energised electorate produced long lines at polling sites throughout the country. Voters braved worries of the coronavirus, threats of polling place intimidation and expectations of long lines caused by changes to voting systems, but appeared undeterred as turnout appeared it would easily surpass the 139 million ballots cast four years ago.

No major problems arose on Tuesday, outside the typical glitches of a presidential election: Some polling places opened late, robocalls provided false information to voters in Iowa and Michigan, and machines or software malfunctioned in some counties in the battleground states of Ohio, Pennsylvania, Georgia and Texas.

The cybersecurity agency at the Department of Homeland Security said there were no outward signs by midday of any malicious activity.

The record-setting early vote — and legal skirmishing over how it would be counted — drew unsupported allegations of fraud from Trump, who had repeatedly refused to guarantee he would honour the election’s result.

Biden visited his childhood home and church in Scranton on Tuesday as part of a get-out-the-vote effort before awaiting election results in his longtime hometown of Wilmington, Delaware. His running mate, Senator Kamala Harris, was visiting Detroit, a heavily Black city in battleground Michigan.

Biden and his wife, Jill, also stopped at St. Joseph’s on the Brandywine in Wilmington, Delaware, with two of his grandchildren in tow. Then they walked to his late son Beau Biden’s grave in the church cemetery. Beau, a former Delaware attorney general, died of brain cancer in 2015 and had encouraged the former vice president to make another White House run.

Trump called in to “Fox & Friends”, where he predicted he would win by a larger electoral margin than he did in 2016, when he tallied 306 electoral votes to Democrat Hillary Clinton’s 232. He invited hundreds of supporters to an election night party in the East Room of the White House.

The first polls close at 6 pm Eastern time in swaths of Indiana and Kentucky, followed by a steady stream of closings every 30 minutes to an hour throughout the evening. The last polls in Alaska were shutting down at 1 am Eastern time on Wednesday.

The hard-fought campaign left voters on both sides eager to move on, although the result might not be known for days.

“I believe there is a lot of division and separation,” said Kelvin Hardnett, who was among more than two dozen voters who lined up more than an hour before the polling site at the Cobb County Civic Center outside Atlanta opened on Tuesday. “And I believe that once we get past the names and the titles and the personal agendas, then you know, we can focus on some real issues.”

A new fence was erected around the White House. And in downtowns ranging from New York to Denver to Minneapolis, workers boarded up businesses lest the vote lead to unrest of the sort that broke out earlier this year amid protests over racial inequality.

Just a short walk from the White House, for block after block, stores had their windows and doors covered. Some kept just a front door open, hoping to attract a little business.

Both candidates voted early, and first lady Melania Trump cast her ballot on Tuesday near Mar-a-Lago, the couple’s estate in Palm Beach, Florida. Mrs Trump, who recently recovered from COVID-19, was the only one not wearing a mask as she entered the polling site. Her spokeswoman, Stephanie Grisham, said the first lady was the only person at the polling site besides poll workers and her staff — all of whom were tested.

Whoever wins will have to deal with an anxious nation, reeling from a once-in-a-century health crisis that has closed schools and businesses and that is worsening as the weather turns cold.

The campaign has largely been a referendum on Trump’s handling of the virus. Trump has long insisted the nation is “rounding the turn” on the virus. But Dr Deborah Birx, the coordinator of the White House coronavirus task force, broke with the president and joined a chorus of Trump administration scientists sounding the alarm about the current spike in infections.

“We are entering the most concerning and most deadly phase of this pandemic,” Birx wrote in a memo distributed to top administration officials. She added that the nation was not implementing “balanced” measures needed to slow the spread of the virus.

In Virginia Beach, the choice was Biden for 54-year-old Gabriella Cochrane, who said she thought the former vice president would “surround himself with the brightest and the best” to fight the pandemic.

In Concord, New Hampshire, 70-year-old Linda Eastman said she was giving her vote to Trump, saying, “Maybe he was not perfect with the coronavirus, but I think he did the best that he could with what he had.” (AP)

NY investigating allegations voters are receiving robocalls spreading election disinformation


New York: New York Attorney General Letitia James on Tuesday said her office is actively investigating allegations that voters are receiving robocalls, spreading disinformation and encouraging people to stay home on Election Day.

“Voting is a cornerstone of our democracy,” James said. “Attempts to hinder voters from exercising their right to cast their ballots are disheartening, disturbing and wrong. What’s more is that it is illegal and will not be tolerated.”

James said every voter must be able to exercise his fundamental right to vote without being harassed, coerced or intimidated. “Our nation has a legacy of free and fair elections and this election will be no different. Voters should be rest assured that voting is safe and secure, and they should exercise their fundamental right to vote in confidence,” she said, adding that state leaders across the nation are working hard to protecting “your right to vote and anyone who tries to hinder that right will be held accountable to the fullest extent of the law”.

Earlier this week, the Office of the Attorney General issued subpoenas to investigate the source of these robocalls allegedly spreading disinformation.

James also issued an alert to New Yorkers who voted by absentee ballots to inform them of their rights under New York state’s new “notice and cure” law. The law states that voters must be notified if their absentee ballots are being rejected for certain errors they might have made in filling out their ballots. The voters must also be given an opportunity to fix such errors within an allotted time period.

“With the record number of first-time absentee ballots, we hope this information proves useful to voters who may need to fix an inadvertent error with their ballots,” James said.

She also announced a major victory for voters across the nation in the effort to ensure that every ballot cast in the US presidential election is counted. Judge Emmet Sullivan of the US District Court for the District of Columbia issued a minute-order in which he instructed the United States Postal Service (USPS) to immediately send postal inspectors or inspectors from the USPS Office of Inspector General to post offices in various cities and states across the country to sweep for any ballots that have yet to be delivered and send them out immediately.

“This is a major win for all Americans,” James said. “Our democracy is at its strongest when every voice is heard. This order will ensure that the will of the people decides the outcome of this election, not the Trump administration.”

In August, ?James led a coalition of states and cities from across the country in filing a lawsuit to stop the Trump administration’s attempts to dismantle the USPS. The slowdown is already having life-threatening impacts on veterans and seniors who are not receiving medication, as well as economic impacts on individuals waiting for pension checks and paychecks.

As the United States neared Tuesday’s presidential election, the USPS was also expected to handle a record number of mail-in ballots because of the COVID-19 pandemic.


ISBTs open to thin crowd on first day of resumption of services in Delhi


New Delhi: The three ISBTs which resumed services here after a gap of nearly seven months due to COVID-19 pandemic saw a small crowd of passengers and lesser number of buses on Tuesday.

The Delhi government had on Monday announced resumption of the inter-state bus services from November 3 by allowing the three ISBTs to operate at 50 per cent of their pre-COVID capacity.

Delhi Transport Minister Kailash Gahlot said on the first day of opening of inter-state services, 542 buses from the neighbouring states arrived at the ISBTs by 6 pm.

“The operations at the three ISBTs, specially implementation of safety measures against COVID-19, were smooth although the rush of passengers was less,” he said.

Anand Vihar Inter State Bus Terminal (ISBT) received 257 buses followed by Kashmiri Gate (242) and Saray Kale Khan (43) buses, the minister said.

A senior official of the transport department said the number of buses and passengers are expected to rise manifold in coming days for which arrangements have been but in place.

“The number of buses arrived at ISBTs from Haryana, Uttarkhand, Punjab, Uttar Pradesh and other states on Tuesday was just about 20 per cent of the usual traffic in pre-COVID times,” he said.

The three ISBTs used to cater to daily 3,500 trips of inter-state buses from UP, Haryana, Punjab, Uttarkhand and other states, and 2,000 trips of local buses, before they were shut down due to lockdown to check spread of COVID-19 in March.

Meanwhile, the buses were sanitised at the ISBTs and thermal scanning of passengers and bus crew was also conducted, officials said.

Use of face mask was strictly enforced on the ISBT premises and no passenger travelling standing was allowed in the buses. Social distancing was ensured on the ground, at boarding time as well as inside the buses through markings, they said.

In addition to these measures, testing camps for rapid and RT-PCR tests have also been set up at the ISBTs to deal with asymptomatic passengers identified through thermal screening.

Regular announcements and sensitisation of passengers about COVID-19 precautions through audio-visual communication was also being undertaken, they added.


Another milestone for DMRC in Phase-IV construction work


New Delhi: The Delhi Metro Rail Corporation (DMRC) on Tuesday achieved another major milestone in its Phase-IV work by erecting the project’s first-ever U-girder on the Janakpuri West-R K Ashram Marg corridor, officials said.

The U-girder, an important component of the elevated viaducts constructed for metro corridors, was erected near the Kali Mata Temple, between the upcoming Pushpanjali and Deepali Chowk metro stations along the Outer Ring Road, they said.

“This is a standard span with twin U-girders of 28 m length each in one span and the total weight of one U-girder is approximately 160 MT. This is a major milestone for DMRC, as despite several constraints due to the ongoing pandemic, this important component of the construction work could be started,” the Delhi Metro said in a statement.

The casting of the U-girders was started at the designated casting yard in Mundka in June earlier this year, it said.

Metro projects across the world are extensively using U-girders, which saves time in construction besides ensuring better quality. After casting, these girders are brought to the site and launched with the help of high capacity cranes or launchers.

A total of 780 such U-girders are planned to be erected in this contract, the DMRC said.

U-girders are precast pre-tensioned, U-shaped girders on which track laying can be done immediately.

The casting work of these U-girders also requires meticulous precision and planning. Absolute care has to be taken regarding the maintenance of all measurements and technical parameters during the casting process.

The 28.92 km long Janakpuri West R K Ashram Marg corridor is an extension of Magenta Line and will come up with 22 stations. Construction work on this particular section had started in December last year.

Despite issues such as unavailability of adequate labour force, the DMRC is moving ahead with the construction work of all the three corridors approved so far as part of Delhi Metro’s Phase-IV, officials said.

Under this phase, 65.10 km of new metro lines shall be constructed across three different corridors comprising of 46 metro stations. These new sections shall provide interconnectivity among the already operational sections of Delhi Metro.


Rajasthan civic polls: People have rejected ‘misrule’ of Congress, says state BJP chief


Jaipur: The people of Rajasthan have rejected the “misrule” of the Congress and the party could not win in its “so-called vote bank areas” in Jaipur, Kota and Jodhpur in the municipal corporation polls in these cities, state BJP president Satish Poonia said on Tuesday.

His remarks came after the State Election Commission on Tuesday declared the results of the elections of the six municipal corporations in the three cities.

The Congress and the BJP got clear majority in two municipal corporations each of the six. In the remaining two municipal corporations there were no clear winners as Independents won in several wards.

Earlier Jaipur, Kota and Jodhpur had one municipal corporation each, but after delimitation of wards by the present Congress government, these cities now have two corporations each.

Last time, the BJP had formed its board in the erstwhile municipal corporations of Jaipur, Kota and Jodhpur.

The BJP state president in a statement said that despite the delimitation of wards by the Congress, people have rejected the “misrule” of the Congress.

It has been a common trend in Rajasthan that in local bodies and panchayati raj elections, people vote in favour of the party which is in power in the state, in this case the Congress, Poonia claimed.

But, the trend has reversed and the Congress could get a majority in only two corporations, he said, adding that the results did not go in favour of the ruling party in the state.

Now, the effect will be seen in the upcoming Panchayati Raj elections, Poonia said.

“The result of the municipal elections are not a reason for the Congress to be happy and there is no reason for the BJP to be disappointed. The Congress could not win even in its so-called vote bank areas in Jaipur, Kota and Jodhpur,” he said

People voted against the Congress’ “false hypocrisy and misrule”, the BJP leader said.

Out of the 560 wards of the six municipal corporations in Jaipur, Jodhpur and Kota, which went to polls in two phases on October 29 and November 1, the Congress won in 261 wards, BJP in 242 wards and Independents in 57 wards.

The BJP got clear majority in the Jaipur Greater and the Jodhpur South municipal corporations by winning in 88 and 43 wards respectively.

The Congress, which is in power in Rajasthan, won in 49 and 29 wards of the Jaipur Greater and the Jodhpur South corporations respectively, according to the results.

The Congress got a clear majority in the Jodhpur North and the Kota North municipal corporations by winning in 53 and 47 wards respectively, against 19 and 14 wards won by the BJP, it said.

In the polls for the Jaipur Heritage Municipal Corporation, Congress won in 47 wards and the BJP in 42 wards, while in the remaining 11 wards of the civic body Independents won.

In Kota South Municipal Corporation elections, the BJP and the Congress both won in 36 wards each and eight wards were won by Independents, according to the results.

Source: PTI

Bypolls: Moderate to high voting in 54 assembly seats despite COVID fears


Bhopal/Lucknow/Ahmedabad: Moderate to high polling was recorded on Tuesday in by-elections to 54 assembly constituencies in 10 states despite the shadow of COVID-19 pandemic, with nearly 70 per cent turnout in 28 seats in Madhya Pradesh where the results will decide the fate of the seven-month-old BJP government.

Stray incidents of clashes between Congress and BJP workers were reported in MP and one person was injured in firing in Morena district, according to officials in the state.

Elsewhere, polling was by and large peaceful as voters, wearing masks and gloves, queued up at polling booths where election staff in personal protective equipment (PPE) suits assisted them during the first pan-India electoral exercise in the pandemic.

“The electoral exercise going on in the country is by far the largest exercise in the world amid the pandemic …the voter turnout in the first phase has been exceptionally good.

“The voter turnout has further continued and the confidence level has been much more in this phase,” EC Secretary General Umesh Sinha said.

The bypolls coincided with the second phase of assembly elections in Bihar. Counting of votes will be held on November 10.

While Pungro-Kiphire seat in Nagaland saw the highest voting of 89.8 per cent, the turnout was the poorest in Rajarajeshwari Nagar in Karnataka at 45.24 per cent, according to figures from officials of respective states.

In most of the other seats the polling figure was above 50 per cent.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi and other leaders had urged the people to vote in large numbers.


An average of over 53 per cent voters exercised their franchise in seven seats in Uttar Pradesh, where 88 candidates were in the fray, according to state election officials.

A total of 50.59 per cent votes were cast in Bangarmau , 52.10 per cent in Bulandshahr, 51.05 per cent in Deoria, 49.42 per cent in Ghatampur, 56.65 per cent in Malhani, 61.50 per cent in Naugaon Sadat and 54 per cent in Tundla, joint chief electoral officer,Ramesh Chand Rai said.

Six of these seven seats were held by the Bharatiya Janata Party, while the Malhani seat in Jaunpur district was with the Samajwadi Party.

“Everyone should exercise caution and discharge the duty of casting vote. Democracy will win, coronavirus will lose,” Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath tweeted earlier in the day.

BJP candidate Sangeeta Chauhan for Naugaon Sadat seat in Amroha district alleged “fake” voting in her constituency and demanded that those wearing the burqa should remove the face cover to enable poll officials ascertain their identities.

The chief electoral officer told PTI that he would look into the allegations.

People at some places in Tundla constituency in Firozabad district boycotted the by-election, alleging there was no development in their area.


On Tuesday, voters in 28 constituencies in MP decided the fate of not just 355 candidates, including 12 ministers, but also of the Shivraj Singh Chouhan government which needs at least eight more MLAs for a simple majority in the Assembly.

Voters seemed to have brushed aside the fear of coronavirus as they flocked to polling booths.

A turnout of of 69.93 per cent was recorded and would be updated later, state officials said.

Both Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan of the BJP and Congress leader and former CM Kamal Nath claimed that high turnout would favour their respective parties.

The average voting percentage in the 2018 Assembly polls in these 28 constituencies, most of them in the Gwalior-Chambal region, was 72.93.

Congress veteran Digvijaya Singh questioned the use of Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs), saying the device is prone to hacking.

Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan responded to Singh, stating that the Congress has already sensed its defeat and hence its party leader is finding fault with EVMs which are being used in India for decades.

In Morena district, Congress and BJP supporters clashed at the Jatavara polling booth and an unidentified person fired a bullet during the incident, Superintendent of Police Anurag Sujania said. “A person was injured,” the official said.

In Bhind, Collector Virendra Singh Rawat said they received a report about gunshots being fired near a booth in Sondha village under Mehgaon Assembly constituency. The report was being verified, Rawat said.

The highest turnout (83.75 per cent) was reported from the Agar Malwa seat and the the lowest (48.15 per cent) in Gwalior-East.

The Congress had sitting MLAs in 27 of the 28 seats going to the polls. Twenty-five resigned early this year and joined the BJP after a rebellion by Jyotiraditya Scindia, leading to the collapse of the Kamal Nath government.

They are now contesting as BJP candidates. In the three other seats, the by-election was necessitated following the deaths of the sitting legislators.

In Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat and Karnataka, the saffron party is fielding 31 candidates who had won on a Congress ticket but switched sides and resigned, necessitating the bypolls.


Bypolls to eight Assembly seats in Gujarat on Tuesday witnessed 58.58 per cent voter turnout, officials said.

“Voting took place in a peaceful manner. No untoward incident took place. We have received 17 written complaints about various violations,” said Chief Electoral Officer (CEO) of Gujarat S Murali Krishna.

Workers of ruling BJP and opposition Congress came to blows outside a polling booth in Gadhadha town over alleged bogus voting. The police separated the two groups.

Bypolls in the state are being held in these seats after Congress MLAs resigned ahead of the Rajya Sabha polls in June. Five of them later joined the BJP and are contesting again.


Nearly 68 percent voters exercised their franchise in Baroda seat in Haryana which had recorded 69.43 per cent polling in the 2019 assembly polls.

There were 14 candidates, including Olympian wrestler and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) nominee Yogeshwar Dutt, in the fray for the seat, which has around 1.81 lakh registered voters.

Before casting his vote in the morning, Dutt offered prayers to Lord Hanuman at his village.

The seat had fallen vacant in April following the death of Krishan Hooda, who had won it consecutively thrice in 2009, 2014 and 2019 assembly polls.


Poor voter turnout was recorded in Rajarajeshwari Nagar bypoll in Karnataka at 45.24 percent, while 82.31 percent of voters exercised their franchise till 5 pm in Sira constituency.

The death of Sira JD(S) MLA B Satyanarayana in August and the resignation of RR Nagar Congress MLA Munirathna from the assembly last year led to the bypolls.


A high voter turnout of 77 percent was recorded in the bypoll to Marwahi Assembly constituency in Chhattisgarh.

Voters who had tested positive for COVID-19 were still in the premises of some polling stations to cast ballots even after the end of official voting time, he said.

The death of former chief minister and JCC(J) legislator Ajit Jogi necessitated the by-election in the seat.


About 82 percent polling was recorded in Dubbak Assembly Constituency in Telangana.

The administration facilitated voting for COVID-19 patients from 5 PM to 6 PM and 11 such people exercised their franchise, sources said, adding 70 positive people had opted for postal ballot.

Earlier in the day, the Congress complained to the Election Commission and the state DGP about a social media post, made to appear like the news broadcast of a prominent TV channel, that Congress candidate in the Dubbak bypoll Cheruku Srinivas Reddy switched over to the ruling TRS.

Though 20 others are also in the fray, the main contest was among the candidates of the TRS, BJP and Congress.


Around 62.51 per cent of total 5.63 lakh voters cast their ballots in the by- elections to two assembly seats in Jharkhand.

The voter turnout was 65.27 per cent for Dumka reserved seat and 60.30 per cent for Bermo seat in Bokaro district, the Chief Electoral Officers office said. From morning electors were seen standing in queues in polling booths by maintaining social distancing. They were given masks, sanitiser and gloves, officials said.

Chief Minister Hemant Soren’s younger brother Basant Soren of the JMM is pitted against former cabinet minister Lois Marandi of the BJP in Dumka.


Over 70 per cent of total 4.67 lakh voters exercised their franchise in by-elections to two assembly seats in Odisha.

Balasore seat recorded 71 per cent polling, while 69.9 per cent of voters in Tirtol constituency in Jagatsinghpur district cast their ballots during voting held from 7 AM to 6 PM.

The BJD and the BJP had won Tirtol and Balasore respectively in the 2019 assembly elections.

Two polling personnel were removed from a booth in Balasore following complaints about attempts to influence the voters, while police was looking into media reports about alleged distribution of money by a woman, also in Balasore, officials said.

The voters with symptoms of COVID-19 and high body temperature were given a token to cast their votes at the end.


A total of 84.41 per cent votes were cast in the 22 polling stations under Southern Angami-I constituency in Kohima district while Pungro-Kiphire segment which has 77 polling stations saw a turnout of 89.8 per cent in Nagaland.

There were complaints from both ruling Nationalist Democratic Progressive Party (NDPP) and opposition Naga Peoples Front (NPF) under Southern Angami-I seat but it Didn’t disturb the polling, officials said.

In Pungro-Kiphire seat, polling in Singrep village was adjourned due to disturbance following a clash between supporters of two parties.

The Returning Officer and District Election Officer Kiphire have also submitted the report and a new date would be fixed for fresh poll, they said.

Source: PTI

Trump doing well, undergoing Remdesivir therapy: WH doctor


Washington: US President Donald Trump, who was shifted to a military hospital after being tested positive for COVID-19, is undergoing Remdesivir therapy and is “doing well”, the White House physician has said.

The Trump administration had issued an emergency use authorisation for Remdesivir earlier this year after the drug showed moderate effectiveness in improving outcomes for patients who were hospitalised with the coronavirus.

Trump, 74, was flown to Walter Reed Military Medical Centre in Bethesda, a Maryland suburb of Washington DC, on Friday.

White House physician Sean Conley said medical specialists have recommended Remdesivir therapy to treat the president’s COVID-19 infection.

“This evening, I am happy to report that the President is doing well, Conley said in a health bulletin on Friday night, the first after the president was moved to the military hospital as a precautionary measure.

He is not requiring any supplemental oxygen, but in consultation with specialists we have elected to initiate Remdesivir therapy. He has completed his first dose and is resting comfortably, he said.

Conley, in a White House memorandum, said he recommended Trump be moved to Walter Reed Military Medical Centre for further monitoring .

Trump and First Lady Melania Trump, 50, were tested positive for COVID-19 on Friday. While the president was taken to the military hospital, the First Lady stayed back at the White House. (PTI)

Reliance raises Rs 7,350 cr from GIC, TPG through retail unit stake sale


New Delhi: Reliance Industries on Saturday announced Rs 7,350 crore investments by Singapore sovereign wealth fund GIC and global private equity firm TPG Capital in its retail unit, taking the total fundraising in the last one month to Rs 32,197.50 crore.

While GIC invested Rs 5,512.5 crore in Reliance Retail Ventures Ltd (RRVL) for a 1.22 per cent stake, TPG took 0.41 per cent interest for Rs 1,837.5 crore, the company said in statements issued past midnight.

These investments value Reliance Retail at a pre-money equity value of Rs 4.285 lakh crore, they said.

This is TPG’s second investment in a subsidiary of Reliance Industries, following a Rs 4,546.8 crore investment in digital unit Jio Platforms announced earlier this year.

With these, Reliance Industries has sold 7.28 per cent stake in the retail unit since September 9 for a total of Rs 32,297.50 crore.

US private equity firm Silver Lake has made two investments totalling Rs 9,375 crore for a 2.13 per cent stake in Reliance Retail, while General Atlantic has picked up 0.84 per cent stake for Rs 3,675 crore, and KKR put in Rs 5,550 crore for a 1.28 per cent stake.

Abu Dhabi-based sovereign wealth fund Mubadala Investment Co invested Rs 6,247.5 crore for a 1.4 per cent stake.

Reliance Retail Ltd, a subsidiary of RRVL, operates India’s largest, fastest-growing and most profitable retail business spanning supermarkets, consumer electronics chain stores, cash and carry wholesale business, fast-fashion outlets, and online grocery store JioMart.

It operates about 12,000 stores in nearly 7,000 towns, with 640 million footfalls across core categories of grocery, consumer electronics and apparel. Revenue for Reliance Retail in FY20 was Rs 1.63 lakh crore.

The investment will add fire to Ambani’s battle for dominance in the retail market that is also being eyed by Jeff Bezos’ Amazon.com and Walmart Inc’s Flipkart.

TPG has more than USD 83 billion of assets under management across a wide range of asset classes, including private equity, growth equity, real estate and public equity. Over TPG’s nearly 30-year history, the firm has built an ecosystem made up of hundreds of portfolio companies and a value-added network of professionals, executives, and advisors around the world.

Mukesh Ambani, Chairman and Managing Director of Reliance Industries, said, “TPG has a proven track record of being a valuable partner to global technology businesses and industry leaders and we look forward to their guidance and support in our journey.”

Jim Coulter, Co-CEO, TPG, said, “Regulatory changes, consumer demographics and technological disruption are creating seismic shifts across the entire retail value chain in India. In the midst of this transformation, Reliance Industries has utilised technology and scale to position Reliance Retail as an incredibly strong, well-organised, and innovative leader.”

“We are excited to join with them as they seek to create a more inclusive retail industry that allows Kiranas and Indian consumers to benefit from the connectivity, efficiency, and accessibility of the Reliance Retail omnichannel platform,” he said.

The transaction is subject to regulatory and other customary approvals.

Morgan Stanley acted as financial advisor to Reliance Retail and Cyril Amarchand Mangaldas and Davis Polk & Wardwell acted as legal counsels. Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu India LLP acted as financial advisor to TPG and Shardul Amarchand Mangaldas & Co acted as legal counsel to TPG.

Following the sell-down in its digital unit Jio Platforms, Reliance’s focus has shifted to retail with the acquisition of Future and investment by global private equity firms/strategic investors.

All the 13 investors, who had poured in a combined Rs 1.52 lakh crore in Jio Platforms, have been offered a chance to explore investing in the retail unit.

Besides Silver Lake, KKR, General Atlantic, TPG and Mubadala, the other investors in Jio Platforms – which houses India’s youngest but largest telecom operator Jio – include Facebook and Google.

Reliance Retail has consolidated its dominant market positioning in offline retail through its recent acquisition of retail, wholesale, logistics and warehouse business of Future Group for an enterprise value of Rs 24,173 crore.

The firm in May this year launched JioMart, the e-commerce platform. Reliance aims to digitise Kirana stores through its new commerce business. In July, JioMart was serving 400,000 orders a day and is currently operational in 200 cities.

With this, Jio Platforms and Reliance Retail account for over Rs 9 lakh crore of Reliance Industries Ltd’s valuation.

Monetisation of retail, complemented by the capitalisation of Jio’s tech assets, is expected to enable Reliance to take on Amazon and Walmart in India’s online retail space.

The evolution of the organised retail in India has lagged infrastructure growth and improvement in demographics. Despite the large size of the consumption basket at USD 0.8-1.0 trillion, the share of organised retail is only 8 per cent of the total market, which offers a long growth runway.

Analysts expect a break-up of the company in the next 3-4 years through the IPO of the Jio and retail business segments which should unlock additional shareholder value.

At the Reliance Industries’ recent annual general meeting, Ambani had stated that it had been approached by strategic/financial investors for a stake in Reliance Retail. (PTI)

Rahul, Priyanka to head to Hathras again on Saturday to meet victim’s family


New Delhi: A delegation of Congress MPs led by former party chief Rahul Gandhi will go to Hathras Saturday afternoon to meet the family of the 19-year-old woman who died after she was assaulted and allegedly gang-raped, a senior party leader said.

Congress general secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra will also be part of the delegation that will meet the family to hear their grievances and demand justice for them, sources said.

“Congress MPs under the leadership of former Congress president Rahul Gandhi will go to Hathras today afternoon to meet the grieving family of the 19-year old-daughter of Uttar Pradesh, who was brutally assaulted & murdered,” Congress general secretary (organisation) K C Venugopal tweeted.

On Thursday, Rahul Gandhi, Priyanka Gandhi along with several party leaders and workers were detained by the police and sent back to Delhi, after they tried to reach Hathras to meet the family of the Dalit woman.

In a tweet in Hindi using the hashtag ‘Hathrashorror’, Rahul Gandhi said the behaviour of the UP government and police with the woman and her family “is unacceptable to me. No Indian should accept this.”

Rahul Gandhi asserted that “no power in the world can stop me from meeting this grieving family in Hathras and share their pain”.

Hitting out at the Yogi Adityanath dispensation, Priyanka Gandhi said the UP government is “morally corrupt”.

“The victim did not get treatment, her complaint was not registered on time, her body was forcibly cremated, the family is in captivity, they are being suppressed — now they are being threatened that they will have to undergo a narco test,” she said in a tweet in Hindi.

“This behaviour is not acceptable to the country. Stop threatening the victim’s family,” she said.

The party alleged that the woman and her family have been denied justice and “severely traumatised” by the BJP government in their attempt to hide the truth of the heinous crime perpetrated on her.

The Dalit woman was allegedly raped at a village in Hathras by four men on September 14. After her condition deteriorated, she was referred to the Delhi’s Safdarjung Hospital where she breathed her last on Tuesday.

She was cremated in the early hours of Wednesday, with her family alleging the local police forced them to conduct the last rites in the dead of the night.

Local police officers, however, had said the cremation was carried out “as per the wishes of the family”. (PTI)

Grand jury audio details raid that killed Breonna Taylor


Louisville (US): Police said they knocked and announced themselves for a minute or more before bursting into Breonna Taylor’s apartment, but her boyfriend said he did not hear officers identify themselves, according to Kentucky grand jury recordings.

In the hail of gunfire that ensued, the 26-year-old Black woman was killed.

The dramatic and sometimes conflicting accounts of the March 13 raid are key to a case that has fueled nationwide protests against police brutality and systemic racism.

When police came through the door using a battering ram, Taylor’s boyfriend, Kenneth Walker, fired once. He acknowledges that he may not have heard police identify themselves because of where he was in the apartment. If he’d heard them, it changes the whole situation because there’s nothing for us to be scared of”.

The fear and confusion that played out after midnight at Taylor’s Louisville home was detailed in 15 hours of audio recordings made public in a rare release on Friday.

While the recordings added rich detail about what happened as police fired 32 shots in the last moments of Taylor’s life, nothing on them appeared to change the fundamental narrative that was previously made public.

The recordings also do not include any discussion of potential criminal action on the part of the officers who shot Taylor because Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron determined beforehand that they had acted in self-defence. As a result, he did not seek charges against police in her killing a recommendation the grand jury followed.

Grand jury proceedings are typically kept secret, but a court ruled that they should be released after the jury’s decision last week angered many in Louisville and around the country and set off renewed protests.

One of the jurors also sued to make the proceedings public. The material does not include juror deliberations or prosecutor recommendations and statements, none of which were recorded, according to Cameron’s office.

The NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund said it will release its own assessment of how the evidence was presented after a review of the recordings.

Sherrilyn Ifill, the group’s president, said releasing the recordings is a critical first step.

At Jefferson Square Park, which has been at the centre of protests for months, a small group gathered in a mood far more subdued than the outcry that followed the grand jury’s decision.

On the March night in question, police arrived after midnight at Taylor’s apartment with a narcotics warrant to search the home. She and her boyfriend were in bed. Within minutes, she had been shot five times.

Though police had a no knock warrant that would have allowed them to burst in unannounced, they agreed it was better to give them a chance to answer the door, said Louisville police Lt Shawn Hoover.

Detective Myles Cosgrove said the officers had been told to use our maturity as investigators to get into this house.

In a police interview played for the grand jury, Hoover said the officers announced themselves as police and knocked three times. He estimated they waited 45 seconds to a minute before going through the door.

Another officer said they waited as long as two minutes.

Walker said he heard knocking but that police did not respond to his and Taylor’s repeated requests that whoever was at the door identify themselves. He told police that he grabbed his gun, and they both got up and walked toward the door.

She’s yelling at the top of her lungs, and I am too at this point. No answer. No response. No nothing, Walker said.

Police said they used a battering ram to enter the apartment, hitting the door three times before getting inside. Detective Michael Nobles said officers made so much noise that an upstairs neighbour came outside.

Walker, who has said he thought the police were intruders, fired once, hitting Detective Jonathan Mattingly in the leg as soon as he leaned inside the apartment.

Mattingly said in testimony, some of which was previously released, that he fired his gun while falling on his backside.

Cosgrove came through the door and saw Mattingly on the ground. In his interview with investigators, he spoke to the confusion of the confrontation. He told investigators that he thought he fired four or fewer shots, but the evidence showed he fired 16 rounds, including the bullet that killed Taylor.

Officer Brett Hankison, who has since been fired, told investigators that he saw flashes from a gun coming from inside the apartment and feared his fellow officers were sitting ducks. Hankison said he began shooting, and when gunfire inside the apartment continued, moved to fire through a window. He fired 10 bullets.

Hankison was the only officer indicted by the grand jury, which charged him with wanton endangerment for shooting into another home with people inside. He has pleaded not guilty.

What I saw at the time was a figure in a shooting stance, and it looked as if he was holding, he or she was holding, an AR-15 or a long gun, a rifle, Hankison said.

Walker was, in fact, using a handgun. He said he and Taylor both dropped to the ground when the officers returned fire.

I’m scared to death, Walker said, before it dawned on him that it was the police.

Walker said he then looked at Taylor, who was bleeding. Seeking help he called his mother, 911 and then Taylor’s mother. Walker told a 911 dispatcher: Somebody kicked in the door and shot my girlfriend. (AP)

Visit Baran district to know ground reality: Gehlot to BJP leaders


Jaipur: Instead of asking why Congress leaders Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi Vadra have not visited Baran in Rajasthan, where two girls were allegedly raped, senior BJP leaders should go to the district themselves to know the ground reality, Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot said on Friday.

The two Congress leaders were on Thursday arrested by the Uttar Pradesh Police after they were stopped from marching towards Hathras to meet the family members of a Dalit woman who was allegedly raped by four men on September 14.

Gehlot said the role of opposition leaders is pivotal in a healthy democracy and by preventing Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi from going to Hathras, the Uttar Pradesh government has proved that it wants to hide things.

Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi trust our words and reports. Why don’t senior BJP leaders like Amit Shah or Dharmendra Pradhan visit Baran or anywhere in the state to know what actually is the ground reality, Gehlot told PTI.

We are open for this (visit). They should visit the place (Baran) and know the reality. We will not only allow them but if required, police protection will also be provided,” he added.

According to police, two minor sisters went missing from their home in Baran district on September 19. They were later found in Kota on September 22.

The girls were handed over to their families after recording their statements, police said, adding that the medical examination of the girls did not confirm rape.

Gehlot said incidents can happen anywhere but what matters is action and Hathras is an example of inaction.

What happened in Hathras was very shameful. The victim’s mother kept crying and wanted to see her daughter for the last time, but the police did not allow and the body was cremated in the night hours, he told reporters on the sidelines of a Gandhi jayanti event at the secretariat.

The chief minister said despite the coronavirus pandemic, 20 people are allowed to attend cremations but in Hathras, the gangrape victim’s last rites were conducted in the dead of the night.

When a soldier is martyred at the border, the body is brought in a plane or helicopter and given to family members. We give this much respect and this is in the culture of the country. What happened in Hathras was shameful, he said.

Gehlot further said that the state government did not prevent a BJP delegation from visiting Dungarpur district, where violence erupted last week, because the role of opposition is imperative in a healthy democracy.

When there is nothing to hide, why one should be stopped. BJP leaders visited Dungarpur and we allowed them to go and see what actually happened. This is a normal thing in a democracy,” he said. (PTI)

US judge blocks H-1B visa ban


Washington: In a major relief to thousands of Indian IT professionals, a federal judge in the US on Thursday blocked the enforcement of a temporary visa ban by the Trump administration on a large number of work permits, including the most sought after H-1B visas, ruling that the president exceeded his constitutional authority.

The order issued by US District Judge Jeffrey White of Northern District of California applies to members of organisations that filed a lawsuit against the Department of Commerce and Department of Homeland Security — the US Chamber of Commerce, National Association of Manufacturers, National Retail Federation, TechNet, a technology industry group, and Intrax Inc., which sponsors cultural exchanges.

The ruling places an immediate hold on a series of damaging visa restrictions that prevent manufacturers from filling crucial, hard-to-fill jobs to support economic recovery, growth and innovation when most needed, the National Association of manufacturers said.

In June, Trump had issued an executive order that had put temporary bar on issuing of new H-1B visas, which are widely used by major American and Indian technology companies, H-2B visas for nonagricultural seasonal workers, J visas for cultural exchanges and L visas for managers and other key employees of multinational corporations till the end of the year.

The president had argued that the US needs to save and protect jobs for its domestic work force at a time when millions of them lost their jobs due to the coronavirus pandemic.

A number of IT companies and other US companies and those representing them had voiced their opposition to it.

Manufacturers went to court to challenge the administration’s ban on certain visas because the restrictions both undermined the industry at a critical time and conflicted with the law, said NAM senior vice president and general counsel Linda Kelly.

We are competing with the rest of the world to find and develop top talent to support innovation in our industry. Today’s decision is a temporary win for manufacturers committed to building that innovation in the United States, he said.

A long-term win for manufacturers requires policymakers to support meaningful reforms to our immigration laws that recognize the critical link between smart immigration policy and America’s competitive advantage, Kelly said.

In his order, the federal judge said that the president exceeded his authority.

Congress’s delegation of authority in the immigration context does not afford the president unbridled authority to set domestic policy regarding employment of nonimmigrant foreigners. Such a finding would render the president’s Article II powers all but superfluous, Judge White wrote in his 25-page order.

The judge noted that the text of Article I and more than two centuries of legislative practice and judicial precedent make clear, the Constitution vests Congress, not the President, with the power to set immigration policy.

If the fact that immigrants come from other countries inherently made their admission foreign relations subject to the President’s Article II power, then all of this law would be superfluous, the judge said.

Indeed, there must be some measure of constraint on Presidential authority in the domestic sphere in order not to render the executive an entirely monarchical power in the immigration context, an area within clear legislative prerogative. Such unrestricted authority would be contrary to Congress‘ explicit delegation of powers in foreign affairs and national security, White said.

The ruling by Judge White is in difference with a order passed by District Judge Amit Mehta of the District of Columbia in August, who ruled that he does not has the power to enjoin the ban while the litigation is under way.

The wisdom of the president’s decision to address those changed circumstances by restricting the entry of certain classes of aliens is a policy decision the judiciary is not well equipped to evaluate, he said.

The H-1B visa, most sought-after among Indian IT professionals, is a non-immigrant visa that allows US companies to employ foreign workers in speciality occupations that require theoretical or technical expertise. The technology companies depend on it to hire tens of thousands of employees each year from countries like India and China. (PTI)

President Trump and first lady test positive for COVID-19


Washington: US President Donald Trump and first lady Melania have tested positive for the coronavirus, the president tweeted on Friday, a development that is likely to bring to standstill his hectic election campaign.

“Tonight, @FLOTUS and I tested positive for COVID-19. We will begin our quarantine and recovery process immediately. We will get through this TOGETHER! 74-year-old Trump tweeted.

In a statement, Trump’s physician Dr. Sean Conley said he received confirmation of the positive tests on Thursday evening.

“The President and First Lady are both well at this time, and they plan to remain at home within the White House during their convalescence,” Conley said.

“The White House medical team and I will maintain a vigilant watch, and I appreciate the support provided by some of our country’s greatest medical professionals and institutions,” Conley said.

Rest assured I expect the President to continue carrying out his duties without disruption while recovering, and I will keep you updated on any future developments, the physician added.

Trump’s positive report comes just hours after his senior aide Hope Hicks was tested COVID-19 positive.

“Hope Hicks, who has been working so hard without even taking a small break, has just tested positive for COVID-19. Terrible! The first lady and I are waiting for our test results. In the meantime, we will begin our quarantine process! Trump earlier said in tweet.

Hicks, 31, is the closest aid of the president to have tested positive with coronavirus. She had travelled with the president on Air Force One early this week.

Trump, in an interview to Fox News, on Thursday night said he and the first lady spend a lot of time with her.

In the middle of the election campaign, Trump has been travelling a lot in particular in the battleground States. The development is likely to bring to standstill his hectic campaign for the November 3 presidential election.

In a statement, Judd Deere, the Deputy White House Press Secretary said that the President takes the health and safety of himself and everyone who works in support of him and the American people very seriously.

White House Operations collaborates with the Physician to the President and the White House Military Office to ensure all plans and procedures incorporate current CDC guidance and best practices for limiting COVID-19 exposure to the greatest extent possible both on complex and when the President is travelling,” Deere said earlier.

Several White House staffers have tested positive with COVID-19 in recent months, including the National Security Advisor Robert O’Brien and Katie Miller, Vice President Mike Pence’s press secretary.

The deadly virus has so far killed more than 200,000 people and infected over 7 million others in the US. (PTI)

DGCA extends suspension of scheduled int’l passenger flights till Oct 31


New Delhi: The suspension of scheduled international passenger flights has been extended till October 31, the Indian aviation regulator DGCA said Wednesday.

“However, international scheduled flights may be allowed on selected routes by the competent authority on a case-to-case basis,” the Directorate General of Civil Aviation added.

Scheduled international passenger services have been suspended in India since March 23 due to the coronavirus pandemic. But special international flights have been operating under the Vande Bharat Mission since May and under bilateral “air bubble” arrangements with selected countries since July.

India has formed air bubble pacts with 15 countries – including the US, the UK, the UAE, Kenya, Bhutan and France. Under an air bubble pact between two countries, special international flight s can be operated by their airlines between their territories.

The DGCA circular also said that the suspension does not affect the operation of international all-cargo operations and flights specifically approved by it. (PTI)

Trump questions credibility of India’s COVID numbers to defend his handling of pandemic


Washington: US President Donald Trump has raised questions over the credibility of India’s COVID-19 tally, claiming that it was among the countries that do not accurately disclose the number of deaths due to the pandemic.

The remarks by Trump came during his first presidential debate with Democratic challenger Joe Biden, who attacked the US president over the handling of the coronavirus crisis and said the president lied to Americans on the COVID-19 pandemic, which has killed more than 200,000 people and infected over seven million others in the country.

Defending his handling of the crisis, Trump said that “millions” could have died in America without his actions.

“When you talk about due the numbers, you don’t know how many people died in China. You don’t know how many people died in Russia. You don’t know how many people died in India. They don’t exactly give you a right number. Just so you understand,” Trump said.

Trump has repeatedly blamed China, where the coronavirus first emerged in December last year and spread around the world, killing over one million and infecting more than 30 million people.

Attacking Trump over the handling of the COVID-19 pandemic, Biden said the president has “no plan” to fight the deadly disease and he lied to Americans.

“He still hasn’t even acknowledged that he knew this was happening, knew how dangerous it was going to be back in February, and he didn’t even tell you. He is on record as saying it. He panicked or he just looked at the stock market, one of the two, because guess what, a lot of people die and a lot more are going to die unless he gets a lot smarter, a lot quicker,” he said.

Trump hit back, saying, “don’t ever use the word smart with me.”

During the first of the three presidential debates in Cleveland, Ohio, on Tuesday night which was marked by angry interruptions and bitter accusations, the two candidates fiercely clashed over a number of issues, including racism, economy and climate. (PTI)

Will take decision on reopening schools after mid-Nov: Mamata


West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on Tuesday ruled out the possibility of reopening schools anytime soon, saying her government will take a call on the issue only after mid-November.

In an administrative review meeting in North Bengal, Banerjee said a decision in this regard will be taken after Kali puja on November 14.

All schools have been shut in Bengal since March 16, following the outbreak of COVID-19.

“Any decision on reopening of schools will be taken after Kali puja,” the CM said.

Earlier, state education minister Partha Chatterjee had said that Bengal would wait for the pandemic to slow down as it was not in favour of “exposing its students to health risks” by resuming classes in schools.

At the meeting, Banerjee also announced that 50 acres in north Bengal has been allotted to Cooch Behar Panchanan Barma University for its second campus.

“Work for the second campus will start soon,” she said. PTI

Top foreign stories at 2030


Top foreign stories at 2030:

Pak govt to push for Nawaz Sharif’s deportation from UK

Islamabad: Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan has asked relevant authorities to take steps to bring back PML-N supremo Nawaz Sharif from London and to ensure that he faces the corruption cases pending against him in the courts, according to a media report on Wednesday. By Sajjad Hussain

UK begins drive to promote fairer’ post-Brexit rules on hiring foreign workers

London: The British government on Wednesday rolled out a new campaign to inform businesses about upgraded rules to hire workers from outside the country, including from India, which will come into force from January 2021 once the UK’s Brexit transition period concludes. By Aditi Khanna

Trump, Biden clash over several issues in bitter presidential debate

Washington: US President Donald Trump and his Democratic rival Joe Biden fiercely clashed over a number of issues, including the COVID-19 pandemic, racism, economy and climate, during the first presidential debate, marked by angry interruptions and bitter accusations. By Lalit K Jha

Indian-American supporters of Trump and Biden divided over outcome of first presidential debate

Washington: Indian-American supporters of President Donald Trump said the Republican leader sealed the deal at the first presidential election debate while the community members supporting his Democratic challenger Joe Biden asserted that the former vice president made a “successful case” to occupy the White House for the next four years. By Lalit K Jha

BRICS’ NDB approves loans for Mumbai Metro, Delhi-Ghaziabad-Meerut RRTS

Beijing: The New Development Bank (NDB) of the BRICS countries has approved USD 241 million loan for Mumbai Metro and USD 500 million for the Delhi-Ghaziabad-Meerut Regional Rapid Transit System (RRTS) Project. By K J M Varma

Maldives thanks India for 250 million support amid COVID-19 pandemic

United Nations: The Maldives has thanked India for the financial assistance of USD 250 million — “the single largest financial assistance from a donor” — to support the island nation amid the COVID-19 pandemic. By Yoshita Singh

Trump denigrates office of US President: Kamala Harris

Washington: US Senator Kamala Harris has criticised President Donald Trump’s conduct during the first night of the presidential debates as one that “denigrates the office”, as she extended support to the Democratic Party’s presidential nominee, saying Joe Biden understands who are important — the American families. By Lalit K Jha


Moderna COVID-19 vaccine well-tolerated, generates immune response in older adults: Study

CAMBRIDGE, MASSACHUSETTS - MAY 08: A view of Moderna headquarters on May 08, 2020 in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Moderna was given FDA approval to continue to phase 2 of Coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccine trials with 600 participants. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

Boston: Results from the Phase 1 trial of an investigational COVID-19 vaccine co-developed by researchers at the US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), and the American biotech company Moderna have shown that it is well-tolerated and generates a strong immune response in older adults.

The study, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, noted that the experimental vaccine, mRNA-1273, was well-tolerated by the older trial participants, who were over 55 years of age.

According to the researchers from NIAID, older adults are more vulnerable to complications of COVID-19, and are an important population for vaccination.

They said understanding how the vaccine affects this section of the population is a critical part of measuring its safety and efficacy.

The Phase 1 trial began on March 16, 2020, and was expanded to enroll older adults about one month later.

In its expansion, the scientists said the trial enrolled 40 healthy volunteers — 20 adults ages 56 to 70 years, and 20 adults ages 71 years and older.

Ten volunteers in each age group received a lower dose of the vaccine, and 10 participants in each age group received a higher dose.

After approximately one month, the researchers said the volunteers received a second dose of the same vaccine at the same dosage.

They said the volunteers attended clinic visits to track their responses to the vaccine, and assess safety throughout the study.

The research found that the investigational vaccine was well-tolerated in this older age group — although some volunteers experienced transient adverse effects, including fever and fatigue after vaccination.

According to the scientists, the participants exhibited a good immune response to the vaccine, with the blood of vaccinated volunteers containing robust binding and neutralising antibodies against the coronavirus SARS-CoV-2.

They said the immune response to the vaccine seen in older volunteers was comparable to that seen in younger age groups.

The researchers said the study will continue to follow the older volunteers for approximately a year after second vaccination to monitor the long-term effects of the vaccine.

The results from the Phase 1 trial further support testing of the investigational vaccine in older adults in an ongoing large Phase 3 trial, they added. (PTI)

News reports on sero survey results fake: AAP govt; HC says don’t play games


New Delhi: The AAP government told the Delhi High Court on Wednesday that the news reports about preliminary results of the third sero survey were “fake” and its officials have not disclosed any information to the media about it.

“Don’t show the press as unreliable. Don’t play games with the court like this,” the court said.

A bench of Justices Hima Kohli and Subramonium Prasad, not accepting the Delhi government claim that the news was fake, said no denial was issued by administration regarding the media reports.

Delhi government additional standing counsel Satyakam said according to the news reports, the preliminary findings of the survey were that prevalence of antibodies in those tested was 33 per cent, whereas in reality it was only 25.1 per cent as per the final report.

The submission was made in response to the court’s query why the sero survey results were first shared with the media before it was even placed before the bench.

The bench said that on the last date of hearing, September 16, the Delhi government said the survey results were not ready and a day after the preliminary findings were available with the media.

Additional Solicitor General Sanjay Jain and additional standing counsel Satyakam assured the court that it was not doing anything of that sort.

They also assured the bench that necessary clarification in relation to the media reports would be issued.

The court was hearing a PIL by advocate Rakesh Malhotra seeking increasing the COVID-19 testing numbers in the national capital and getting speedy results. (PTI)

Can’t allow Rahul to score in clash against KXIP, will create pressure on him: MI bowling coach Bond


Abu Dhabi: Mumbai Indians bowling coach Shane Bond on Wednesday said Kings XI Punjab skipper K L Rahul would be his team’s prime target in their upcoming IPL clash here and called the opener a dynamic batsman, capable of scoring around the field.

Kings XI openers Rahul and Mayank Agarwal are enjoying a superb run in the ongoing IPL, leading the run-scorers’ tally with 222 and 221 runs respectively, including one century and a fifty each. MI and KXIP will clash on Thursday.

And Bond very well understands the importance of stopping the duo on Thursday, insisting that early wickets would be key to success for the title-holders.

“KL Rahul has got runs against us in the last few games and he is a brilliant player. We are having our bowlers’ meeting this afternoon, in terms of our planning for our opponents who are playing well. KL is a dynamic player, who scores all around the field,” the former Kiwi pacer said.

“We also know that he (Rahul) takes his time generally through the middle overs, so that’s perhaps an opportunity to create some pressure on him and the batsmen around him.

“We will have specific ideas about how we can get him out. In the end, we can’t allow him (Rahul) to score in the areas he is very, very strong. He scores well over extra-cover, picks up over fine-leg.”

Bond stressed that MI has the potential to restrict the marauding Kings XI’s batting line-up.

“We have got a quality bowling unit, we just have to put pressure on them. Mind you, the two key batters for Kings XI Punjab played brilliantly so far.

“If we can create some pressure and get those boys out early, and put some little bit more pressure on that middle-order early, we can restrict them to a score, stop them from scoring (big) runs,” he said.

Bond said having already played two out of their three matches here so far, MI are well-versed with the conditions of the ground.

“We are reasonably confident with our batting line-up. They have put up good runs on the board so far and we are a tough batting order to stop. We have played on this ground twice and so we sort of know what to expect with the conditions, so that should help us a bit,” he said.

He also said that Tuesday’s match between Sunrisers Hyderabad and Delhi Capitals has indicated that the wickets might slow down as the tournament moves on, but the bowlers need to be accurate with their line and lengths. (PTI)

Hathras gang rape: Around 60 people detained as they gather outside UP Bhawan in Delhi for protest


New Delhi: Around 60 Left activists were detained when they tried to stage a protest outside the Uttar Pradesh Bhawan in the national capital against the gang rape and death of a 19-year-old woman in Hathras, police said.

The protesters arrived at the UP Bhawan for the protest, but were detained immediately and taken to Mandir Marg police station, they said.

The protesters, however, claimed that they continued their protest outside the police station. They demanded the resignation of Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath and alleged that the state has become unsafe for women.

The protest call was given by women’s organisations affiliated to the Left.

Around 60 protesters, including women, have been detained so far, a senior police officer said.

The 19-year-old woman was brutally gang-raped in a village in Hathras district two weeks ago. She died of her grievous injuries at a Delhi hospital on Tuesday, prompting outrage, protests and calls for justice.

The woman was gang-raped on September 14 following which she was admitted to the J N Medical College Hospital in Aligarh with serious injuries. She was referred to Delhi’s Safdarjung Hospital on Monday after her condition showed no signs of improvement. PTI

Have become more picky about work post ‘Made in Heaven’: Arjun Mathur


Mumbai: Actor Arjun Mathur, who has scored a nomination for India as part of 2020 International Emmy Awards for Amazon Prime Video’s “Made in Heaven”, says he is spoilt for choices after receiving success and critical acclaim for his performance on the show.

The actor has been around in the film industry since 2007, having acted in films like “Luck By Chance”, “Bara Aana”, “My Name is Khan”, “Ankur Arora Murder Case”, among others.

But it was his portrayal of Karan Mehra, alongside Sobhita Dhulipala’s Tara Khanna as two wedding planners in the upscale modern India navigating personal and professional crises, in the web series which premiered last year, that became his breakout performance.

“I have been extremely picky about the work I do, fortunately or unfortunately ‘Made in Heaven’ made me even more picky. It turned out to be so high quality, my standards for myself have risen higher.

“I want to continue to associate myself with work that is of a certain quality so the frequency or lack of work doesn’t bother me. Being part of things that my heart is not into affects me negatively,” 38-year-old actor told PTI in an interview.

At the International Emmys, Mathur has been nominated in the best performance by an actor category for “Made in Heaven”, alongside Billy Barratt in UK’s “Responsible Child”, Guido Caprino in Italian series “1994”, and Raphael Logam in Brazil’s “Impuros (Impure)” – season two.

The actor said he learnt about his nomination through his actor friend Sayani Gupta, whose Amazon series “Four More Shots Please!” is also nominated at the awards due in November in the best comedy category.

“Ok (breathe) so this just happened,” Mathur had written on his Instagram Stories after the announcement last week.

The actor said initially he thought it was a misprint and only believed the news after the producers called him up to congratulate.

“The last two-three days are blurry, slowly it has started to sink in,” he added.

Set against the backdrop of quintessential Indian weddings, the series is directed by Zoya Akhtar, Nitya Mehra, Alankrita Shrivastava and Prashant Nair. Akhtar and Reema Kagti serve as creators.

Both Mathur and the makers have been praised for the sensitive portrayal of Karan, a closeted homosexual grappling a troubled childhood, depleting finances and social stigma around his orientation.

The actor believes the fact that the story has managed to transcend all boundaries of gender, age and geography spells a larger success of the show.

“The sensitivity and empathy with which it has been treated and portrayed has worked. Humans connect to human conflict and emotions, if the emotions are put across correctly, the audience will connect with it,” he said.

Mathur said he was initially apprehensive about playing a gay man for the third time after the Mira Nair-directed short film “Migration” (2007) and Onir’s “I Am” (2010) but changed his mind when he read the script of “Made in Heaven”.

The actor said within one week of the release of the 2019 drama series, he received an offer for a homosexual part in a commercial film but he passed the project because it was “too soon”.

“… Unless there is that sensitivity, I won’t touch it. I am not interested in misrepresenting the community,” Mathur added.

The actor also noted that the team behind “Made in Heaven” — producers Excel Entertainment and Tiger Baby, and Amazon — made it possible for their work to reach far and wide.

“‘Migration’ was a short film, it didn’t release as such. We premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival and some people saw it on YouTube. ‘I Am’ was a smaller film. It went on to win a National Award, but it didn’t have the kind of reach that it could have,” he said.

“There are so many variables that have to click for a show to work in such a big way, sometimes the production support or good acting or writing or number of screens might be missing. When something together like this happens, that’s where the magic lies,” he added.

On the highly anticipated season two of “Made in Heaven”, Mathur said production was scheduled to go on floors in April-May but the coronavirus pandemic hampered the plans.

The makers are currently trying to figure out things, he added. (PTI)

Hathras case: Cong says victim’s kin denied right to perform last rites, demands Yogi’s resignation


New Delhi: The Congress Wednesday slammed the BJP government in Uttar Pradesh over the Hathras gang-rape victim’s family being allegedly denied the right to properly perform her last rites, demanding Prime Minister Narendra Modi ask for Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath’s resignation.

“The way she was cremated is a gross violation of her human rights, a Congress spokesperson said in Delhi.

The 19-year-old Dalit woman, who died in a Delhi hospital a fortnight after she was gang-raped in Uttar Pradesh’s Hathras, was cremated in the early hours of Wednesday, with her family alleging the local police forced them to conduct the last rites in the dead of the night.

Local police, however, told PTI the cremation was carried out “as per the wishes of the family”.

Former Congress chief Rahul Gandhi, in a tweet, said, “A daughter of India is raped-murdered, facts are suppressed and in the end, the right to perform the last rites is also taken away from the victim’s family.”

“It is insulting and unjust,” he said in the tweet in Hindi using the hashtag ‘Hathras Horror Shocks India’.

In his tweet, Gandhi tagged a video purportedly of the cremation site showing a police officer not answering queries on whether the body of the victim was being cremated there.

Tagging a report on the cremation in another tweet in Hindi, Rahul Gandhi alleged “this is a shameful move of the UP government to suppress Dalits and show them their ‘place’ in the society.”

The Congress’ fight is against this “disgusting” thinking, he said.

Congress General Secretary Priyanka Gandhi said, “I was on the phone with the Hathras victim’s father when he was informed that his daughter had passed away. I heard him cry out in despair.”

“He had just been telling me that all he wanted was justice for his child. Last night the victim’s father was robbed of the chance to take his daughter home for the last time and perform her last rites,” she said in a series of tweets.

Tagging Adityanath, she tweeted, “RESIGN. Instead of protecting the victim and her family, your government became complicit in depriving her of every single human right, even in death. You have no moral right to continue as chief minister.”

In another tweet in Hindi, she alleged that at 2:30 am Wednesday the “victim’s kin kept requesting”, but the UP administration “forcibly” cremated the deceased.

“The government did not protect her when she was alive. The government did not provide her timely treatment when she was attacked. After her death, the government took away the right of the family to perform the last rites of their daughter and did not respect the deceased,” she said.

She was relentless in her attack on the chief minister. “Gross inhumanity. You did not stop the crime but behaved like criminals. You did not stop the atrocities, but committed atrocity on an innocent child and her family twice.”

At a press briefing, Mahila Congress chief Sushmita Dev said there must be an inquiry into the whole incident, but the subject matter of the inquiry must go beyond the activities of the rapists.

There should be an inquiry into the “gross and criminal negligence” of the UP chief minister, who is also the home minister of the state, in the matter, Dev said.

“The way she was cremated is a gross violation of her human rights. The way she was left in a normal ward for more than six days is a gross violation of her human rights. For eight days, there is no FIR and when there is an FIR, look at the sections this hopeless and ruthless government gives, no sections of rape,” she alleged.

“The way the cremation was carried out at 2:30 AM in an unjust manner, to give justice, the only answer is that the prime minister should ask for UP CM’s resignation. If the PM does not do so, then there will be no justice to her,” Dev said.

On a Special Investigation Team formed by the UP government to probe the matter, Dev wondered if the SIT has the power to call the CM.

“The chief minister should answer before the SIT as to why was she kept in a district hospital and then in Agra and she was sent only to Safdarjung when she was near her end? Who will take responsibility for this? The UP CM should take responsibility for this,” she said.

Dev also attacked BJP MP Smriti Irani for not speaking out on the issue and said she would go down in history as the “worst women and child development minister”.

Irani should resign as an MP of Lok Sabha given the state of crime and women security in UP, Dev said.

“Don’t you tell us we are politicising this. The same PM who told us ‘Nirbhaya ko yaad rakhna’ is silent. Ajay Bisht (Yogi Adityanath) will have to resign. We will take to the streets till he leaves his post and we will not let this government sleep,” she said.

Congress leader Udit Raj alleged atrocities against Dalits go up under BJP governments. “There education and development is also affected.

Earlier, Congress‘ chief spokesperson Randeep Surjewala also hit out at the state government and asked why the victim’s family was denied the right to properly perform her last rites and why was the body cremated at 2:30 am.

He alleged that all limits of atrocities and brutality had been crossed and demanded Adityanath’s resignation.

On September 14, the young woman had gone to the fields with her mother and went missing soon after. She was found later, beaten and tortured, her tongue cut.

She was first admitted to Aligarh Muslim University’s Jawaharlal Nehru Medical College and Hospital and shifted to Safdarjung Hospital Monday. (PTI)

Hathras gangrape teen cremated in dead of night, UP CM sets up SIT amid outrage


Hathras/Lucknow: The 19-year-old woman, whose death in a Delhi hospital two weeks after she was brutally gangraped sparked protests and anguish, was cremated near her home in Hathras in the dead of the night early Wednesday with her family alleging they were forced by local police to conduct the last rites.

“The cremation was done around 2.30-3 in the morning,” her father told PTI, a day after the young woman, grievously injured when she was allegedly gangraped by four upper caste men, gave up the battle for life.

As political leaders and activists voiced their protest on social media and other platforms over the manner in which the funeral was conducted, local police said it was carried out as per the wishes of the family .

In the moments preceding the cremation, the Dalit teen’s brother told PTI, “Police have forcibly taken the body and my father along with them for cremation. When my father reached Hathras (from New Delhi), he was immediately taken (to the crematorium) by the police.”

Prime Minister Narendra Modi spoke with Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath and said strict action should be taken against the culprits, the Chief Minister’s Office said on Twitter.

The chief minister also constituted a three-member SIT to probe the case and asked that the trial be conducted in a fast track court. The SIT has been asked to submit its report in seven days, an official said.

Recalling the horrors of the Nirbhaya case, the Dalit teen was allegedly sexually attacked by four men on September 14 and referred on Monday to the Safdarjung Hospital in Delhi with spinal injuries, paralysis and cuts in her tongue. She died around 3 am on Tuesday.

The men alleged to be involved in the crime are under arrest and will now face charges under Section 302 (murder) of the Indian Penal Code, according to the Hathras Superintendent of Police Vikrant Vir.

The family left Safdarjung Hospital in Delhi on Tuesday night amid heavy police deployment and reached their village in Hathras, about 180 km from the national capital, after the body of the young woman, claimed a family member.

Another relative said the woman’s father was accompanied by 30 to 40 people to the crematorium.

Senior police and administration officials were also present at the crematorium, an official said.

Purported visuals from the site showed flames from what appeared to be a pyre lighting up the night sky and heavy police presence with some personnel in anti-riot gear.

“We are unable to understand, what they want… what kind of politics is this. They are giving random statements like the woman has not been raped! We don’t know what they want,” said the relative who was at home with the grieving family. “They are doing all this to hush up the case.”

Opposition leaders questioned the circumstances and the timing of the funeral.

“I was on the phone with the Hathras victim’s father when he was informed that his daughter had passed away. I heard him cry out in despair,” said Congress general secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra.

Tagging Adityanath in a tweet, she added, “RESIGN. Instead of protecting the victim and her family, your government became complicit in depriving her of every single human right, even in death. You have no moral right to continue as chief minister.”

Bahujan Samaj Party chief Mayawati said her party strongly condemns the wrong attitude of the police.

“The cremation of Hathras gangrape victim by the Uttar Pradesh Police without handing over the body to the family or without their consent and in their absence in the dead of night is raising doubts and resentment, she said, asking for the Supreme Court to takes cognisance of the case.

Samajwadi Party chief Akhilesh Yadav alleged that the cremation was done in the middle of the night to erase evidence.

“In the rape-murder of Hathras daughter, conducting her last rites by police in the middle of the night without the consent of the family is against rituals It is the most condemnable act The BJP government has committed a sin and crime by doing so,” he said on Twitter.

Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal said the young woman was first raped by some beasts and then the entire system .

in Mumbai, Maharashtra NCP chief Jayant Patil termed the “behaviour” of the UP Police “inhuman and unfortunate”.

“Final rites of India’s daughter were performed during early hours in the absence of her family members… Daughters are not being respected when they are alive nor while they are dead,” he said on Twitter.

Women’s rights activists added their voice to the chorus of condemnation and said the teen was robbed of dignity even in death.

“When the family found her and she was taken to the police station, the police said she is trying to trap people and then she was hospitalised and not kept in a ICU for six days and then on her death the police blamed the victim’s family and they are denying this Dalit family and victim dignity even in death and mourning,” said Kavita Krishnan, secretary of the All India Progressive Women’s Association,

Yogita Bhayana, who heads the group People Against Rape in India (PARI), described the incident as something human rights violation”.

“It is the newest low. Even in the Nirbhaya case there was nothing like this… They can only do this to a Dalit family..they knew the caste would not retaliate so they did this,” she said.

Rights activist Shamina Shafiq pointed out that Hindu rituals do not allow for cremations after sunset.

She, too, made comparisons with the Nirbhaya case and said the prime minister Manmohan Singh and UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi went to the airport to receive her body when it came from Singapore. She was also airlifted to Singapore so her life could be saved.

“When this (Hathras) girl was gangraped why was she not airlifted to AIIMS. These people do not care about giving respect to women…,” she said.

The National Commission for Women said it will seek an explanation from the UP Police.

“In UP Gang-Rape Tragedy, 2.30 am Cremation By Cops, Family was Kept Out. @NCWIndia condemn it strongly. Why the family wasn’t allowed in Cremation? Why at [email protected] @hathraspolice,” said NCW chief Rekha Sharma tweeted.

As the outrage grew, associates of Bhim Army chief Chandrashekhar Azad and its Delhi unit head Himanshu Balmiki alleged that the two have been missing since 10 pm on Tuesday and had been detained by UP Police while they were on their way to Hathras, accompanying the family.

There was no immediate confirmation from the police on this matter. (PTI)

Babri demolition case: Advani, Joshi among 32 accused acquitted


Lucknow:  All the 32 accused in the Babri mosque demolition case, including BJP veterans L K Advani and MM Joshi, were on Wednesday acquitted by a special CBI court here which said there was no conclusive proof against them.

Delivering the much-awaited verdict in the 28-year-old case, CBI judge S K Yadav did not accept newspapers and video cassettes as evidence.

The court also observed that late Vishwa Hindu Parishad leader Ashok Singhal wanted to save the structure because Ram idols were inside.

The case relates to the razing of the disputed structure in Ayodhya on December 6, 1992, which triggered riots for several months leaving nearly 2,000 people dead across the country.

The structure was demolished by ‘kar sevaks’ who claimed that the mosque in Ayodhya was built on the site of an ancient Ram temple.

The 32 accused, include former deputy prime minister Advani, former Union minister Joshi and Uma Bharti, former Uttar Pradesh chief minister Kalyan Singh, during whose tenure the structure was pulled down, besides Vinay Katiyar and Sadhvi Rithambara.

Champat Rai, the general secretary of the trust in charge of constructing the temple, was among the accused.

Yadav had on September 16 directed all the 32 surviving accused to remain present in the court on the day of the judgment. Today was the last working day of Yadav.

However, Bharti (61) and Singh (88) are convalescing in separate hospitals after coronavirus infection and were not present in the court at the time of pronouncement of order.

Advani (92), Joshi (86), Nritya Gopal Das and Satish Pradhan were also not present in court. Singh, during whose tenure as chief minister of Uttar Pradesh the disputed structure was demolished, was put on trial in September last year after his tenure as governor (of Rajasthan) came to an end.

With the Supreme Court setting August 31 as the deadline and later extending it by a month for the CBI court to give its verdict, the trial court started day-to-day hearing to complete the task on time.

The central agency produced 351 witnesses and 600 documents as evidence before the court. Charges were framed against 48 people, but 16 have died during the course of trial.

The trial under the serious criminal conspiracy charges commenced against them after having been dropped by the trial court in 2001. The verdict was upheld by the Allahabad High Court in 2010, but the apex court ordered restoration of the conspiracy charge against them on April 19, 2017.

The top court ordered daily hearing in the high profile case and directed the special judge to conclude it in two years.

The charge of conspiracy was in addition to the existing charges against them for promoting enmity between different groups on grounds of religion.

The accused were also facing charges of having made assertions “prejudicial to national integration and injuring or defiling a place of worship”.

The other charges against them included indulging in “deliberate and malicious” acts intended to outrage religious feelings, uttering statements leading to public mischief, rioting and unlawful assembly.

The CBI had argued that the accused conspired and instigated ‘kar sevaks’ to demolish the 16th century mosque. However, the accused had pleaded innocence maintaining that there is no evidence to prove their guilt and claimed they were implicated by the then Congress government at the Centre as a political vendetta.

In a significant judgment last year, the Supreme Court allotted the disputed site in Ayodhya for construction of a Ram temple, while calling the demolition of the mosque a violation of the rule of law.

An alternative five-acre site was marked in the city for building a mosque.

Before the 2017 verdict of the apex court, two sets of cases were being heard in Lucknow and Raebareli.

The trial of the first case involving unnamed ‘kar sevaks’ was going on in a Lucknow court, while the second set of cases relating to the eight VVIPs, including Advani, Joshi, Vishnu Hari Dalmiya, Singhal, Katiyar, Bharti, Giriraj Kishore and Sadhvi Ritambhara, were going on in a Raebareli court.

The apex court, had while restoring the charge of criminal conspiracy, directed clubbing of two cases relating to the demolition and had also ordered that the trial be concluded in two years. (PTI)

Wedding photographers struggle to make ends meet amid pandemic


Jalna (Maha): The raging coronavirus pandemic and resulting restrictions in place since March have hit the professional photographers hard as they have been struggling to make ends meet due to lack of social events.

Fear about the virus and state’s curbs on gathering of people have snatched the livelihood of such photographers, who used to earn through events like marriages, political rallies, religious functions before the COVID-19 outbreak.

In Maharashtra’s Jalna district, over 250 such professional photographers have fallen on hard times.

“It is becoming difficult to manage the expenses of our families,” president of Jalna District Photographers’ Association, Anil Vyawahare, said.

“Ban on gatherings means lack of livelihood for us,” he said.

According to another photographer, the outbreak has dealt a severe blow to the business that was already facing tough times due to smartphone photography.

“People use smartphones to take snaps of individuals and other things. Hence, our profession now mostly depends on social gatherings. But due to the pandemic, we have lost even that,” photographer Sharad Khanapure said.

According to the photographers, the outbreak started when the three-month long wedding season generally begins in April.

According to astrologers, during the three months, there were 20 ‘muhurt’ (auspicious dates) for marriages.

However, due to the restrictions, this wedding season went blank for the professional photographers, they aid.

“On every muhurt, about 100-200 marriages take place across the district and photographers are generally very busy during this season. But the pandemic forced us to remain at home this year,” photographer Mazhar Saudagar said.

The businesses linked to the marriage photography have also been affected.

Photographers use around three drones, several still cameras, video cameras and other equipment during big weddings. However, due to the pandemic, the suppliers of this equipment have also been affected.

“Majority of photographers are reeling under debt and it is getting difficult for them now. Therefore, we want the government to provide relief,” Vyawahare said. (PTI)

Farmers protest bare-chested in Amritsar against agri bills


Chandigarh: A group of farmers, who squatted on a railway track in Punjab’s Amritsar, went shirtless on Saturday in protest against the three agri-marketing bills passed recently by the Parliament.

Sitting on the rail track, the bare-chested protesters shouted slogans against the BJP-led central government and demanded that the farm bills be withdrawn.

Farmers under the banner of the Kisan Mazdoor Sangharsh Committee have been protesting on the rail track near Devidaspura village in Amritsar since September 24.

“Farmers have taken off their ‘kurtas’ and shirts to make the government hear our voice,” Kisan Mazdoor Sangharsh Committee general secretary Sarwan Singh Pandher told PTI over the phone.

The committee had announced on Friday to extend its three-day ‘rail roko’ agitation from September 26 till September 29.

The ‘rail roko’ agitation had started on Thursday, forcing the railway authorities to suspend the operation of special passenger trains in the state.

Farmers have expressed apprehension that the Centre’s farm reforms would pave the way for dismantling of the minimum support price system and they would be at the “mercy” of big corporates. The farmers said they would continue their fight till the three farm bills were revoked.

The Essential Commodities (Amendment) Bill, the Farmers’ Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Bill, and the Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement of Price Assurance and Farm Services Bill were passed by the Parliament earlier this week and now await presidential assent. PTI

We are “little bit muddled” at the moment: CSK coach Fleming after second defeat


Dubai: Chennai Super Kings head coach Stephen Fleming has admitted that his side were “a little bit muddled” at the moment and they need a clearer strategy going ahead after suffering two losses in three matches in the Indian Premier League.

Fleming also rued the missing of some key players that he said has affected the team combination.

“Well, we’re a bit muddled at the moment. We’re missing some key players, and we’re trying to find a balance that allows us to be competitive. We’re looking to develop a personality based on the wickets that we’re facing,” Fleming said after CSK lost to Delhi Capitals by 44 runs on Friday.

“Each wicket has been completely different, and our batting is without Rayudu, (Suresh) Raina etc. We’re trying to find a way or a combination and how to use players. We’ve learned a massive amount over three days,” he added.

Three-time champion CSK could not get going during the run chase against DC, and when asked why Sam Curran or Ravindra Jadeja was not promoted up the batting order, Fleming said they had used the same tactic in the last couple of games.

“We have almost got too many batting options at the moment, so that’s why I say we were a little bit muddled with what we’re sending out, so we just need to be a little bit clearer with what we’re doing, and perhaps what we’re missing is a bigger contribution at the top,” he said.

“It’s a lot of question marks and a lot of soul-searching from coaching point of view and strategy point of view, but we’re trying to find combinations where we get the best players at right times. To keep shunting the order all over the place is not really our style, but we’ve had a go at it and we’ll review how it’s gone.”

Spin bowling has been traditionally CSK’s strength but struggling at the moment, prompting Fleming to say it was an area of concern.

“Yeah, it’s an area of concern, because it’s been such a strength for CSK, and you’ve got to think that the style of play that we’ve developed over the last 12 years is heavily based on spin. So what we’re trying to do is find a different personality.

“Spin still plays a part, and we’ve played on three different grounds, so each game has been different conditions. We’re struggling to adjust to find the pace and the style to bowl through the middle, and that, in the last two games in particular, has been an area where we haven’t done so well. So from a strength to an area of concern, we need to rectify that.”

Asked about the possible team combination in the upcoming matches, Fleming said, “All bets are on the table at the moment as we try to find a way. We are looking forward to playing a number of games here (in Dubai), we were interested in how this pitch played, and get conditions right so we can get right combination.”

The former New Zealand captain said the dew factor was something that his side couldn’t anticipate.

“We did (consider batting first) but what we can’t anticipate is the dew. We trained across the road the other day and it was soaking wet and it has a huge impact in second innings. Tonight, it was absolutely none so it’s a little bit of hit and miss at the moment,” he said.

“The last game we played in Sharjah was one of the wetter surfaces we’ve been involved in. We’re guessing a little bit around conditions. We are the guinea pigs in terms of playing first games on two venues.”

CSK’s next match is against Sunrisers Hyderabad on October 2. (PTI)

Drug case: TV anchor appears before police


Mangaluru: Popular television anchor and actor Anushree on Saturday appeared before the police here for questioning in connection with allegations of drug use.

She was summoned for questioning on her reported links with Kishore Aman Shetty, dancer-choreographer, who is in judicial custody on charges of consumption and peddling of drugs.

Tarun, a close friend of Shetty, who has been arrested on the charge of drug consumption, had revealed to the police that Anushree had also attended Shetty’s party, after which she was summoned to record her statement.

Police sources said Anushree presented herself before the police at 9 am and is being questioned at the Panambur police station on the outskirts of the city.

The state CCB police is investigating drug abuse among bigwigs, including those in the film industry, after the Narcotics Control Bureau arrested three people from Bengaluru with a drug haul.

They were allegedly supplying drugs to Kannada film actors and singers. PTI

Would not forget the virus that came from China: Trump


Washington: US President Donald Trump has vowed to end his country’s reliance on China once and for all if voted to power, expressing disappointment that the post-coronavirus relationship with Beijing does not mean the “same” to him as he would not forget the virus that came from there.

Addressing an election rally on Friday at Newport Virginia, a battleground State for the November 3 presidential election, Trump said that the US economy was doing great, then we got hit with this virus from China.

They should never have let it happen. We won’t forget it. We closed up, we saved millions of lives. Now we’ve opened up, opening with records, he said.

The US is the worst-affected country from the virus. Over 200,000 Americans have lost their lives and devastated the country’s economy, resulting in the loss of millions of jobs.

Trump said that if voted to power, in the next four years, he will make America the manufacturing superpower of the world.

We will end our reliance on China once and for all, he said.

The coronavirus pandemic hit the US soon after Trump signed a trade deal with China, for which his administration had negotiated with the Chinese for more than a year.

The US and China in the beginning of the year signed Phase-1 of a trade deal, ending a bitter two-year tariff war that had rattled the global economy.

Trump in May ruled out renegotiating the trade deal with China. The US on September 14 banned the import of five goods from China, including computer-parts, cotton and hair products, alleging that they are produced in forced labour camps in the restive Muslim-majority Xinjiang province.

Trump, addressing thousands of his supporters at a local airport in the backdrop of Air Force One, said that post-coronavirus relationship with China does not mean much to him and expressed his deep disappointment with the Chinese.

I had a very good relationship in China with President Xi (Jinping). But you know what? This pandemic has just.. we made a great trade deal, but it just doesn’t mean the same to me. Does that make any sense? It doesn’t mean the same to me. It doesn’t mean the same to me, Trump said.

The president said that early this month, China had the largest order of corn to American farmers in US history. They had the largest order of soybeans and a massive order of beef.

But you know what it does just doesn’t mean as much to me now, as it did, at one point, he said.

The ink wasn’t even dry on the trade deal. And this thing came in. They could have stopped it, he said.

Earlier in the day, in his address to the Black Empowerment event in Atlanta, Trump said before the China virus hit the country, his administration had built the greatest economy for African Americans in the history of the country. And we are doing it again, he added.

Trump, speaking at another election event in Miami, Florida, which is another battleground State, he said that same was the case with the Latinos before the arrival of the China virus.

We have tremendous records but just before the play came in from China they should have stopped it. They should have stopped it. Just before it came in people were calling me, Democrats were calling me, they wanted to get together. It was happening because we had the best job numbers, we had the best businesses, we had the best everything. We have rebuilt our military, he said. (PTI)

UK India Business Council signs MoU with WBIDC


Kolkata: The UK India Business Council has signed an MoU with West Bengal Industrial Development Corporation (WBIDC), to focus on accelerating industrial development in the state.

This collaborative partnership between the UKIBC and West Bengal government will help to boost business and industrial development in the state by proactively developing the business environment and strengthening collaboration with British businesses in the state, a senior official said.

The MoU was signed on Friday at a virtual roundtable between WBIDC managing director, Vandana Yadav and UKIBC managing director, Kevin McCole in the presence of Nick Low, British Deputy High Commissioner in Kolkata.

“I am delighted to be signing this MoU today, deepening the UKIBC partnership….. I have to say that I have never been more impressed by the dynamism and determination of political and bureaucratic leadership. This is one of the reasons why the UKIBC is so keen to engage and why so many UK businesses want to enter and expand their investment in West Bengal,” McCole said.

UK businesses such as BT, Diageo, Chivas Brothers, PwC, HSBC and Standard Chartered are already significant investors in West Bengal.

The MoU was signed as part of a virtual roundtable, which examined measures to support businesses in a post-COVID-19 world. What was clear is that governments and industry are looking beyond the current crisis to re-shape and strengthen economies, supply chains, socio-economic development and business norms post COVID-19, a statement said. (PTI)

Farm bills protest: 70 RLD workers booked for holding demonstration without permission


Muzaffarnagar: Seventy RLD workers and leaders, including its district president, were booked for holding a protest against new farm bills without permission from the administration, police said on Saturday.

RLD’s district president Ajit Rathi, party spokesman Abhishek Choudhry and former MLC Choudhry Mushtaq are among the 70 people who have been booked under Section 188 of the IPC, SHO DK Tyagi said.

A case was registered against them on Friday for holding a protest outside the district magistrate’s office against the Centre’s farm bills without permission from the administration, he said. (PTI)

Deepika reaches NCB office to record statement in drugs case


Mumbai: Bollywood actor Deepika Padukone reached the NCB office in south Mumbai on Saturday morning to record her statement in drugs probe linked to film star Sushant Singh Rajput’s death, an official said.

Deepika arrived at the NCB guest house in Colaba, from where the central agency is operating, in a small car around 9.50 am.

There is heavy police deployment outside the Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB) office, where barricades have been put up. Media personnel have gathered in large numbers for coverage.

Deepika has been summoned by the NCB as part of its probe into the alleged Bollywood-drugs nexus.

There were reports that Deepika’s husband and actor Ranveer Singh had asked the NCB if he could also remain present during her interrogation. However, the NCB had on Friday clarified that it did not receive any such request.

Two other Bollywood actresses- Shraddha Kapoor and Sara Ali Khan– are also set to appear before the probe agency on Saturday.

Deepika’s manager Karishma Prakash, who was questioned by the team on Friday, has also been asked to remain present for further questioning on Saturday, another official said.

Prakash’s WhatsApp chats included conversations about drugs with one ‘D’ and the central agency wanted to find out who this person was, the NCB sources had said earlier. (PTI)

Rahul Gandhi urges people to raise voice in support of farmers


The Congress launched a ‘Speak up for farmers’ campaign on social media protesting the farm bills, with Rahul Gandhi urging people to raise their voice against what he described was the Narendra Modi government’s “exploitation” of farmers.

The three bills were passed by both houses of Parliament during the Monsoon session and are awaiting presidential assent.

“Let us raise our voices together against the atrocities and exploitation of farmers by the Modi government,” Gandhi said in a tweet in Hindi.

“Join the Speak Up For Farmers campaign through your video,” he said, tagging a video in which the party called for the withdrawal of the bills.

The Congress, on its official Twitter handle, alleged that the agriculture bills passed by the government in a “highly undemocratic manner are nothing but an attack on our farmers and an attempt to transform agriculture into another revenue stream for their crony capitalist friends”.

Along with many other opposition parties, it has claimed that the bills will harm the interest of farmers and benefit the corporates, a claim denied by the government.

The Centre has asserted the bills will be beneficial for farmers and increase their income. (PTI)

India registers 85,362 new COVID-19 infections in a day; single-day recoveries surpass fresh cases


New Delhi: India’s COVID-19 tally sprinted past 59 lakh on Saturday with 85,362 fresh cases being recorded in a day, while 93,420 people recuperated from the disease during the same period taking total recoveries to over 48 lakh, according to the Union Health Ministry data.

The data updated at 8 am on Saturday showed that the coronavirus caseload has risen to 59,03,932 with 85,362 infections being reported in a day, while the death toll mounted to 93,379 after 1,089 people succumbed to the disease in 24 hours.

Total recoveries surged to 48,49,584, pushing the country’s recovery rate to 82.14 per cent. The COVID-19 case fatality rate was recorded at 1.58 per cent.

There are 9,60,969 active cases in the country which comprise 16.28 per cent of the total caseload, the data showed.

India’s COVID-19 tally had crossed the 20-lakh mark on August 7, 30 lakh on August 23, 40 lakh on September 5 and it went past 50 lakh on September 16.

According to the ICMR, in total 7,02,69,975 samples have been tested up to September 25, with 13,41,535 being tested on Friday.

The new fatalities include 416 from Maharashtra, 86 from Karnataka, 84 from Uttar Pradesh, 72 from Tamil Nadu, 68 from Punjab, 59 from West Bengal, 48 from Andhra Pradesh, 30 from Madhya Pradesh, 25 from Chhattisgarh and 24 from Delhi.

Total 93,379 deaths reported so far in the country includes 34,761 from Maharashtra followed by 9,148 from Tamil Nadu, 8,417 from Karnataka, 5,606 from Andhra Pradesh, 5,450 from Uttar Pradesh, 5,147 from Delhi, 4,665 from West Bengal, 3,393 from Gujarat, 3,134 from Punjab and 2,152 from Madhya Pradesh.

The health ministry stressed that over 70 per cent of the deaths occurred due to comorbidities.

“Our figures are being reconciled with the Indian Council of Medical Research,” the ministry said on its website, adding that state-wise distribution of figures is subject to further verification and reconciliation. (PTI)

S Korea calls for N Korea to further investigate shooting


Seoul: South Korea said Saturday it will request North Korea to further investigate the killing of a South Korean government official who was shot by North Korean troops after being found adrift near the rivals’ disputed sea boundary while apparently trying to defect.

Seoul could also possibly call for a joint investigation into Tuesday’s shooting, which sparked outrage in the South and drew a rare apology from North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

Kim was quoted as saying he was very sorry over what he described as an unexpected, unfortunate incident” in a message sent by Pyongyang’s United Front Department, a North Korean government agency in charge of inter-Korean relations.

However, the North Korean message, which was announced by the office of South Korean President Moon Jae-in on Friday, largely passed the blame for the shooting to the South Korean official, claiming that he refused to answer questions and attempted to flee before North Korean troops fired at him.

South Korean officials during a presidential National Security Council meeting Friday evening concluded that further investigation was needed because the North’s account of the incident was different from what was gathered by South Korean intelligence, Moon’s office said.

We have decided to request the North to conduct an additional investigation and also request a joint investigation with the North if needed, the Blue House said in a statement.

It said the South will also swiftly take measures to further strengthen surveillance posture in waters off the country’s western coast to prevent similar incidents.

South Korea’s coast guard was deploying dozens of vessels and hundreds of officers to search waters near the western sea border Saturday for the official’s remains.

The North’s state media have yet to report on the incident or Kim’s apology.

South Korea earlier accused the North of shooting the man, who was likely trying to defect, and burning his body after finding him on a floating object in North Korean waters.

South Korean officials condemned what they called an atrocious act and pressed North Korea to punish those responsible.

But North Korea in its message said that troops first fired blanks after the man refused to answer questions other than saying he’s from South Korea a couple of times.

Then, as he made moves to flee, the North Korean troops fired 10 rounds. When they came near the floating object, they only found lots of blood but no sign of him.

The troops determined he was dead and burned the floating object in line with anti-coronavirus rules, the message said.

North Korea has previously expressed regrets when it wanted to lower tensions triggered by incidents involving South Korean casualties, such as the 2015 front-line mine blasts that maimed two South Korean soldiers and the 2008 shooting death of a South Korean tourist in North Korea.

But it’s rare for a North Korean leader to do so.(AP)

Google Pay doesn’t share customer transaction data with any 3rd party outside payments flow: Google

Google Pay

New Delhi: Google on Friday said Google Pay does not share customer transaction data with any third party outside the payments flow.

The clarification from Google came after reports cited the company’s submission to the Delhi High Court saying it is allowed to share customers transaction data with third parties with the prior permission of NPCI and payment service providing (PSP) banks.

“This is to clarify that press reports on the basis of the affidavit filed by Google before the Delhi High Court, do not represent the complete facts,” a Google spokesperson said on Friday.

The spokesperson added that Google Pay is in full compliance with Unified Payment Interface (UPI) procedural guidelines, issued by the National Payments Corporation of India (NPCI) and the applicable laws.

“…and does not share customer transaction data with any third party outside the payments flow,” the spokesperson further said.

The submission by Google was filed before a bench of Chief Justice D N Patel and Justice Prateek Jalan in response to a PIL seeking action against Google Pay for allegedly violating the RBI’s guidelines related to data localisation, storage and sharing.

The high court on Thursday listed the matter for hearing on November 10, as the Centre and Reserve Bank of India (RBI) have not filed their responses yet. (PTI)

Bihar polls in 3 phases from Oct 28; counting of votes on Nov 10: EC


New Delhi: Voting for Bihar assembly elections will be held in three phases — first on October 28, second on November 3 and the third on November 7 — while counting of all votes will take place on November 10, the Election Commission announced on Friday.

Announcing the poll schedule for the 243-member Bihar assembly, Chief Election Commissioner Sunil Arora said these will be one of the biggest elections globally to be held during the prevailing COVID-19 situation.

He said the world has changed significantly since the last elections which were held for Delhi assembly and the COVID-19 pandemic has forced a new normal in every aspect of our life.

He said the voting time will be extended by one hour and votes could be cast from 7 am till 6 pm, except for in the Left Wing Extremism-affect areas.

COVID-19 patients can vote in the last hour of the day, Arora said. He also said special protocols have been readied for voters who are COVID-positive patients.

The EC said 7 lakh hand sanitisers, 46 lakh masks, 6 lakh PPE kits, 6.7 lakh face shields and 23 lakh pairs of hand gloves have been arranged for Bihar polls.

Besides, postal ballot facility will be provided wherever required and requested. Social distancing norms will need to be followed at public gatherings during the poll campaign.

Arora further said anyone using social media for mischievous purposes, such as for flaring communal tension, during elections will have to face consequences, while hate speech will be also dealt with harshly by the Election Commission.

He said the number of phases for 243-member Bihar assembly polls has been reduced keeping in mind security arrangements and festive season, among other factors.

Voting for the first phase on October 28 will cover 71 assembly constituencies, while the second-phase voting on November 3 will cover 94 seats. The third phase of voting on November 7 will cover 78 assembly seats.

Counting of votes for all seats will take place on November 10. (PTI)

Trump declines to commit to peaceful transfer of power, expresses concerns about mail-in ballots


Washington: US President Donald Trump has declined to commit to a peaceful transfer of power if he loses the November 3 presidential election, complaining about the use of mail-in ballots and terming them a “disaster”.

Asked whether he will leave the White House peacefully, if he loses the election, Trump responded: “Well, we’re going to have to see what happens.”

“We are going to have to see what happens, you know that. I have been complaining very strongly about the ballots, and the ballots are a disaster…,” Trump told reporters at a White House news conference on Wednesday.

“Mr President, real quickly, win, lose or draw in this election, will you commit here today for a peaceful transferral of power after the election? And there has been rioting in Louisville, there has been rioting in many cities across this country — red and so-called red and blue states — will you commit to making sure that there is a peaceful transferral of power after the election?” he was asked.

Not satisfied with the answer, the reporter again asked. “Do you commit to making sure that there is a peaceful transferal of power?”

Trump exuded confidence that there will be continuation of power.

“We want to get rid of the ballots and we will have a very peaceful — there will not be a transfer. Frankly, there will be a continuation. The ballots are out of control, you know it, and you know who knows it better than anybody else? The Democrats know it better than anybody else,” the president said as he refused to take any other question from the same journalist.

“Go ahead. Please go ahead. Yes, go ahead. You asked a question. Go ahead please,” he said.

In response to Trump’s comments on committing to a peaceful transition of power, former Vice President and Democratic Presidential candidate Joe Biden said: “What country are we in? I’m being facetious. I said what country are we in? Look, he says the most irrational things. I don’t know what to say.”

Utah Senator Mitt Romney also commented on the president’s words, writing on Twitter on Wednesday, he said: “Fundamental to democracy is the peaceful transition of power; without that, there is Belarus. Any suggestion that a president might not respect this Constitutional guarantee is both unthinkable and unacceptable.”

During an interview with Fox News earlier this year, Trump didn’t commit to accepting the election results either, saying “I have to see.”

Trump has claimed that mail-in voting is susceptible to massive fraud.

Trump’s attacks on the balloting have led to concerns that he is undermining the trust in the election process and will contest the results if he loses. Even though he won the 2016 election, he still falsely claimed that there was massive fraud in California, which his Democratic rival Hillary Clinton won handily. (PTI)

Work from home hurting back and neck; people seek medical help


Pune: With work from home becoming the new normal amid the COVID-19 pandemic, many people have started complaining of neck pain and backache while working for long hours and are seeking help from physiotherapists.

Health experts say this is due to improper sitting postures and people need to follow good ergonomics and working habits at home.

Employees of several corporate firms and industrial bodies have been working from home for nearly six months now since the outbreak of COVID-19 in the country.

“Initially, work from home system brought cheers among employees. But, due to long working hours and improper sitting postures, many have started complaining of neck pain, backache and other issues,” Dr Apurv Shimpi, head of the community physiotherapy department in Pune’s Sancheti Hospital told PTI.

He said the National Institute of Personnel Management’s (NIPM) Pune Chapter, a body of HR professionals here in Maharashtra, approached the hospital to conduct physiotherapy sessions for their associate members.

“Over 700 people took part in the recent session where they were given tips on work from home ergonomics,” he said.

“Our physiotherapists explained about the wrong postures and positions adopted by employees while working from home. We gave them tips like raising the height of laptop screen to eye-level, use of pillows, taking frequent breaks and doing exercises for relaxing the mind and eyes,” he said.

NIPM Pune Chapter’s Chairman Dr (Capt) C M Chitale said many professionals have been complaining of spinal cord- related issues.

“During the webinar, physiotherapists gave participants several ergonomic tips and explained the ideal work postures to avoid backache and other health-related issues,” he said.

Narendra Patil, HR head of Pune-based Kalyani Maxion Wheels Pvt Ltd, said though their firm is into manufacturing, several employees are currently working from home and have been complaining of backache and neck pain.

“We asked our employees to take part in the physiotherapy session organised by NIPM and it turned out to be beneficial for them,” he said.

Anita Perla, senior manager (human resource) at KSH Distriparks here, said she attended a webinar on physiotherapy arranged by the Mahratta Chamber of Commerce, Industries and Agriculture.

“Working from home is very different from working in an office. Infrastructure in the office is set up to support working conditions, but its not possible in a work from home set up. Hence, such sessions are important,” she said.

Dr Sourabh Sane, a physiotherapist with city-based fitness startup HealYos, said they are teaching people how to set up a proper work station at home.

“We guide them on what should be the ideal height of the laptop and their work screen. The table-chair arrangement should be such that the computer screen should be at the eye- level,” he said.

“Keeping a hard pillow on the chair for back support and simple stretching exercises also help people who have a sedentary working style for long hours,” he added. PTI

Militant killed in encounter in J&K’s Pulwama


Srinagar: An unidentified militant was killed on Thursday in an encounter with security forces in Pulwama district of Jammu and Kashmir, police said.

An encounter broke out at Maghama in Tral area of the district after security forces launched a cordon and search operation in the area, a police officer said.

He said one militant was killed while the operation is still in progress.

The identity and group affiliation of the slain militant is being ascertained, he added. (PTI)

Gambhir lashes out at Dhoni: Batting at number 7 is not leading from front


New Delhi: Mahendra Singh Dhoni did not lead from the front by dropping himself down the batting order during a mammoth chase, opined former India batsman Gautam Gambhir, tearing into CSK captain’s decision to bat at number seven against Rajasthan Royals.

The former India opener reckons that if any other captain had done this, he would have drawn a lot of flak but since it is Dhoni, people are not even talking about it.

With Chennai Super Kings chasing a massive 217-run target in Sharjah, Dhoni came to bat when they needed 103 runs from 38 balls.

Dhoni sent the likes of Sam Curran, Ruturaj Gaikwad and Kedar Jadhav ahead of him. CSK lost the match by 16 runs.

“I was a bit surprised to be honest. MS Dhoni batting at No. 7? And sending (Ruturaj) Gaikwad, Sam Curran before him. Makes no sense to me. In fact you should be leading from the front,” Gambhir told ESPNcricinfo’s T20 Time Out.

“This is not what you call leading from the front. Batting at No. 7 when you’re chasing 217. The game was over. Faf was probably the lone warrior,” he said.

“See, if someone else would have done this, some other (batsman) captain had batted at No. 7, he would have got a lot of flak. It is MS Dhoni – probably that’s why people don’t talk about it.”

Dhoni has argued that he did not get enough time to prepare due to an extended quarantine period, so he did not come to out bat early. “I haven’t batted for a long time. 14-day quarantine doesn’t help,” he said after the match.

Dhoni’s reference was to CSK’s extra one-week quarantine after 13 people in their contingent tested positive for COVID-19, resulting in missing out on important training sessions.

The 38-year-old Gambhir, who played 58 Tests and 147 ODIs between 2003 and 2016, also questioned CSK’s intent to win the game.

“There is nothing wrong if you end up getting out early, at least start leading from the front, trying to inspire the team as well. What you did in the last over (hitting 3 sixes in last over), probably if you’d done that coming in at No. 4 or 5, alongside Faf, you could have made a game out of it,” said Gambhir.

“Probably there was no such intent to make a game out of it. I thought after the (first) six overs, they had literally given up on the game. And probably MS was trying to get back into that match rhythm of batting till the end and get some runs under his belt so he can actually play these kind of innings in the coming games.

“You’ve got to be in the present, try and win each game possible. I thought there was no intent to win the game and they were never there in the chase.”

On Dhoni hitting three sixes in the final over, Gambhir said, “Yes, you can talk about MS Dhoni’s last over but it was of no use to be honest. It was just all personal runs.”

Gambhir, also a BJP Member of Parliament, said it was “absolute miscalculation” on the part of CSK to delay Dhoni’s arrival at the crease.

“When you don’t have Suresh Raina, you’re making people believe that Sam Curran is better than you. You’re making people believe that Ruturaj Gaikwad, Curran, Kedar Jadhav, Faf du Plessis, M Vijay, all these guys, are better than you.

“Probably not the right captaincy as well. This is not how you ask someone like MS to lead the side.” (PTI)

Modi govt has ‘destroyed’ web of relationships with countries: Rahul


New Delhi: Living in a neighbourhood with no friends is dangerous, Congress leader Rahul Gandhi said on Wednesday and alleged that Prime Minister Narendra Modi had destroyed the “web of relationships” that the Congress had built with countries over decades.

Attacking the government on Twitter, Rahul Gandhi also tagged a report in The Economist titled ‘As Bangladesh’s relations with India weaken, ties with China strengthen’.

“Mr Modi has destroyed the web of relationships that the Congress built and nurtured over several decades,” Gandhi alleged. “Living in a neighbourhood with no friends is dangerous,” the former Congress chief added.

The Congress has been critical of the Modi government’s foreign policy, alleging that ties with neighbours have been weakened. The government has denied the charge and said India’s ties have deepened with several countries and its position has strengthened globally. (PTI)

Rajya Sabha bids farewell to 11 retiring members


New Delhi: Rajya Sabha on Wednesday bid farewell to 11 of its members who will retire in November this year. When the House met, Chairman M Venkaiah Naidu mentioned that 11 MPs from Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand will be retiring in November.

They include Civil Aviation Minister Hardeep Singh Puri, Samajwadi Party leader Ram Gopal Yadav, BSP’s Veer Singh and Raj Babbar of Congress.

Others who will retire are: Javed Ali Khan (SP), P L Punia (Congress), Rajaram (BSP), Neeraj Shekhar (BJP), Arun Singh (BJP), Ravi Prakash Verma (SP) and Chandrapal Singh Yadav (SP).

Naidu said some of the members will return to the House after re-election.

Wednesday is the last date of the current monsoon session after the government decided to curtail the 18-day session in view of the pandemic.

The session that started on September 14 was to continue till October 1. Naidu asked retiring members if they wanted to speak.

None of the SP, BSP and Congress members were present in the House because of the opposition boycott of the proceedings against the suspension of eight MPs.

Neeraj Shekhar, who last year switched over from SP to BJP, said he has been fortunate to have been first elected to Lok Sabha and then to Rajya Sabha.

“As a kid, I used to come to Parliament House with my father (former Prime Minister Chandra Shekhar) and we used to play in Rajya Sabha and Lok Sabha… There wasn’t much security in those days. Since then, I aspired to become an MP,” he said.

Stating that bringing legislations that will change the future of children should be a priority, he said he prays for a clean, educated, and strong country.

“We will be missing you and other members retiring in November,” Naidu said. (PTI)

14-day quarantine didn’t help, says Dhoni on lack of batting time


Sharjah: The extended two-week quarantine of Chennai Super Kings hampered his preparations as he did not get enough time for batting practice, said captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni after his side lost to Rajasthan Royals by 16 runs in their second IPL game.

Dhoni came in to bat at No. 7, sending the likes of Sam Curran and Kedar Jadhav ahead of him in a mammoth 217-run chase on Tuesday.

Asked why he came so low in the order, the CSK captain said, “I haven’t batted for a long time. 14-day quarantine doesn’t help.”

Dhoni’s reference was to CSK’s extra one-week quarantine after 13 people in their contingent tested positive for COVID-19, resulting in missing out on important training sessions. He was not out on 29 off 17 balls with three sixes in the last over.

Although he didn’t name Murali Vijay but the veteran opener’s run-a-ball 21 was one of the reasons for CSK falling short besides an off-day from his spin duo of Ravindra Jadeja and Piyush Chawla.

“With 217 on the board, we needed a very good start which was not the case. Steve (Smith) and (Sanju) Samson batted very well. We need to give credit to their bowlers. Once you’ve seen the first innings, you knew the lengths to bowl,” Dhoni said.

“Their spinners did well to bowl away from the batsman. Our spinners made the error to bowl too full. If we would’ve maybe restricted them to 200, it would’ve been a good game.”

His rival captain Steve Smith praised Jofra Archer’s big hits in the last over that eventually changed the game.

“I think the last surge from Jofra was an incredible bit of hitting. Sanju Samson, looked like everything he hit went for six. MS smacked a few in the end, and Faf got going too, but nice to get a win,” Smith said.

Smith heaped praised on Samson for his nine sixes.

“Sanju was incredible, and all I had to do was give him the strike. This should give him a lot of confidence. Jos (Buttler) is a quality player and we’ll see what happens when he comes back. Hard to take the opening slot away from someone like him.” (PTI)

Parliament passes bill to amend Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act


New Delhi: Parliament on Wednesday approved a Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act bill to make it mandatory for office bearers of NGOs to provide their Aadhaar numbers at the time of registration and also bring various other changes.

Amid Opposition boycott of proceedings over the suspension of eight MPs, Rajya Sabha unanimously passed The Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Amendment Bill, 2020.

Replying to debate on the bill, Minister of State for Home Nityanand Rai said the legislation was not against any NGO and is an effort to maintain transparency.

This amendment is in the interest of good NGOs which want to do good work in the country.

The bill was passed in Lok Sabha on Monday and will now be sent to the President for his assent.

The minister said the bill provides for reduction in administrative expenses of any NGO receiving foreign funding, from 50 per cent to 20 per cent of annual funds to ensure spending on their main objectives.

Among other provisions, the bill proposes to enable the Centre to allow an NGO or association to surrender its FCRA certificate. (PTI)

Turkish President Erdogan’s remarks on J&K at UNGA ‘completely unacceptable’ India


United Nations: India has termed as “completely unacceptable” references to Jammu and Kashmir by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan during his address to the high-level debate at the UN General Assembly, saying Ankara should learn to respect the sovereignty of other nations and reflect on its own policies more deeply.

“We have seen remarks by President of Turkey on Indian UT (Union Territory) of Jammu & Kashmir. They constitute gross interference in India’s internal affairs and are completely unacceptable. Turkey should learn to respect the sovereignty of other nations and reflect on its own policies more deeply,” India’s Permanent Representative to the UN Ambassador T S Tirumurti said in a tweet on Tuesday.

Erdogan, in his pre-recorded video statement to the General Debate at the 75th session of the UN General Assembly, made a reference to Jammu and Kashmir, saying the issue of Kashmir, “which is also key to the stability and peace of South Asia, is still a burning issue. Steps taken following the abolition of the special status of Jammu-Kashmir further complicated the problem.”

He said that Turkey was in “favour of solving this issue through dialogue, within the framework of the United Nations resolutions and especially in line with the expectations of the people of Kashmir”.

The Turkish President, a close ally of Pakistan, had last year also raised the issue of Kashmir in his address to the high-level General Debate in the General Assembly Hall.

India has rejected any third-party intervention in the Kashmir issue and has maintained that all outstanding matters in Indo-Pak ties should be resolved bilaterally. (PTI)

India, US share strong interest in rules-based Indo-Pacific region: Biden


Washington: Asserting that India and the US share a strong interest in a rules-based Indo-Pacific region where no country including China threatens, Democratic vice presidential candidate Joe Biden on Tuesday said the two nations can undeniably shape the region for a much better future.

“The US and India share a strong interest in a rules-based Indo-Pacific region, where no country including China threatens its neighbours with impunity,” Biden said in his address to a virtual fundraiser for Indian Americans.

In his first ever virtual fundraiser as a presidential candidate for Indian Americans that was attended by 268 people, Biden alleged that President Donald Trump is ceding space to China just when the country is looking to undercut its neighbours and the American leadership in the Pacific.

“We can undeniably shape the Indo-Pacific order for a much better, better future. We can get it right. This election is going to determine our future,” Biden said during the fundraiser in a conversation with Dr Vivek Murthy, former surgeon general.

Referring to his long-standing ties with India and the work that he has done over the past several decades, first as the US senator from Delaware and then as the country’s vice president, Biden said his administration is going to continue to value this relationship.

“It is not about photo ops or handshakes, it is about getting things done,” he said without elaborating any further.

Fifteen years ago, Biden told the Indian Americans that he was leading the Senate Foreign Relations Committee with a Republican, Senator Richard Lugar, and they approved the historic India-US civil nuclear deal.

“At the time, I said when India and the United States become closer friends, the world will be a much safer place. Seven years ago, as vice president, I told a business owner in Mumbai that the US-India partnership was the defining relationship in the 21st century,” he said.

“I am not just saying it now, I said it then and I mean it,” the former vice president said while asserting that he will continue to believe this as the president. “I will work to make sure it occurs,” he said.

Biden said he has long called for standing with Indians confronting terrorism in the region, strengthening India’s defence capabilities, expanding trade between the two countries and tackling global challenges like climate change and global health. (PTI)

LS passes Jammu and Kashmir Official Languages Bill


New Delhi: The Lok Sabha on Tuesday passed a bill under which Kashmiri, Dogri and Hindi, apart from the existing Urdu and English, will be the official languages in the union territory of Jammu and Kashmir.

Introducing the Jammu and Kashmir Official Languages Bill, 2020, Minister of State for Home G Kishan Reddy said it was a demand of the people of Jammu and Kashmir that the language they speak should be the official language.

The minister pointed out that 53.26 per cent of the population of Jammu and Kashmir speaks Kashmiri language.

Reddy said 26.64 per cent of the population of the UT speaks Dogri while Urdu, which is currently its official language, is spoken only by 0.16 per cent population there. Still for the last 70 years, Urdu continues to be the official language of Jammu and Kashmir, he said, adding that 2.36 per cent population in the UT speaks Hindi.

Opposing the bill, Hasnain Masoodi (National Conference) said the central government does not have the legislative competence to frame a bill in this regard.

He said it is not a fact that only 0.16 per cent population of the UT speaks Urdu which is a link language between Jammu region and Kashmir.

Masoodi said if only 0.16 per cent people in the UT speak Urdu, then why would the government include it as an official language.

No other state has five official languages, he said.

Intervening in the discussion, Union minister Jitendra Singh said he wondered why the NC was opposing the inclusion of Kashmiri as an official language. He alleged that the NC has done politics in the name of “Kashmiriyat” and still it was opposing the bill.

The bill was later passed by a voice vote. Sikh and Gujjar communities have protested the exclusion of Punjabi and Gojri languages from the bill. (PTI)

Punjabi singers extend support to Sep 25 bandh call given by farmers’ unions


Chandigarh: Many Punjabi singers have extended their support to the September 25 Punjab ‘bandh’ call given by farmers’ unions against the new farm bills.

Around 30 farmers’ outfits have given a call for the complete shutdown of Punjab on September 25 in protest against the bills.

Punjabi singer and actor Harbhajan Mann has appealed to people to support the bandh call. Mann, in a tweet, said he, along with several other artists, would be participating in the Punjab bandh protest.

Another famous singer Babbu Mann also came out in support of the ‘chakka jaam’ on September 25. In a video uploaded on his Instagram account, he urged people to unite for the farmers’ cause. Farmers in Punjab have been protesting against the three bills.

They have expressed apprehension that the three bills will pave a way for dismantling the minimum support price system, leaving them at the “mercy” of big corporates.

The Rajya Sabha passed the Essential Commodities (Amendment) Bill, 2020 during the day. It had cleared the Farmers’ Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Bill, 2020 and the Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement of Price Assurance and Farm Services Bill, 2020 on Sunday. The bills had been passed by Lok Sabha last week.

Singer Sidhu Moosewala, in a video, said he stands with farmers who had been protesting against the farm bills.

View this post on Instagram


A post shared by Sidhu Moosewala (ਮੂਸੇ ਆਲਾ) (@sidhu_moosewala) on

“We will hold ‘rosh pardarshan’ (protest) in Mansa,” he said, adding that he would soon share the details of the protest. He also appealed to people to come out and support farmers in their struggle.

A few days ago, singer and actor Diljit Dosanjh had voiced his support for farmers and tweeted, “Kisaan Bachao, Desh Bachao. Kisaan Virodhi Bill Da Asi Sarey Virod Karde Haan (Save farmers, save the country. We all oppose the anti-farmer bills).”


Maha tourism, MCA to work on Wankhede stadium tour: Aaditya Thackeray


Mumbai, Sep 22 Maharashtra tourism minister Aaditya Thackeray on Tuesday said Mumbai Cricket Association has in principal agreed to work with the state tourism department on a “stadium experience” tour of the iconic Wankhede cricket facility in south Mumbai for fans and tourists.

Wankhede Stadium is among the most famous sporting arenas in the world and hosted the 2011 Cricket World Cup final.

“We at the Tourism Dept had requested @MumbaiCricAssoc to work with us on opening up of Wankhede Stadium for a stadium experience tour to tourists and fans from around the world. They have agreed in principle to work together on the same,” Aaditya informed in a tweet.

“Along with the stadium experience tour, I had discussed with Hon’ble Sharad Pawar sir earlier, and MCA President Vijay Patil ji, on having a museum of ‘Indian Cricket emanating from Mumbai’.

“The MCA has agreed for this as well, to be either in Wankhede or any suitable place,” the minister said in another tweet.

He thanked MCA President Vijay Patil for agreeing to the partnership.

“I’m thankful to the MCA apex committee for this key partnership. For most of us, Cricket is a religion. Wankhede is where India won the World Cup. This truly shall be a place for not just tourists, but for devotees of cricket and their fav players. Thank you @VijaypatilDji,” added the minister.

The decision was welcomed by MCA Apex Council members Ajinkya Naik and Vihang Sarnaik. (PTI)

World cannot afford future where two largest economies split globe in ‘Great Fracture’: UN chief


United Nations: Without naming the US and China, UN chief Antonio Guterres warned on Tuesday that the world cannot afford a future where the two largest economies split the globe in a “Great Fracture”, as he urged the nations to do everything to avoid a new Cold War.

The Secretary-General gave a clarion call for a “collective new push” for peace and reconciliation.

“We need a common international effort – led by the Security Council – to achieve a global ceasefire by the end of this year. We have 100 days. The clock is ticking,” he said.

“The world needs a global ceasefire to stop all ‘hot’ conflicts. At the same time, we must do everything to avoid a new Cold War,” Guterres said in his address to the high-level 75th session of the UN General Assembly that commenced on Tuesday amid the devastating and ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

He said that a technological and economic divide risks inevitably turning into a geo-strategic and military divide.

“We are moving in a very dangerous direction. Our world cannot afford a future where the two largest economies split the globe in a Great Fracture – each with its own trade and financial rules and internet and artificial intelligence capacities,” he said.

“We must avoid this at all costs,” he added.

While Guterres did not name the US and China, political and economic tensions between Washington and Beijing have escalated due to trade war and the coronavirus, which originated in the Chinese city of Wuhan last year.

US President Donald Trump, who has repeatedly called coronavirus as the ‘Chinese Virus’, has lambasted China for being “very secretive” in sharing information on its coronavirus outbreak that will soon claim over a million lives globally, asserting that the US and the world would have been better prepared if Beijing gave an “advance warning” about the impending crisis.

Unlike in the last 75 years, the UN Secretary-General was addressing a sparsely-filled General Assembly hall as the annual high-level segment switched to a virtual edition in the wake of the pandemic.

Guterres was flanked by President of the 75th session of General Assembly Volkan Bozkir, but the sprawling General Assembly hall was not packed with world leaders or ministers.

Only UN ambassadors from Member States were in the hall, maintaining social distance and wearing masks. Heads of State and Government will be making their national statements through pre-recorded video statements, a first in the 75-year history of the UN.

“In a world turned upside down, this General Assembly Hall is among the strangest sights of all. The COVID-19 pandemic has changed our annual meeting beyond recognition. But it has made it more important than ever,” the UN chief said.

Guterres said in January while addressing the General Assembly that he had identified “four horsemen” – four threats that endanger the world’s future – the highest global geostrategic tensions in years, existential climate crisis, deep and growing global mistrust, and the dark side of the digital world.

“But a fifth horseman was lurking in the shadows. Since January, the COVID-19 pandemic has galloped across the globe – joining the four other horsemen and adding to the fury of each,” he said on Tuesday.

Guterres asserted that the pandemic was the kind of crisis that the world will see in different forms again and again.

“COVID-19 is not only a wake-up call, it is a dress rehearsal for the world of challenges to come,” he said.

As the pandemic spread across the world, Guterres made a global appeal for a ceasefire.

“Today, I appeal for a new push by the international community to make this a reality by the end of this year. We have exactly 100 days,” he said.

However, the UN chief said in areas where terrorist groups are particularly active, the obstacles to peace will be much more difficult to overcome.

“I am particularly concerned that terrorist and violent extremist groups will exploit the pandemic. And we must not forget the dramatic humanitarian cost of war,” he said, adding that in many places, the pandemic coupled with conflict and disruption is dealing crippling blows to food security. (PTI)

Farm bills a bid to enslave farmers to industrialists: Congress


Mumbai: Slamming the Centre over the passage of farm bills in Parliament, Congress leader and Maharashtra Revenue Minister Balasaheb Thorat on Tuesday said the government was trying to “enslave” farmers to select industrialists and encouraging “company raj”.

Thorat, who heads the state Congress unit, alleged the BJP-led NDA government has been taking “anti-farmer” decisions since it came to power in 2014.

“The Modi government is trying to enslave farmers to select industrialists by passing agricultural bills for the benefit of his industrialist friends by suppressing democracy and violating rules of Parliament,” Thorat said in a statement.

The passage of the Farmer’s Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Bill, 2020, and the Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement of Price Assurance and Farm Services Bill, 2020 in Rajya Sabha on Sunday amid unprecedented unruly scenes has created a political storm.

Following the ruckus, eight Rajya Sabha MPs from Opposition parties, including three of Congress, were suspended.

The government had dubbed the bills as the biggest reform in agriculture.

“The new law brought by the Centre is an attempt to hand over the agricultural sector to a few companies and encourage Company Raj in this sector as well,” Thorat stated.

Stating that Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s love for farmers is “superficial”, Thorat said the former had done nothing for farmers other than making big announcements and “false” promises.

PM Modi had announced to double the income of farmers and a remunerative price for farm produce based on 1.5 times the cost of production, but agriculturists are not getting even the basic price for their crops, he alleged.

Thorat also said the Union government was trying to dismantle the federal system by encroaching upon the rights of states, “as agriculture and marketing are state subjects”. (PTI)

Need of hour that Indian cinema gets new stage’: Yogi meets B’wood personalities over UP film city

film city

Lucknow: Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath Tuesday expressed confidence that the proposed Film City in the state will live up to the expectations of the industry as he met some celebrities including actor Anupam Kher and singer Udit Narayan to discuss the project.

He said the state was somehow failing to meet the expectations of the film industry till now, but this shortcoming would be overcome through the proposed film city in Noida .

The Indian cinema gets a new stage, that’s the need of the hour, he told the meeting, according to a tweet by his office.

The state government will extend full support in it. There should be Indianness in our minds. We don’t have to keep ourself away from it (Indianness). If we work with this mindset, the UP government will extend full support.

Besides Kher and Udit Narayan, other personalities who attended the meeting included director-producer Satish Kaushik, singers Kailash Kher and Anup Jalota, and lyricist Manoj Muntashir.

While some of them attended the meeting through video-conference, some joined the CM at his office. Officials from the state’s Film Bandhu department and Uttar Pradesh Film Development Council Chairperson Raju Srivastav were also present.

Kher, who joined the meeting through video-conference, expressed hope the state government would adopt a professional attitude towards the film city.

Inviting the industry to come and make films in Uttar Pradesh, Yogi said the state is the central point of Indian culture and his government has improved connectivity.

A world-class airport is coming up on 5,000 acres in Jewar area, he said.

Uttar Pradesh had just two airports till 2017, and one of them used to get flights occasionally. Now seven airports are functional and work is underway on 25. We are checking all corners. Airports are coming up at Azamgarh, Chitrakoot, Ayodhya also, he said, according to his office.

The Chief Minister said the area identified for developing the new film city is in the vicinity of Hastinapur of Raja Bharat. This film city would become the identity of India in time to come, he said.

The Chief Minister said that it would just not be a film city alone, but a world-class electronic city will also come up there and a financial city is also proposed.

Director-producer Kaushik said till now Mumbai was the only destination for those aspiring to work in the Hindi film industry, but now the Yogi government is opening another door through the proposed film city.

Now artistes and youth will have an alternative, he said, terming Uttar Pradesh as the only shooting-friendly state in the country.

Drawing the CM’s attention towards the lack of enough cinema halls, Kaushik said there is a need for more theatres.

For taking the film to the village level, it is important that more cinema halls come up. It would be of no use if films do not reach the common people, he said.

Meanwhile, Samajwadi Party president and former chief minister Akhilesh Yadav alleged in a tweet that the Yogi Adityanath government was trying to take credit for the film city project initiated by his regime.

The BJP government of the state is now ready with the scissors to cut the ribbon for SP’s ‘Film City’ to take credit for it. But now neither their actor’s acting is working nor any of his dialogues, Yadav said in a tweet in Hindi. (PTI)

Trailer of Khaali Peeli is Here, Movie Releases on Zee Plex on 2nd October

Khaali Peeli

Mumbai: Khaali Peeli Zee Studios have launched the much-awaited trailer of the upcoming movie. The movie has been one of the most anticipated movies for the year 2020. Khaali Peeli is a fun, breezy movie that has all the right ingredients of a perfect masala movie.

Khaali Peeli is the story about two childhood sweethearts, Pooja and Blackie, who get separated due to some circumstances, during the young age. But a situation brings them back together, which leads to a series of chase and escape’ situations in a taxi and hence the movie has been titled Khaali Peeli. From action to romance to blockbuster songs and chase sequences, Khaali Peeli has all the right ingredients to entertain the audience.

Starring Ananya Panday and Ishaan Khattar is the lead role the movie has a young, fresh vibe that people are able to instantly able to connect. The movie has been shot extensively across Mumbai and it is evident from the trailer that one would get to experience a crazy side of Mumbai. In the lockdown, people have not been able to step out and through this movie they will be able to relive all the things that they have been missing about Mumbai. The taxi chase as showcased in the trailer has become the biggest talking point and the viewers can’t wait to see the complete movie and know what happens next.

Khaali Peeli will be one of the first movies to release on Zee’s new platform – Zee Plex. The entire family will be able to enjoy this complete entertainer at the comfort of their home. What’s more, is that the movie will be available in multiple languages so everyone can choose their own preferred language and enjoy it to the fullest.

The movie has been directed by Maqbool Khan and produced by Ali Abbas Zafar and Himanshu Mehra. While the story is by Maqbool Khan, the film is written by Yash Kesarwani and Seema Aggarwal.

You can always convert youtube to mp3 by visiting link

Besides Ishaan and Ananya, the film stars Jaideep Ahlawat and Zakir Hussain in the pivotal roles. Khaali Peeli will release on October 2, 2020, on Zee Plex along with Makkal Selvan Vijay Sethupathi starrer Ka Pae Ranasingam. Zee Plex is following dynamic pricing for the movies on its platforms.

You can enjoy Khalli Peeli in the comfort of your homes at just Rs 299/-along with your family and friends. Ranasingam on the other hand will be available at Rs. 199/- all-inclusive. Zee Plex will be available on Zee5, Tata Sky, d2H, DishTV and Airtel Digital TV.


Fire and Ice: ‘Captain Morgan’ aims to complement big hitter Andre Russell

Andre Russell

Abu Dhabi: Eoin Morgan could well be the ‘ice’ to Andre Russell’s ‘fire’ as England’s World Cup winning captain gets ready to complement the pyrotechnics of the big-hitting Jamaican when Kolkata Knight Riders take the field in this edition of Indian Premier League.

One of the more dependable middle-order batsman in the limited overs cricket, Morgan was bought by KKR at the auction after they looked heavily reliant on Andre Russell to finish close games as they missed the qualifiers by a whisker in 2019.

“I know (Andre) Russell has done that role significantly well for a number of years for Kolkata. He’s done exceptionally well. If I get a go, hopefully I will be able to aid that,” Morgan said during a virtual media interaction from the team hotel here, on the eve of their match against four-time defending champions Mumbai Indians.

The KKR vice-captain further said he’s more experienced now and his batting is coming off really well.

“I think it’s been quite a few years since I played (at KKR). Just looking at batting, my game has really come on quite a lot in the last three to four years. I would like to think I’ve come on quite well,” Morgan, who will be back at the franchise after his stint from 2011-2013, said.

Besides Morgan, KKR have also bolstered their batting with his compatriot Tom Banton who became a sensation in the Big Bash League, while the bowling too looks fiery with the addition of Aussie world number one Pat Cummins.

“I think with the squad that we have, it gives us better options, particularly in batting and bowling. I think within the squad we have a number of very versatile cricketers who can specifically control the batting department,” Morgan said.

Morgan said the pitches looked more similar to the English conditions with seamers getting some movements early on.

“Having watched the (three) games so far, the wickets have been more similar to English conditions,” he said.

After their last year’s debacle, KKR also have revamped their coaching unit making their former player and New Zealand great Brendon McCullum as the head coach.

McCullum will work in tandem with former Aussie batsman David Hussey, who is designated as chief mentor and former Kiwi pacer Kyle Mills. Morgan said he shares a good camaraderie with the former New Zealand skipper.

“We have been very good friends for a number of years now. When it comes to sports that we enjoy horse racing, as well. Both of us really enjoy the experience,” Morgan signed off. (PTI

Rajya Sabha passes 7 key bills in three and half hours without opposition

Rajya Sabha

New Delhi: In one of the most productive days in its history, Rajya Sabha on Tuesday in a matter of three and half hours passed seven key bills including one that removes cereals, pulses and onion from the essential commodities list and another that abolishes penalty for certain offences by companies.

This after most of the opposition including the Congress, Left parties, the TMC, the Samajwadi Party and the NCP decided to boycott House proceedings in protest against the suspension of eight MPs for the remainder of the session for unruly behaviour.

Only members from the ruling BJP and its ally JD-U and those of parties such as AIADMK, BJD, YSR-Congress and TDP, which have been extending support to the Modi government on various issues, participated in the debates on the bills.

In most bills, the members participation was sparse and the minister’s reply brief.

The Upper House took up government legislative business after nearly an hour of discussion over the conduct of opposition MPs during the passage of two agriculture reform bills on Sunday, with Chairman M Venkaiah Naidu saying the suspension could be revoked if the members expressed regret over their action.

First, it passed a bill to declare five newly-established Indian Institutes of Information Technology (IIITs) as institutions of national importance.

The crucial Essential Commodities (Amendment) Bill, which removes cereals, pulses, oilseeds, edible oils, onion and potatoes from the list of essential commodities and removes stockholding limits on them, was passed next.

This bill is part of the agriculture reforms bills that the government is pushing to raise farm incomes.

The bills passed on Sunday gave farmers the freedom to sell produce anywhere in the country and enter into forward contracts with companies.

Rajya Sabha also passed amendments to the Bank Regulation Act to bring cooperative banks under the supervision of the RBI in a bid to protect the interest of depositors.

Thereafter the Companies (Amendment) Bill, 2020, which removes the penalty for certain offences, was passed.

The National Forensic Sciences University Bill, 2020 and the Rashtriya Rakash University Bill were passed in quick succession.

Thereafter the Taxation and Other Laws (Relaxation and Amendment of Certain Provisions) Bill, 2020 to relax time limit on compliance with tax laws, GST payment and filing in view of the coronavirus pandemic.

The Essential Commodities (Amendment) Bill, 2020 as well as the Taxation and Other Laws (Relaxation and Amendment of Certain Provisions) Bill, 2020 replace emergency ordinances.

The sitting of the Rajya Sabha was extended by just over an hour beyond the scheduled time to allow the passage of the bills. The legislative business started at 10.29 hours and ended at 14.03 hrs – 214 minutes in all.

All the seven bills have already been passed by Lok Sabha and will now be sent to the President for assent. Once he gives his assent, they will become the law. (PTI)

BJP govt taking credit for SP’s film city project in Uttar Pradesh: Akhilesh Yadav

Akhilesh Yadav

Lucknow: Samajwadi Party president and former Uttar Pradesh chief minister Akhilesh Yadav Tuesday alleged the Yogi Adityanath government was trying to take credit for the film city project initiated by his regime.

The BJP government of the state is now ready with the scissors to cut the ribbon for SP’s ‘Film City’ to take credit for it. But now neither their actor’s acting is working nor any of his dialogues, Yadav said in a tweet in Hindi.

In remarks suggesting a BJP defeat in the next state elections, Akhilesh Yadav added in his tweet, Their flop film is about to be taken off, because there is an advance booking for those who build the real’ picture of the state.

Two Memorandums of Understanding (MoUs) were signed in 2015, when the Samajwadi Party was in power, for setting up as many film cities in the state.

While one was proposed along the Lucknow-Agra Expressway by Purple Seas group, with technical support provided by the Government of Japan, the other was to be developed in Trans Ganga Hightech City Scheme near Unnao by Bhojpuri film star Ravi Kishan, now a BJP MP.

An investment of Rs 650 crore was estimated to be made in the two projects.

Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath on September 18 announced that his government would set up the country’s “biggest” and “most beautiful” film city in Noida, bordering Delhi, and asked officials to identify land for it.

Officials said Monday that authorities in Gautam Buddh Nagar have sent two proposals to the state government to set up a film city either in Noida or along the Yamuna Expressway near the upcoming Jewar international airport,

The Yamuna Expressway Industrial Development Authority (YEIDA) has earmarked 1,000 acres and the Noida Authority has identified 500 acres.

Meanwhile, the CM is also holding a meeting on Tuesday with people from the film industry. (PTI)

Lookout notice issued against ex-minister’s son Aditya Alva in drug case


Bengaluru: The Central Crime Branch is probing the drug abuse in the Kannada film industry, has issued a lookout notice against former Minister and late Jeevaraj Alva’s son Aditya, who is at large.

The police suspect that Alva is in India and is hiding to evade arrest.

They also fear that he may try to flee the country and accordingly all the airports in India have been alerted to arrest him, police sources said.

“We have issued a lookout notice for Aditya Alva,” an officer in the CCB told PTI.

Meanwhile, the Internal Security Division, which is simultaneously probing the case had summoned a few television and film artists besides sports personalities.

However, no one has been arrested yet.

According to the ISD officials, notices have been served on 67 people.

The state police started investigating drug abuse among bigwigs including those in the film industry after the Narcotics Control Bureau arrested three people from Bengaluru with a drug haul.

They were allegedly supplying drugs to Kannada film actors and singers.

The CCB has arrested 13 people in this connection while it is in lookout for at least seven more people.

Those arrested include film actresses Ragini Dwivedi, Sanjjanaa Galrani realtor Rahul Thonse and RTO clerk B K Ravishankar. (PTI)

SAD to hold ‘chakka jaam’ in Punjab on Sep 25 against farm Bills


Chandigarh: The Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD), the BJP’s oldest ally, on Tuesday announced road blockades across Punjab on September 25 to protest against the contentious farm Bills passed by Parliament.

Rajya Sabha passed the Essential Commodities (Amendment) Bill, 2020 during the day. It had cleared the Farmers’ Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Bill, 2020 and the Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement of Price Assurance and Farm Services Bill, 2020 on Sunday.

The Bills had been passed by Lok Sabha last week.

“It has been decided to hold a ‘chakka jaam’ (road blockade) on September 25 in Punjab against these farm Bills,” SAD leader Daljit Singh Cheema said.

He said the party’s senior leaders, workers, farmers and farm labourers would block roads in the state for three hours from 11 am in a peaceful manner.

Notably, around 30 farmers’ outfits have already given a call for a complete shutdown in Punjab on September 25 in protest against the Bills.

Party chief Sukhbir Singh Badal would launch a four-day state-wide mass contact programme on September 26 during which he would make party workers aware about the “adverse impact” of these Bills on the farming community, Cheema said.

He added that on October 1, the party leadership would present to the Punjab governor a memorandum addressed to President Ram Nath Kovind. An appeal would be made to take back these Bills, Cheema said.

A Shiromani Akali Dal delegation on Monday had urged the President to come to the rescue of farmers and farm labourers by not giving his assent to the farm Bills.

Last week, SAD leader and Bathinda MP Harsimrat Kaur Badal had resigned from the Union Cabinet in protest against the Bills. (PTI)

NEP will play key role in creating ‘Atmanirbhar Bharat’: Modi


Guwahati: Prime Minister Narendra Modi said on Tuesday the New Education Policy (NEP) announced by his government will play a key role in creating a self-reliant India and open up the education sector for facilitating greater global exposure for Indian students.

Modi said holistic knowledge blended with the understanding of science is answer to all problems.

“I firmly believe the future of the nation is what you think today. Your dreams will shape the future of India. We need to be future-ready, future-fit,” he said addressing the 22nd convocation of IIT (Guwahati) through a video conference from the national capital.

Modi spoke about the importance of education as a key component for creating an “Atmanirbhar Bharat” (self-reliant India).

The NEP, which is designed to ease the burden of classroom teaching and examination on students, will play an important role in the country’s march forward, he said.

“The NEP will open up the education sector. It will facilitate setting up campuses of foreign universities in India and enable Indian students to get global exposure,” the prime minister said. (PTI)

Parliament passes amendments to essential commodities law


New Delhi: Parliament on Tuesday passed a bill to remove cereals, pulses, oilseeds, edible oils, onion and potatoes from the list of essential commodities.

The Essential Commodities (Amendment) Bill, which was approved by the lower house on September 15, was approved by a voice vote in Rajya Sabha. The bill replaces an ordinance promulgated in June.

The bill is also aimed at removing fears of private investors of excessive regulatory interference in their business operations.

The freedom to produce, hold, move, distribute and supply will lead to harnessing of economies of scale and attract private sector/foreign direct investment into the agriculture sector, the government had said earlier.

Replying to a short debate, Minister of State for Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution Danve Raosaheb Dadarao said the stock limit conditions imposed through the law were hindering investment in the agriculture infrastructure.

The amendments to the six-and-half-decade law provides that stock holding limit on commodities will only be imposed under exceptional circumstances like national calamities, famine with a surge in prices, the minister said.

Also, processors and value chain participants are exempted from the stock limit.

The minster said the move will boost investment in agriculture sector and will also create more storage capacities to reduce post harvest loss of crops.

“This amendment is in favour of both farmers and consumers,” Dadarao added.

According to him, the changes in the 1955 law is an important step by the government to achieve its target of doubling farmers’ income and also for ease of doing business.

He said the essential commodities act was brought when the country was not a self sufficient in food grains production. But now the situation has changed, therefore the amendment was required, he said.

While India has become surplus in most agri-commodities, farmers have been unable to get better prices due to lack of investment in cold storage, warehouses, processing and export.

Farmers suffer huge losses when there are bumper harvests, especially of perishable commodities, he said.

Earlier in the day, many opposition members had staged a walkout from the Parliament demanding that the suspension of eight members be revoked. (PTI)

‘Kaun Banega Crorepati’ season 12 to air from September 28

Kaun Banega Crorepati

Mumbai: With changes in the format to suit shooting amid COVID-19, the 12th season of the popular quiz show “Kaun Banega Crorepati” (KBC), hosted by megastar Amitabh Bachchan, is set to air from September 28.

Produced by StudioNEXT, the Sony TV show, for the first time in 20 years, will not host in-studio audience keeping in line with the government mandated safety guidelines and protocols, the makers announced on Monday.

Therefore, one of the lifelines on the show – Audience Poll – will be replaced by Video-A-Friend, with the other three lifelines remaining the same – 50:50, Ask The Expert and Flip The Question.

Talking about the new season, Ashish Golwalkar, head – Content, Sony Entertainment Television and Digital Business, said the team received encouraging participation in the digital registration.

“The numbers showcase that people are readily embracing the ‘new normal’ brought on by the pandemic. This year’s theme, ‘Jo Bhi Ho Setback Ka Jawab Comeback Se Do’, reflects in the real-life stories and experiences that contestants will be seen sharing on the show, thereby serving as inspiring examples for the millions of viewers,” he said in a statement.

The number of fastest finger first contestants, who will compete to be on the hot seat per week, has been reduced from the usual 10 to eight.

To meet social distancing norms, the show’s set has also been “re-engineered”.

“We are certain that Mr Amitabh Bachchan’s charisma and the interesting on-screen and off-screen journeys of contestants, will keep the audiences engrossed. The show continues to be iconic in many ways and is sure to raise the bar this season as well,” said Indranil Chakraborty, Head StudioNEXT.

The show will also feature ‘KBC Play Along’ contest, where the audience can also participate and answer questions posed to the contestants on the hot seat.

Siddhartha Basu, consultant, Kaun Banega Crorepati season 12, said the show aims to come back stronger despite the challenges posed.

“While adapting to the realities of today, the show still packs a punch, reaching out to both the mind and the heart, touching lives in a very real way. Viewers can also look forward to playing along with the contestants, as they watch, with richer pickings than ever before,” said Basu.

Except season three, which was hosted by superstar Shah Rukh Khan, KBC has been presented by Bachchan since its first edition in 2000. (PTI)

एनसीबी ने दीपिका के प्रबंधक, प्रतिभा एजेंसी के सीईओ को सम्मन किया


मुंबई: नारकोटिक्स कंट्रोल ब्यूरो ने दीपिका पादुकोण की प्रबंधक करिश्मा प्रकाश और एक प्रतिभा प्रबंधन एजेंसी के सीईओ धुर्व चिटगोपेकर को बॉलीवुड-ड्रग नेक्सस की जांच के संबंध में मंगलवार को तलब किया है, एक अधिकारी ने कहा।

उन्होंने कहा कि दोनों को मंगलवार दोपहर को एनसीबी से पूछताछ की जाएगी।

अधिकारी ने कहा कि चितगोपेकर प्रतिभा प्रबंधन एजेंसी के सीईओ हैं और करिश्मा प्रकाश एजेंसी के साथ कार्यरत हैं।

अभिनेता सुशांत सिंह राजपूत की मौत के मामले में एनसीबी की ड्रग्स के मामले में जांच के दौरान, बॉलीवुड में एक व्यापक ड्रग्स नेक्सस सामने आया।

राजपूत की प्रतिभा प्रबंधक जया साहा से सोमवार को NCB ने पूछताछ की।

अधिकारी ने कहा कि उसके पूछताछ के दौरान, NCB को कई व्यक्तियों के बारे में कथित तौर पर बॉलीवुड-ड्रग नेक्सस में सक्रिय भूमिका होने की जानकारी मिली।

एनसीबी ने अब तक राजपूत की प्रेमिका और अभिनेत्री रिया चक्रवर्ती और उसके भाई शोविक चक्रवर्ती सहित 12 से अधिक लोगों को गिरफ्तार किया है, जो अभिनेता की मौत के मामले में ड्रग्स के कोण की जांच के सिलसिले में है।

राजपूत (34) को 14 जून को बांद्रा इलाके में अपने घर पर फांसी पर लटका पाया गया था

KXIP co-owner Wadia calls for better umpiring standards, optimum use of technology in IPL


New Delhi:  Kings XI Punjab co-owner Ness Wadia wants the BCCI to ensure better-umpiring standards and optimum use of technology in the IPL, following an umpiring howler which cost his team a match against Delhi Capitals.

Wadia expressed his views after KXIP appealed against on-field umpire Nitin Menon’s controversial ‘short run’ call at a crunch time of the game held on Sunday night in Dubai.

Before the match went into Super Over, the TV footage showed that square leg umpire Menon had erred in calling Chris Jordan for a ‘short run’ in the third ball of the 19th over, bowled by Kagiso Rabada.

The TV replays showed that Jordan’s bat was inside the crease when he completed the first run, starting from the non-striker’s end.

“It is exceedingly unfortunate that today with tremendous use of technology, we still do not use technology to ensure the total fairness and transparency in cricket game like several other leagues across the world including EPL, NBA, etc,” Wadia said in a statement to PTI.

“I would request BCCI to ensure better umpiring and to ensure henceforth that technology is used to the maximum so as to ensure fairness and transparency in a game which is used across the best leagues in the world.”

The short-run call was not reversed despite technological evidence that it was a wrong call. As per the IPL rules, the third umpire does not have a say in reversing the decisions except ‘no balls’ and ‘stumping’.

In the final over, Punjab needed 13 runs to win and Agarwal managed 12 runs in the first three balls.

If that one ‘short-run’ was credited to their total, Punjab would have won with three balls to spare but they lost two wickets in the final two balls after a dot fourth ball and it spilled to a Super Over, which they lost.

“VAR (Video Assistant Referee) has become something which is used across the world. The game of yesterday in question between Kings XI and Delhi had two umpiring mistakes which cost KXIP the game,” Wadia said.

“The first came in the first few overs of the match where a leg bye went for four. It was given as leg bye by the umpire but it was actually a wide ball. That one run would have helped Kings XI win the game versus losing.

“The second disastrous decision came at the end of the game in the last couple of overs, when a run was deemed as not being a run even though TV replays showed that it had been a run. Unfortunately, these two decisions cost Kings XI the game.”

Wadia hoped the BCCI will tweak the IPL rule book to ensure the incident is not repeated.

“I do hope that BCCI implements a system and process so that the other teams do not suffer the same plight as Kings XI did yesterday.

“If technology is not to be used for the fairness and transparency of the game and to ensure that it is equitable to all, then why to use technology at all?” he asked. (PTI)

Drugs probe: NCB summons Deepika’s manager, talent agency CEO


Mumbai: The Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB) has summoned actor Deepika Padukone’s manager Karishma Prakash and a talent management agency’s CEO Dhurv Chitgopekar in connection with its probe into the alleged Bollywood-drug nexus, an official said on Tuesday.

Both of them will be questioned by the NCB on Tuesday afternoon, he said.

Chitgopekar is the CEO of KWAN talent management agency and Karishma Prakash is employed with the agency, the official said.

During the NCB’s investigation into the drugs angle in actor Sushant Singh Rajput’s death case, a wider drugs nexus in Bollywood surfaced.

Rajput’s talent manager Jaya Saha was questioned by the NCB on Monday.

During her questioning, the NCB got information about many persons allegedly having an active role in the Bollywood-drug nexus, the official said.

Some WhatsApp chats of the persons who were questioned earlier by the NCB suggested discussion about drugs, he said.

The NCB has so far arrested more than 12 people, including Rajput’s girlfriend and actress Rhea Chakraborty and her brother Showik Chakraborty, in connection with the probe into the drugs angle in the case of the actor’s death.

Rajput (34) was found hanging at his home in Bandra area here on June 14. (PTI)

Arjun Rampal to star in ZEE5’s ‘Nail Polish’


Mumbai: Streaming platform ZEE5 has announced its next feature, “Nail Polish”, a courtroom-drama with Arjun Rampal as the lead.

Also featuring Manav Kaul, Rajit Kapur, and Anand Tiwari, the ZEE5 Original is being directed by Bugs Bhargava Krishna.

Described as a story about a murder trial, the film weaves the back story and court proceedings to showcase a journey of criminal discovery.

Rampal, who is essaying the role of Sid Jaisingh, a high-profile defense lawyer in the film, reunites with ZEE5 after his series “The Final Call”.

“With a wonderful cast combined with a very addictive energy and clarity of the director Bugs Bhargava Krishna, this is a project that is extremely promising and allows everyone to push one’s limits to a level, that hopefully shall transform itself into something very special,” the 47-year-old actor said in a statement.

Kaul said his character of Veer Singh is the “most difficult and thrilling” role he has played to date.

“The script and my part were really intriguing and instantly got me hooked… Though we have just started shooting, it’s been fantastic to work with Arjun, Rajit and Anand as my co-stars, the energy on the set is quite intense,” he added.

Krishna, who previously helmed Amit Sadh-starrer mystery “Barot House”, said the team has started shooting “keeping all the precautionary measures in mind.”

“The film is extremely close to my heart and we couldn’t have asked for a better star cast. This is one of a kind courtroom legal thriller that people have never seen before,” he added.

“Nail Polish” is being produced by Pradeep Uppoor, Seema Mohapatra, Jahanara Bhargava of Ten Years Younger Productions and Dhirajj Vinodd Kapoor. (PTI)

Kejriwal targets govt over passage of farm Bills, lauds protest by suspended RS MPs


New Delhi: Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal on Tuesday targeted the government over the passage of the “dangerous” farm Bills without division of votes in Rajya Sabha, while lauding the sit-in protest on the Parliament premises by the eight suspended MPs.

The eight Rajya Sabha members, including AAP MP Sanjay Singh, were suspended for the remaining part of the Monsoon Session over “unruly behaviour” during the passage of the farm Bills in the Upper House of Parliament.

The other MPs are Derek O’Brien (TMC), Rajeev Satav (Congress), Elamaram Kareem (CPI-M), K K Ragesh (CPI-M), Syed Nazir Hussain (Congress), Ripun Boren (Congress) and Dola Sen (TMC).

Since their suspension on Monday, the eight MPs have been holding a protest on the Parliament premises.

Kejriwal said these eight MPs were fighting for the rights of farmers without worrying about heat, mosquitoes or other inconveniences and have spent the night protesting in the Parliament complex.

“They are not asking for anything for themselves. They are fighting for democracy and the Constitution. They are struggling for the farmers of the country,” Kejriwal tweeted in Hindi.

Farmers across the country are saying that these laws will end them, he added.

“Such a dangerous Bill was passed without division of votes. Then what is the meaning of Parliament, what is the meaning of elections? If you have to pass the law this way, then why did you call a Parliament session,” Kejriwal asked in another tweet in Hindi.

Delhi Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia compared the present government to the British colonial rulers.

“The British ruled the same way. They would commit atrocities on the farmers, labourers and businessmen. They would make black laws to perpetuate the atrocities. And when they met Gandhiji and other leaders, they (the British) would offer them tea. Our rulers are running the government in the same way still,” Sisodia said in a tweet in Hindi.

He was referring to Rajya Sabha Deputy Chairman Harivansh Singh offering tea to the protesting MPs in the morning.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi showered praises on Harivansh Singh for the gesture, saying his “inspiring” and “statesmanlike” conduct will make every democracy lover proud.

Responding to Modi’s tweet, Sanjay Singh said he was “humbly” returning the tea and requesting the government to return the farmers’ morsels.

“We are not fighting for our tea. We are fighting for the morsels of our farmers which you have taken away. I humbly request you – I am returning your tea with all due respect, please return our farmers’ morsel,” Singh tweeted. (PTI)

Opposition members in Rajya Sabha stage walkout


New Delhi: A number of opposition parties led by the Congress on Tuesday staged a walkout from Rajya Sabha demanding that the suspension of eight members be revoked. The Congress was the first to walkout from the House along with members of the AAP, TMC and Left parties.

The members of all these three parties are among those who have been suspended by the House for the remaining part of the Monsoon session. Some parties like the NCP, SP, Shiv Sena and RJD also staged a walkout later.

Chairman M Venkaiah Naidu made a fresh appeal to members of all opposition parties to rethink their decision of boycotting the House proceedings and participate in the discussions of the House.

“I appeal to all members to rethink their decision of boycott and participate in the discussion,” Naidu said in the House.

Parliamentary Affairs Minister Pralhad Joshi said: “The government is not hell-bent upon keeping the suspended MPs out of the House,” he says.

“If they express regret, the government will look into it.” Former PM HD Deve Gowda said the government and Opposition should sit together to run the House.

Earlier Leader of Opposition in Rajya Sabha Ghulam Nabi Azad said the opposition will boycott the proceedings of the House till the suspension of eight members is revoked.

Speaking after the Zero Hour, Azad also demanded that the government brings a bill which should ensure private players don’t procure food grains below the minimum support price (MSP) fixed by the government.

As many as eight members of the Rajya Sabha were suspended on Monday after the government brought a motion in this regard which was passed by the House by voice vote.

These eight members were suspended for “unruly behaviour” during the passage of the two key farm bills on Sunday by Rajya Sabha amid chaos. (PTI)

UN faces ‘crisis of confidence’ without comprehensive reforms: PM Modi


United Nations: The United Nations faces a “crisis of confidence” without comprehensive reforms, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has said, asserting that today’s interconnected world needs a reformed multilateralism that gives voice to all stakeholders, addresses contemporary challenges and focuses on human welfare.

Prime Minister Modi’s call for reformed multilateralism assumes special significance as it comes ahead of India taking a seat at the powerful UN Security Council as an elected non-permanent member for a two year term beginning January 1, 2021.

“We cannot fight today’s challenges with outdated structures. Without comprehensive reforms, the UN faces a crisis of confidence, Modi said on Monday in his video address to the High-Level meeting of the General Assembly to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the United Nations.

As the UN marks 75 years of its existence, the 193-member UN General Assembly adopted a forward-looking political declaration that gave a clarion call for strengthening mechanism to combat terrorism, reformed multilateralism, inclusive development and better preparedness to deal with challenges like the COVID-19 pandemic.

Noting that the declaration also acknowledges the need for reform of the United Nations itself, Prime Minister Modi said, “For today’s interconnected world, we need a reformed multilateralism that reflects today’s realities, gives voice to all stakeholders, addresses contemporary challenges and focuses on human welfare.

He said India looks forward to working with all other nations towards this end.

India has been spearheading decades-long efforts to reform the Security Council, saying a structure set up in 1945 does not reflect contemporary realities of the 21st century and is ill-equipped to handle current challenges.

There is widespread support, including by four of the five permanent members of the Security Council – US, UK, France and Russia – for a permanent seat for India at the Council.

Addressing the special virtual commemorative event, Modi said, 75 years ago, a new hope arose from the horrors of war. For the first time in human history, an institution was created for the entire world.

He said as a founding signatory of the UN Charter, India was part of that noble vision, which reflected India’s own philosophy of Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam’, which sees all creation as a family.

“Our world today is a better place because of the United Nations, the prime minister said.

Modi stressed that while much has been achieved, the original mission remains incomplete.

The far-reaching Declaration that we are adopting today acknowledges that work still needs to be done in preventing conflict, in ensuring development, in addressing climate change, in reducing inequality and in leveraging digital technologies, he said.

In the Declaration, the Heads of State and Government vow to leave no one behind, protect the planet, promote peace and prevent conflicts, abide by international law and ensure justice, place women and girls at the center, build trust, improve digital cooperation, upgrade the United Nations, ensure sustainable financing, boost partnerships, listen to and work with youth and be prepared.

The prime minister, in his address, also paid tribute to all those who have advanced the cause of peace and development under the UN flag, including in UN peacekeeping missions, where India had been a leading contributor.

India is among the largest troop contributors to UN Peacekeeping Missions, having provided over 200,000 troops in nearly 50 of the 71 peacekeeping missions mandated over the past six decades.

India has lost more peacekeepers in the line of duty than any other UN member state and over the last 70 years, more than 160 Indian military, police and civilian personnel have lost their lives while serving in UN peacekeeping missions around the world.

India’s priorities for its upcoming tenure on the Security Council find resonance in the Declaration that echoes New Delhi’s call for strong mandate against terrorism, reformed multilateralism and inclusive development.

India’s overall objective during its tenure in the UN Security Council will be the achievement of N.O.R.M.S a New Orientation for a Reformed Multilateral System.

In the Declaration, the Heads of State and Government categorically noted that the world of today is very different from what it was when the United Nations was created 75 years ago.

Our working methods need to keep pace and adapt. We support the ongoing reforms by the Secretary-General We reiterate our call for reforms of three of the principal organs of the United Nations. We commit to instill new life in the discussions on the reform of the Security Council and continue the work to revitalise the General Assembly and strengthen the Economic and Social Council.

This year’s high-level UN General Assembly is being held in a largely virtual format as world leaders did not travel to New York for the annual gathering due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Heads of State and Government and Ministers sent in pre-recorded video statements for the high-level week, including the special commemoration of the UN’s 75 years and the General Debate.

India’s Permanent Representative to the UN Ambassador T S Tirumurti introduced Prime Minister Modi’s pre-recorded statement from the UN General Assembly Hall. (PTI)

India’s COVID-19 tally races past 55 lakh; recovery rate rises to 80.86 pc


New Delhi: India’s COVID-19 infection tally crossed 55 lakh on Tuesday, while a record 1,01,468 patients recovered in a day, taking their number to 44,97,867 and pushing the recovery rate to 80.86 per cent, the Union health ministry data showed.

The coronavirus caseload in the country surged to 55,62,663, with 75,083 new infections being reported in a span of 24 hours, while the death toll climbed to 88,935 as the virus claimed 1,053 more lives during the same period, according to the data updated at 8 am.

The COVID-19 case fatality rate was recorded at 1.60 per cent.

There are 9,75,861 active cases of the coronavirus infection in the country which comprises 17.54 per cent of the total caseload, the data stated.

India’s COVID-19 tally had crossed the 20-lakh mark on August 7, 30 lakh on August 23, 40 lakh on September 5, and it went past 50 lakh on September 16.

According to the Indian Council of Medical Research, a cumulative total of 6,53,25,779 samples have been tested up to September 21, with 9,33,185 samples being tested on Monday. (PTI)

61% of employers in India plan to continue flexible work arrangements beyond the COVID-19


While talent across India are most concerned with career development opportunities, over half of employers continue to face a talent shortage due to candidates lacking the necessary work experience and skills, according to a new report released by RGF International Recruitment

NEW DELHI: India’s distributed workforce may be a result of the COVID-19 restrictions, but employers are keen to maintain these flexible working arrangements even beyond the pandemic. Although remote working arrangements were previously not as widely popular in India, 93% of employers have since embraced the option, and 61% intend to continue with them, ahead of Indonesia (47%), Vietnam (55%) and Greater China (47%).

This is according to RGF International Recruitment’s latest Talent in Asia 2020 report, which is based on a comprehensive analysis of over 4,600 survey responses about hiring trends across 11 Asian countries and markets. The aim of this research was to better understand the needs, demands and expectations of both candidates and employers in Asia.

Employers in India are also quickly adopting digital solutions to overcome telecommuting limitations, with 63% doing more frequent video calls to keep staff motivated, and 48% of companies choosing to accelerate online interviews.

Remote working options have not seen a huge decrease in productivity, with only 14% of employers reporting less than 50% productivity, while 14% have reported higher than usual productivity rates. These numbers are good news for companies that plan to continue flexible work arrangements, and also for employees in India who consider flexible working hours (66%) and remote working (65%) to be the two most important factors for work-life balance.

However, work-life balance comes in at fourth place as an overall motivating factor when employees are looking for a job, with opportunities for career advancement being the most crucial driving factor to 50%. This is a significant difference from 2019, where salary & compensation came out on top (64%). This is especially prominent amongst Gen Z and Gen Y employees, where 55% voted it the top factor, compared to their Gen X and Baby Boomer colleagues (43%). Unsurprisingly then, the number one reason cited by Gen Z and Gen Y employees for a change of job is wanting to expand their knowledge and skills (27%), which came in second place for Gen X & Baby Boomers (24%).

Of course, competitive compensation is still a large motivator for changing jobs. In fact, 47% of employees considered it part of their top three reasons to consider a new employer – but employers should note that the average expectation of a pay rise across India has risen significantly in the last year, from 21% in 2019 to 38% in 2020.

For the 87% of Indian employees who indicated a keenness to change jobs in the next 12 months, take note: the top hard skill Indian employers are looking for is industry knowledge and experience (76%), while the top soft skill identified is accountability and responsibility (29%). This is especially noteworthy as only 22% of employees considered accountability and responsibility to be their strongest soft skill.

Nonetheless, as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to evolve, new soft skills already on the radar may become increasingly relevant to employers, including being a good team player (28%), innovation and creativity (22%) and adaptability and flexibility (19%). The lack of such candidates with necessary work experience, skills and knowledge is the top reason (65%) given for the talent shortage faced by 52% of employers in India.

Besides talent shortage, employers struggle with building a strong employer brand (39%) and also a more capable HR and talent acquisition team (33%). About a third (31%) of employers also find company culture mismatch to be a hiring challenge.

With the COVID-19 pandemic bringing the importance of future-proofing employees to the fore, employers in India are embracing the need to build an informed, adaptable workforce. In addition to providing more frequent and clear communication on business strategy (70%), they are also investing in enriching employee engagement programmes (37%), internal and external training (36%), and technology to improve processes and efficiencies (36%).

“COVID-19 brought a huge disruption to the Indian workforce, but it also brings a great opportunity. Companies keeping pace with the fast-changing digital world have leveraged their distributed workforces to experiment with new approaches to communication and productivity. How companies pivot and manage work structure in the post-pandemic period will be instrumental in establishing a strong employer brand to remain attractive to new talent,” said Sachin Kulshrestha, Managing Director, RGF Professional Recruitment India.

Other key findings from the Talent in Asia report include: 98% of employers surveyed in May 2020 across Asia indicated their business operations have been impacted by COVID-19 94% of companies in Asia have adopted flexible work; 60% are planning to maintain these arrangements beyond the pandemic 69% of employers in Asia say more frequent and clear communication on the business is key to future-proofing employees 50% of employees in Asia say their biggest motivator when switching job is career advancement opportunities Please click here to download your copy of the Talent in Asia report.

About Talent in Asia 2020 RGF International Recruitment’s Talent in Asia report has been conducted with the aim of better understanding the needs, demands and expectations of both candidates and employers across a wide range of Asia markets and industry sectors. Talent in Asia is a comprehensive analysis of broad industry and country hiring trends across 11 countries and markets in Asia: Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, Philippines, Thailand, Vietnam, India, Mainland China, Japan, Hong Kong and Taiwan. The report is based on RGF-owned data compiled via a targeted survey completed in March 2020, which gathered responses from more than 4,600 job seekers and candidates across all markets and 10 industry sectors.

In addition, RGF International Recruitment conducted a second survey between April and May 2020 where they queried employers about the impact and direct effects of COVID-19 on their business and sentiment, as well as delving into how employers are changing their business and the way they communicate and support employees during this time.

About RGF International Recruitment RGF (Recruit Global Family) is the global brand of Recruit Group, which is one of the world’s largest recruitment and information services firms with 2.39 trillion yen ( 22.5 billion USD) annual revenue. Founded in 1960, the Recruit Group creates and provides platforms that connect companies and consumers by offering Opportunities for Life. RGF International Recruitment, under the Recruit Group, provides a wide range of recruitment solutions across more than 30 offices in Asia. We deliver optimal, cross-border recruitment solutions at all levels and across all industries and functions, transcending national and city boundaries through our three service brands, with the aim of unleashing the potential of individual talents and employers in Asia.

Our brands and services include RGF Executive Search, RGF Professional Recruitment, and RGF HR Agent. Bo Le` Associates, which provides executive search services primarily in Greater China, is part of the RGF Executive Search brand. Find out more: www.rgf-hr.com


Parliament passes bill to protect healthcare workers against violence


New Delhi: The Parliament on Monday passed the Epidemic Diseases (Amendment) Bill, which provides for up to five years in jail for those attacking healthcare workers fighting the coronavirus or during any situation akin to the current pandemic.

The Epidemic Diseases (Amendment) Bill, 2020, was passed by Lok Sabha by a voice vote. It has already cleared Rajya Sabha. The bill replaces an ordinance issued by the government in April.

The Union cabinet had promulgated the Epidemic Diseases (Amendment) Ordinance, 2020, to amend the Epidemic Diseases Act, 1897, to protect healthcare service personnel and property, including their living/working premises, against violence during epidemics. PTI

Congress announces nationwide protests against farm bills

New Delhi: Upping the ante on the farm bills issue, the Congress on Monday announced a massive people’s movement which would include protest marches, agitations and collecting two crore farmers’ signatures for a memorandum against the legislations to be submitted to President Ram Nath Kovind.

This was decided at a meeting of Congress general secretaries and state in-charges, the first physical meeting held by the party at its 24 Akbar Road headquarters here since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic.

A resolution hitting out at the three farm bills — the Farmer’s Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Bill, 2020, the Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement of Price Assurance and Farm Services Bill, 2020 and the Essential Commodities (Amendment) Bill, 2020 — was also passed at the meeting.

The meeting, called on the directions of Congress president Sonia Gandhi and former party chief Rahul Gandhi, was attended by the general secretaries and state in-charges of the party and was supervised by the members of the special committee assisting Sonia Gandhi in organisational and operational matters.

AK Antony, Ahmed Patel, Ambika Soni, KC Venugopal, Mukul Wasnik and Randeep Surjewala are members of the special committee. Rahul Gandhi is accompanying his mother Sonia Gandhi to the US for her medical check-up.

Most leaders were present physically but some such as Priyanka Gandhi Vadra and Jitin Prasad attended the meeting through video conferencing.

At a press conference after the meeting, senior Congress leader Ahmed Patel said the opposition party will take the farm bills issue to the people not only at the state level, but at the district and village levels.

“We discussed the political situation of the country especially the farmers’ agitation. The way the government of India is bulldozing anti-farmers’ laws in Parliament, it is totally unacceptable to the country and the people of India,” said Venugopal, flanked by Patel, Antony and Surjewala at the press conference.

“What we had witnessed in Rajya Sabha yesterday and today, we did not expect this type of attitude from a democratic government,” he said, referring to the commotion in Rajya Sabha on Sunday and the suspension of eight MPs of the Upper House on Monday.

Venugopal alleged that Prime Minister Narendra Modi was “misleading the country” by making allegations against the Opposition.

Surjewala also hit out at the government, alleging that the livelihood of farmers and labourers was “being ended”.

“First this government did ‘notebandi’, then with GST brought ‘vyaparbandi’, then with lockdown did ‘deshbandi’ and is now planning ‘khetbandi’,” Surjewala alleged.

In the next 72 hours, Congress general secretaries, state in-charges and senior leaders will hold press conferences at state headquarters against these farm bills, the Congress’ chief spokesperson said.

Then in the next four days till September 28, Congress chief ministers, Pradesh Congress Committee presidents, Congress legislative party leaders along with MPs, MLAs and senior leaders will walk from the PCC office or a prominent place like Mahatma Gandhi statue to the Raj Bhavan and submit a memorandum to the Governor, addressed to the President of India, seeking withdrawal of these farm bills, Surjewala said.

A press statement by the party said the marches to submit the memorandum to the Governors will be held on September 28.

“On October 2, the birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi and Lal Bahadur Shastri, we will observe ‘Save farmers and farm labourers day’. We will hold dharnas and marches in every state and district headquarters across India against the agriculture bills, asking for their immediate withdrawal,” Venugopal said.

“On October 10, all state units will organise ‘kisaan sammelans’ so that the voices of farmers can be heard,” he said.

Surjewala said from October 2-31, Congress workers will go to villages and collect signatures from farmers and the poor against the three agriculture-related bills.

Two crore signatures will be collected and the memorandum against the bills will be submitted to the President on Jawaharlal Nehru’s birth anniversary on November 14 by the Congress chief, he said.

Surjewala asked how the farmers will get MSP once “the APMC or the farmers markets are abolished”.

Referring to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s statement that this year despite the COVID-19 pandemic Rs 1,13,000 crore was given as MSP to farmers in Rabi for wheat, ‘dhan’, ‘dalhan’ and ’tilhan’, Surjewala claimed the prime minister “does not even know” that ‘dhan’ and ‘arhar’ (dalhan) are Kharif crops and not Rabi.

However, the crops the PM talked about are grown in Rabi season in some parts of the country, according to agriculture experts.

The Congress also accused Shiromani Akali Dal of indulging in double-speak and of being dishonest on the farm bills and asked why they have not left the ruling National Democratic Alliance.

The resolution passed at the meeting alleged that the Modi government has got the farm bills passed by violating the federal structure, crushing the constitution, bypassing the parliamentary system, on the basis of majority.

The Congress stands shoulder to shoulder with the farmers and farm labourers of the country and the party workers as well as leaders will strongly oppose these anti-agriculture “black laws” all over the country, the resolution said.

This was the first meeting after the Congress’ organisational rejig in which several new general secretaries and in-charges were appointed. (PTI)

LS passes Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Amendment Bill


New Delhi: The Lok Sabha on Monday passed a bill to amend the Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act to make furnishing of Aadhaar numbers of office-bearers of any NGO mandatory for registration and also effect other changes, with the government asserting that the proposed legislation is not against any religion.

Amid concerns raised by various Opposition members about The Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Amendment Bill, 2020, Minister of State for Home Nityanand Rai asserted that the bill is not against any religion or NGO.

The proposed legislation will also not stop foreign contributions in any way, he noted.

The bill, which also seeks to bar public servants from receiving funds from abroad, was passed after a discussion in the Lower House even as many Opposition parties raised objections to the bill.

Replying to the discussion on the bill, the minister stressed that it was necessary for an Aatmanirbhar Bharat (self-reliant India).

Among other provisions, the bill proposes to enable the centre to allow an NGO or association to surrender its FCRA certificate.

According to the minister, there was misuse of funds by way of transferring the money to other entities and the bill seeks to curb such things. “We will stop misuse of funds,” Rai stressed.

Congress leader Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury said there is a political agenda in bringing the bill and claimed that things are being done to protect PM-CARES Fund.

Shiv Sena’s Shrirang Appa Barne supported the bill and said that there was a need to come out with a strict law to stop religious conversions.

During the discussion, BJP’s Satya Pal Singh said there were many organisations receiving foreign contributions but were not spending the funds for the work it was given but for some other activity.

He also said that money received as foreign contribution cannot be spent on terrorist activities.

TMC’s Sougata Roy said the bill was to tighten all the organisations getting funds from abroad. When the Supreme Court has said that Aadhaar was not compulsory, then “why should you (government) make Aadhaar compulsory,” he asked.

Opposing various provisions of the bill, NCP’s Supriya Sule wanted to know why the government was doing “micromanagement” as she referred to the proposal that only up to 20 per cent of the foreign funds received could be spent on administrative expenses. Presently, the limit is 50 per cent.

“… tomorrow, you will say salaries of CEOs will be controlled,” she remarked.

She said that NGOs should not be undermined and requested the government to “stop bulldozing people doing good work”. Sule also said that it is almost like an emergency without calling an emergency.

Regarding the provision to bring 20 per cent limit, the minister said there have been instances where money was collected for public welfare but was used for family things.

About the Aadhaar requirement in the bill, Rai said Aadhaar is an important document for identification and wondered what if there is a situation where a director tries to hide the identity.

Taking strong objection to certain remarks by Satya Pal Singh, Sule said there are thousands of NGOs that are doing good work and that Singh defended a case that had happened in Odisha where a family was burnt alive.

“Please do not think that the world is full of chors (thieves) and bad people…,” she remarked.

Responding to criticism by Sule, Singh said that he did not condemn all NGOs. With regard to the Odisha incident, he clarified that he was only talking about the motivating factor.

TMC member Mahua Moitra said the government was going after NGOs doing work and that she does not understand the dichotomy.

Syed Imtiaz Jaleel (AIMIM) said that somehow he feels the bill will create hurdles in smooth running of Christian convent schools.

“We feel that there is a hidden motive behind the bill to target certain individuals, organisations and definitely certain castes and communities. I request the government to withdraw this bill,” he said.

Gaurav Gogoi (Congress) said that the bill should be sent to a Parliamentary standing committee.

Another Congress member Vincent Pala alleged that the bill is a multi-pronged attack on civil society and minorities as he urged the government to withdraw the bill.

He also said the bill was against Christians and minorities and that the government is only for sections of the people.

Anto Antony (Congress) said through this bill an attempt is being made to suffocate NGOs.

Stating that NGOs’ also help in the country’s economy, he said that action should definitely be taken if there are any anti-national activities. But in some cases, it has been seen that due to technical reasons licences get cancelled “which is an attack on the minority”, he added.

TRS member Bheemrao Baswanthrao Patil opposed the bill and said the proposed legislation will have a devastating impact on community work done by NGOs.

IUML member E T Mohammed Basheer also opposed the bill. Kaushalendra Kumar (JD-U) and Bellana Chandra Sekhar (YSR Cong) supported the bill. (PTI)

With pillows, mosquito repellents, ambulance on standby, 8 suspended MPs ready to sit-in all night


New Delhi: The sit-in protest by eight suspended MPs at Parliament premises that carried on late into the night on Monday showed no signs of ending with senior Opposition leaders coming in hordes to support them including NC leader Faroukh Abdullah, JD(S)’ Deve Gowda, Samajwadi Party’s Jaya Bachchan, Congress’ Ahmed Patel and NCP’s Praful Patel.

Congress leader Digvijaya Singh sat with the protesting parliamentarians for almost four hours, one of the suspended MPs told PTI as they sang patriotic songs, surrounded by placards hanging on strings with slogans in support of farmers.

One of the main concerns for the MPs was the health of two senior leaders who are diabetic — Congress’ Ripun Boren and CPIM’s Elamaram Kareem, who are both over 65 years of age.

“We are making sure that we are all hydrated and we have enough water,” TMC MP Derek O’brien said.

“Refreshments are also coming in from the homes of Opposition MPs at regular intervals to ensure that their sugar levels don’t drop. It’s a wonderful team effort and we are not going to stop,” another senior leader said.

An ambulance is also on standby for emergency use in case any of the protestors fall ill.

The MPs will be able to use the Rajya Sabha toilets as long as the Lok Sabha proceedings are underway, but after that they will have to use the toilets at the reception, another MP said.

The protesting MPs are carrying not just their beddings with pillows and blankets but mosquito repellents as well to shield themselves from the vectors.

“We would like the government to know that this is an indefinite protest,” O’Brien said.

AAP’s Sanjay Singh said, “We will continue protesting against the farmer bills until the Modi government provides a rationale behind passing these bills without having the required votes”.

Earlier in the day, the government moved a motion seeking the suspension of Derek O’Brien (TMC), Sanjay Singh (AAP), Rajeev Satav (Congress), K K Ragesh (CPI-M), Syed Nazir Hussain (Congress), Ripun Boren (Congress), Dola Sen (TMC) and Elamaram Kareem (CPI-M).

The motion was adopted by voice vote amid protests.

During the day, the protests saw MPs from various parties like Congress, CPI(M), Shiv Sena, JDS, TMC, CPI and the Samajwadi Party joining in. In the evening, many Lok Sabha MPs trickled in to show their support to the suspended MPs who were sitting in protest.

Other leaders who came by include Shiv Sena’s Sanjay Raut, NCP’s Supriya Sule, DMK’s Kanimozhi and Tiruchi Siva, who carried hot idlis for the protestors from his residence.

Monday was Congress MP Rajeev Satav’s birthday and his wife and daughter came especially to Delhi to celebrate it. However, he was at the protest site since morning.

The protest by the MPs is being held at a time when around 30 parliamentarians have tested positive for the coronavirus disease. (PTI)

All-round Stoinis, cool Rabada ensure Super Over victory for Delhi Capitals


Dubai: Marcus Stoinis’ last over star turns with both bat and ball was beautifully complemented by Kagiso Rabada’s brilliant Super Over that ensured a thrilling opening round IPL victory for Delhi Capitals over Kings XI Punjab on Sunday.

Stoinis first blasted his way to a 21-ball-53 as his late assault ensured a decent 157 for 8 for Capitals with 57 coming off last three overs. Stoinis hit seven fours and three sixes.

In reply, Capitals were in control for 15 overs before Mayank Agarwal 89 off 60 balls nearly won it for KXIP before Stoinis came into the picture again with opposition needing one off three balls.

The first one was a dot followed by wickets of Agarwal and Chris Jordan as the match ended in a tie and went into Super Over.

Rabada, a Super Over specialist then removed KL Rahul and Nicholas Pooran off successive balls to keep an easy three-run target off one over. Rishabh Pant got a couple and Mohammed Shami bowled a wide as Capitals got their hard-earned two points.

Brief Scores: Delhi Capitals 157/8 (Marcus Stoinis 53 off 21 balls, Shreyas Iyer 39 off 32 balls, Mohammed Shami 3/15).

Kings XI Pujab 157/8 (Mayank Agarwal 89 off 60 balls, Marcus Stoinis 2/29, Kagiso Rabada 2/28, R Ashwin 2/2).


Let the show begin: IPL marks start of Indian sporting events in COVID times


Abu Dhabi: Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s poker face, Virat Kohli’s raw emotions and Rohit Sharma’s effortless handling of his ‘Galacticos’ will be back to charm cricket fans across the globe with the Indian Premier League (IPL) starting on Saturday, promising to be a happy distraction in a world scarred by COVID-19.

Rohit’s defending champions Mumbai Indians will be locking horns with Dhoni’s Chennai Super Kings in what is likely to be a fittingly exciting opening showdown here.

The tournament, which has been shifted to the UAE due to five million plus COVID cases in India, is a ‘TV-only event’, expected to be lapped up by all and sundry who crave for cricket and Bollywood in equal measure during prime time.

Bollywood had its share of prime time in the past few months but rest assured, the next 53 days would belong to Dhoni’s CSK, Kohli’s RCB and Rohit’s Mumbai Indians challenged by young pretenders comprising KL Rahul’s KXIP and Shreyas Iyer’s Delhi Capitals among others.

IPL happening in foreign shores is not a new phenomenon, not even the shift to the Emirates but as Indian sports hits the restart button with the billion dollar cricketing extravaganza, the hugely popular event to be held closed doors in a bio-secure environment will be a new experience.

David Warner or Chris Gayle’s towering sixes welcomed by artificial crowd cheer will be the new normal and the deafening roars during Super Overs will be missing but no one can complain as at least the show will go on in amid a devastating health crisis.

A look at the teams would indicate that Mumbai Indians by a distance is the most formidable with Rohit, Pandya brothers — Hardik and Krunal –, the indomitable Kieron Pollard and the ‘King of Death’ bowling Jasprit Bumrah giving it a menacing look.

The perennial Dad’s Army Chennai Super Kings can never be counted out till that man with ‘Hawk Eyes’ uses his peripheral vision behind the stumps.

Experience can’t be bought and the likes of Shane Watson, Dwayne Bravo, Faf du Plessis and Ravindra Jadeja have given their blood and sweat for the ‘Yellows’ and it would be no different this time.

For Kohli, winning a tournament as a captain would reaffirm his status even as naysayers question his style of leadership. The team is a shade better with presence of Aaron Finch, Chris Morris and the wonderfully gifted Devdutt Padikkal, who if all goes well, is destined to become a big name in years to come.

Delhi Capitals, with their new found vigour and more pragmatic new owners, found their mojo last year and would like to go one better under an enormously talented skipper in Shreyas Iyer, who can be matched in skills by a Prithvi Shaw or a Rishabh Pant.

Seasoned brains like Ravichandran Ashwin would be ideal foil for the team’s youthful exuberance.

KXIP’s KL Rahul is a class act and how he shapes as a leader could also create a narrative for the future when Indian cricket goes through another change of guard in next few years.

There will be a lot of interest as to how he handles players like Glenn Maxwell, Gayle and Mohammed Shami, who are savage on their days but can be ordinary on some others.

Handling an inconsistent team to a decent finish will be on top of Rahul’s agenda.

The low profile Sunrisers Hyderabad once again will be gunning for a place in the summit clash and their skipper David Warner knows how to win the IPL having always led the way with spectacular performances.

There is Jonny Bairstow’s flair, Kane Williamson’s poise and Rashid Khan’s flamboyance with a host of youngsters like Virat Singh and Priyam Garg eager to make a name for themselves.

When the IPL was partially held in UAE back in 2014, KKR were the eventual champions.

If Ben Stokes is the world’s best all-rounder across formats, Andre Russell probably is a bit more destructive in this format as he hit 52 sixes during their horrendous last edition.

The 2018 U-19 World Cup stars — Shubman Gill, Shivam Mavi and Kamlesh Nagarkoti — add a dash of youth. Eoin Morgan’s leadership skills that might prove to be handy in case a normally inconsistent Dinesh Karthik misfires.

Rajasthan Royals is the weakest team lacking quality in the Indian line-up but expect Jos Buttler, Steve Smith and Jofra Archer to do the heavy lifting in Stokes’ absence. Stokes is currently in New Zealand to be with his ailing father. (PTI)

MI start favourites in the IPL opener against CSK


Mumbai Indians (MI) are traditional slow-starters in the IPL but on paper, they will be the favourites against Chennai Super Kings (CSK) in the opening game in Abu Dhabi.

MI looks the most prepared and set team with a scary batting line-up of Rohit, Quinton de Kock, Suryakumar Yadav, Ishan Kishan, Hardik and Krunal Pandya, Kieron Pollard. Trent Boult and Nathan Coulter-Nile will complete their quota of foreigners.

For CSK, the core has remained the same save for Suresh Raina, who was their worst performer last year and has pulled out citing personal reasons this year. His replacement Ruturaj Gaikwad remains in quarantine having tested COVID-19 positive at least five times.

But there is Watson, Ambati Rayudu, Kedar Jadhav, Ravindra Jadeja, and Bravo, who have all won matches from hopeless situations. Mitchell Santner and Lungi Ngidi will complete their four-foreigner line-up in case Sam Curran and Josh Hazlewood are unavailable.

In case Curran is allowed to travel to Abu Dhabi, he could well be the pinch hitter at the top of the order. CSK can only be ignored at one’s own peril. (PTI)

Farm bills undermine food security system: Congress


New Delhi: The farm bills brought by the government undermine the food security system, the Congress claimed on Saturday and urged opposition parties to collectively oppose the bills so that they do not become law in their present form.

Congress leader and former Union finance minister P Chidambaram said that the Congress’s 2019 poll manifesto was based on foundational principles of minimum support price (MSP), public procurement and public distribution system (PDS) to ensure food security.

But Prime Minister Narendra Modi and spokespersons of the BJP have “deliberately and maliciously distorted” the Congress manifesto, he alleged.

On Friday, the BJP had alleged that the Congress in its 2019 manifesto had promised to abolish the Agricultural Produce Market Committee (APMC) Act.

Chidambaram said it is clear in the manifesto that the Congress had promised to help farmers. However, this government has “surrendered” to corporates and traders, he claimed in a statement.

“Every political party has to take a stand is it with the farmers or is it with the BJP threatening the livelihood of farmers,” Chidambaram said.

The Lok Sabha has passed three bills related to the farm sector and these are the Essential Commodities (Amendment) Bill, the Farmers’ Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Bill and the Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Bill, which seek to promote barrier-free inter-state and intra-state trade in agricultural produce.

These will now be tabled in the Rajya Sabha.

Seeking to counter the ruling BJP’s charge that it was the Congress which had proposed to do away with the APMC Act, he said successive Congress governments built, brick by brick, a food security system that culminated in the National Food Security Act, 2013.

The three pillars of the Congress’ food security system are MSP, Public Procurement and PDS, Chidambaram said.

The Congress had promised to promote farmers producer companies and organisations to enable them to access inputs, technology and markets,he said.

The party had also assured establishing farmers’ markets with adequate infrastructure and support in large villages and small towns to enable a farmer to bring produce and freely market the same, the former finance minister said.

“Farmers need multiple accessible markets and choice. The Congress’ proposals would have given them that. Once that is accomplished, the Congress manifesto promise on repealing the APMC Act and making trade in agricultural produce free would be a natural sequel in course of time,” he said.

“While our promise is clear, the Modi government has surrendered to the corporates and traders,” the Congress leader alleged.

Chidambaram said two farm bills do not contain a clause that the price that the farmer will get from the private purchaser shall not be less than the MSP. “Why is such a clause absent,” he asked.

The bills undermine the only regulated market available to the farmer today, without creating thousands of alternative markets that will be accessible to the farmer. The bills assume perversely that the farmer and the private purchaser have equal bargaining power. They do not,” Chidambaram said.

“The small farmer will be at the mercy of the private purchaser,” he said.

Chidamabaram also said that in case a dispute arises between the farmer and the private purchaser, the machinery under the bills is so bureaucratic and convoluted that no farmer will have the strength or the resources to fight the purchaser.

The small and medium farmer will be ruined, he said. “The bills undermine the three pillars of our food security system, the Congress leader said.

“Little knowledge is dangerous and little reading is even more dangerous”, Chidambaram said and alleged that the BJP is caught in a web of its own creation

He alleged that an economy afflicted by shortage of goods and services was exploited by it.

Suspended Congress leader Sanjay Jha on Friday had said the opposition party and the BJP were on the same page on the farm sector bills as the Congress had before the 2019 parliamentary elections proposed abolition of the APMC Act to make agricultural produce free from restrictions. (PTI)

PM Modi’s twin addresses to UNGA will be truly significant as India enters Security Council: Amb Tirumurti


New York: Prime Minister Narendra Modi will address the high-level meeting to mark 75th anniversary of the United Nations and the General Debate next week and the vision he outlines will be truly significant, especially on the eve of India entering the Security Council, according to India’s envoy to the UN Ambassador T S Tirumurti.

The annual session of the UN General Assembly begins on September 21 with the high-level meeting to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the United Nations.

To mark the historic occasion, the 193 UN member states will adopt a forward-looking political declaration, negotiated through an intergovernmental process, on the theme of ‘The future we want, the United Nations we need: reaffirming our collective commitment to multilateralism.’

“Prime Minister’s address to the UN and the vision he outlines will be truly significant, especially on the eve of our entering the UN Security Council, Tirumurti told PTI.

Tirumurti said on the occasion of the 75th Anniversary of the UN, as a founding member of the UN, he recalls with pride the significant and, in many ways, the pioneering contribution of India to the success of UN’s work and for peace and development across the world.

Modi will address this special event through a pre-recorded video statement. The General Debate will commence on September 22 and run through September 29.

Modi will deliver the national statement on September 26 through a pre-recorded video statement.

The vision Modi outlines at these two high-level meetings will be closely watched as it comes ahead of India taking a seat at the powerful UN Security Council as an elected non-permanent member for a two-year term beginning January 1, 2021.

An effective response to international terrorism, reforming multilateral systems, comprehensive approach to peace and security, technology with a human touch and inclusive solutions to foster development are India’s priorities for its UNSC tenure and these are reflected in the declaration that the UN will adapt to mark 75 years of its founding.

Last year, Modi travelled to New York to attend the high-level annual General Assembly session after addressing a mega diaspora event ‘Howdy, Modi!’ held on September 22. US President Donald Trump also addressed the gathering of over 50,000 Indian-Americans.

This year, for the first time in the UN’s 75-year history, Heads of State and Government will not be arriving in New York for the General Assembly due to the COVID-19 pandemic and have submitted pre-recorded video statements for the various summits and sessions that will be played in the iconic General Assembly hall.

Minister of Environment, Forest & Climate Change Prakash Javadekar will address the UN Summit on Biodiversity, which will be convened by the President of the General Assembly on September 30 under the theme of Urgent action on biodiversity for sustainable development’.

India is a leading contributor to climate action and over the past few years, it has reduced 38 million tonnes of carbon emissions annually.

In the course of the last decade, around 3 million hectares of forest and tree cover has been added, which has enhanced the combined forest and tree cover to 24.56 per cent of the total geographical area of the country.

Going forward, India aims to restore 26 million hectares of degraded and deforested land and achieve land-degradation neutrality by 2030 and the country has set additional targets of eliminating single-use plastic by 2022 and installing 450 GW of renewable energy by 2030.

Minister for Women and Child Development Smriti Irani will address the High-level meeting on the 25th anniversary of the Fourth World Conference on Women – Beijing +25 on October 1.

The theme of the event, coming in the 25th anniversary year of the historic world conference in Beijing on the advancement and equality of women, is Accelerating the realisation of gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls’.

This week, in a significant victory, India got elected as Member of the UN Commission on the Status of Women, the principal global body focused on gender equality and women empowerment, beating China in a hotly-contested election in the year that marks the 25th anniversary of the Beijing World Conference on Women.

A High-level plenary meeting to commemorate and promote the International Day for the Total Elimination of Nuclear Weapons will be held on October 2.

The landmark 75th anniversary of the UN comes amid the COVID-19 pandemic raging across the world that has in 2020 so far infected more than 30 million people and will soon reach a grim milestone of over a million deaths. (PTI)

China sends more warplanes as Taiwan honours late leader


: China sent more warplanes toward Taiwan for the second day Saturday as the island’s leader, senior government officials and a high-level US envoy paid tribute to the man who led Taiwan’s transition to democracy, former President Lee Teng-hui.

Keith Krach, the US undersecretary for state, kept a low profile at the service.

His presence at the event and on the island has drawn a strong rebuke from China, which sent 18 warplanes across the midline of the Taiwan Strait Friday in an unusually large display of force.

On Saturday, Beijing dispatched 19 more warplanes, two of which were bombers, according to Taiwan’s Defense Ministry. The island’s air force scrambled their own and deployed an air defense missile system to monitor China’s activities, according to a statement.

The service was held at the Aletheia University in Taipei on a balmy Saturday morning, with President Tsai Ing-wen honouring Lee for bringing a peaceful political transition to the island democracy.

Lee had built a separate Taiwanese political identity, distinct from mainland China, which claims Taiwan as part of its own territory to be reunited by force if necessary.

Lee’s carving out of a non-Chinese identity and insistence that the island be treated as an equal country brought him into direct conflict with Beijing.

He died on July 30 at age 97.

We have a responsibility to continue his endeavours, allowing the will of the people to reshape Taiwan, further defining Taiwan’s identity and deepening and bolstering democracy and freedom, Tsai said.

Former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and the Dalai Lama also paid tribute from afar.

We Buddhists believe in life after life, so most probably he will be reborn in Taiwan, the Dalai Lama said in a video message.

His rebirth will carry his spirit continuously. The guests included another former Japanese prime minister, Yoshiro Mori. They wore masks and sat spaced out in pews.

Lee, an agricultural economist and politician, devoted his career toward building democracy on the island through direct elections and other changes.

He was the first government official to speak out and formally apologise for the so-called 228 incident, named after February 28, 1947, when soldiers under the Kuomingtang, or the sole ruling Nationalist Party, shot and killed thousands of civilians in an anti-government uprising.

The bloodshed marked the beginning of a decades-long period known as the White Terror in which the island was ruled by martial law.

In 1990, Lee signalled his support for student demands for direct elections of Taiwan’s president and vice president and the end of reserving legislative seats to represent districts on the Chinese mainland.

The following year he oversaw the dismantling of emergency laws put into effect by Chiang Kai-shek’s government, effectively reversing the Nationalists’ long-standing goal of returning to the mainland and removing the Communists from power.

China launched a series of threatening military maneuvers off the coast of mainland Fujian province that included the firing of missiles just off Taiwan’s coast.

More missiles were fired immediately before the March 1996 presidential elections, and the US response was to send aircraft carrier battle groups to Taiwan’s east coast in a show of support.

The Trump administration has taken multiple steps in recent months to strengthen its engagement with Taiwan, angering China.

Krach is the second high-level official to visit Taiwan in two months, following US Health Secretary Alex Azar in August.

Unlike Azar’s visit, Krach’s was held mostly behind closed doors. On Friday, he held talks with Taiwan’s minister of economic affairs and the vice premier, in addition to local business leaders. He also dined with Tsai.

China has condemned the visit multiple times. On Friday, fighter jets from the People’s Liberation Army flew into the island’s air defense identification zone, at least the second round of war games this month aimed at intimidating supporters of the island’s independent political identity.

Every time a high-ranking US official visits Taiwan, the fighter jets of the PLA should be one step closer to the island,” said an editorial in the Chinese Communist Party newspaper Global Times on Friday.

The US and Taiwan must not misjudge the situation, or believe the exercise is a bluff. Should they continue to make provocations, a war will inevitably break out. (AP)

Protesters did not even spare statue of Gandhi: Trump


Washington: US President Donald Trump has said that the protesters, who went violent in the aftermath of the death of African-American George Floyd, did not spare even the statue of Mahatma Gandhi in Washington DC, describing the demonstrators as a “bunch of thugs”.

Floyd died in Minneapolis on May 25 after white police officer Derek Chauvin handcuffed and pinned him to the ground, and knelt on his neck for more than eight minutes while the 46-year-old from Houston gasped for breath.

The footage, which went viral, showed Floyd pleading with the officer, saying he can’t breathe. His death sparked nationwide violent protests with some protesters resorting to vandalism, looting and rioting across the country, leaving behind a trail of destruction.

“You know, they started ripping down Abraham Lincoln. When they hit Lincoln, I said wait a minute. This is the man and you can do – then they hit George Washington, Thomas Jefferson. They had everybody, Trump said at a well-attended election rally in Minnesota, a State that he lost by a little over 44,000 votes in 2016, on Friday.

He also mentioned about the statue of Gandhi in Washington DC that was vandalised by unknown miscreants at the peak of the nationwide protests.

“They even had Gandhi. All Gandhi wanted was one thing, peace. Right? We have peace. Rip down his statue. We don’t like him. I don’t think they have any idea what they’re doing,” Trump said.

“I think they’re just a bunch of thugs, okay, you want to know the truth. I think they’re a bunch of thugs,” he said.

The president told his cheering audience that he had signed an executive order that would put such miscreants in jail for 10 years.

Now, nobody even talks about taking statues down, he said.

The vandalised statue was restored later by the Embassy of India here, with the help of National Park Police and the State Department.

“We had a period of time when they were ripping down all of the statues and monuments, and I said to my people four months ago, I said this is crazy. These people–and they don’t even know,” Trump said.

Now that he has signed an executive order, Trump said that nobody has showed up in four months to take down a statue.

“Because you know why? They look and they say I want to take on that statue. I’m going to take down that statue. That statue’s coming down. And then somebody says, you know, it’s 10 years in jail. They go that’s too much. I’m getting out of here. It’s true,” he said amidst laughter.

“Ten years is not acceptable. Ten years is a lot to rip down a statue, have a little fun, especially when they have no idea what they’re ripping down. But we have an idea what they’re ripping down. They’re ripping down, in many cases, greatness. They’re ripping down our past. They’re ripping down our history,” he said.

“That’s where these guys begin. The take away your history. You look at the Middle East. You look all over. Look what ISIS did. Look what all of them do. They go down and they go to museums and they break everything and they rip everything. They want to take away your past. They are not taking away the past of the United States of America. Not as long as I’m here,” Trump said. (PTI)

Nitish hails inauguration of Kosi rail mega bridge by PM


Patna: Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar on Friday thanked Prime Minister Narendra Modi for inaugurating the ‘Kosi Rail Mahasetu’ that will connect Mithila and Kosi regions of the state and end problems of people by cutting short their travel time substantially.

Kumar also hailed the Centre for starting several railway projects related to electrification and laying new rail tracks in the poll-bound state.

The PM inaugurated the 1.9 kilometre-long bridge via video conference from Delhi, while Kumar, along with Bihar Governor Phagu Chauhan and Deputy Chief Minister Sushil Kumar Modi, attended the programme from Patna.

The bridge is also of strategic importance along the India-Nepal border.

Narendra Modi said that it was a “dream project” of former prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee and Kumar who was the railway minister then, but it did not progress as fast as it should due to the apathetic attitude of successive governments.

Vajpayee had laid the foundation stone of the Kosi rail mega bridge project on June 6, 2003.

Kumar in his speech recalled that he had urged Vajpayee in that function to include Maithali language in the Eighth Schedule of the Constitution, which he agreed and made an announcement to this effect the same day.

The chief minister also requested the Centre to restart functioning of the century-old Indian Railways Institute of Mechanical and Electrical Engineering (IRIMEE) at Jamalpur in Bihar’s Munger district.

The issue of shifting of IRIMEE from its present location to Lucknow in Uttar Pradesh had surfaced in May, following which Kumar had urged Railway Minister Piyush Goyal to revoke the decision.

Goyal had said that there is no plan to shift the institute and described reports in this regard as “incorrect and misleading”.

Subsequently, the Railways issued a statement saying that it has planned to widen the activities of IRIMEE by including programmes in transportation technology and management.

The Bihar chief minister also appreciated the Railways for transporting over 23 lakh migrant workers to their homes in various places in the state during the lockdown.

He, however, expressed reservation over the use of the term ‘migrant’ for those working outside their states, saying that they are also citizens of this country. (PTI)

Mayawati asks Union govt to pay heed to wishes of farmers


Lucknow: BSP president Mayawati on Friday opposed the passage of two farmer-related bills in Parliament and asked the central government to pay heed to the wishes of agriculturalists.

In a tweet, the BSP president said, “Two bills related to farmers were passed by Parliament yesterday without removing their doubts. The BSP does not approve of this.”

“What does the farmer of the country want. It would be better if the central government pays attention in this regard,” she said in a tweet in Hindi.

The Lok Sabha on Thursday passed two bills related to the agriculture sector, including the Farmers’ Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Bill and the Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Bill. (PTI)

Political heat rises over farm bills, but BJP confident of passage in RS


New Delhi: Political heat may be rising over three farm sector bills amid strident protests by the Opposition and revolt by the BJP’s oldest ally Shiromani Akali Dal, but the ruling party is confident that numbers are stacked in its favour in Rajya Sabha where these draft laws are expected to be tabled soon.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s forceful defence of the three bills and blistering criticism of the Opposition for protesting against them on Thursday made it clear that he remains unfazed and that his government will press on to get Parliament’s nod for these measures aimed at opening private avenues for farmers to sell their produce.

His assertion came amid Congress and several other parties besides the SAD coming out strongly against these bills, calling them “anti-farmers”.

Farmers in states like Punjab and Haryana have been protesting against these proposed laws which, their leaders allege, will end up dismantling the existing government-backed support system they have.

While the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance is yet to have a clear majority of its own in the 245-member Rajya Sabha, many regional parties have backed it for the last several sessions to ensure passage of various legislations proposed by the government.

BJP leaders expressed confidence that they will get the support of over 130 members, including nine of the AIADMK, and seven of the TRS and six of the YSR Congress — all three of whom are not part of the ruling alliance, if a division of votes is sought on these bills.

The BJP has the highest tally with 86 seats, followed by 40 of the Congress.

The three members of the SAD are sure to vote against the bills, but Shiv Sena, a former BJP ally and now in opposition, has expressed it support for these bills. The Maharashtra party has three members in Rajya Sabha.

Several other regional parties, including three-member Aam Aadmi Party, Samajwadi Party with eight seats, and BSP with four, have joined the opposition’s ranks in protest against these bills but it may not prove enough to hinder their passage.

A number count of parties that have come out against these draft legislations suggests that there are as of now nearly 100 MPs opposing them. There is no clarity about the stand of some small parties which have around a dozen members put together.

Since the Modi government assumed office for its second time in 2019, its rivals have not been able to scuttle any of its major bills due to a rise in the ranks of treasury benches and a corresponding fall in the opposition ranks.

The Farmers’ Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Bill and the Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Bill were passed by Lok Sabha on Thursday, while the Essential Commodities (Amendment) Bill was passed on Tuesday.

These bills seek to replace ordinances already promulgated by the government.

Speaking at a virtual launch of several rail projects in Bihar, Modi chose to speak at length on these bills, which have sparked protests by farmers in states like Punjab and Haryana, and sought to assuage concerns of the farming community by assuring them the government procurement of their produce will continue and so will the minimum support price (MSP).

He asserted that these reforms have brought “freedom” to farmers and given them a “protection shield”, as he accused the opposition of standing with middlemen and “misleading” peasants by “lying” to them.

With opposition parties dubbing the three bills as “anti-farmers” and the SAD quitting his government to protest them, Modi refuted their criticism, describing these proposed laws as “historic” and stating that they will unshackle farmers by allowing them to sell their produce anywhere at a better price.

A day after resigning from Union Cabinet, senior SAD leader Harsimrat Kaur Badal said she feels “saddened” that her voice in support of farmers was not heard and demanded that the government should pause on these legislations by referring them to a parliamentary panel for wider consultations.

The government has presented these bills as pro-farmers, saying these will ensure that farmers get better prices for their produce and do not get subjected to regulations of ‘mandis’.

Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar had said on Thursday in Lok Sabha that farmers will be free to sell their produce to anyone and these bills will increase competition and promote private investment, which will help in the development of farm infrastructure and generate employment.

However, opposition parties have slammed the bills as “anti-farmers”, claiming that the agriculture sector will be left to the fate of corporate interests.

Delhi Chief Minister and AAP leader Arvind Kejriwal also appealed to all non-BJP parties to unite in Rajya Sabha and oppose the three bills that he claimed would leave farmers in the hands of big companies for exploitation. (PTI)

Bamboo industry to play crucial role in post-COVID economy: Jitendra Singh


New Delhi: The Narendra Modi government is planning to promote domestic bamboo industry which is going to play a critical role in shaping the post-COVID economy of India, Union minister Jitendra Singh said on Friday.

Addressing two separate webinars on ‘World Bamboo Day’, Singh said the Northeastern region will be one of the favourite business destinations of India post-COVID-19 and bamboo is going to be the key pillar of economic activities.

He said many business houses are looking at the Northeastern region to exploit its vast agro-farming resources and people should not miss this opportunity.

“Modi government is planning to promote domestic bamboo industry, which is going to play a critical role in shaping the post-COVID economy of India,” the Union Minister for Development of North Eastern Region (DoNER) said.

Describing bamboo as a silver lining in the dark clouds of the pandemic, Singh said it will help in shaping the economy of the Northeast and the entire country in post-COVID era.

He said it will also herald a new momentum for Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s clarion call of ‘Aatma-nirbhar Bharat’ by focussing on Vocal for Local .

The minister said the sensitivity with which the Modi government views the importance of bamboo is evident from the fact that it has amended the century-old Indian Forest Act by taking home grown bamboo out of the purview of the Act, in order to enhance livelihood opportunities through bamboo.

He also welcomed the decision of the central government to raise the import duty by 25 per cent on raw bamboo items.

Singh said this will help the domestic bamboo industries like furniture, handicrafts and ‘agarbatti’ (incense sticks) making in a big way and promote use of bamboo as building material.

He said time has come for National Bamboo Mission to take a big lead to make bamboo a common man’s utility item and unlock the huge potential in this sector in the Northeastern region. He said the region could become the ‘New Engine of New India’ with bamboo as a useful fuel.

The minister also stated that viability funding from the Ministry of DoNER for start-ups have caught the imagination of youths in the Northeastern region and it is fast becoming an attractive option for the youngsters.


Bandhan Bank collection efficiency ratio touches 90pc in August


Kolkata: Private lender Bandhan Bank on Friday said collection efficiency ratio has touched 90 per cent at the end of August, and expected collections to normalise by December.

The ratio, which is improving on a “daily basis”, is likely to be over 90 per cent in October as well, it said.

“Our micro borrowers have showed great resilience. The ability to get back on feet is exemplary and there has been no destruction of their assets,” MD & CEO Chandra Sekhar Ghosh said.

In case of non-microbanking credit, collection efficiency has also increased for mortgage lending, SME lending, NBFC lending, the bank said.

Ghosh said prospects for credit offtake in the second half of the fiscal look promising. “The recovery process will be led by rural and semi-urban India”.

Meanwhile, the lender renamed its micro-credit vertical as Emerging Entrepreneurs Business (EEB).

“In line with the bank’s business strategy, a new vertical has been formed to better serve the emerging and diversified needs and aspirations of this segment.

“In addition to microloans, the vertical will also manage micro home loans, micro bazaar loans and micro enterprise loans,” Ghosh said. (PTI)

Paytm app removed from Google Play store for policy violation; co says app will be back shortly


New Delhi: Paytm, whose app was removed from Google Play store on Friday for violation of policy on sport betting activities, said the users’ money linked to the accounts is safe and it is working on getting its application restored.

On Friday, Paytm app — which facilitates use of wallet and payments bank services — was removed from the Google Play store.

However, users who already have the app downloaded on their phones would be able to use the services.

“The app was blocked for violation of play policies – a clarification of our policy was released earlier today ahead of the IPL tournament,” Google said in an e-mailed response on Friday.

Google also said only the app availability on its Play store is impacted and there is no impact on users.

When contacted, a Paytm spokesperson said the company had recently launched the ‘Paytm Cricket League’ on its consumer app for users to engage in their passion of cricket and get cashbacks.

“The game allows users to get player stickers after each transaction, collect them and get Paytm Cashback. Cashback is legal in India and we strictly follow all rules and laws of the land.

“Unfortunately, Google believes this to be a violation of its policies and has unlisted the Paytm Android app from the Play Store,” the spokesperson told PTI.

The spokesperson added that the cashback feature has been removed and the app is expected to be back online soon.

“We continue to work with Google to restore the app. We assure all our users that their balances and linked accounts are 100 per cent safe. Our services are fully functional on all existing apps and you can continue enjoying Paytm like before,” Paytm said in a blog post.

Google, in its own blog post on Friday, said it does not allow apps facilitating sports betting and will remove such apps from the Google Play store.

“We don’t allow online casinos or support any unregulated gambling apps that facilitate sports betting. This includes if an app leads consumers to an external website that allows them to participate in paid tournaments to win real money or cash prizes, it is a violation of our policies,” the blog post said.

These policies are in place to protect users from potential harm, it added.

There is often a surge in launches of such apps before major sporting tournaments like the IPL.

The latest season of the Indian Premier League (IPL) is scheduled to start from September 19 in the United Arab Emirates.

Google said when an app violates these policies, it notifies the developer of the violation and removes the app from Google Play until the developer brings the app into compliance.

“And in the case where there are repeated policy violations, we may take more serious action which may include terminating Google Play Developer accounts.

“Our policies are applied and enforced on all developers consistently,” the blog post by Android Security and Privacy Vice President Product Suzanne Frey said. (PTI)

Kejriwal appeals to all non-BJP parties to unite in RS to oppose farm bills


New Delhi: Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal appealed to all non-BJP parties on Friday to unite in the Rajya Sabha and oppose three bills that he claimed would leave farmers in the hands of big companies for exploitation.

In a tweet in Hindi, the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) chief Kejriwal asked the non-BJP parties to ensure that all of their members are present in the House and that they do not stage a walkout “drama”.

“All three bills of the Centre will leave farmers in the hands of big companies for exploitation. I request all the non-BJP parties to unite in the Rajya Sabha and oppose these bills, make sure all your MPs are present and do not stage a walkout drama. Farmers all over the country are watching you,” he said.

The Centre introduced the Farmers’ Produce Trade And Commerce (Promotion And Facilitation) Bill, the Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Bill and the Essential Commodities (Amendment) Bill in Parliament on Monday to replace ordinances promulgated earlier.

These bills seek to provide a barrier-free trade for farmers’ produce outside the notified farm mandis (wholesale markets) and empower farmers to enter into farming agreements with private players prior to production for the sale of their produce. (PTI)

Parliament passes bill to cut salaries of MPs by 30 per cent


New Delhi: Parliament on Friday passed a bill to reduce for one year the salaries of MPs by 30 per cent “to meet the exigencies arising out of COVID-19 pandemic”.

Rajya Sabha passed the Salary, Allowances and Pension of Members of Parliament (Amendment) Bill, 2020. It had got the approval of Lok Sabha on Tuesday. The bill was introduced in the upper house by Parliamentary Affairs Pralhad Joshi on Thursday.

The upper house also passed the Salaries and Allowances of Ministers (Amendment) Bill, 2020, which proposes to reduce the salaries and allowances of ministers by 30 per cent for a year, to meet the exigencies arising out of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Minister of State for Home, G Kishan Reddy moved the bill. Both the bills were taken up simultaneously and passed by voice vote. (PTI)

Girl raped, accused thrashed by her family in UP’s Banda


Banda (UP): A 17-year-old girl was allegedly raped by a youth who was then severely beaten up by her family members in a village in Uttar Pradesh’s Banda district, police said on Friday.

According to the FIR lodged on Wednesday by the mother of the girl, the incident took place last Saturday when the minor was on her way to home after attending to nature’s call, police said.

The girl’s mother has also registered a case against the gram pradhan and some others for threatening her family.

The medical examination of the girl did not confirm rape, police said.

The 19-year-old accused is undergoing treatment at a private hospital and is yet to be arrested, they said.

Investigations are going on, police said. (PTI)

Statistical highlights of IPL


Abu Dhabi: With the IPL set to kick off from Saturday, here is a look at the event’s statistical highlights from the past editions.


#Royal Challengers Bangalore holds the record of amassing the highest totals in IPL history, scoring 263-5 and 248-3 against now-defunct teams — Pune Warriors and Gujarat Lions respectively in 2013 and 2016. Chennai Super Kings holds the third position in the list with a score of 246-5 against Rajasthan Royals in 2010.

#RCB is also the team with the lowest total in IPL, having being dismissed for 49 by Kolkata Knight Riders in 2017, while RR and Delhi Daredevils (DD) are second and third in the list with totals of 58 and 66 against RCB and Mumbai Indians in 2009 and 2017.

#MI’s 146-run win over DD in 2017 is the biggest in terms of runs’ margin in IPL. RCB and KKR hold the second and third place with 144-run and 140-run wins over Gujarat Lions and RCB in 2016 and 2008.

#Eight matches have been decided on the basis of Super Over with with KKR being involved in three such ties, while RR have won two Super Over matches — the most in IPL. All eight teams participating in IPL 2020 have played at least one Super Over but CSK and KKR are yet to win one.

#The dubious record of conceding most extras in a match belongs to KKR, who gave away 28 against Deccan Chargers in 2008, followed by KXIP and CSK, who conceded 27 and 26 extras against RCB and MI in 2011 and 2009.


#RCB skipper Virat Kohli is the highest run-getter in IPL history, having amassed a total of 5412 runs in the last 12 editions of the tournament. He is followed by Chennai Super Kings’ Suresh Raina (5368) and Mumbai Indians skipper Rohit Sharma (4898).

#West Indies batsman Chris Gayle, who will play for Kings XI Punjab, has hit a whopping 326 sixes in IPL to top the list of players with most sixes. RCB’s AB de Villiers and CSK’s Mahendra Singh Dhoni occupy the second and third spots with 357 and 297 sixes respectively.

#Gayle also posted the highest individual score in IPL, piling up an unbeaten 175 off 66 balls against Pune Warriors in 2013 which is also the fastest hundred in the tournament. Former Kolkata Knight Riders batsman and current coach Brendon McCullum (158 not out) and de Villiers (133 not out) are in the second and third positions in the list of highest score respectively.

#Gayle also holds the record for most number of centuries, having scored six tons, followed by Kohli (5) and Sunrisers Hyderabad skipper David Warner (4), who has the most number of 50s, a whopping 44.

#Kings XI Punjab skipper K L Rahul’s 51 off 14 balls against Delhi Capitals in 2018 is the fastest fifty in IPL, followed by the KKR duo of Yusuf Pathan and Sunil Narine, who achieved the feat in 15 balls in 2014 and 2017 respectively.


#MI’s Lasith Malinga, who has opted out of this year’s IPL, is the highest wicket-taker in IPL with 170 scalps in 122 matches at an average of 19.8 and economy of 7.14. He is followed by Delhi Capitals‘ Amit Mishra (157) and CSK’s Harbhajan Singh (150), who has also pulled out citing personal reasons.

#MI’s Alzarri Joseph recorded the best bowling figures in IPL, taking six wickets for 12 runs in 3.4 overs against Sunrisers Hyderabad last year. Former Rajasthan Royals pacer Sohail Tanvir and Adam Zampa, who played for the now-defunct Rising Pune Supergiants, also captured six wickets, giving away 14 and 19 runs against CSK and SRH in the 2008 and 2016 editions respectively.

#DC’s Amit Mishra has the most number of hat-tricks in the IPL. He has so far taken three hat-tricks in 147 matches. Former Mumbai Indians all-rounder Yuvraj Singh and CSK’s Sam Curran occupy the second and third spots with two and one hat-trick respectively.

#KKR’s Sunil Narine holds the record for most four-wicket hauls. He took four wickets or more six times in 110 matches at an economy of 6.67. Malinga, who also took six four-wicket hauls, is in the second position with an economy rate of 7.14.

#Former India seamer Praveen Kumar, who has played for multiple IPL teams, bowled 14 maidens in 119 matches, the most by a bowler in the history of the tournament. Former pacer Irfan Pathan (10) and Mumbai Indians‘ Dhawal Kulkarni (8) are second and third in the list. (PTI)

Sudharshan TV seeks live telecast of hearing in SC of case against its ‘Bindas Bol’ programme


New Delhi:
 Sudarshan TV, which is facing legal proceedings in the Supreme Court, has moved an application seeking a live telecast of the hearing of the plea, which has raised a grievance over its “Bindas Bol” programme, the promo of which had claimed that the channel would air a “big expose on the conspiracy to infiltrate Muslims in government service”.

On September 15, the top court had restrained the channel from telecasting the episodes of “Bindas Bol” till further orders, saying that “the intent” of the episodes “prima facie” appeared to “vilify” the Muslim community.

The application filed by Sudarshan News through its director and editor Suresh Chavhanke said, “It is respectfully submitted that the present case is one of the most important cases concerning the public at large as the question of freedom of press protected by Article 19(1)(a) of the Constitution of India is involved.”

It said crores of viewers of the channel want to know about the legal proceedings and hear the points of arguments being raised by the parties.

“Direct for a live telecast of the proceedings of this case through audio-visual broadcasting/telecasting universally by an official agency as the court may deem fit and proper,” the application said.

A bench comprising justices D Y Chandrachud, Indu Malhotra and K M Joseph will take up the matter for hearing at 12 noon.

In its reply affidavit, the channel has defended its programme on alleged “infiltration of Muslims in civil services”, saying it was not against their entry but had used the term “UPSC Jihad” based on information that the “Zakat Foundation” had received funds from various “terror-linked organisations”.

Chavhanke sought lifting of the stay on airing the remaining six episodes of the programme and said there is “no justification to continue with the pre-telecast/prior restraint direction”.

The top court had, on Thursday, said it would hear the plea on Friday, which has raised the grievance over the “Bindas Bol” programme.

Terming India as “a melting pot of civilisations, cultures, religions and languages”, the apex court had, on September 15, said any attempt to vilify a religious community must be viewed with “grave disfavour by this court as the custodian of constitutional values and its duty to enforce constitutional values demands nothing less”.

The bench had suggested that a committee of apolitical experts or distinguished citizens or former judges may be appointed to help self-regulate the electronic media especially.

The Centre has filed an affidavit in the matter, saying if the apex court decides on the issue of media regulation, then such an exercise should be undertaken with regard to the digital media first as it has a faster reach and information has the potential to go viral due to applications such as WhatsApp, Twitter and Facebook.

The government has told the apex court that sufficient framework and judicial pronouncements exist for the electronic and the print media.

“Considering the serious impact and the potential, it is desirable that if this court decides to undertake the exercise, it should first be undertaken with regard to digital media as there already exists sufficient framework and judicial pronouncements with regard to electronic media and print media,” the counter-affidavit filed by the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting said. (PTI)

As Himachal Pradesh Eases Travel Restrictions, OYO Hotels & Homes Opens its Doors with the ‘Sanitised Stays’ Experience

Following the new state guidelines, OYO is open to hosting guests in Himachal Pradesh with the Sanitised Stays experience As the state relaxes travel restrictions and allows free movement – no mandatory documents, e-pass or registration required; travellers can easily book an OYO property on the spot Currently, OYO has 150+ hotels with 1800 rooms; and 60+ homes in Himachal Pradesh; taps into upcoming demand for road-trips during weekends from neighbouring states & cities including Delhi-NCR, Chandigarh, Ludhiana, Jalandhar and Uttar Pradesh

Applauding the move of the state government to open its border and ease travel restrictions, one of the world’s leading hotel chains, OYO Hotels & Homes announced that it is ready to welcome guests in Himachal Pradesh, starting September 16, 2020 onwards.

To further support travellers with any information related to state-wise travel guidelines, in addition to its helpline number 9313931393; OYO will also set up a dedicated section on its app to become a one-stop solution for all travel related assistance. This move comes to support the travel and tourism industry bounce back amid the pandemic. As per the latest state guidelines, travellers are allowed to freely enter the state and are not required to submit any documents, no registration on the government’s website and there is no further requirement for an e-pass to travel.

One can enter the state via personal vehicles as the inter-state public transport remains suspended. Travellers can now easily book an OYO hotel on the spot with the Sanitised Stays’ tag across OYO’s booking platforms including the app, website and email helpline. OYO usually sees Himachal Pradesh bookings from tourists based in neighbouring cities including Delhi, Chandigarh, Ludhiana, Jalandhar and OYO’s operations in the state currently include 150+ hotels with 1800+ rooms and 60+ homes.

Commenting on the developments, Rohit Kapoor, CEO, India & South Asia, OYO said, We welcome the state government’s decision to open its borders and ease travel restrictions in Himachal Pradesh. We are excited and prepared to host guests with the new sanitised stay experience at our hotels in the state. Himachal Pradesh is an important market for us and has always attracted tourists throughout the year.

Our presence in the state includes hotels in prominent tourist destinations such as Shimla, Dharamshala, Kasauli, Manali amongst others. We recently conducted an internal consumer survey which revealed that 56% of consumers are inclined to take road-trips as the lockdown eases throughout the country.

Travellers from neighbouring states such as Delhi, Punjab, Uttar Pradesh are already planning ahead and gearing up to take a break from their mundane routines. To serve this demand, at OYO, we are working hard round-the-clock and have introduced a Sanitised Stays’ tag for properties that clear background audit checks for sanitisation, hygiene, and protective equipment. We, along with our asset partners, look forward to delivering a safe, secure and comfortable experience for our guests.

Rajeev Bamba, owner of OYO 10692 Hotel Shubham, Shimla said, It has been a challenging past few months for us hoteliers. However, the demand generated with the help of OYO’s support as part of quarantine & self-isolation facilities has helped me recover in these times of crisis. Having constant support of a thought partner which helps you in such critical times talks volumes about an organisation.

To equip my hotel and staff during these challenging times, the ground team trained us with the new standard operating measures and also upgraded my hotel with the Sanitised Stays’ tag. With the new guidelines, I’m looking forward to welcoming guests following all the safety measures providing them a stress-free environment.

With the country slowly moving towards normalcy – higher hygiene standards, minimal-touch services, and enhanced credibility top the list of consumer requirements while planning travel. Recently, OYO introduced several measures and initiatives to minimize the impact as well as innovate to meet the new standards of good quality travel and hospitality with its Sanitised Stays’ tag for properties that clear background audit checks for sanitisation, hygiene, and protective equipment.

To ensure customer and hotel employees’ safety the hospitality chain has worked out minimal touch SOPs for check-in, check-out, has conducted extensive training of on-ground teams on the revised ways of working (health-screening, disinfecting, distance markers, etc.). OYO also joined forces with Unilever, the global consumer goods company, to further enhance its sanitisation efforts across OYO’s properties.

The company’s dedicated helpline and Yo! Help, a 24*7 real-time chat assistant is set to enable seamless booking experience, including hassle-free booking and flexible cancellations options.

About OYO Hotels & Homes Opening its doors in 2013, OYO Hotels & Homes, a young hotel startup, today is the world’s leading chain of hotels and homes. OYO today operates in over 800 cities in 80 countries, including the U.S., Europe, U.K., India, Middle East, Southeast Asia, and Japan. (PTI)

‘New rapid COVID-19 test with improved sensitivity developed’


Boston: Researchers have developed a new rapid test for the detection of the novel coronavirus that can be performed in less than an hour, and with minimal equipment, and “can detect nearly as many cases as the standard COVID-19 diagnostic.”

With further research, the scientists, including those from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in the US, said the new test, known as STOPCovid, could be made cheaply enough so that people could test themselves every day.

In the study, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, the researchers showed that the new test detected 93 per cent of the positive cases as determined by conventionally used COVID-19 diagnostic.

“We need rapid testing to become part of the fabric of this situation so that people can test themselves every day, which will slow down outbreak,” said study co-author Omar Abudayyeh from MIT.

The researchers hope the test could be further developed for use in point-of-care settings, such as doctors’ offices, pharmacies, nursing homes, and schools.

While other tests based on CRISPR technology provide a method for the the detection of viral pathogens, the scientists said these are more complex than the ones used in point-of-care testing.

They explained that such tests depend on an RNA extraction process and multiple liquid-handling steps that increase the risk of cross-contamination of samples.

“We developed STOPCovid so that everything could be done in a single step,” said Julia Joung, another co-author of the study from MIT.

“A single step means the test can be potentially performed by nonexperts outside of laboratory settings,” Joung said.

In the latest version of STOPCovid, reported in the study, the researchers incorporated a process to concentrate the viral genetic material in a patient sample by adding magnetic beads that attract RNA.

They said this step eliminates the need for expensive purification kits that are time-intensive and can be in short supply due to high demand.

According to the researchers, this concentration step boosts the test’s sensitivity so that it now approaches that of the conventionally used PCR diagnostic method.

“Once we got the viral genomes onto the beads, we found that that could get us to very high levels of sensitivity,” said Jonathan Gootenberg, another co-author of the study.

The researchers tested STOPCovid on 402 patient samples — 202 positive and 200 negative — and found that it detected 93 percent of the positive cases as determined by the standard US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) PCR test.

They said the STOPCovid test works on samples taken using the less invasive anterior nasal swab.

The scientists are currently testing it with saliva samples, which they said may make at-home tests even easier to perform.

“The goal is to make this test easy to use and sensitive so that we can tell whether or not someone is carrying the virus as early as possible,” said Feng Zhang, a co-author of the study from MIT. (PTI)

Govt should provide free smartphones to all school children: CRY NGO


Kolkata: To ensure that no children are left behind in education in the COVID pandemic situation, governments should distribute textbooks, free smartphones or tablets to all school children, an NGO has said.

Also, states should provide free data package or reimburse the cost of data, which would also require substantial investment to strengthen digital infrastructure including the regular supply of electricity to all households, child right NGO CRY said in a report.

“A clear roadmap with timelines needs to be developed to ensure inclusive digital infrastructure are some of the key measures required for delivering online classes to the last mile child,” the report released on Tuesday said.

The report expressed concern for many of the children who have been excluded from school education during the COVID pandemic and voiced fear that they may not be able to return to schools again.

“Even if they do, a large number of children would not find a level playing field anymore,” it said.

The CRY report also dwelt on the pandemic-triggered disruption in school meal services affecting the nutrition of 6-17 years children.

“As schools are closed across the country, the school feeding programme could no longer provide the much-needed free lunch to 115.9 million children who are enrolled under the Mid-Day Meal (MDM) scheme.

To cater to the hunger of millions of children who depend on MDM as their source of only nutrition, government needs to devise newer ways of delivering meals till schools are closed, it said.

Also, MDM coverage including the breakfast scheme need to be extended till secondary level, which clearly highlights the need for a significant increase in the MDM budget in the current and forthcoming financial years by the government, it said.

The report calls for developing systems for doorstep delivery of supplementary nutrition in the form of cooked food or take home ration for young children.

To discuss some of the critical policy issues and practical challenges relating to public provisioning of education for the children within 3 to 17 years during and beyond the pandemic, CRY and Centre for Budget and Governance Accountability (CBGA) recently organised a Webinar that brought together academicians, policy experts, civil society leaders and child rights defenders.

Underscoring the need to look into the public provisioning framework for childrens education, Priti Mahara, Director, Policy, Research and Advocacy at CRY said at the webinar, humanitarian crises tend to hit the most vulnerable children the hardest, and COVID-19 is no exception.

“It is evident how it has impacted school education, created a digital divide, limited access to social welfare, and compromised health and nutrition schemes provided through schools. To address the new normal in education sector and to universalise education, adequate public provisioning will play a very crucial role.”

It should be taken into account that childrens education, especially secondary education, had been traditionally under-prioritised and suffered further set back during the pandemic, Mahara said.

The suggestions emerging from the discussion will be collated and shared with the union and state governments with reference to the processes of revision of budget allocations for the current fiscal year (2020-21) and preparation of fresh budget estimates for the fiscal year 2021-22, which will be underway very soon, Mahara of CRY said.

The suggestions included measures like making upward revision of scholarship amounts for marginalised children, developing inclusive learning solutions especially for the most vulnerable and marginalised sections of the society.

The other suggestions are substantial resource allocation from both Union and state governments, recruiting special educators, adhering to the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act, 2016 to meet the needs of different types of students with disabilities and an overall focus on equity and inclusion in policy making and investment among others.

“Amid the range of recommendations, it is absolutely crucial for the union and state governments to provide enough fiscal support for ensuring equitable and effective access to education for children,” it said. (PTI)

Union minister Harsimrat submits resignation in protest against farm bills


New Delhi: Harsimrat Kaur Badal has submitted her resignation as Union minister to the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO), principal advisor to Shiromani Akali Dal president Sukhbir Singh Badal said on Thursday.

Harcharan Bains, the principal advisor, said Kaur submitted her resignation soon after the party chief announced in Lok Sabha that she would quit the Union Cabinet in protest against the three farm bills, tabled in Parliament by the Centre for passage.

Kaur, the Union Minister of Food Processing Industries, is the only SAD representative in the Modi government. (PTI)

Sudarshan TV defends programme ‘UPSC Jehad’ in SC, says not against Muslims in bureaucracy

Sudarshan TV

New Delhi: Sudarshan TV on Thursday defended in the Supreme Court its programme on alleged infiltration of Muslims in civil services, saying it was not against their entry but has used the term ‘UPSC Jehad’ based on information that ‘Zakat Foundation’ received funds from various terror-linked organisations.

The top court had restrained the channel on Tuesday from telecasting the episodes of ‘Bindas Bol’ for two days saying that the intent of the episodes prima facie appeared to vilify the Muslim community.

In an affidavit, Suresh Chavhanke, Editor-in-Chief of the Sudarshan TV, sought the lifting of the stay from airing the remaining six episodes and said that there was no justification to continue the pre-telecast/prior restraint direction.

The affidavit said: The Answering Respondent (Chavhanke) has used the words UPSC Jehad because it has come to the knowledge…through various sources that Zakat Foundation has received funds from various terror-linked organizations.

“It is not that all contributors to the Zakat Foundation are terror-linked. However, some of the contributors are linked to organizations or are organizations that fund extremist groups.

“The funds received by the Zakat Foundation, in turn, are used to support aspirants for IAS, IPS or UPSC .

Zakat Foundation provides training and study materials to Muslim students who aspire to join civil services.

When it comes to light through various sources that funds contributed by tainted organizations are being used to facilitate people joining UPSC, there is a serious issue requiring public debate, discussion and scrutiny…

There is no statement or message in the four episodes broadcast that members of a particular community should not join UPSC. UPSC is an open competitive examination and members of every community may participate in the entrance examination and qualify.., the journalist said in his 91-page affidavit.

In the response to the plea filed by lawyer Firoz Iqbal Khan, seeking banning of the programmes, the channel said the thrust of its episodes was that there appeared to be a conspiracy which needed “to be investigated by NIA or CBI as the terror linked organizations were apparently funding the Foundation in India, which in turn has been supporting Muslim UPSC aspirants.

Terrorism is a global menace. There are several international organizations that provide monetary support to extremists. The spread of extremist philosophy is undesirable and it is imperative that cross border funding that could encourage the spread of extremism should be stamped out, the affidavit said and referred to the offshore organizations which are funding the foundations.

Referring to records including the FCRA papers of the Ministry of Home Affairs, the affidavit said that the Zakat Foundation has received donations from various organizations such as ‘Muslim Aid (UK)’ and moreover it has links with Zakir Naik as well.

Zakir Naik’s Islamic Research Foundation has been banned under Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967, (UAPA). The Cabinet note regarding the ban said that Zakir Naik has been promoting enmity between religious groups and inspiring Muslim youth in India and abroad to commit terrorist acts, the reply affidavit said.

Calling himself an investigative journalist, Chavhanke referred to various documents and said that it appeared that Zakat Foundation of India has received funds from terror tied Zakat Foundation of America (Khalil Demir) who has a direct/indirect link with Benevolence International Foundation (BIF) and Turkish Humanitarian Relief Organization (IHH) both of which have terror links.

Reports also stated that Turkish Humanitarian Relief Organization (IHH) distributed aid to the Salafist group Ahrar al Sham, which fought alongside ISIS and the al-Qaida affiliate Jabhat al-Nusra.

The Sudarshan TV journalist said that the minority community has been taking quota benefits of the OBC and the minority scheme simultaneously and the same being a political and social issue can be debated in the media.

The top court would hear on Friday the plea which has raised grievance over the programme whose promo had claimed that the channel would show the ‘big expose on conspiracy to infiltrate Muslims in government service’.

Meanwhile, the Centre has also filed an affidavit in the matter and said if the apex court decides on the issue of media regulation then such an exercise should be undertaken with the digital media first as it has faster reach and information has the potential to go viral due to applications like WhatsApp, Twitter and Facebook.

The government has told the apex court that sufficient framework and judicial pronouncements exist for the electronic and the print media. (PTI)

IPL 2020: England and Australia players arriving from UK will undergo 36-hour quarantine


New Delhi: The Indian Premier League franchises will be heaving a sigh of relief as all the 21 Australian and English players arriving to the UAE from the United Kingdom will have to undergo just 36 hours of quarantine instead of the earlier prescribed six days.

All the franchises which have English and Australian players arriving after the white ball series in the UK had appealed for reducing the quarantine period and the BCCI under Sourav Ganguly’s leadership has been able to successfully sort the issue out with local authorities in the UAE.

“Yes, I can confirm that all the English and Australian players have to now undergo 36-hour quarantine instead of six days. The matter has been sorted and most of the teams will now have their big stars available from the first game itself,” a senior IPL functionary privy to development told PTI on conditions of anonymity.

The likes of Steve Smith, David Warner, Jofra Archer, Jos Buttler will arrive in the UAE late on Thursday night (UAE time) from the UK and on arrival will undergo RT-PCR test for COVID-19.

“They have undergone one rapid test before boarding (the flight) and will undergo another on arrival. Otherwise, the robust testing protocols will be followed as usual. The rationale behind the move is that all the players are entering from one bio-bubble to another,” the veteran BCCI official said.

The PTI had earlier reported that one of the senior players, an Australian superstar, had written a letter to BCCI president Ganguly requesting for a three-day quarantine, instead of six.

The BCCI spoke to the officials of at least three franchises which have Australian and English stars and they seem to be very happy with the outcome.

“The BCCI did a great job in reducing the quarantine period to 36 hours. This means teams like Chennai Super Kings (Josh Hazlewood and Tom Curran), Rajasthan Royals (Smith, Buttler, Archer) will have all their players available from their first game. Ditto for Kings XI Punjab that has Glenn Maxwell in its roster and Delhi Capitals that has Alex Carry,” a franchise official said.

The only franchise that was unaffected by the six-day quarantine period was Kolkata Knight Riders, which has its first game of the season on September 23 with Eoin Morgan, Tom Banton and Pat Cummins in its ranks. (PTI)

Border standoff: India says China should work with it for complete disengagement in Ladakh


New Delhi: India on Thursday said China should sincerely work with it for complete disengagement of troops at the earliest from all friction areas including Pangong lake and take steps to de-escalate the situation in eastern Ladakh.

External Affairs Ministry Spokesperson Anurag Srivastava said India hoped the Chinese side would strictly respect and observe the Line of Actual Control (LAC) and not make further attempts to “unilaterally” change the status quo.

At a media briefing, the MEA spokesperson also referred to the consensus arrived at separate meetings between defence ministers and foreign ministers of the two countries in Moscow on September 4 and September 10 respectively.

“There was consensus between the ministers of the two sides, during both the meetings, that there should be quick and complete disengagement of troops from all friction areas along the LAC,” Srivastava said.

“Both sides should, therefore, focus on easing tensions in the friction areas by refraining from any actions that may lead to an escalation in the situation. This requires strict adherence to the bilateral agreements and protocols and not making unilateral attempts to change the status quo,” he said. (PTI)

Steve Smith Concussion: CA to work to Rajasthan Royals on his return to cricket


Dubai: Cricket Australia on Thursday revealed that Steve Smith is following “concussion protocols” which are crucial for his return to cricket in the IPL and asserted that it is “not willing” to compromise with the fitness of the Rajasthan Royals skipper.

CA said it is working in tandem with RR to ensure his smooth return to competitive action after missing the entire England ODI series due to the concussion suffered during training.

“Cricket Australia has strict protocols when it comes to head impacts and concussions and, as we’ve seen over the last 12 months, we’re not willing to compromise on those,” CA’s head of sports science Alex Kountouris said in a statement.

“Steve is making progress and working with our medical team through the concussion protocols required to return to play,” he added.

Smith along with other England and Australia cricketers will arrive here on Thursday night (UAE time) and undergo a six-day quarantine which means they will all miss action till September 23. RR’s first match is on September 22 against Chennai Super Kings.

Smith was hit on the head during a net session prior to the first ODI in Manchester and since then recovered well but not enough to play competitive cricket.

Kountouris said the franchise and CA will be working together to monitor Smith’s fitness upon his arrival in the UAE.

Smith had also endured a concussion during last year’s Ashes game at the Lord’s and subsequently missed a Test match.

“The conservative management of Steve through this injury is consistent with our approach to put the player’s welfare first, as we did with him during the Ashes last year,” Kountouris said.

The former physio, who has had a long association with the Sri Lankan national team followed by Australians, hinted that CA will not like Smith to be rushed into a match situation.

“We are striving to create environments where players trust that our medical team will always put their welfare first and therefore speak openly with them, whether this is about concussion, other injuries or mental health,” he stated.

Kountouris said that a lot of research has gone into studying concussions and its related effects.

“We have done a lot of research over the last few years to better understand head impacts and concussions specific to cricket, and that has helped up in how we manage our players.

“We place the welfare of the player before the game because we strongly believe that is what’s best for the player.” (PTI)

Nawazuddin Siddiqui-starrer ‘Serious Men’ to hit Netflix on October 2


Mumbai: Filmmaker Sudhir Mishra’s upcoming feature “Serious Men”, headlined by Nawazuddin Siddiqui, will premiere on Netflix on October 2.

Written by Bhavesh Mandalia, the movie is based on a 2010 novel of the same name by Manu Joseph. Siddiqui said “Serious Men” brings to end his long wait to collaborate with Mishra.

“I am excited about this film as I waited almost 20 years to work with Sudhir Mishra. It’s a dream come true. I can’t wait for the audience to watch ‘Serious Men’ and join this journey with me, this Gandhi Jayanti,” the actor said in a statement.

The film chronicles the story of an ambitious underachiever who capitalises on his son’s newfound fame as a boy-genius to improve his family’s fortunes.

Produced by Bombay Fables and Cine Raas, “Serious Men” also stars Aakshath Das, Shweta Basu Prasad, Nassar, and introduces actor Indira Tiwari.

Nawazuddin Siddiqui was last seen in Netflix’s crime-thriller “Raat Akeli Hai”, directed by Honey Trehan. (PTI)

Lawyer challenges challan for not wearing mask when driving alone; HC seeks govt reply


New Delhi: The Delhi High Court Thursday sought response of the Centre and AAP government on a lawyer’s plea challenging the Rs 500 challan issued to him for not wearing a mask while he was driving alone.

Justice Navin Chawla issued notice to the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, Delhi government, Delhi Disaster Management Authority (DDMA) and the police seeking their stand on the petition which seeks quashing of the challan, refund of the Rs 500 paid as fine and compensation of Rs 10 lakh for mental harassment suffered by the petitioner.

The petitioner, Saurabh Sharma, has claimed in his plea that on September 9 while driving to work he was stopped by Delhi Police officials and was challaned for not wearing a mask even though he was alone in the car.

Sharma, represented by advocate KC Mittal, has contended that there is a Health Ministry notification clarifying that wearing a mask was not compulsory while driving alone in a car.

Advocate Farman Ali Magray, appearing for the ministry, said he needs to confirm whether such a notification has been issued.

Sharma, in his plea, has said that the officials challaning him failed to provide any executive order which makes it mandatory to wear masks while travelling alone in a private vehicle.

They also did not heed his request to write on the challan that he was driving alone and he paid the “illegal” fine under protest, the petition has said.

It has contended that in the absence of any law or notification making it mandatory to wear a mask while driving alone in a private vehicle, the levy of fine on him was “ex-facie arbitrary and illegal”.

Mittal, during the hearing, argued that the guidelines issued by DDMA only states that the mask has to be worn in a public place or place of work and a private vehicle is neither.

The DDMA, during the hearing, contended that its guidelines issued in April and June this year makes it mandatory to wear a mask in a public place and added that the Supreme Court has held that a private vehicle is a public place.

It also said that under the guidelines issued by it, there is a penalty of Rs 500 for first time breach of quarantine norms as well as for not wearing masks and for every subsequent violation there is a fine of Rs 1,000.

The court listed the matter for further hearing on November 18. (PTI)

Need to be mindful of Hardik Pandya’s workload: MI coach Jayawardene


Abu Dhabi: Monitoring comeback man Hardik Pandya’s workload is paramount for Mumbai Indians coach Mahela Jayawardene as he intends to groom a “few more finishers” for the upcoming edition of Indian Premier League starting here on Saturday.

Defending champions Mumbai Indians will take on last year’s runners-up Chennai Super Kings in the opening encounter on Saturday, which will be Hardik’s first game in a year having undergone back surgery for stress fracture last year.

“Hardik is coming back from an injury. So we will have to be mindful of that but he is looking very good in the nets. Both the players (Pandya brothers) have been fantastic for MI over the last three or four years. It brings a lot of energy to the group,” Jayawardene said during MI’s virtual media conference on Thursday.

The Sri Lankan legend was asked whether Hardik will again be assigned the finisher’s job.

“We have used him (Hardik) in different roles in the past and we will look into that. We will have quite a number of other players who can fix into that role as well, so whenever the opportunity is there we ask anyone to finish the game off,” said the former Sri Lanka captain.

“It doesn’t just fall on Hardik but it is one of his responsibilities, so we want to try and challenge players in different ways in this camp, so we will continue to do that,” he said.

Australian dasher Chris Lynn is an opening option but Jayawardene made it clear that Rohit Sharma-Quinton de Kock opening pair wouldn’t be tinkered with.

“Having options is always great. Chris Lynn is a great addition to the squad but the combination of Rohit and Quinton has been there for us, last season they complement each other well,” he said.

“It has been very consistent and both are well experienced cricketers. I always feel ‘why fix something that ain’t broken’. So we will continue to go with that but having Lynn as an option gives us flexibility in the squad.”

The MI coach is also aware that Jasprit Bumrah’s workload management, just like Hardik’s, need to be precise, considering that India will be playing a gruelling four-match Test series against Australia Down Under later in the year.

Jayawardene is happy that Bumrah has worked extensively on his strength and conditioning as well as skills during the extended lockdown.

“Boom (Bumrah’s nickname) has been training really hard during the quarantine period because of Indian commitments (which got postponed).

“He has had a lot of bowling done back home as well, trying to keep up the load, because following the IPL, there will probably a Test series (Australia) for the Indian boys.

“For IPL, he looks quite sharp and Bumrah being very professional, he has looked after himself very, very well during that quarantine period and he is quite eager to go out and perform,” Jayawardene concluded. (PTI)

Unemployment issue not political, but humanitarian: Priyanka


Lucknow: Congress leader Priyanka Gandhi Vadra said on Thursday that the problem of unemployment was not a political issue, but a humanitarian one and promised to extend all possible help in the matter.

Holding a video conference with around 50 youths, who hailed from different districts of Uttar Pradesh and had cleared the test for teaching posts but have not got their appointment, Priyanka Gandhi said it was her belief that the government would have to listen to the voice of the youth.

“We will have to fight from the roads to the legislature. The Congress is not going to back out on this,” a party release quoted Priyanka Gandhi as saying. “This is not a political issue for us, but a humanitarian matter. This is a question of justice.”

The Congress general secretary assured the youth that her party would extend all possible help in this matter.

The video conference, which lasted for over one-and-a-half hour, was attended by over 50 youths, state Congress media convenor Lalan Kumar said, adding that event was a part of the dialogue over unemployment.

Speaking to Priyanka Gandhi, a woman candidate said she had given the exam in 2016 and was happy on her selection, but has still to get appointment. The woman said she had faced depression for two years and her family was facing immense hardships because of this.

One of the youths said he was somehow earning his livelihood by giving tuition, but that has also stopped because of the novel coronavirus pandemic, while another said his marriage was called off as he did not get the job.

The youths said they worked hard and performed well in the exam, but the government is “continuously changing rules”, according to the statement.

During the interaction, Priyanka Gandhi also sought their views over reports that the state government was mulling a five-year contractual service for employees of Group B and C. (PTI)

Team now more acceptive of bio-bubble, empty stands won’t lead to drop in intensity: Kohli


Dubai: Royal Challengers Bangalore skipper Virat Kohli on Thursday said his teammates have become “acceptive” of living in the IPL bio-bubble and there is no “desperation” for a change of environment as they approach the tournament proper from September 19.

Royal Challengers Bangalore landed in the UAE on August 21 and have been training for more than two weeks, including some intra-squad practice games.

“To be honest we have become more acceptive of the situation around us. Acceptance is the biggest change I have experienced (since day 1 here),” said Kohli in a virtual media conference organised to honour citizens who have become “COVID Heroes” amid the pandemic.

“When we spoke of the bio-bubble for the first time, we discussed about appreciating the things we have and the situation. All of us have become very relaxed in that environment.

“If we were not being acceptive, then we would be sad or upset about the surroundings. But there is no desperation of any sort.”

It will be the first time that IPL matches will be held in the absence of a packed crowd but Kohli said it is the need of the hour.

“All of us have thought about it (initially) and it would be a strange feeling and I won’t deny that. But the feeling has changed little bit after the training sessions and practices games,” he said.

“At the end of the day you just need to understand why you started playing the game, you started playing for the love of it. Crowds are main part of the game but that is not what you play for.

“I can only say one thing that our intensity levels will not drop, I can assure you. There is a larger reason why all this is happening.”

Kohli was joined by teammates Parthiv Patel and the young Devdutt Paddikal in the interaction.

“It has sunk in (staying in bio-bubble). We did not put saliva on the ball during practice games and are taking care of ourself. It is very important to be safe,” said Patel.

“Honestly, it is my third year with the team, I have never seen this kind of environment before in my career. Everyone is smiling and that is what is important,” he added. (PTI)

Knew making ‘Knock Knock Knock’ was lunatic, but had to do it: director Sudhanshu Saria


Mumbai: Sudhanshu Saria, best known for his same-sex romance Loev”, is back with another unconventional story in Knock Knock Knock but the director says he was merely following his heart rather than being a rebel by design.

From its authentic casting in Bengali theatre veteran Shantilal Mukherjee and first-time Nepali actor Phuden Sherpa to its run time of 40-minutes, Saria admits that his English language short does not follow the rules of genre or length.

“I was hundred per cent certain it’s lunacy while writing it. The length is lunatic, the actors we cast, the way we made it Even the festivals, they understand a short film or a feature. This is almost like a novella,” Saria told PTI in an interview.

The director, however, is grateful that many festivals created separate sections to accommodate the film, which had its world premiere at the 2019 Busan International Film Festival and won the best screenplay award at the 20th New York Indian Film Festival (NYIFF) recently.

The Darjeeling-set psychological thriller explores the lonely life of a man who forms an unlikely friendship that may or may not be real. It is currently streaming on MUBI India.

Saria said he began writing “Knock Knock Knock” after he was fired from a job.

“I knew no one’s going to make it but the idea was to write for fun. I wrote it and got obsessed with it.”

The filmmaker spent most of 2018 writing it, with as many as 45-50 draft.

Saria said the film makes a case for retaining one’s uniqueness.

“It is about remaining whatever, whoever you want to be. Not letting the world homogenise you, not bending to its rythm. It’s also about not letting bad experiences make you so cynical that you’re never able to make a best friend again,” he said.

The friendship between the film’s two leads, Dada and Keta, could’ve been of any other characters but what raises the stake, is that both carry the baggage of their past.

“When you give the friendship arc to these two characters who are already insecure from having been hurt by the world that doesn’t understand them, then the stakes are higher.”

Saria said the origin of both the characters can be traced back to him. While the former is a warning of who he could turn into, the latter is a reminder of who he once was.

“I feel like Dada is me in the future, probably my father, who is cynical, scared and afraid of being vulnerable. Dada is most of our fathers, anyone of that generation. They become wiser with their failures.

Keta is me when I used to wear my heart on my sleeves and be much more vulnerable. I wish I could always stay like him.”

“Knock Knock Knock”, Saria said, furthers his drive to chronicle stories that are not dictated by length or commerce.

Post the success of “Loev”, many advised him to go big with his next project but Saria said they were the same people who told him to avoid making his debut with the same-sex love story.

“They told me it’s a career suicide. I’ll get slotted and will never be able to even sell the film. I didn’t disagree with them. I told them it’s totally an idiotic idea and yet I keep moving forward. It’s the most counterintuitive thing. If I failed, I’d be the first person to say ‘yeah, this was bound to happen.'”

Saria said he is not judgmental about the kind of movies he wants to make in future.

“Every time I see a film, I feel I could have done my version of that. But then there’s the stuff that wants to come out of you. I want to make my big musical, heist film, my ‘Mr India’. I am open to everything. I am not judgmental.”

Saria is conscious about is making commercial films with passion and sincerity.

“To me there’s as much art in Hrishikesh Mukherjee’s ‘Golmaal’, Rajkumar Santoshi’s ‘Andaaz Apna Apna’, Shekhar Kapur’s ‘Mr India’ or in Yash Chopra’s ‘Chandni’.

“These are all commercial, beautiful films which were artful. I want to make films with passion and honesty. I don’t think want to calculate, that if I do this, I’ll get that. There are easier ways to make money, this isn’t it,” he added. (PTI)

Modi govt should apologise for lathicharge on farmers in Hry: Kisan Congress


Dehradun: The All India Kisan Congress (AIKC) on Thursday condemned the alleged lathicharge on protesting farmers in Haryana recently and demanded an apology from the Narendra Modi government.

“The lathicharge on farmers proves the Centre’s hatred for the community that feeds the country. The Modi government should apologise for its brutal action,” AIKC General Secretary Rakesh Kumar Singh said in a statement here.

“Instead of being grateful to farmers who feed the country, the Modi government is perpetrating atrocities on them,” Singh said.

Farmers protesting against three farm ordinances introduced by the Centre in Parliament were allegedly lathicharged at Pipli near Kurukshetra in Haryana. (PTI)



The Canadian International Ekamra Sports Literature Festival takes place September 18th Toronto, September 17, 2020: After two outstanding events in India, the only Sports Literature Festival in the world moves to Canada on September 18, for its third edition with an excellent roster of Canadian, and international sports authors and sport aficionados. Many are offering sneak peek’s of their books to a global audience online. Originally to have been held at a hotel in Brampton, Ontario, the Festival has moved online due to safety concerns from Covid-19.

The Ekamra Sports Literature Festival welcomes sports fans to listen to diverse speakers and intensely debated issues in a day-long event which will feature national and international sports insiders sharing their insight and passion.

Some highlights from the scheduled sessions: Olympic gold medallist Sami jo Small with her forthcoming book The Role I Played: Canada’s Greatest Olympic Hockey Team’; The Best of Canadian Sports Writing’, an anthology; The Thin White Line: The Inside Story of Cricket’s Greatest Scandal’ authored by Nick Greenslade, the deputy sports editor of The Times (London); 1982 Brazil, A Glorious Failure’ by Stuart Horsfield which looks at the story of one of the greatest sports teams ever that never won; Kevin Rempel’s book Still Standing: When You Have Every Reason To Give Up, Keep Going’ along with Kirsten Worley’s Woman Enough.’ CBC Sports’ Scott Russell will speak to the author of 1982 Brazil while another session with a panel addressing Gender Inequity in Sport will be facilitated by two-time Olympic speedskater and CBC Sports host Anastasia Bucsis.

The day will kick off with a session with hockey great Sami Jo Small, moderated by Teddy Katz, a former CBC Sports Journalist and founder of Think Redefined. Legendary Indian broadcaster Arup Ghosh will take the lead in the session featuring The Thin White Line, and the Canadian Sports Writing Anthology session will be facilitated by Toronto Star writer Navneet Alang.

In the first edition in 2018, the festival hosted 12 sessions over two days with nearly 50 speakers in Bhubaneswar, Odisha, India. Packed audiences heard former Canadian sprinter Ben Johnson, field hockey guru Ric Charlesworth, multiple gold-medal-winning Olympic swimmer Stephanie Rice, fast-bowling legend Jeff Thomson, Indian Test batsman Ajinkya Rahane and former Test player Mohammed Kaif.

In 2019, the global appeal continued during the second Festival with Canada’s Kristen Worley launching her book Woman Enough’; The Daily Telegraph’s Tim Wigmore speaking about his book Cricket 2.0: Inside the T20 revolution’; Sri Lankan best-selling author Shehan Karunatilaka’s multiple award-winning book Chinaman: The Legend of Pradeep Mathew’; British cricket star Monty Panesar’s The Full Monty and Australian sports writer Michael Sexton’s book on that epic Test match between India and Australia Border’s Battlers.

Sports are universal and express so many aspects of the human condition. It is wonderful to be able to bring the festival to Canada, home to so many sports greats and so many terrific authors, said Sundeep Misra, Ekamra Sports Literature Festival founder.

About Ekamra Sports Literature Festival: The Ekamra Sports Literature Festival is Asia’s and the World’s largest ever sports literary festival founded in 2018 and bringing together some of the biggest names from Indian and international sport. (PTI)

Immune system’s T cells play bigger role in reducing COVID-19 severity: Study

T cells

Los Angeles: Vaccine candidates for COVID-19 should elicit a broad immune response that includes antibodies, and the body’s helper and killer T cells, according to a study which says weak or uncoordinated immunity may lead to a poor disease outcome.

The research, published in the journal Cell, confirms that a multi-layered, virus-specific immune response is important for controlling the novel coronavirus during the acute phase of the infection and reducing COVID-19 disease severity.

“Our observations could also explain why older COVID-19 patients are much more vulnerable to the disease,” said study senior author Shane Crotty from the La Jolla Institute for Immunology in the US.

“With increasing age, the reservoir of T cells that can be activated against a specific virus declines and the body’s immune response becomes less coordinated, which looks to be one factor making older people drastically more susceptible to severe or fatal COVID-19,” Crotty said.

In the research, the scientists collected blood samples from 50 COVID-19 patients and analysed multiple branches of their immune system — novel coronavirus specific antibodies, helper and killer T cells.

“It was particularly important to us to capture the whole range of disease manifestation from mild to critically ill so we could identify differentiating immunological factors,” said study co-author and infectious disease specialist Sydney Ramirez.

The researchers found that all fully recovered individuals had measurable antibody, helper and killer T cell responses against the novel coronavirus SARS-CoV-2.

However, they said the response varied widely in acute COVID-19 patients, with some lacking neutralising antibodies, others helper or killer T cells or any combination thereof.

“When we looked at a combination of all of our data across all 111 measured parameters we found that in general, people who mounted a broader and well-coordinated adaptive response tended to do better,” said Carolyn Moderbacher, another co-author of the study from La Jolla Institute for Immunology.

“A strong SARS-CoV-2 specific T cell response, in particular, was predictive of milder disease. Individuals whose immune response was less coordinated tended to have poorer outcomes,” Moderbacher said.

The scientists found that the effect was magnified when they broke down the dataset by age.

“People over the age of 65 were much more likely to have poor T cell responses, and a poorly coordinated immune response, and thus have much more severe or fatal COVID-19,” Crotty said.

The scientists explained that as people age, the immune system’s supply of deployable immature T cells dwindles, with fewer cells available to be activated to respond to a new virus.

“This could either lead to a delayed adaptive immune response that is unable to control a virus until it is too late to limit disease severity or the magnitude of the response is insufficient,” Moderbacher said.

The scientists believe T cells, and helper T cells in particular, are associated with better protective immune responses.

“This was perplexing to many people, but controlling a primary infection is not the same as vaccine-induced immunity, where the adaptive immune system is ready to pounce at time zero,” Crotty said.

“Thus, these findings indicate it is plausible T cells are more important in natural SARS-CoV-2 infection, and antibodies more important in a COVID-19 vaccine,” he said. (PTI)

Rajasthan Royals: Problem aplenty if Ben Stokes misses season

Ben Stokes

New Delhi: They are heavily dependent on individual brilliance of Ben Stokes and the looming absence of the England all-rounder would severely impact Rajasthan Royals’ campaign at this year’s Indian Premier League.

Royals core comprises of three Englishmen — Stokes, Jos Buttler and Jofra Archer and their Australian skipper Steve Smith.

However it is the magnificence of Strokes that defines the Royals, the perennial under-performers. They boasted quality players in their line up over the years but did not get the desired result.

His father’s illness has kept Stokes out of action for some time now and his absence, certainly in the first half of the league, would disturb the balance of the side.

If Stokes could join in the second half, the responsibility of keeping the side alive for the Play-offs would be on their foreign recruits since Indian players in the set up do not inspire much confidence.

Buttler and Archer are expected to be available from the second game after their mandatory quarantine and their good form is a silver lining for the Royals, who would be touch bothered about their skipper Smith’s current form.

Smith suffered another concussion hit in the UK during recent training session.

The other two foreigners who can take some load are South African batsman David Miller and Australian pacer Andrew Tye.

For Royals, the problem is their Indian core which hasn’t exactly been consistent.

Sanju Samson, an IPL specialist, is a minefield of talent but has rarely performed in five straight games in any of the editions during past five years.

Robin Uthappa once upon a time was a prolific IPL player but in past few years, the form has deserted him.

Even if he has been vehemently denied, Jaydev Unadkat, after one stellar season with now-defunct Rising Pune Supergiants, hasn’t been able to replicate the form for Royals. A million dollar-plus price tag is weighing heavily on him.

Varun Aaron has had injuries despite some serious speed while Manan Vohra with oodles of talent has only been brilliant on rare occasions.

This leaves the team with a lot of rookies including Riyan Parag, who made a good impression last season and left-handed opener Yashasvi Jaiswal, who might replace Uthappa during the course of the tournament.

In the bowling department, there is Kartik Tyagi, who could be a serious India prospect in near future but may have to wait for his chance.

The bowling attack save Archer looks thin at least on paper and the spin attack thinner with Shreyas Gopal being the saving grace. There is Mayank Markande but after the first season, he lost his sting.

It could be another season when reaching the Play-offs could be challenge for the Royals.

Squad: Steve Smith (C), Jos Buttler, Robin Uthappa, Sanju Samson, Ben Stokes, Jofra Archer, Yashasvi Jaiswal, Manan Vohra, Kartik Tyagi, Akash Singh, Oshane Thomas, Andrew Tye, David Miller, Tom Curran, Aniruddha Joshi, Shreyas Gopal, Riyan Parag, Varun Aaron, Shashank Singh, Anuj Rawat, Mahipal Lomror, Mayank Markande.


Mismatch between what China says and does: Rajnath Singh


New Delhi: Defence Minister Rajnath Singh on Thursday said China attempted to change the status quo along the LAC with its provocative military manoeuvres late last month and that there is a mismatch between what Beijing says and does.

Making a statement on the situation in eastern Ladakh in Rajya Sabha, the minister said India wants a peaceful solution to the boundary issue, but will not shy away from any action required to defend the sovereignty of the country.

While the two sides were engaged in diplomatic and military dialogues, Rajnath Singh said the “Chinese side again engaged in provocative military manoeuvres on the night of 29th and 30th August in an attempt to change the status quo in the South Bank area of Pangong Lake“.

“But yet again, timely and firm actions by our armed forces along the LAC prevented such attempts from succeeding,” he said, adding that, “Unki kathani aur karni alag hai (their actions are at variance with their words”. (PTI)

No plan to drop civil services aptitude test from civil services exam: Govt


New Delhi: There is no plan to drop the civil services aptitude test (CSAT) from the civil services examination, the government said on Thursday.

The civil services examination is conducted by the Union Public Service Commission (UPSC) annually in three stages — preliminary, main and interview — to select officers for Indian Administrative Service (IAS), Indian Foreign Service (IFS) and Indian Police Service (IPS) among others.

The CSAT is part of the civil services preliminary examination.

“No sir,” was the response given by Minister of State for Personnel Jitendra Singh in a written reply to the Rajya Sabha to a query on the plans to drop the CSAT.

He also responded in negative when asked whether the government was going to change the pattern of the UPSC civil services examination, including the replacement of interviews with a psychological test.

In a separate reply, the minister said that there is no such test which has not been conducted even after one year of its registration by the National Testing Agency (NTA), which conducts entrance examinations for admission/fellowship in higher education institutions.

“National Testing Agency (NTA), which conducts entrance examinations for admission/fellowship in higher education institutions, has informed that there is no such entrance exam which has not been conducted even after one year of registration for the same,” Singh said.

He said due to COVID-19 pandemic, the schedule of release of notification of examinations for the year 2020 could not be maintained from the month of April, 2020 onwards.

“Due to COVID-19 pandemic situation, the declaration of result of Tier-III of Combined Graduate Level Examination 2018 has been delayed. However, every effort is being made to complete the process of declaration of result at the earliest,” the minister said. (PTI)

India ranks 116 in World Bank’s human capital index

human capital

Washington: India has been ranked at the 116th position in the latest edition of the World Bank’s annual Human Capital Index that benchmarks key components of human capital across countries.

However, India’s score increased to 0.49 from 0.44 in 2018, as per the Human Capital Index report released by the World Bank on Wednesday.

The 2020 Human Capital Index update includes health and education data for 174 countries covering 98 per cent of the world’s population up to March 2020, providing a pre-pandemic baseline on the health and education of children, with the biggest strides made in low-income countries.

The analysis shows that pre-pandemic, most countries had made steady progress in building human capital of children, with the biggest strides made in low-income countries.

Despite this progress, and even before the effects of the pandemic, a child born in a typical country could expect to achieve just 56 per cent of their potential human capital, relative to a benchmark of complete education and full health, the Bank said.

“The pandemic puts at risk the decade’s progress in building human capital, including the improvements in health, survival rates, school enrollment, and reduced stunting. The economic impact of the pandemic has been particularly deep for women and for the most disadvantaged families, leaving many vulnerable to food insecurity and poverty,” said World Bank Group President David Malpass.

Protecting and investing in people is vital as countries work to lay the foundation for sustainable, inclusive recoveries and future growth.

Due to the pandemic’s impact, most children more than 1 billion have been out of school and could lose out, on average, half a year of schooling, adjusted for learning, translating into considerable monetary losses. Data also shows significant disruptions to essential health services for women and children, with many children missing out on crucial vaccinations.

Last year, India had raised “serious reservations” over the Human Capital Index, wherein India was ranked 115 out of 157 countries. This year India finds itself at 116th from among 174 countries.

When asked about India’s objections last year, Roberta Gatti, the bank’s chief economist for human development, told reporters that her team has worked with countries to improve the quality of data in order to make it a better index for everyone.

“An index is a conversation-opener, and what we have discussed with our client countries is that all that is in the index matters, but not everything that matters can be in the index,” she said.

“We have worked very directly with some of our client countries to use the index as a way to improve measurement, and India was exactly one of these cases,” Gatti said.

Responding to questions, Mamta Murthi, Vice President, Human Development, World Bank Group, told reporters that the Human Capital Index provides a basis on which the government of India can prioritize and a dimension to support human capital. Given the progress that has been made in recent times, it seems significant for now due to COVID-19. The Bank is working with the Indian authorities on supporting livelihood for the poor, which is very important, she said.

World Bank President David Malpass said that the coronavirus has deepened inequality globally, in addition to increasing poverty and distress. “We’re working with countries to try to protect people during the crisis and also invest in them so that we can see the recovery and lay a foundation for future inclusive growth,” he said.

The impact of COVID-19, on developing countries particularly has been hard, Malpass said adding that there is the collapse of the formal and informal market, and also there is a very limited social safety net. The World Bank, he said, estimates a 12 per cent drop in employment.

There has been major decline in remittances and total income is going down by 11 or 12 per cent. All this, he said is likely to have a disproportionate effect on the poor and on women. India, he said is having “severe impact” of COVID-19.

Malpass said that there’s two-fold inequality in this crisis. “One is that developing countries are being left further behind. And within developing countries, the poor are being left further behind. “Our concern right now with the pandemic is the subtractions or the challenges facing human capital creation in this environment,” he said.

He further said, “countries are increasingly reporting declines in essential health services. Eighty million children are missing out on essential vaccinations. Most children, within more than a billion children, have been out of school due to COVID. And that could lose as much as USD 10 trillion in lifetime earnings because of the reduced learning, the school closing and the potential for dropping out of school and the disproportionate impact on girls”.

Malpass said that the World Bank is trying to work to restart the learning process, including by helping countries secure access to equipment, assisting in reopening, and with distance learning. (PTI

South Korea Donates One Lakh Masks to TVS Motor Company for Free Distribution to Aid India’s Fight Against COVID-19


Social Welfare Corporation Anguk Zen Center donated health masks in a first-ever private exchange Chennai, Tamil Nadu, India (NewsVoir) Social Welfare Corporation Anguk Zen Center in South Korea, headed by the Venerable Abbot, Subul Sunim, in an exceptional gesture of humanitarian support and solidarity between the two nations, donated one lakh health masks for free distribution to aid India’s fight against the COVID-19 pandemic. The donation was coordinated by K-Art International Exchange Association in Korea and InKo Centre in India.

The consignment (estimated at 150 Million Korean Won) was handed over today, to Mr. Venu Srinivasan, Chairman, TVS Motor Company, and Managing Trustee, Srinivasan Services Trust; Chairman, InKo Centre and Goodwill Envoy for Culture and Diplomacy of the Republic of Korea, for free distribution through the Srinivasan Services Trust, the social service arm of TVS Motor Company.

Mr. Venu Srinivasan Chairman, TVS Motor Company & Managing Trustee, Srinivasan Services Trust said, I would like to extend my sincere gratitude and deepest appreciation to the Venerable Abbot, my revered teacher, Subul Sunim for this compassionate gesture of donating 1 Lakh masks to InKo Centre. We welcome what is indeed a most timely and valuable donation in these challenging times, when wearing masks, following strict rules of sanitation and hygiene and maintaining social distancing is the new normal’. We will ensure that the masks are widely distributed to local communities across the country through the Srinivasan Services Trust, the social service arm of TVS Motor Company. This unique civilian gesture of goodwill and support from Busan to Chennai truly epitomizes the warmth and depth of the valued relationship between the two nations.

Mr. Young-seup Kwon, Consul General of the Republic of Korea in Chennai, said, The global pandemic is by far one of the most serious challenges humanity has ever faced. We can overcome this challenge by staying strong and working together. This cooperation at this civil society level clearly shows how much ordinary Koreans and Indians care for each other and we can overcome this challenge by standing together.

These high-quality masks produced by BlueIndus Co. Ltd. were specially provided by CEO Jeong Cheon-sik for distribution in India. The masks were shipped to India, courtesy Mr. Yang Jae-saeng, CEO of Eunsan Shipping Air, Korea.

About the Anguk Zen Center The Anguk Zen Center in Korea, headed by the Venerable Abbot, Subul Sunim, is a social welfare corporation founded in 2014, which runs a Support Center for Abused Children as its core programme. The Center donates baby clothes and supplies to communal living facilities, multicultural facilities, single mother facilities and regional child centers in Korea in partnership with Zero to Seven, a company that specializes in childcare. The Center also supports babies in foreign countries, including Nepal, Mongolia and North Korea.

About the special relationship with India The Venerable Abbot, Subul Sunim, designated by K-Art International Exchange as Korea’s Co-Chairman of the Korean-Indian Cultural Exchange Group – a highest-level decision-making authority- which supports several small, medium and large-scale cultural exchanges between visual artists in Korea and in India, initiated on a regular basis by K-Art International Exchange Association, Korea and InKo Centre, India. The Venerable Abbot donated masks through InKo Centre to Mr. Venu Srinivasan, Chairman, TVS Motor Company, Chairman, InKo Centre; Chairman of the Srinivasan Services Trust and Goodwill Envoy for Culture and Diplomacy of the Republic of Korea. In 2010, South Korean President Lee Myung-bak, honoured Mr. Venu Srinivasan, with the “Order of Diplomatic Service Merit” (Heung-In Medal), in recognition of the valuable contribution in promoting Korea-India bilateral relations. Mr. Srinivasan received an Honorary Citizen of Busan Award from the city of Busan in 2014. He was formerly the Honorary Consul General of the Republic of Korea in Chennai and currently holds the title of Goodwill Envoy for Culture and Diplomacy of the Republic of Korea.

About Srinivasan Services Trust (www.tvssst.org) Srinivasan Services Trust (SST), a non-profit, non-governmental organisation, promoted by Sundaram-Clayton Ltd. and TVS Motor Company Ltd., has been carrying out rural development activities since 1996. SST is working in thousands of villages spread over in five States of Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Himachal Pradesh and Maharashtra. SST’s holistic approach focuses on key areas of Economic Development, Health, Education, Infrastructure, Environment and Social and Cultural development in the villages.

About InKo Centre (www.inkocentre.org) InKo Centre aims to promote an inter-cultural dialogue by facilitating a consistent programme that draws on the rich traditions of both India and Korea .With a focus on language, culture and information, the Centre examines the global dimensions of such a dialogue while showcasing the local and national characteristics that underpin such exchange.

InKo Centre is a registered, non-profit society supported primarily by TVS Motor Company Limited and Hyundai Motor India Limited; the Korean Association in Chennai and a host of Indian and Korean companies based in Chennai. The Centre works in close co-operation with the Embassy of the Republic of Korea, New Delhi; the Korean Cultural Centre, New Delhi and the Consulate General of the Republic of Korea in Chennai. Since its inception in 2006, the Centre has worked consistently with key organizations in Korea and in India, with an aim to build long-term sustainable intercultural partnerships.

Image: From L to R: Mr. Young-seup Kwon, Consul General of the Republic of Korea in Chennai; Mr. Venu Srinivasan, Chairman, TVS Motor Company; Managing Trustee, Srinivasan Services Trust, Chairman, InKo Centre and Goodwill Envoy of Culture & Diplomacy of the Republic of Korea; Mr. Swaran Singh, Chairman, Srinivasan Services Trust. (PTI)

Record 97,894 infections pushes India’s COVID-19 tally to over 51 lakh


New Delhi: A record single-day increase of 97,894 infections pushed India’s COVID-19 tally to over 51 lakh, while the number of people who have recuperated from the disease crossed 40 lakh on Thursday, according to the Union Health Ministry data.

The total coronavirus cases mounted to 51,18,253, while the death toll climbed to 83,198 with the virus claiming 1,132 lives in a span of 24 hours, the data updated at 8 am showed.

The total recoveries surged to 40,25,079 while the active cases of COVID-19 crossed 10 lakh for the first time.

The COVID-19 case fatality rate due to the coronavirus infection was recorded at 1.63 per cent.

There are 10,09,976 active cases of COVID-19 in the country which comprises 19.73 per cent of the total caseload, the data stated.

India’s COVID-19 tally had crossed the 20-lakh mark on August 7, 30 lakh on August 23, 40 lakh on September 5 and and it went past 50 lakh on September 16.

According to the ICMR, a cumulative total of 6,05,65,728 samples have been tested up to September 16 with 11,36,613 samples being tested on Wednesday. (PTI)

Rahul Gandhi greets PM Modi on his birthday


New Delhi: Congress leader Rahul Gandhi greeted Prime Minister Narendra Modi on his birthday on Thursday.

The prime minister turned 70.

“Wishing PM Narendra Modi ji a happy birthday,” Gandhi said in a tweet.

The former Congress chief is accompanying his mother Sonia Gandhi during her trip to the US for a routine medical check-up. (PTI)

SpiceJet starts cargo service in North East


Guwahati: Budget carrier SpiceJet on Wednesday launched a dedicated cargo service connecting the North East with the rest of the country and international destinations with 14 aircraft to transport all types of goods, including fruits and vegetables.

Addressing the gathering at a function here, Assam Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal said that farmers from the region can now transport their fresh farm produce across the country and internationally with the help of this cargo service.

“Assam alone has more than 37 lakh farmer families.

Today is a big day for all of them as their produce can now go global. This initiative will provide a big boost to traders and business houses in Assam and North East, a region that has terrific growth potential,” he added.

Sonowal said that SpiceJet dedicating a part of its fleet to improving connectivity and strengthening the supply chain in Assam and North East is a welcome step that will boost local business.

SpiceJet Chairman and MD Ajay Singh said that the North East still suffers from a lack of connectivity despite being one of the most culturally and geographically rich regions in India, known for their natural produce, consumables and other essential products.

“Our dedicated cargo service will provide the quickest access to farmers and businesses in the North East to transport their goods to the rest of the country, while at the same time facilitating easy transportation of essential cargo to the region,” he added.

The service will carry both perishable and general cargo to 44 international destinations of the SpiceJet network, Singh said through video link from New Delhi.

The SpiceJet has launched 14 new cargo flights to and from North Eastern states using its Bombardier Q400 freighters, thus ensuring uninterrupted connectivity with the rest of the country.

The company said that it also operates a fleet of 13 cargo aircrafts, including two wide-body planes, and is the only Indian carrier to operate long-haul cargo flights to Europe, Africa and CIS countries.

The dedicated cargo flights for North East will help transport fresh fruits, vegetables, flowers, perishables, fish seeds, fresh fish, pharmaceuticals, medical equipment, express cargo and other general cargo.

“Besides improving logistics and connectivity, the new freighter service will boost the growth of trade in the North Eastern markets and help Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises,” SpiceJet Chief Marketing Officer Debojo Maharshi said.

The airline will operate daily cargo flights on Kolkata-Guwahati and Kolkata-Imphal sector, besides flying between Kolkata and Guwahati via Aizawl and Dimapur twice a week.

It will also operate cargo flights on the Kolkata- Agartala and Agartala-Guwahati sectors thrice a week and Kolkata-Silchar and Silchar-Guwahati routes twice a week.

SpiceJet connects Guwahati with key cities across the country, including Delhi, Mumbai, Bengaluru, Kolkata, Chennai, Patna, Hyderabad, Jaipur and Amritsar, and has been transporting cargo both using the belly space of its passenger aircraft.

Since the nationwide lockdown began on March 25, the airline said it has operated more than 7,000 cargo flights and transported over 50,000 tonne of cargo. Out of these flights, around 3,000 were to international destinations. (PTI)

Nitin Gadkari tests COVID-19 positive


Mumbai: Union minister Nitin Gadkari on Wednesday said he has tested COVID-19 positive.

“Yesterday, I was feeling weak and consulted my Doctor. During the course of my check up, I have been tested COVID-19 positive,” Gadkari tweeted.

“I am at present doing well with the blessings and good wishes of all. I have isolated myself,” he added.

Gadkari’s ministerial colleagues Amit Shah, Shripad Naik, Dharmendra Pradhan, Kailash Choudhary, Arjun Ram Meghwal, Gajendra Shekhawat and Suresh Angadi were also diagnosed with COVID-19 recently.

Prominent politicians who tested COVID-19 positive recently include Karnataka Chief Minister B S Yediyurappa, Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan, and Tamil Nadu Governor Banwarilal Purohit.

Maharashtra ministers Ashok Chavan and Dhananjay Munde had also tested positive. (PTI)

Total tax collection plunges 22.5% to Rs 2.54 lakh cr so far this fiscal: Source


Mumbai: Reflecting the tepid recovery in the overall economy after lifting of national lockdowns, the pace of deceleration in tax collections has slowed down with total tax mop-up touching Rs 2,53,532.3 crore so far this fiscal, which though is still down 22.5 per cent from the year-ago period, according to an Income Tax Department source.

Economists described the numbers as in line with their expectations, saying the sequential improvement from the first quarter when the total tax mop-up had plunged 31 per cent was expected given the fragile momentum seen in the overall economy.

During the period ending September 15, 2019, total tax collection had stood at Rs 3,27,320.2 crore, the income tax source from the Mumbai zone said, adding the numbers are provisional as banks are yet to update the final figures.

However, the source refused to share the advance tax numbers separately for the current quarter, which had nosedived in the first quarter.

Similarly, the source also did not share total refunds this year, as well as the gross collections.

During the first quarter ending June, gross tax collections had fallen by a steeper 31 per cent to Rs 1,37,825 crore, driven down by a massive 76 per cent plunge in advance tax mop-up, as the country was on a full lockdown due to the pandemic.

“Of the total collection till September 15, when taxpayers, both individuals as well as companies, are supposed to pay advance tax for the quarter, personal income tax collection at the national level stood at Rs 1,47,004.6 crore and corporation tax mop-up at Rs 99,126.2 crore, totalling the two largest components of the tax kitty at Rs 2,46,130.8 crore,” the source told PTI on Wednesday.

The other two components of the tax revenue are the securities transaction tax which from Mumbai alone jumped to Rs 7,078.9 crore from Rs 5,035.3 crore a year ago and the equalisation levy which inched up from Rs 487 crore last year to Rs 504.4 crore this year, the source said.

When contacted Aditi Nayar, the chief economist at rating agency Icra, told PTI that tax revenue trends are in line with the trends in many other macro-indicators, and the slower pace of contraction will further narrow in Q2 relative to the previous quarter numbers.

“We expect GDP to contract by 11-13 per cent in real terms in the ongoing quarter. Subsequently, a favourable base effect related to the cut in corporate tax rates last September would result in a further optical catch up,” she said.

Echoing similar views, D K Pant, the chief economist at rival agency India Ratings, said the sequential improvement in tax mop-up is reflective of the overall pick-up in economic activities and are on expected lines.

“The pace of contraction in tax revenue collection will come down in the second quarter and will continue to improve even though we expect an 11.5 per cent contraction in GDP for the full fiscal.

“The tax numbers may correct a few percentage points more. But there is likely no surprises either way. For the full year, we see the numbers improving from -31 per cent in Q1 to -22.5 per cent in Q2 and further to -17-18 per cent in Q3, and the year closing with a gap of 12-15 per cent. It’s not going to be V-shaped recovery either on the revenue front or on the overall growth front, Pant told PTI.

While total collection fell 22.5 per cent, led by a 13.9 per cent dip in collections from Mumbai, which is the largest tax base contributing to over a third of the national collections, and also the first city to be locked down due to the pandemic.

The megapolis still continues to be the most affected region by the pandemic.

Total collection from the nation’s financial capital fell to Rs 74,789.6 crore, lower by 13.9 per cent Y-o-Y, the source said, adding of the total mop-up from Mumbai, personal income stood at Rs 34,808.8 crore and corporate tax stood at Rs 32,921.2 crore.

Among other major tax collection zones, Bengaluru is only zone where tax revenue grew over Y-o-Y clipping at 9.9 per cent. The tech capital contributed Rs 40,665.3 crore to the national tax kitty, up from Rs 36,986 crore, while Kochi has reported the worst collection with a massive 49 per cent plunge at Rs 3,214.7 crore, according to the data.

The Delhi zone, the second largest tax zone, saw a full 33 per cent decline at Rs 33,176.7 crore from Rs 49,545.8 crore during the reporting period, while Chennai reported 37.3 per cent decline to Rs 15,580 crore.

While Hyderabad was down 24.2 per cent at Rs 14,870.3 crore, from Pune it was down a full 30 per cent to Rs 14,031.3 crore and Kolkata saw the collections plunging 46.9 per cent to Rs 7,353.9 crore. (PTI)

China committed to peace and stability in border areas with India: spokesman


Beijing: China on Wednesday claimed it has been “honouring” the agreements signed with India, adding it is committed to peace and stability at their border areas.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said this at a media briefing when asked to comment on Defence Minister Rajnath Singh’s address in the Lok Sabha on Tuesday and why is China not agreeing to move its troops back from the friction points in eastern Ladakh.

“For the Chinese side, we have been honouring the agreements signed between China and India. We are committed to peace and stability in the border area. Meanwhile we are committed to our sovereignty and territorial integrity, he said.

Singh had told the Lok Sabha that at the military and diplomatic talks with China, India has maintained three key principles which are:”Both sides should strictly respect and observe the Line of Actual Control (LAC); Neither side should attempt to alter the status quo unilaterally; And all agreements and understandings between the two sides must be fully abided by in their entirety.”

At the foreign ministry briefing, Wang repeated the claim that China is not to blamed for the current situation. He said that China is ready to work with India to maintain dialogue and consultation through diplomatic and military channels to jointly ensure peace and tranquillity in the border areas.

He also hoped that India will put the border issue at an appropriate position in the “bigger picture” of China-India relations, and will work with China to follow through on the agreement reached during the talks between External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar and his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi in Moscow last Thursday and also other previously reached agreements. (PTI)

Kalyan Singh discharged from Lucknow hospital, flown to Ghaziabad


Lucknow/Ghaziabad: Former Uttar Pradesh chief minister Kalyan Singh, who had tested positive for coronavirus, was shifted Wednesday from Sanjay Gandhi Postgraduate Institute of Medical Sciences in Lucknow to a private hospital in Ghaziabad.

He was discharged at the request of his family, the government hospital in Lucknow said.

Hours later, Yashoda Hospital, located in Kaushambi area near the national capital, confirmed that the former Rajasthan governor was now admitted there. He was flown to Hindan airport by an air ambulance run by a private company.

He was admitted around 6.15 pm, three hours after being discharged from the Lucknow hospital.

A spokesperson said his condition was stable but there were co-morbidities, a reference to other medical conditions.

He has pneumonia in the lungs. His CT scan and blood tests have also been done. The anti-viral medication has started and further details would be known once the test results come, the Yashoda spokesperson added.

The results are expected Thursday.

Yashoda medical superintendent Anuj Agarwal told PTI that Kalyan Singh has been admitted at the hospital’s COVID-19 ward.

Earlier, the Lucknow hospital said his condition was stable when he was discharged from there.

“Singh who was undergoing treatment for the COVID-19 infection at Rajdhani Corona Hospital SGPGI, Lucknow was discharged on the request of his relatives, a statement from the Lucknow hospital said.

He was absolutely stable and was improving. He was maintaining 100 per cent oxygen saturation on room air,” it added.

“He did not have fever and his BP (blood pressure) was also normal. As per the family’s wishes, he was discharged today at 3 pm,” the hospital said.

The statement did not say if he was being shifted elsewhere.

Singh was admitted at the SGPGI on Monday with complaints of fever, dry cough and breathlessness and tested positive for COVID-19.

The BJP leader is expected to appear before the special CBI court in Lucknow on September 30, when the verdict in the Babri mosque demolition case will be pronounced.

He is among the 32 accused who include party veterans L K Advani, Murli Manohar Joshi and Uma Bharti. (PTI)

Farmers’ interest supreme for SAD, to vote against bills listed for Wednesday in Parl: Sukhbir Badal


New Delhi: In a veiled warning to its ally BJP, Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) chief Sukhbir Badal on Wednesday said his party can sacrifice anything for farmers’ interests as he came out strongly against the three farm sector-related bills introduced by the government in the ongoing monsoon session of Parliament and asked the Centre to address the concerns of farmers.

The SAD has been requesting the Centre not to introduce the three agriculture-related bills for the approval of Parliament until all reservations expressed by farmers’ organisations, farmers and farm labourers are addressed, Badal told PTI.

On Tuesday, Badal, the MP from Punjab’s Ferozepur, voted against the Essential Commodities (Amendment) Bill in the Lok Sabha, saying the proposed legislation is against the interests of farmers.

The government introduced the Farmers’ Produce Trade And Commerce (Promotion And Facilitation) Bill, the Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Bill and the Essential Commodities (Amendment) Bill in Parliament on Monday to replace ordinances promulgated earlier.

“Before introducing these bills, they should at least have consulted the parties that are essentially farmers’ parties and their allies. Our minister, Harsimrat Kaur Badal, had expressed her reservations when the matter was taken up during a cabinet meeting,” Badal said.

Expressing concerns over the proposed legislations, he said it would impact the entire farm sector and procurement system.

Badal said in Punjab, the system is robust and efficient as there is a grain market in every six villages and the entire procurement gets completed in 25 days.

“The SAD will oppose the remaining two bills on Wednesday if they are taken up for consideration and sacrifice anything for farmers’ interest as it is at the centre of our politics,” the former Punjab deputy chief minister said, asserting that his party will stand with farmers in their cause.

Demanding that the government should organise a meeting with farmers, Badal said before moving forward, it should address their concerns.

“The government should not have brought these bills without taking farmers and their organisations on board,” he said.

Badal made an emotive speech in the Lok Sabha on Tuesday, where he said the SAD is essentially a party of farmers and has always championed their cause.

The legacy of the party cannot and will not be compromised or diluted no matter what price it has to pay, he said, speaking in Punjabi. (PTI)

NEP backward looking document, says Kharge in RS


New Delhi: Terming the new National Education Policy as a “backward looking document”, senior Congress leader Mallikarjun Kharge said on Wednesday that education should be based on principles of the Constitution and not on ancient cultural values.

Raising the issue as a Zero Hour mention in Rajya Sabha, Kharge, who was recently elected to the upper house, said the entire NEP is a “backward looking document” that is looking 2000 years back instead of planning and preparing our children for the future.

“Therefore the values of moral education in schools and higher education should be based on the principles of the Constitution and not on ancient cultural values,” he added.

The NEP-2020 is the first education policy of the 21st century, which was announced 34 years after the previous National Policy on Education in 1986. The NEP-2020 is directed towards major reforms at both the school and higher education level, the government has said

Kharge noted that a provision in the Constitution states that in state and state-aided institutions there should be no religious instructions.

According to Article 28 (1), no religious instructions shall be provided in any educational institutions wholly maintained out of the state fund, he said.

In cities, Kharge said, children who have access to quality nursery education learn to read and write by the time they join class 1.

However, he said poor children in towns and villages will be at a disadvantage because there is no proper policy defined for training of Aanganwadi teachers. Poor children will start with a disadvantage of not having learnt for three years before joining class 1.

“Nearly 50 per cent of students drop out after Class 10. There is no plan that has been suggested to reduce this drop outs. It is estimated that 32.4 per cent of these student drop outs are Dalits, 25.7 per cent minorities and 16.4 per cent are tribals,” Kharge said.

Teachers are already burdened with several duties like elections, census and vaccinations etc. which makes it difficult for them to concentrate on teaching and it is impossible to improve the quality of education, the Congress leader said.

Kharge said the focus should be on mathematics, science and english for providing opportunity of development to rural and backward areas.

“Indian culture will be learnt by students through their language and literature classes. Such kind of activism to promote a single culture of Sanskrit or Hindi by the government will only keep children from backward areas out of modern education,” he said.

Meanwhile, Congress leader Partap Singh Bajwa and SAD member Balwinder Singh Bhunder demanded that Punjabi language should be included in the list of official languages in the union territory of Jammu and Kashmir.

Last week, the Union Cabinet approved a bill under which Kashmiri, Dogri and Hindi, apart from the existing Urdu and English, will be the official languages in the union territory of Jammu and Kashmir.

In special mentions, Rajmani Patel demanded establishment of a commonwealth sport centre at Rewa in Madhya Pradesh, while Rakesh Sinha (BJP nominated) sought compulsory disaster management training in schools and colleges.

Amar Patnaik of the BJD wanted formulation of a central sector scheme for the community of weavers. (PTI)

Manmohan Singh, Chidambaram seek leave of absence from RS on health grounds


New Delhi: Former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and former Finance Minister P Chidambaram are among over a dozen Rajya Sabha MPs who have sought leave of absence from the current monsoon session on medical grounds, Chairman M Venkaiah Naidu said on Wednesday.

Naidu informed the House that he had received letters from Singh and 13 other MPs seeking leave of absence on medical grounds.

Besides Singh and Chidambaram, the others who have sought leave of absence include PMK leader Anbumani Ramadoss, senior Congress leader Oscar Fernandes, A Navaneethakrishnan of AIADMK and YSR Congress leader and billionaire Mukesh Ambani’s aide Parimal Nathwani.

Others include nominated member Narendra Jadav, Hishey Lachungpa (Sikkim Democratic Front), Manas Ranjan Bhunia, Sushil Kumar Gupta (AAP), V Lakshmikantha Rao (TRS), Mahendra Prasad (JD-U), KG Kenye (Naga People’s Front) and Banda Prakash (TRS).

“All Members except Narendra Jadhav, Banda Prakash and Navaneethakrishnan have sought Leave of Absence for the entire 252nd Session,” Naidu said.

While Jadhav has sought leave of absence from September 15 to October 1, Prakash would be absent from the House from September 14 to 26. Navaneethakrishnan will not attend the House proceedings from September 14 to 24.

The House allowed all the 14 MPs leave of absence. (PTI)

COVID-19 vaccine: AFI requests government to give priority to Olympic-bound athletes


New Delhi: Athletics Federation of India (AFI) on Wednesday said it has requested the government to give priority to Olympic-bound athletes when a COVID-19 vaccine is available.

Several countries, including India, are trying to develop a coronavirus vaccine. The Indian government is considering inoculating the front line workers, army personnel and certain categories first.

“We have already discussed this with the government and told them we will need it (vaccine) for our athletes going to the Olympics,” AFI President Adille Sumariwalla said during a webinar.

“We need to make sure once the vaccine comes out, they (Olympic-bound athletes) should be amongst the first batches to get it and the discussion regarding that has already happened,” he added.

Asked if any player is apprehensive about getting inoculated, like tennis star Novak Djokovic, or if the vaccine could cause problem with dope control, national badminton coach Pullela Gopichand said the athletes are looking forward to it.

“I don’t think there will be an issue with the athletes, they are just waiting for the vaccine to come. There will be trails which will ensure the players are feeling confident when they take the vaccine,” Gopichand said.

Sumariwalla said since all the countries across the globe are suffering from the pandemic, the World Anti Doping Agency (WADA) must be aware that these (potential vaccines) are not for enhancing performance.

“I don’t think there is any issue with dope control because it is a worldwide thing. WADA would have taken enough cognisance of the fact that these are not performance-enhancing drugs and that they have been taken to protect the health and well being,” he said. (PTI)

BSP with govt, Army on China issue: Mayawati


Lucknow: BSP chief Mayawati Wednesday extended her party’s full support to the government and the Army on the LAC standoff with China and said she is confident that India will give a befitting reply.

In a tweet, she said, The curiosity and concern in the country about the ongoing conflict, tension and deployment etc. on the border with China are natural and the government has made a statement in Parliament yesterday.

The BSP is confident that the government will give a befitting reply to China as is expected by the country. The BSP is with the government and the Army, she said in her tweet in Hindi.

Making a statement in Lok Sabha on the issue, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh had on Tuesday said that China has been very clearly conveyed that any attempt to “unilaterally” change the status quo along the LAC is not at all acceptable.

There should be no doubt about the country’s determination to protect its sovereignty and territorial integrity, he had said, asserting that India’s armed forces are ready to deal with “all contingencies” in the high-altitude region. (PTI)

Adjusting to UAE heat biggest challenge says RCB star AB de Villiers


Dubai, Sep 16 (PTI) South African star AB de Villiers believes the biggest challenge for all teams in the upcoming Indian Premier League will be adjusting to the prevailing hot and humid conditions in the UAE.

Most games will be played in the night but the conditions would still be challenging.

“I am not really used to these kind of conditions to be honest. It’ very hot, it reminds me of a Test match we played in July in Chennai once where Viru (Virender Sehwag) scored 300. It was one the hottest weather conditions I have experience in my life,” he said in a an interview posted on RCB’s twitter handle.

“The humidity is similar to that, even at 10 at night. When I arrived here I checked the weather conditions of a few months and it seems to be getting better. It is definitely going to play a part and you have to make sure you have the energy for the backend of the innings or last 5 overs of your bowling spell.”

De Villiers said he would also miss playing in front of packed crowds in India with the event to be played behind closed doors in UAE due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I think obviously all are are used to playing in front of crowds in big stage, there is certainly an amount of adrenaline that pumped into you when it gets really loud, especially in Chinnaswany when the RCB crowd gets going, its difficult to stop the RCB team. So, well miss that there is no doubt about it.

“But I won’t say I am not used to it, I have played a lot of cricket in empty stadiums. I grew up like that. It’s only in my international career that I have played in front of crowd,” he said.

The 36-year-old dashing cricketer, regarded as one of the destructive batsman of world cricket, said not just him, every player is just happy to be back on the field after international cricket came to a halt in mid-March because of the pandemic.

De Villiers’ first foray into the cricket field amid the pandemic was the inaugural 3TC Solidarity Cup organised by Cricket South Africa in July.

Asked whether there will be a drop in the game’s standard with players coming from a long break, he replied: “Not at all. In the 3TC I have faced some off thee best bowling in the last 3 to 5 years, the bowlers were landing yorkers, they showed some great skills with pace, variations.

“They are very hungry, the desire is there, the motivation. It’s not just copy and paste, now the guys are really coming out with rediscovered energy, so I think we are going to see some fireworks.”

De Villiers said young Australian wicketkeeper batsman Joshua Philippe is an exciting cricketer and he would love share his knowledge with the Australian opener in RCB dressing room.

“I have always enjoyed watching Finch play but now I know him quite well. Another guy I am excited to watch is Joshua, he is a young wicketkeeper from Australia.

“I have watched him play for Sydney Sixers in BBL. He is very exciting to watch, he takes on the new ball, a very talented player with all the shots in the book,” he said.

“As a 36-year-old who have played international cricket for ages now, I am looking foward to give back if he wishes what I have learnt over the years.”

Virat Kohli-led RCB will open their IPL campaign against Sunrisers Hyderabad in Dubai on September 21. (PTI)

Sushant case: NCB probe team member tests COVID-19 positive


Mumbai: A member of the NCB team probing drugs angle in actor Sushant Singh Rajput’s death case tested positive for coronavirus on Wednesday following which questioning of the actor’s former manager Shruti Modi was postponed, an official said.

Modi reached the Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB) office in south Mumbai around 10 am for questioning by the Special Investigation Team (SIT).

But, before the probe team could start recording her statement, the NCB received report of one of its SIT members testing positive for coronavirus, the official said.

The SIT member’s antigen test came out positive, he said, adding that other members of the probe team will also be tested and all protocols will be followed.

“Accordingly, we sent back Shruti Modi who had joined the investigation in the morning,” he said.

The NCB on Tuesday asked Shruti Modi and Rajput’s talent manager Jaya Saha to join its investigation to get a clear picture on some aspects of the case.

Saha will now be called later, the official said.

So far, the apex drug law enforcement agency has arrested 18 people, including Rajput’s girlfriend actress Rhea Chakraborty and her brother Showik Chakraborty.

Earlier, statements of Shruti Modi and Jaya Saha were recorded by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), which is separately probing the Sushant death case.

They were also quizzed by the Enforcement Directorate (ED) and the Mumbai Police in connection with cases linked to the Rajput death probe.

Some chats of Jaya Saha with Rhea Chakraborty had come to light during the ED’s questioning, the official added.

Rajput (34) was found hanging in his flat in suburban Bandra on June 14. (PTI)

Sumeet Vyas to star in series on Indo-China war


Mumbai: Actor Sumeet Vyas says his next project is a series on Indo-China war.

The show has been directed by Mahesh Manjrekar, Vyas told PTI.

The actor said the work on the series was impacted due to the coronavirus-led lockdown.

“I was shooting for this war-series and only patch work was left… The post production also took a hit, it was supposed to happen in LA and then they (makers) were trying to figure it out here.

“Last, I heard they managed to put together everything. The primary shoot is over, now they are doing post production,” he said.

According to Vyas, the series should stream by the next year.

Abhay Deol is also a part of the series. He had posted a picture with Manjrekar from the set last year on his Instagram page. (PTI)

First gene-edited livestock created that can serve as ‘super surrogates’


New Delhi: Scientists have created first gene-edited livestock that can serve as viable “surrogate sires” — males that produce sperm carrying only the genetic traits of donor animals — an advance that they say could improve food production for a growing global population.

The research, published in the journal PNAS, could speed the spread of desirable characteristics in livestock, and provide breeders in remote regions with better access to genetic material of ‘elite animals’ from other parts of the world.

The advance would also allow more precision breeding in animals such as goats where using artificial insemination is difficult, the researchers said.

“With this technology, we can get better dissemination of desirable traits and improve the efficiency of food production. This can have a major impact on addressing food insecurity around the world,” said Jon Oatley, a reproductive biologist at Washington State University in the US.

“If we can tackle this genetically, then that means less water, less feed and fewer antibiotics we have to put into the animals, Oatley said.

The researchers used the gene-editing tool, CRISPR-Cas9, to knock out a gene specific to male fertility in the animal embryos that would be raised to become surrogate sires.

They produced mice, pigs, goats and cattle that lacked a gene called NANOS2 which is specific to male fertility.

The male animals grew up sterile but otherwise healthy, so when they received transplanted sperm-producing stem cells from other animals, they started producing sperm derived from the donor’s cells, according to the researchers.

The surrogate sires were confirmed to have active donor sperm, they said.

The surrogate mice fathered healthy offspring who carried the genes of the donor mice, the researchers noted, adding that larger animals have not been bred yet.

The team is refining the stem cell transplantation process before taking that next step.

Scientists have been searching for a way to create surrogate sires for decades to overcome the limitations of selective breeding and artificial insemination, tools which require either animal proximity or strict control of their movement — and in many cases, both.

Artificial insemination is common in dairy cattle who are often confined so their reproductive behaviour is relatively easy to control, but the procedure is rarely used with beef cattle who need to roam freely to feed.

For pigs, the procedure still requires the animals be nearby as pig sperm does not survive freezing well. In goats, artificial insemination is quite challenging and could require a surgical procedure, the researchers explained.

The new technology could solve those problems since the surrogates deliver the donor genetic material the natural way –through normal reproduction, they said.

This, the researchers said, enables ranchers and herders to let their animals interact normally on the range or field.

This technology has great potential to help food supply in places in the developing world, where herders still have to rely on selective breeding to improve their stock, said Irina Polejaeva, a professor at Utah State University in the US.

“Goats are the number one source of protein in a lot of developing countries. This technology could allow faster dissemination of specific traits in goats, whether it’s disease resistance, greater heat tolerance or better meat quality,” Polejaeva said. (PTI)

China: War games a signal to Taiwan leader, foreign backers


Beijing: Recent Chinese war games near Taiwan were a deliberate signal to the leaders of the island and its foreign backers that Beijing intends to make good on its vow to defend what it considers Chinese sovereignty, a government spokesperson said Wednesday.

Ma Xiaoguang of the Chinese Cabinet’s Taiwan Affairs Office said the exercises were a necessary measure” because Taiwan’s leaders had been engaging in activities aimed pushing the island’s formal independence from China.

He said Taiwan’s leaders had sought support from abroad and were doing so in a bid to hamper China’s development.

The situation between the sides at present is even more grave and complicated. The Democratic Progressive Party authorities and the Taiwanese independence forces are behind this,” Ma said, referring to Taiwan’s ruling party, which renewed its hold on the presidency and parliament in elections earlier this year.

We have the determination and the capability to defeat all Taiwan independence activities and absolutely safeguard national sovereignty and territorial integrity,” Ma told reporters at a regularly schedule briefing.

Taiwan said Chinese warplanes entered its airspace over two days last week during the large-scale war games that it called a serious provocation to

Taiwan and a grave threat to regional peace and stability.

It said such actions by China’s People’s Liberation Army threaten the entire region and urged the international community to respond.

China has been stepping up its threat to bring the self-governing island under its control by military force with frequent war games and aerial patrols.

That follows the apparent failure of its efforts to win over the island’s 23 million people to the prospect of political unification under the one country, two systems” framework in place in China, with a large majority of Taiwanese favouring maintaining the status quo of de facto independence.

China cut contacts with Taiwan’s government following the 2016 election of independence-minded President Tsai Ing-wen, who was re-elected this year, and has sought to isolate her diplomatically while ratcheting up political, military and economic pressure.

At Wednesday’s briefing, Ma repeatedly side-stepped questions about the decision by Taiwan’s China-friendly Nationalist Party not to send a delegation to attend an annual cross-strait economic and cultural forum in the Chinese city of Xiamen following remarks by a Chinese television presenter seen as disparaging.

After repeated questioning, Ma said his understanding was the decision was dictated by Taiwanese internal politics, citing unidentified media sources in Taiwan.

Ma also denied reports that the Chinese presenter had been asked to apologise for her statement that the Nationalist delegation was coming begging for peace.”

The Nationalists have lost badly in the past two presidential elections, largely as a result of perceptions that they are too close to Beijing and willing to sell out Taiwan’s interests for political and economic gain.

The party had run Taiwan for decades, partly under martial law, after Chiang Kai-shek moved it to the island following the Communist takeover of mainland China in 1949.

China has sought relentlessly to isolate the Tsai’s government even while she draws closer to key ally the United States.

Beijing has whittled Taiwan’s roster of diplomatic allies down to just 15 and blocked its representatives from attending international gatherings, demanding that Tsai agree to recognize Taiwan as a part of Chinese territory.

On Tuesday, Taiwanese foreign ministry spokesperson Joanne Ou protested British-based conservation group BirdLife International’s move to exclude Taiwan’s Chinese Wild Bird Federation as a result of the Chinese government’s intervention and suppression regarding ecological conservation activities.

BirdLife International cooperated with China to oppress the wild bird society of Taiwan. Its political consideration is an obstacle to international conservation activities, Ou said.

In a statement, the Chinese Wild Bird Federation said BirdLife had demanded it to sign a document formally committing to not promote or advocate the legitimacy of the Republic of China, Taiwan’s formal name, or the independence of Taiwan from China.

As an apolitical organisation which has never taken a stance on any such issue, we felt it was inappropriate to sign such a document and were unable to comply. We are not political actors, we are conservationists,” the federation said.

BirdLife International did not immediately respond to requests for comment. (AP)

Shiv Sena backs Jaya Bachchan for standing up for Bollywood


Mumbai: The Shiv Sena on Wednesday came out in support of Rajya Sabha MP and veteran actor Jaya Bachchan for slamming those who claimed there was a problem of drug addiction in the film industry.

“Those who make such claims are hypocrites and their statements smack of double standards,” the Shiv Sena said in an editorial in party mouthpiece ‘Saamana’.

Bachchan on Tuesday criticised those tarnishing the image of the film industry. Her remarks came a day after BJP’s Lok Sabha MP and Bhojpuri actor Ravi Kishan said there was a problem of drug addiction in the film industry.

Supporting Bachchan’s stand, the Marathi daily said, “A doping test should be conducted on those who claim that all artists and technicians in the film industry are under the influence of drugs.”

The Shiv Sena said the foundation of the Indian film industry was laid by Dadasaheb Phalke, a Maharashtrian. The industry made a start withsilent movies like ‘Raja Harishchandra’ and reached the present pinnacle of successdue to the hard work of lakhs of people.

It also said actors like Sunil Dutt and his colleagues would tour the borders to entertain soldiers, Manoj Kumar always produced patriotic films while Raj Kapoor’s films catered to social issues.

“Several artistes raised their voice against the Emergency for which they had to pay a heavy price,” it said.


Will arrival of Morris and Finch change RCB’s fortunes?


New Delhi: Can the perennial under-achievers of the IPL turn it around for good this time? It’s a question for which the Virat Kohli-led Royal Challengers Bangalore will hope to have a positive answer, having addressed the side’s death bowling woes at the auction.

Kohli has called the current squad the most balanced since the 2016 edition when the team reached its third final but ended up on the losing side yet again.

RCB paid Rs 10 crore for the services of South African bowling all-rounder Chris Morris and the management will be relying heavily on him for those tight spells in the death overs and the big hits lower down the order.

Ever since Chris Gayle’s departure in 2017, the batting has revolved around Kohli and A B de Villiers but they will certainly feel a lot less burdened with the arrival of Australian white-ball captain Aaron Finch.

Kohli can either open with Finch or come in at one down to make way for Parthiv Patel or the highly rated Devdutt Padikkal to opening alongside the Australian.

In games where the star players don’t fire, the onus will be on the likes of Gurkeerat Singh Mann and Shivam Dube to do the job lower down the order.

This time, RCB seem to have much better balance compared to the past three seasons but there are questions over their big-hitting ability late in the innings.

That area can be shored up if Moeen Ali is picked in the eleven as other overseas all-rounder alongside Morris.

There is likely to be a toss up between off-spinner Ali and leg-spinner Adam Zampa, who comes into the squad as a late replacement for pacer Kane Richardson.

To start with, RCB’s probably four overseas picks will be Finch, de Villiers, Morris and Dale Steyn, who was bought back at the auction in December.

With Ali, Zampa, Yuzvendra Chahal and Washington Sundar, the spin department, which holds the key on UAE pitches, looks a strong one.

The pacers who are likely to make it include Morris, Steyn, Navdeep Saini and Mohammad Siraj/Umesh Yadav.

RCB also have a handy option in Sri Lanka pacer Isuru Udana, who can be effective in the death overs.

With a new coaching staff in place, including Mike Hesson and Simon Katich, and a beefed up squad, RCB do have a shot at an elusive title.

Their loyal fans back in Bengaluru will be hoping they don’t flatter to deceive this time around and do a lot better than the past three seasons, when they finished eighth, sixth and eighth.

RCB play their opener against Sunrisers Hyderabad in Dubai on September 21.

Squad: Aaron Finch, Devdutt Padikkal, Parthiv Patel, Virat Kohli, AB de Villiers, Gurkeerat Singh, Shivam Dube, Chris Morris, Washington Sundar, Shahbaz Ahmed, Navdeep Saini, Dale Steyn, Yuzvendra Chahal, Adam Zampa, Isuru Udana, Moeen Ali, Josh Phillppe, Pawan Negi, Pavan Deshpande, Mohammad Siraj, Umesh Yadav. (PTI)

Over 30 vaccine candidates supported, 3 in advance trials, 4 in advanced pre-clinical stage: Govt


New Delhi: The government on Wednesday said more than 30 vaccine candidates for coronavirus have been supported, and three of them are in advance stages of trials now, while four are in advanced pre-clinical development stage.

Union Minister of State for Home Nityanand Rai also told the Rajya Sabha that 13 clinical trials of repurposed drugs have been undertaken to build a portfolio of therapeutic options for COVID-19 patients.

“More than 30 vaccine candidates have been supported which are in different stages of development, 3 candidates are in advanced stage of Phase I, II, III trials and more than 4 are in advanced pre-clinical development stage,” he said.

Rai said a national expert group on vaccine administration for COVID-19 was constituted on August 7, under the NITI Aayog. (PTI)

Look forward to jointly take our special strategic partnership to new heights: Modi to new Japan PM


New Delhi: Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Wednesday congratulated Yoshihide Suga on his appointment as Japan’s prime minister, and said he is looking forward to jointly take the “special strategic and global partnership” between the two countries to new heights.

Suga was on Wednesday formally elected as Japan’s new prime minister in a parliamentary vote.

“Heartiest congratulations to Excellency Yoshihide Suga on the appointment as Prime Minister of Japan @kantei. I look forward to jointly taking our Special Strategic and Global Partnership to new heights. @sugawitter,” Modi tweeted.

He also posted a congratulatory tweet in Japanese to Suga.

Suga succeeds Shinzo Abe, who resigned earlier in the day because of ill health. Suga was chosen as the leader of the ruling party on Monday. (PTI)

Rainshine Entertainment and UK based 555 partner to develop and produce extraordinary stories for audiences worldwide


The partnership will focus on producing and distributing long and short-form film & TV formats, audio podcasts, and Extended Reality (XR) content With a stellar cast and crew, the titles in production currently include an untitled project, directed by GLAAD-award-nominated filmmaker Elegance Bratton; an untitled Raoni Metuktire project, edited by award-winning Eduardo Serrano; and ‘The Dark Lady’, based on the bestselling book ‘Shakespeare’s Dark Lady’ by John Hudson The content will also include a wide range of genre-bending podcasts currently under development Other key names associated with the upcoming projects include director Earle Sebastian, and musicians Wynton Marsalis, Jon Batiste, Gilles Peterson, Jason Moran, Former Secretary of State, General Colin Powell, and more MUMBAI, India, Sept. 16, 2020 /PRNewswire/ — Rainshine Entertainment and Five Fifty Five announce an exciting strategic joint venture, where the two companies will work together to develop, produce, and distribute extraordinary long and short-form film and TV formats, audio podcasts, and Extended Reality (XR) content for audiences worldwide.

Rainshine Entertainment is a leading entertainment company that creates, nurtures and develops content studios, which create fabulous content for Indian and global audiences, and Five Fifty Five is an award-winning UK based media company committed to content worth creating.

This joint association brings together two passionate minds from the industry – successful Entrepreneur, Investor and Consultant, Neeraj Bhargava, who is the Founder, Chairman and CEO of Rainshine Entertainment, and Kate Baxter, an award-winning international Filmmaker, Actor and Creative Director, and the Founder and CEO of Five Fifty Five. Leveraging the expertise and strengths of the two companies, this partnership unites them in their common endeavor to offer consumers a diverse and enthralling range of stories that spans genres and audiences.

Together, the companies hope to provide a platform for communities globally to tell their own unique stories, with a focus on the marginalized, the misunderstood, the overlooked, and the unheard. All this with a strong belief in consumerism being best driven by sustainability.

Working closely with Creative Director Kate Baxter and her team from Five Fifty Five, this partnership will be supported by two other key members of the Rainshine team – Kiran Nithyanand, SVP, Emerging Business, and Harleen Chadha, Sr. Product Manager.

Setting the wheels in motion, the initial set of IP franchises to be launched through this partnership include an untitled project, directed by Marine Corps Veteran and GLAAD-award-nominated filmmaker Elegance Bratton; an untitled Raoni Metuktire project, directed by Kate Baxter, about the first environmentalist and 2020 Nobel Peace Prize nominee, Raoni Metuktire, and edited by award-winning Eduardo Serrano; and The Dark Lady, based on the bestselling research and book ‘Shakespeare’s Dark Lady’ by Dr. John Hudson. Rainshine Entertainment and Five Fifty Five will also join hands to create a wide range of podcasts, led by Jack Bowman, an award-winning audio fiction writer, director and producer, and Sandra Labady, well-known audio and digital content producer.

Commenting on the new venture, Kate Baxter, Founder and Chief Executive Officer of Five Fifty Five, said, “Working alongside my colleague and friend, Neeraj Bhargava, I am thrilled to see opportunities for Five Fifty Five’s international content to be produced and distributed to a global audience. Our partnership provides a wider platform for Five Fifty Five’s development incubator which includes 50+ creatives across 5 continents, speaking 30+ languages. Never in history has there been a more urgent and opportune moment for the unheard voices we develop and support to be spread through traditional channels.” “We are a team of passionate storytellers with a constant endeavor to offer high quality and engaging content across formats and genres. Staying true to this, we are delighted to partner with Five Fifty Five, a company that echoes what we believe in. This association presents an exciting opportunity to broaden the scope of our offerings and facilitate the global distribution of our combined work to a more diversified audience worldwide,” said Neeraj Bhargava, Chairman & Chief Executive Officer, Rainshine Entertainment.

Here’s a sneak peek into the impressive line-up of content that will be rolled out first as part of this joint venture: Untitled project – Directed by Marine Corps Veteran and GLAAD-award-nominated filmmaker Elegance Bratton, this is the story of the first African-American regiment to fight in WWI, and how they moved the world against all odds on and off the battlefield. The project is a global, music-heavy, action-driven political-commentary that is a highly demanded show in the current social environment.

Untitled Raoni Metuktire project – Directed by Kate Baxter and edited by award-winning Eduardo Serrano, this is the story of the first environmentalist and 2020 Nobel Peace Prize nominee, Raoni Metuktire, whose village is now in critical danger due to Brazilian president Bolsonaro’s urgency to overtake their land and the Amazon rainforest, for international business deals with the likes of Donald Trump.

The Dark Lady – Based on the bestselling research and book ‘Shakespeare’s Dark Lady’ by John Hudson, The Dark Lady is a shocking, hard-hitting, truly global true story about the critical thinking of the black Jewess credited with writing much of Shakespeare’s work.

Podcasts – The Fiction and Non-Fiction departments have multiple genre-bending podcasts under development.

About Rainshine Entertainment: Rainshine Entertainment is a global entertainment company that nurtures, creates, and develops content studios that create fabulous content aimed at audiences worldwide, and build sustainable businesses. Transcending both digital and traditional media, the company’s content covers a wide variety of formats and genres, including young adult romance and drama, comedy, crime and thrillers, biographical stories, documentaries and docu-dramas, kids and animation, podcasts, gaming and branded content. With offices in Mumbai, Los Angeles, and London, Rainshine partners with talent, content creators, and distributors globally.

Rainshine is committed to building a nimble and driven company that embraces diversity while valuing curiosity, levity, generosity, virtuosity, and tenacity as its core principles.

To view more content from Rainshine Entertainment, please visit www.Rainshine.com and follow our social media handles: Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/RainshineEntertainment/ LinkedIn – https://www.linkedin.com/company/rainshine-entertainment/ About Five Fifty Five: Five Fifty Five is an award-winning UK based media company where authentic storytelling, technology, and social entrepreneurship merge. Committed to championing ground-breaking stories and voices. We employ a diverse network of creatives across 5 continents, to create impactful, innovative content that shifts perspectives on age-old-tales that are right for the now. From concept to distribution, we make media with an impact as every project has a cause attached. Our departments range in focus from classical film and TV, XR and audio, to cutting edge commercial.

We believe media is our education, our information and it shapes and feeds the public. It should be as diverse as we are, focusing on the tiniest groups rather than the largest, for global gain and understanding.

This thinking, along with the hope to open the first ever ‘human-centered’ ad agency, sets us apart from other media groups. We know that the future products in any industry are only as purchasable as they are sustainable and practical for humanity to survive the health, social, financial and environmental crises we are in now, and that remains ahead of us. Therefore, we only choose entertainment, art, news, information, characters and storytelling that we are obsessed with and that has a cause attached, with an urgency and a passion that cannot be quenched. (PTI)

Govt has info that some individuals, including from South, joined IS: MoS Home


New Delhi: Some instances of individuals from different states, including from southern ones, having joined terror group Islamic State have come to the notice of government agencies, the Rajya Sabha was informed on Wednesday.

Union Minister of State for Home G Kishan Reddy said the National Investigation Agency (NIA) has registered 17 cases related to the presence of IS in the southern states of Telangana, Kerala, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu, and arrested 122 accused.

“Some instances of individuals from different states, including southern states, having joined Islamic State (IS) have come to the notice of central and state security agencies,” he said in a written response to a question.

The minister said NIA investigations have revealed that the Islamic State is most active in Kerala, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, West Bengal, Rajasthan, Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and Jammu and Kashmir.

“The IS is using various internet based social media platforms to propagate its ideology. Cyber space is being closely watched in this regard by the agencies concerned and action is taken as per law,” he said.

The minister said the government has information on how these people are being funded and whether they are getting any foreign funding to activate their terror activities.

Reddy said the Islamic State, Islamic State of Iraq and Levant, Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, Daish, Islamic State in Khorasan Province (ISKP), ISIS Wilayat Khorasan, Islamic State of Iraq and the Sham-Khorasan (ISIS-K) and all its manifestations have been notified as terrorist organisation and included in the First Schedule to the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967 by the central government. (PTI)

10-12 people missing as boat capsizes in Chambal river in Rajasthan’s Kota


Kota: Nearly 12 people are missing after a boat carrying over 40 devotees to a temple in Bundi district of Rajasthan capsized in the Chambal river here on Wednesday morning, police said.

Around 25 people were rescued, they added.

The incident took place near the Dhibri Chambal area under the Khatoli police station limits of Kota.

“A boat carrying over 40 devotees to a temple in Indergarh area of Bundi district capsized in Chambal river under Khatoli police station of Kota district at around 8.45 am on Wednesday,” Superintendent of Police, Kota Rural, Sharad Choudhary told PTI.

Around 20-25 people are reported to have managed to swim to the shore or have been rescued, while 10-12 people are reported missing, the SP said, adding that he and the Kota district collector were on the way to the spot.

A rescue operation is underway, Choudhary said.

According to locals, 40 50 people, including women and children, had left for the Kamleshwar Mahadev temple in Indergarh area of Bundi district from villages in Khatoli police station area on Wednesday morning. (PTI)

The shape, mental space I’m in now, things will go well: Hardik


Abu Dhabi: Back from a lengthy injury layoff, Mumbai Indians’ star all-rounder Hardik Pandya said the setback motivated him to work harder and he is now in good shape both physically and mentally for the IPL starting September 19.

Pandya’s form will be crucial for defending champions Mumbai Indians, who will take on Chennai Super Kings in the lung-opener of the cash-rich T20 league on September 19.

“The way I’m hitting the ball right now, the shape I’m in, the mental space I’m in, it is just a matter of time that I go and spend some time on the ground and I think things will come out pretty well,” Pandya said in a video posted by Mumbai Indians’ official Twitter handle.

“No matter how far I go from the game, no matter how long I stay out, when I come back, it has to be worth it. I have prepared very well and I think, great things are coming ahead,” the 26-year-old flamboyant all-rounder added.

Last year in November, Pandya had undergone a back surgery in London. He came back in the DY Patil T20 tournament held in early March.

He was even selected for the ODI series against South Africa, but the COVID-19 pandemic, which forced the rubber to be abandoned, delayed his return. He is now looking forward to the IPL.

“IPL is something that I have enjoyed a lot and I would like to make a comeback very strong and I’m just looking forward to it,” said Pandya.

He also conceded that injuries would be a part of his cricketing journey and motivate him to do better.

“In my life I have realised one thing that injuries would be with me. No one wants to get injured, but I accept the fact that what I do, injuries would be a part of it.

“Injuries have always kept me going, always kept me motivated. Actually taught me how much I have to put in the hard yards and the hard work has always increased, never decreased,” said the Baroda all-rounder.

Pandya also threw light on how he maintained his fitness during the lockdown.

“Luckily, me and (my brother) Krunal (Pandya) had the privilege to have a gym in our house. So because of that portion, we were able to work on our fitness…,” he said.

“And I always feel that if you go one step ahead in your fitness, there are much more magical moments in your life (that) are waiting,” the right-hander emphasised.

Looking back at the DY Patil T20 Cup, which was his comeback tournament, Pandya, who has 1,068 runs from 66 IPL games, said it gave him confidence to implement his plans.

“Luckily, I got one tournament before, which was DY Patil, which I played for Reliance. And as a player, it gave me immense confidence to implement the hard work which I have done over a period of time and it just felt good,” he signed off. (PTI)

Yoshihide Suga named Japan’s prime minister, succeeding Abe


Tokyo: Yoshihide Suga was formally elected Wednesday as Japan’s new prime minister in a parliamentary vote.

Suga is replacing Shinzo Abe, who resigned earlier in the day because of ill health. Suga had been chosen as leader of the ruling party on Monday, virtually assuring his succession.

Suga, who was chief Cabinet secretary and long seen as Abe’s right-hand man, is to launch his own Cabinet later Wednesday.

Suga has stressed his background as a farmer’s son and a self-made politician in promising to serve the interests of ordinary people and rural communities.

He has said he will pursue Abe’s unfinished policies, and that his top priorities will be fighting the coronavirus and turning around an economy battered by the pandemic.

Abe, Japan’s longest-serving prime minister, announced last month that he was stepping down because of health problems.

I devoted my body and soul for the economic recovery and diplomacy to protect Japan’s national interest every single day since we returned to power, Abe told reporters at the prime minister’s office before heading into his final Cabinet meeting.

During this time, I was able to tackle various challenges together with the people, and I’m proud of myself.” He said his health is improving thanks to treatment and that he, as a lawmaker, will support his successor-to-be, Yoshihide Suga, from now on.

He also thanked the people for their understanding and strong support for the upcoming leadership under Suga.

Suga, chief Cabinet secretary for Abe’s government and long seen as his right-hand man, was chosen Monday as the new head of the governing Liberal Democratic Party, virtually guaranteeing his election as prime minister in a parliamentary vote Wednesday because of the party’s majority.

Suga, a self-made politician and the son of a strawberry grower in the northern prefecture of Akita, has stressed his background in promising to serve the interests of ordinary people and rural communities.

He has said he will pursue Abe’s unfinished policies, and that his top priorities will be fighting the coronavirus and turning around an economy battered by the pandemic. He gained the support of party heavyweights and their followers early in the campaign on expectations he would continue Abe’s line.

Suga has been a loyal supporter of Abe since Abe’s first stint as prime minister from 2006 to 2007. Abe’s tenure ended abruptly because of illness, and Suga helped him return as prime minister in 2012.

Abe, 65, has ulcerative colitis and his current treatment requires IV injections. He said last month his condition has improved but, facing ongoing treatment and physical weakness, he decided to resign.

Suga has praised Abe’s diplomacy and economic policies when asked about what he would like to accomplish as prime minister.

Suga, who does not belong to any wing within the party and opposes factionalism, says he is a reformer who will break down vested interests and rules that hamper reforms. He says he will set up a new government agency to speed up Japan’s lagging digital transformation.

In a reshuffle of the ruling party key posts, however, Suga evenly allocated top posts to key factions, a balancing act seen as a return of favor for their support in the leadership race.

Suga said he will appoint reform-minded, hard-working people to the new Cabinet, to be launched later Wednesday. About half of the members in the Abe Cabinet are expected to be retained or shifted to different ministerial posts.

Media reports say some key ministers, including Finance Minister Taro Aso, Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi, Olympic Minister Seiko Hashimoto, and Environment Minister Shinjiro Koizumi, the son of former Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi, will stay. Abe’s younger brother, Nobuo Kishi, is reportedly tapped as defense minister, replacing Taro Kono who is expected be shifted to administrative reforms minister.

Compared to his political prowess at home, Suga has hardly traveled overseas and his diplomatic skills are unknown, though he is largely expected to pursue Abe’s priorities.

The new prime minister will inherit a range of challenges, including relations with China, which continues its assertive actions in the contested East China Sea, and what to do with the Tokyo Olympics, which were postponed to next summer due to the coronavirus.

And he will have to establish a good relationship with whomever wins the US presidential race. (AP)

Social distancing globally won’t help combat COVID-19; world needs multilateralism: UNGA prez


United Nations: Social distancing at the global level will not help as no country could combat COVID-19 alone, President of the UN General Assembly’s 75th session Volkan Bozkir has said, asserting that multilateralism is the panacea to all the problems in the world.

Bozkir, addressing the UN ambassadors and delegates, said that since the beginning of the crisis earlier this year, critics of multilateralism have become more vocal and the pandemic has been used to justify unilateral steps and weaken the rules-based international system.

“In the past six months, our plans for the 75th year of the United Nations have changed. Today, we have other urgent priorities. Our masks remind us of the very serious threat we face They remind us we are in this together, Bozkir said as the 75th session of the General Assembly commenced on Tuesday.

Wearing masks, UN diplomats and envoys sat socially distanced in the iconic General Assembly Hall as the high-level annual session begins in a largely virtual format this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

International organisations have been reproached and the need for international cooperation has been questioned. These criticisms are not baseless but their conclusions are misguided, the veteran Turkish diplomat told the 193-member General Assembly.

Giving a clarion call for strengthening multilateralism to combat the pandemic, Bozkir said, Make no mistake: No state can combat this pandemic alone. Social distancing will not help at the international level. Unilateralism will only strengthen the pandemic.

It will move us further away from our shared goal. At this time of crisis, it is our responsibility to strengthen people’s faith in multilateral cooperation and international institutions, with the UN at their center.

Later, addressing the UN correspondents at a press briefing, Bozkir said that multilateralism is the panacea to all the problems of the world.

Multilateralism can best be implemented in the United Nations platform, he said.

Responding to a question on whether he thinks the UN can survive a second term of US President Donald Trump, who has been very critical of its agencies and withdrawn from the UN entities and agreements like the World Health Organization and the Paris climate accord, he said if the UN shows to the world that it is doing its job in a strong manner and the wind is blowing from all the world behind to the UN, then I don’t think any country or any person can think of abolishing this institution or lessening its strength.

Personally, I don’t have any concern about it. I have full trust that the United Nations is irreplaceable and it will be with us for another 75 years, he said.

Bozkir said that there is a need to continue a frank, transparent and results-oriented dialogue about what went wrong in our efforts to contain the virus and what we have to do to avoid a similar situation in the future.

He stressed that the international community will also need to ask and answer questions about how COVID-19 vaccines can be distributed fairly and equitably. This is not just a question of health and economics, but of ethics in the most profound way.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, addressing the opening of the 75th session of the General Assembly, said in the landmark year of the world organisation, it is clear that the world has high expectations of us, as the main platform for multilateralism and cooperation on a rules-based international system.

The nature of multilateralism is changing and I have frequently pointed to the need for a more networked and inclusive multilateralism for the 21st century, Guterres said, welcoming Bozkir’s pledge to work towards consolidating trust and cohesion among UN member states, major groups of countries and other international organisations.

These efforts are essential to the unity and solidarity we need in this next crucial year, as we respond to the pandemic, build a strong recovery and implement the Sustainable Development Goals, Guterres said.

For the first time in the 75-year history of the United Nations, state heads and government, ministers and diplomats from 193-UN member states will not be gathering in New York for the high-level UNGA week due to the coronavirus pandemic.

World leaders will send pre-recorded video statements in advance to the UN for the largely virtual General Debate as well as other virtual summits planned during the session, including the high-level meetings to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the UN.

Bozkir added that during the 75th Session, a Special Session will be convened to discuss the COVID-19 pandemic and a second one against corruption. (PTI)

UP govt collecting charges for unloading, cleaning wheat: SP MP


New Delhi: The Uttar Pradesh government is charging Rs 20 per quintal in cash in the name of unloading and cleaning charges for wheat procured from farmers and has not reimbursed them in the last three years, an MP in Rajya Sabha alleged.

Raising the issue through a Zero Hour mention, Javed Ali Khan of the Samajwadi Party said the government has fixed a minimum support price of Rs 1925 per quintal for wheat but farmers are being paid only Rs 1905.

Narrating his own experience of selling wheat at a government-mandated procurement centre, he claimed that he was asked to pay Rs 20 per quintal in cash as cleaning and unloading charges.

“When I demanded so see the order to this effect, the official at the procurement mandi showed me an Uttar Pradesh government order mandating Rs 20 per quintal as a charge for unloading and cleaning,” he said.

The order stated that this charge would be reimbursed to farmers once cleared by the Centre and approved by the chief minister, he said, adding farmers have not received any reimbursement in the last three years.

“They don’t take cheque or do an (RTGS) account transfer. They take cash and do not give a receipt,” he alleged.

He said 36 lakh tonnes of wheat was procured in Uttar Pradesh this year and Rs 72 crore has been collected from farmers as this charge.

At the national level, Rs 780 crore may have been collected as part of these charges from farmers on 90 lakh tonnes of wheat procured, he said asking under what account can cash be taken and no receipt given.

Chairman M Venkaiah Naidu asked the government to take note of the issue.

Leader of the Opposition and senior Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad raised the issue of abolition of self-help groups for engineers in Jammu and Kashmir which has rendered 15,000 people unemployed.

He said economic activity has come to a standstill and unemployment has risen since the time Jammu and Kashmir was downgraded to a UT 13 months ago.

In 2003, the Congress-PDP government had constituted self-help groups for unemployed engineers so they could take up contracts.

Initially, such groups could take contracts up to Rs 5 lakh and as they gained experience they could take up to Rs 1 crore of contracts.

This helped give employment to 15,000 engineers, he said, adding four days back the UT administration has abolished these self-help groups, rendering them jobless.

P Bhattacharya of the Congress sought that traditional system of medicines such as homeopathy should be encouraged alongside allopathy in the treatment of coronavirus.

Vandana Chavan (NCP) raised the issue of students of vulnerable sections of society being unable to take benefit of online education as 27 per cent of students neither had smartphones nor TVs, nor laptops.

She demanded that the government upgrade digital infrastructure and make available basic digital devices to such students.

Digvijaya Singh of the Congress raised the issue of a spurt in the price of oxygen cylinders across states such as Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat, Odisha, and Uttar Pradesh.

The price of oxygen refill has risen from Rs 10 per cubic meter to Rs 50, he said, adding the government should strictly enforce the Rs 17 ceiling fixed for the same.

Bhagwat Karad of the BJP too joined the issue, saying there was black marketing of oxygen.

Swapan Dasgupta (Nominated) sought central forces for the security of Vishwa Bharti University as the local administration was “unresponsive” to the demand of the institution.

The university, he said, has been closed since August 17 after vandalism on the campus. (PTI)

In 11 days, COVID-19 cases in India cross 50-lakh mark from 40 lakh


New Delhi: India’s COVID-19 tally of cases galloped past 50 lakh, just 11 days after it crossed 40 lakh, with 90,123 infections being reported in a day, while recoveries surged to 39,42,360 on Wednesday, according to the Union Health Ministry data.

The total coronavirus cases mounted to 50,20,359, while the death toll climbed to 82,066 with a record 1,290 people succumbing to the disease in a span of 24 hours, the data updated at 8 am showed.

India’s COVID-19 cases jumped from 10 lakh to 20 lakh in 21 days. Then it took 16 more days to race past 30 lakh, 13 days more to cross the 40-lakh mark and 11 days to go past 50 lakh.

It took 110 days for the COVID-19 cases in the country to reach one lakh while it had taken 59 days more to go past the 10-lakh post.

The COVID-19 case fatality rate due to the coronavirus infection further dropped at 1.63 per cent.

There are 9,95,933 active cases of COVID-19 in the country which comprises 19.84 per cent of the total caseload, the data stated.

According to the ICMR, a cumulative total of 5,94,29,115 samples have been tested up to September 15 with 11,16,842 samples being tested on Tuesday.

A total of 1,290 new deaths have been reported including 515 from Maharashtra, 216 from Karnataka, 113 from Uttar Pradesh, 90 from Punjab, 69 from Andhra Pradesh, 68 from Tamil Nadu , 59 from West Bengal and 36 from Delhi.

A total of 82,066 deaths have been reported so far in the country includes 30,409 from Maharashtra followed by 8,502 from Tamil Nadu, 7,481 from Karnataka, 5,041 from Andhra Pradesh, 4,806 from Delhi, 4,604 from Uttar Pradesh, 4,062 from West Bengal, 3,244 from Gujarat, 2,514 from Punjab and 1,820 from Madhya Pradesh.

The health ministry stressed that more than 70 per cent of the deaths occurred due to comorbidities.

“Our figures are being reconciled with the Indian Council of Medical Research,” the ministry said on its website, adding that state-wise distribution of figures is subject to further verification and reconciliation. (PTI)

St Louis Rapid online chess: Harikrishna in joint lead after 3 rounds


Chennai:  Indian Grandmaster P Harikrishna claimed a share of the top position with Armenian GM Levon Aronian after posting two wins and a draw in three rounds of rapid competition in the St Louis Rapid and Blitz online chess tournament.

The India no.2 started with a win over US Grandmaster Leinier Dominiguez, before settling for a draw with Iranian prodigy Alireza Firouzja in games played late on Tuesday.

In the third round, Harikrishna pulled off a victory over experienced Russian Alexander Grischuk in 41 moves.

World champion Magnus Carlsen, the favourite to win the title, was fifth with three points.

After a win over Hikaru Nakamura in his opener, the Norwegian went down to Russia’s Ian Nepomniachtchi in the second round. A draw with Wesley So in the third left the world no.1 in fifth spot.

Harikrishna, coming from a good showing in FIDE Online Olympiad, outwitted the American in 51 moves with black pieces, to begin his campaign in the elite 10-player event.

The Indian ace will face Nepomniachtchi in the fourth round, followed by games against Aronian and Carlsen late on Wednesday.

In each rapid game, a win is worth 2 points, and a draw is worth 1 point, while in the blitz game, a win is worth 1 point and a draw fetches half a point.

The 10 players are competing for a USD 250,000 prize fund in nine rapid games and eighteen blitz games over five days of play.

The tournament hosted by US-based St Louis Chess Club concludes on September 19.

Standings after three rounds:

1. Lev Aronian and Harikrishna 5 pts; 3. Ian Nepomniachtchi and Wesley So 4 pts; 5. Magnus Carlsen 3 pts; 6. Hikaru Nakamura, Leinier Dominiguez, Alireza Firouzja, Jeffery Xiong 2 pts; 10. Alexander Grischuk 1 point. (PTI)

Rupee sees high volatility against USD ahead of US Fed policy decision


Mumbai, The rupee witnessed high volatility against the US dollar in opening trade on Wednesday ahead of the US Federal Reserve’s policy decision.

The local unit opened at 73.70 at the interbank forex market, registering a decline of 7 paise over its last close, but soon pared the losses and was trading at 73.64, unchanged from its previous closing.

Meanwhile, the dollar index, which gauges the greenback’s strength against a basket of six currencies, rose 0.01 per cent to 93.06.

“The focus will be on the Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) tonight. Market participants would expect further clarifications from the US Fed on how average inflation targeting framework would be implemented,” said Abhishek Goenka Founder and CEO, IFA Global.

Goenka further said that “the threshold for the US dollar to weaken from current levels is high as a lot of dovishness has already been factored in. One possible trigger could be the Fed predicating keeping rates at close to zero on inflation expectations reaching a certain level”.

On the domestic equity market front, the 30-share BSE benchmark Sensex was trading 119.52 points higher at 39,163.87 and the broader NSE Nifty rose 31.35 points to 11,553.15.

Foreign institutional investors were net buyers in the capital market as they purchased shares worth Rs 1,170.89 crore on a net basis on Tuesday, according to provisional exchange data.

Brent crude futures, the global oil benchmark, rose 1.48 per cent to USD 41.13 per barrel. (PTI)

Walls used to teach maths to poor students in Maha villages


Chandrapur: Amid the COVID-19 crisis when poor students are unable to take up online classes, the zilla parishad here in Maharashtra has started an innovative way of imparting education to them by painting walls on streets and public places with mathematical concepts.

If ‘Mission Mathematics’ becomes successful, the initiative will be extended to other subjects also, Chandrapur zilla parishad chief executive officer Rahul Kardile told PTI.

“We are trying to make children continue their education at home since schools are closed, and build an academic atmosphere in rural areas. The idea behind ‘Mission Mathematics’ is to impart lessons to children in a playful manner,” he said.

As part of the initiative, officials of the zilla parishad’s education department have painted mathematical lessons taught in classes 1 to 5 on walls located at the main squares of villages in Pomburna, Ballarpur, Nagbhid and Bramhapuri teshils, he said.

“Children are finding the method attractive and they are learning maths while playing with their friends. The objective of the mission is to make them understand various mathematical concepts and build their interest in the subject, while focusing on developing an overall atmosphere of education in rural areas,” Kardile said.

He said Ashay Wakulkar, an alumnus of a zilla parishad school in Ghosri village who is now an engineer, was the first to launch ‘Mission Mathematics’ in his native place.

“He created an academic atmosphere in the village and students started gaining from the idea,” Kardile said, adding that he took the initiative forward at the district level after being impressed by Wakulkar’s effort. (PTI)

Amazon India Expands Its Fulfilment Network in Telangana; Ahead of the Festive Season


Hyderabad, India Business Wire India Opens 2 new Fulfilment Centres and expands one existing sort centre in Hyderabad to create thousands of job opportunities in the region Storage capacity of over 4.5 million cubic feet in Telangana to further support more than 23000 sellers in the State Amazon India today announced the expansion of its fulfilment infrastructure in Telangana with 2 new fulfilment centres (FC) in Hyderabad. This expansion will help sellers offer a wider selection and enable faster deliveries of customer orders within the region and neighbouring states ahead of the upcoming festive season. With this infrastructure, Amazon.in now offers storage capacity of more than 4.5 million cubic feet spread across 4 fulfilment centres to its more than 23000 sellers in Telangana. Amazon India has also expanded an existing sort centre to offer overall sortation area of more than one lakh square feet, in Telangana.

Amazon and Telangana have partnered on several initiatives since the commencement of our operations in India with our largest fulfilment centre in the country located in Hyderabad. We are delighted to extend the partnership further with this additional investment in the State helping us deliver safely to our customers at their doorstep. This network expansion will help create thousands of work opportunities and will further help us support small & medium businesses in the region to fulfil their customer orders seamlessly. It will also provide an economic boost to the Telangana e-commerce ecosystem across packaging, transportation and logistics. Safety of customers, sellers and our associates and security of livelihood have never been more critical, and we are happy to contribute to both ahead of this festive season, said Prakash Kumar Dutta, Director of Fulfilment Centres & Supply Chain, Amazon India.

Mr. Jayesh Ranjan, IAS, Principal Secretary, Industries & Commerce (I&C) and Information Technology (IT) Departments, Government of Telangana, said, Amazon India’s continued investment in Telangana is a testimony of our business-friendly policies and provision of high quality infrastructure. These new facilities will provide tremendous growth to the SMB sector and create job opportunities for local talent. We are pleased that this development by Amazon has come at an opportune time, ahead of the festivities.

Amazon has one of the most advanced fulfilment networks in the world and sellers in India have been benefitting from Amazon’s expertise in fulfilment, reliable nationwide delivery and customer service. The specialized FC in Telangana will store thousands of products in the Large Appliances category consisting of Air Conditioners, Refrigerators, Washing Machines & TVs and from a selection of over 1.2 lakh products covering the entire Furniture range. The other FC in Telangana will cater to customer demand for products in Smartphones, Consumer Electronics, Appliances, Fashion and Consumables (FMCG) category to name a few.

Amazon India’s commitment to Telangana: 4 fulfilment centres in Telangana with more than 4.5 million cubic feet of storage space A campus spread over more than 9 acres 2 Sort Centres in the State with more than 100,000 sq. ft. of processing area Robust delivery network with more than 80 Amazon owned and Service Partner delivery stations in the State More than 23000 sellers in Telangana Thousands of I Have Space’ stores in Telangana Top categories include Smartphones, large appliances, fashion, consumer electronics and grocery

Amazon India continues to improve its operational preparedness to ensure a smooth and seamless experience for its customers and sellers across the country, ahead of the festive season. The expansion in Telangana is a part of the company’s recently announced plans to add 10 new Fulfilment Centres and expand 7 existing sites, across India. Amazon India, places tremendous value and focus on the well-being and safety of its people across fulfilment network as everyone faces the challenges associated with COVID-19. Company will continue to work closely with the health officials and in line with Amazon’s global standards have implemented close to 100 changes in its operational processes, including social distancing and daily temperature checks on entry and exit at the work site for the health and safety of its people.

All customers on www.amazon.in and the Amazon mobile shopping app have easy and convenient access to over 200 million+ products across hundreds of categories. They benefit from a safe and secure ordering experience, convenient electronic payments, Cash on Delivery, Amazon’s 24×7 customer service support, and a globally recognized and comprehensive 100% purchase protection provided by Amazon’s A-to-Z Guarantee. They can also enjoy Amazon.in’s guaranteed next-day, two-day delivery and standard delivery on products fulfilled by Amazon.

About Amazon.in

The Amazon.in marketplace is operated by Amazon Seller Services Private Ltd, an affiliate of Amazon.com, Inc. (NASDAQ: AMZN). Amazon.in seeks to build the most customer-centric online destination for customers to find and discover virtually anything they want to buy online by giving them more of what they want vast selection, low prices, fast and reliable delivery, and a trusted and convenient experience; and provide sellers with a world-class e-commerce marketplace.

For more information, visit www.amazon.in/aboutus For news on Amazon, follow www.twitter.com/AmazonNews_IN

About Amazon

Amazon is guided by four principles: customer obsession rather than competitor focus, passion for invention, commitment to operational excellence, and long-term thinking. Customer reviews, 1-Click shopping, personalized recommendations, Prime, Fulfillment by Amazon, AWS, Kindle Direct Publishing, Kindle, Fire tablets, Fire TV, Amazon Echo, and Alexa are some of the products and services pioneered by Amazon.  (PTI)

BJD MP demands land for Odisha Cultural Centre and Library in Delhi


Bhubaneswar: A Biju Janata Dal (BJD) MP has demanded allotment of suitable land in Delhi for setting up of Odisha Cultural Centre and Library.

Sasmit Patra said setting up of Odisha Cultural Centre and Library would add to the richness and diversity of the national capital as well as showcase to the world the rich culture, heritage, legacy and traditions of Odisha.

Patra, in a statement on Tuesday, said he has raised the issue in the Rajya Sabha.

“Odisha is a land of culture and tradition. While the dance form of Odissi has achieved worldwide acclaim, Odia language is recognized as one of the six classical languages in India. Odia cuisine, textiles, handloom and handicrafts are known for their richness in culture,” he said.

However, people of Odisha do not have a suitable permanent space in Delhi, where they can showcase such cultural richness of the state, he said.

The BJD MP said states such as Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh have been provided space in the national capital to host cultural and social events for the promotion of their respective state’s culture but Odisha has been denied the privilege.

This initiative of showcasing Odia cultural richness and talent would also attract both foreign and domestic tourists, popularising the culture and cultural forms of Odisha, he added.

Patra said that Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik, on December 7, 2019, had written to the Union Housing and Urban Development Minister seeking a suitable piece of land in Delhi for the purpose. (PTI)

COVID-19 tally in India crosses 50-lakh mark


New Delhi: India’s COVID-19 tally of cases galloped past 50 lakh, just 11 days after it crossed 40 lakh with 90,123 infections being reported in a day, while recoveries surged to 39,42,360 on Wednesday pushing the recovery rate to 78.53 per cent, according to the Union Health Ministry data.

The total coronavirus cases mounted to 50,20,359, while the death toll climbed to 82,066 with a record 1,290 people succumbing to the disease in a span of 24 hours, the data updated at 8 am showed.

India’s COVID-19 cases jumped from 10 lakh to 20 lakh in 21 days. Then it took 16 more days to race past 30 lakh, 13 days more to cross the 40-lakh mark and 11 days to go past 50 lakh.

It took 110 days for the COVID-19 cases in the country to reach one lakh while it had taken 59 days more to go past the 10-lakh post.

The COVID-19 case fatality rate due to the coronavirus infection further dropped at 1.63 per cent.

There are 9,95,933 active cases of COVID-19 in the country which comprises 19.84 per cent of the total caseload, the data stated.

According to the ICMR, a cumulative total of 5,94,29,115 samples have been tested up to September 15 with 11,16,842 samples being tested on Tuesday. PTI 

HUL’s Boost expands its footprint in India


Hindustan Unilever Limited (HUL), today announced the expansion of Boost, one of India’s leading nourishing beverage in chocolate flavour, into the Western, Northern and Eastern regions of the country. An iconic brand, Boost is widely enjoyed by kids given its ‘Great Taste’ of chocolate, benefit of 3X stamina and energy – by the virtue of a formulation consisting of 17 essential nutrients, and legacy of association with leading Indian sports personalities.

Stemming from the success of the nourishing beverage in the South over decades, the market expansion reaffirms and further supports the brand’s purpose of unleashing the winner in kids across India. The brand narrative, ‘Play A Bigger Game’, which goes beyond the motivation to tackle everyday challenges and aims to enable kids to take on the bigger and tougher opponents in the real world, will drive the geographic growth story.

Krishnan Sundaram, Vice President, Integration and Business Head -?HUL said, “Boost has a long-standing legacy in the southern market, and we are excited to be taking this journey forward across all regions of the Indian households. There is a tremendous market opportunity in the milk-rich regions for Boost to establish and eventually lead the category. We are looking forward to embarking on a successful journey for Boost pan India.” As a part of the comprehensive communication outreach, the much-loved TVC with Indian Cricketer Virat Kohli preparing a young kid to #PlayABiggerGame in his own unique style will be on air across regional and national media in Hindi and Marathi. The brand will also continue to convey its purpose of unleashing the winner in kids, through its platform, Boostcamp.com, a website democratizing cricket learning, where aspiring kids can learn skill on various aspects of the game directly from the champions.

Boost will be available in stores and leading e-commerce platforms pan India.

About Hindustan Unilever Limited Hindustan Unilever Limited (HUL) is India’s largest Fast-Moving Consumer Goods company with its products touching the lives of nine out of ten households in the country. HUL works to create a better future every day. (PTI)

Independent Research Firm identifies Wipro as a Leader in Healthcare and Life Sciences Robotic Process Automation


Wipro Limited, a leading global information technology, consulting and business process services company, today announced that it has been positioned as a Leader in The Forrester New Wave: RPA Service Providers In Healthcare, Q3 2020.

The pandemic has accelerated the adoption of automation across the Healthcare & Life Sciences (HCLS) value chain. Forrester initiated this research to get a deeper insight into how automation projects are unfolding in the HCLS industry. The report evaluated the current offering, market presence and strategy of 12 of the most significant emerging Robotic Process Automation (RPA) service providers in HCLS.

In addition to being named a leader, Wipro received differentiated ratings in the intelligent automation, attended automation, unattended automation, HCLS Automation, Knowledge Transfer and commercial model criteria. The Forrester report stated that, “Of all the vendors [Forrester] evaluated, Wipro has the most experience building bots for HCLS clients and delivering automations to HCLS clients under outcomes-based procurement models.” The report also noted, “Clients said that Wipro is their trusted strategic advisor on new [Artificial Intelligence] (AI) technologies and emerging governance models.” “The COVID-19 pandemic is forcing healthcare organizations (HCOs) to scale operations to care for an unprecedented number of patients. The entire healthcare value chain is under scrutiny for opportunities to increase throughput and carve out cost. Life sciences organizations face pressure to accelerate research, manufacturing, and distribution COVID-19 will eventually pass, but the automation tools and strategies being deployed today are here to stay,” says the report authored by Jeff Becker, Senior Analyst, Forrester Research. The report later notes, “Wipro is an all-purpose service provider; it’s a strong fit for enterprises that need strategic governance advice or those that just need a team of bot developers willing to work at risk.” Bill Stith Senior Vice President and Global Head, Health Business Unit, Wipro Limited said, “As we navigate the current challenges, we continue to invest in co-innovation with our clients and extended partner ecosystem to empower the global health workforce. We provide automation architectures, governance frameworks and machine-learning-based decision management which can be scaled at velocity, so their time is freed to address greater health challenges. We continue to discover, analyze and design new automated processes and intuitive artificial intelligence interventions, across the care continuum from clinical trials to care delivery to claims processing, offering these through creative servicing models. We believe this recognition exemplifies our market leadership in this segment of digital health.” To view a custom version of the report, please click here About Wipro Limited Wipro Limited (NYSE: WIT) (BSE: 507685) (NSE: WIPRO) is a leading global information technology, consulting and business process services company. We harness the power of cognitive computing, hyper-automation, robotics, cloud, analytics and emerging technologies to help our clients adapt to the digital world and make them successful. A company recognized globally for its comprehensive portfolio of services, strong commitment to sustainability and good corporate citizenship, we have over 180,000 dedicated employees serving clients across six continents. Together, we discover ideas and connect the dots to build a better and a bold new future.

Forward-Looking Statements The forward-looking statements contained herein represent Wipro’s beliefs regarding future events, many of which are by their nature, inherently uncertain and outside Wipro’s control. Such statements include, but are not limited to, statements regarding Wipro’s growth prospects, its future financial operating results, and its plans, expectations and intentions. Wipro cautions readers that the forward-looking statements contained herein are subject to risks and uncertainties that could cause actual results to differ materially from the results anticipated by such statements. Such risks and uncertainties include, but are not limited to, risks and uncertainties regarding fluctuations in our earnings, revenue and profits, our ability to generate and manage growth, complete proposed corporate actions, intense competition in IT services, our ability to maintain our cost advantage, wage increases in India, our ability to attract and retain highly skilled professionals, time and cost overruns on fixed-price, fixed-time frame contracts, client concentration, restrictions on immigration, our ability to manage our international operations, reduced demand for technology in our key focus areas, disruptions in telecommunication networks, our ability to successfully complete and integrate potential acquisitions, liability for damages on our service contracts, the success of the companies in which we make strategic investments, withdrawal of fiscal governmental incentives, political instability, war, legal restrictions on raising capital or acquiring companies outside India, unauthorized use of our intellectual property and general economic conditions affecting our business and industry. The conditions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic could decrease technology spending, adversely affect demand for our products, affect the rate of customer spending and could adversely affect our customers’ ability or willingness to purchase our offerings, delay prospective customers’ purchasing decisions, adversely impact our ability to provide on-site consulting services and our inability to deliver our customers or delay the provisioning of our offerings, all of which could adversely affect our future sales, operating results and overall financial performance. Our operations may also be negatively affected by a range of external factors related to the COVID-19 pandemic that are not within our control. Additional risks that could affect our future operating results are more fully described in our filings with the United States Securities and Exchange Commission, including, but not limited to, Annual Reports on Form 20-F. These filings are available at www.sec.gov. We may, from time to time, make additional written and oral forward-looking statements, including statements contained in the company’s filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission and our reports to shareholders. We do not undertake to update any forward-looking statement that may be made from time to time by us or on our behalf. (PTI)

Companies Shifting to Virtual Campus Placements this Season: Mercer | Mettl Report


Organizations that aim to hire this season are increasingly shifting to virtual campus placements as they face significant challenges with their traditional campus hiring schedules due to COVID-19, according to a recently launched report by Mercer | Mettl. With COVID-19 disrupting regular campus hiring drives this season, virtual platforms are serving as imperative solutions to conduct campus placements while maintaining social distancing protocols.

The report titled ‘Campus Hiring 2020: Challenges, Trends, and Best Practices’ gauges the challenges with the traditional campus placements and the solutions organizations are employing to overcome the disruption and continue with their hiring schedules. It recorded responses from over 400 campus recruiters across sectors, including IT, BFSI & trading, manufacturing, healthcare, government, construction, entertainment & mass media and retail.

Speaking on this industry development, Siddhartha Gupta, CEO, Mercer | Mettl said, “Virtual campus hiring solutions are a great way for organizations to keep up with the hiring momentum and maintain their business sustainability in these challenging times. Campus establishments, too, are exploring ways to make the campus placements smooth for their students. These new-age solutions ensure hiring from campuses are neither delayed nor fraught with contagion risks while maintaining the credibility of the processes.” The two significant challenges that organizations face with their traditional campus drives are engaging the students before the placements and coordinating with multiple campuses, the report reveals. Engaging students by building connections and brand visibility before placements is a challenge for over 55% of organizations, as an increasing number of students today want to work with organizations that align with their visions and ambitions. Additionally, visiting multiple campuses physically and conducting screening assessments of students and intervie