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All eyes on China as BRICS meets today amid ‘lab-leak’ theory

That no powerful nation has come on record as of today to dismiss the Wuhan lab-leak theory has also enraged the Dragon.

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As the BRICS (a grouping of Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) foreign ministers gear up to discuss the Covid-19 crisis and ways to come out of it, all eyes will be set on China which is said to be upset over various study reports saying that Chinese scientists created the coronavirus in a lab in Wuhan. What has angered the Dragon all the more is a probe ordered by US President Joe Biden to “find out whether the coronavirus resulted from a lab accident in China”.

That no powerful nation has come on record as of today to dismiss the Wuhan lab-leak theory has also enraged the Dragon further. With the BRICS foreign ministers’ Covid meet being held in this charged atmosphere, Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi’s remarks during the parley will be keenly watched for. Sources said that Biden is himself interested in what happens in the BRICS meet which is being hosted by India as the chair of the grouping this year. The US Embassy has been asked to keep a tab over what comments Chinese minister makes during the exercise.

“President Biden directed his intelligence agencies to take another look at whether the coronavirus resulted from a lab accident in China.” MEA sources believe what the Dragon is breathing fire over is that this kind of probe has brought the conspiracy theory about the virus’s origin back under the world’s focus.

Indian diplomats do agree that Beijing is also not happy with Delhi where it is being put in the dock over the virus leak theory, with international studies being widely reported by the media. It is in this backdrop that External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar and Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi will be participating in this virtual BRICS Ministerial meeting. The event assumes significance from this point of view.    

The agenda of the meeting is solely issues related to tackling Covid and counter-terrorism. Bilateral issues including LAC dispute between India and China are also not on the agenda. No one-to-one will be there between Indian and Chinese foreign ministers, with the meeting being held on a virtual platform.

But sources say that Chinese foreign minister might refer to the “lab-leak theory” diplomatically. There is no denying that the communist leadership in Beijing is finding it difficult to counter this theory which has brought embarrassment to the entire country. With this in view, what remains to be seen is how Wang Yi reacts during the meet. MEA issued a statement on the agenda saying, “The ministers are expected to exchange views on the Covid-19 pandemic situation, the need for strengthening and reforming the Multilateral System with a view to enhancing its capacity to effectively address the diverse challenges of our time and to adapt them to contemporary realities, on global and regional issues of concern, sustainable development, countering terrorism besides discussing ways to enhance intra-BRICS cooperation, especially people-to-people cooperation.” BRICS will also discuss India’s proposal to set up a consortium to tackle post-Covid-19 health challenges and tackling non-communicable diseases, among other issues.

The Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Federative Republic of Brazil, Ambassador Carlos Alberto Franco França, the Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation, Sergey Lavrov, the Minister of Foreign Affairs of the People’s Republic of China, Wang Yi, and the Minister of International Relations and Cooperation of the Republic of South Africa, Grace Naledi Mandisa Pandor, are to participate in the meeting.

The ministers will also set the course for the BRICS summit to be held later this year, either in person or virtually, which will be hosted by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, and will include Chinese President Xi Jinping, Russian President Vladimir Putin, Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro and South African President Cyril Ramaphosa.

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PM Modi launches multiple portals at Digital India Week 

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Prime Minister Narendra Modi has launched multiple digital portals at the ongoing Digital India Week 2022 including a single sign-in portal Meri Pehchaan, a website IndiaStack.Global, MyScheme on Monday.

The launch came amid the ongoing Digital India Week 2022 in Gandhinagar. He highlighted that the masses had to hustle from pin to pole for basic registrations and documents, however, the country solved the issue digitally.

“Just remember the situations of 8-10 years ago. The line for taking birth certificate. If you want to pay the bill, then the line, ration line, line for admission line for result and certificate, line in banks, India solved so many lines online,” said PM Modi.

He also stressed that India is guiding the world in the fourth industrial revolution, Industry 4.0. “With the passage of time, the country which does not adopt modern technology, time moves ahead leaving it behind. India was a victim of this during the Third Industrial Revolution. But today we can proudly say that India is guiding the world in the fourth industrial revolution, Industry 4.0,” he added.

‘Indiastack.global’ – is a global repository of key projects implemented under India Stack like Aadhaar, UPI, Digilocker, Cowin Vaccination Platform, Government e Marketplace (GeM), DIKSHA Platform and Ayushman Bharat Digital Health Mission. This offering of India to the Global Public Digital Goods repository will help position India as the leader of building Digital Transformation projects at population scale, and prove to be of immense help to other countries which are looking for such technology solutions. ‘MyScheme’ – is a service discovery platform facilitating access to Government Schemes. It aims to offer a one-stop search and discovery portal where users can find schemes that they are eligible for. ‘Meri Pehchaan’- National Single Sign On for One Citizen Login. National Single Sign-On (NSSO) is a user authentication service in which a single set of credentials provide access to multiple online applications or services.

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LET TERRORIST TALIB HUSSAIN NOT A MEMBER OF BJP: J&K BJP CHIEF

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Jammu and Kashmir BJP chief Ravinder Raina on Monday said the most wanted Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) terrorist Talib Hussain who was apprehended from Reasi district is neither an “active member of the BJP nor a primary member”.

 Speaking to ANI, Raina said, “Hussain is neither an active member of the BJP nor a primary member. There was a letter circular, on the basis of which it is believed that Sheikh Bashir, who is the President of BJP Minority Front of Jammu and Kashmir had appointed Hussain on 9 May.” He termed the reports fake which claimed that one of the two most-wanted LeT terrorists, who were overpowered by locals and handed over to the police, was in charge of the party’s IT cell.

 The BJP leader further said after that Hussain had circulated a letter himself and resigned from the membership of the party on 18 May. “A couple of years ago, Hussain along with with his three colleagues used to come to the BJP office as a media person. He had also interviewed me many times, he used to call himself a reporter for a YouTube channel named ‘New Sehar India’,” Raina said.

 “As a journalist, Hussain clicked photos with us many times in the BJP office. Pakistan terror outfit wanted to target the head office of the BJP of Jammu and Kashmir. It has been done through the targeted medium and carried out such incidents,” he said. “It is too soon to say more on this matter as the investigation is going on. Not only the BJP, but all the offices of other political parties need to be more alert now,” Raina added.

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29.1% men, 2.6% women in Haryana consume tobacco products

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The use of tobacco products swallows around 80 lakh people’s lives across the world and according to statistics, India is the largest country in terms of production and consumption of tobacco products. Haryana also emerges among those states making the maximum use of tobacco products. The National Family Health Survey-5 revealed that 29.1% males use tobacco products to be followed by 2.6% which continues to result in the untimely deaths of thousands of people. The survey included the people falling into the 15 years or above age group. The survey also revealed that the people residing in rural areas consume more tobacco as compared to the people residing in urban areas. Among the male, 32.2% males use tobacco while 23.3% urban people used tobacco in any form. If you look at the female tobacco users the scenario remains almost the same as out of total 2.6%, 3% rural women consume tobacco products followed by 1.7% urban women who consume tobacco. 

In this series, it is pertinent to mention that the Haryana government had extended the ban on the sale and manufacture of gutkha and pan masala for one year. The state Food and Drugs Administration has issued a notification in this regard, under which the sale and purchase of tobacco products have been prohibited for a year from 7 September 2021. Now, the sale of tobacco and nicotine products like pan masala and gutkha in Haryana will be considered illegal till September 2022. The order said legal action will be taken against those who violate the rule. Despite that, tobacco products are being sold and purchased openly violating the rules which is a matter of serious concern.

 The survey also revealed that at the National level, 39% of men and 4% of women (15-49 years age group) use some form of tobacco. The most common form of tobacco consumption among men is chewing gutka and pan masala (15%) to be followed by smoking (13percent), using khaini (12%) and bidis (7%). Among those who use cigarettes or bidis, 46% smoke more than five cigarettes or bidis each day on average. Among women, the most form of tobacco used is chewing pan masala and gutka, chewing pan with gutka and khaini. The trend which came to the surface is that the use of any kind of tobacco decreased from 45% and 7% among men and women from 2015 to 2016 to 39% and 4% among men and women in 2019-21 respectively.

Pertaining to the issue, Prof. Sonu, an expert from PGI said that the use of off tobacco products is a matter of serious concern as it causes health hazards. It not only affects the life and health of a person using tobacco but also creates problems for the family members. Apart from this, an active smoker puts the lives of other people around them. In the wake of the increasing trend of tobacco among youth. Check holders namely the government, non-government organisations, social organisations, education and health departments should come up with full-proof strategy to curb the menace.

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CORRUPTION IN FIRE BRIGADE APPOINTMENT, SUSPENSION ORDER BY KOLKATA HIGH COURT

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Allegations of corruption in the recruitment of teachers and non-teaching staff in the state’s primary and higher education departments had been raised earlier. This time there were allegations of corruption in the appointment of the fire department. Based on this allegation, the Calcutta High Court issued an interim stay on the appointment of 1500 posts in the fire department.

In 2018, the state issued a notification for the recruitment of one and a half thousand fire operators in the fire department. The written test was done in 2019. The problem arose when the result was published. The complaint was that the test had the wrong questions. Even if there was a player quota or firefighting training certificate that matched the extra number or reserve, it was not given. It is even alleged that the job seekers have been given jobs in the scheduled quota.

Initially, the job seekers approached the SAT with all these allegations. There that the appeal was dismissed. Then they approached the Calcutta High Court. The case was heard on Monday in the division bench of Justice Harish Tandon and Justice Shampa Dutt Pal of the Calcutta High Court. Following the hearing, the Calcutta High Court issued a one-week interim stay on the appointment. The suspension will continue till next Tuesday. The next hearing of the case is on Monday. The court’s decision to fill the 1,500 vacancies in the fire department is currently uncertain.

It is to be noted that recently there have been allegations of corruption in the appointment of the state’s primary and higher education departments. The CBI is investigating the court order. The court is keeping a close eye on that investigation. A moratorium has also been issued on recruitment. Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee had spoken about this a few days ago. His regret, ‘How do I recruit? It is not possible to make an appointment without the permission of the court. I have always said that the decision of the court must be followed in all cases’. This time the appointment in the fire department was also stopped by the court order.

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Women’s under-17 assistant football coach Alex Ambrose sacked for alleged sexual misconduct

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Former India international Alex Ambrose who has been charged with allegations of sexual misconduct was sacked from his position as assistant coach of the Indian Under-17 women’s football team.  The allegations were labelled by an unnamed player of the youth team during the squad’s preparation stint in Italy and Norway for the upcoming Under-17 World Cup which will be played in India in October across three different venues namely Bhubaneshwar, Margao & Navi Mumbai. 

Ambrose who plied his trade in the I-League for Mumbai FC who returned to India midway through the preparatory camp on AIFF’s diktat was placed under provisional suspension by the governing body of football in India. 

Without naming the coach, AIFF Acknowledged the incident and made it public through a media release. While the governing body of football in the country refrained from revealing the identity of the player, speculations were ripe and the murmurs grew loud that the unnamed person was indeed Ambrose.

  “An event of misconduct has been reported in the U-17 women’s team, currently on an exposure tour to Europe. The AIFF follows a zero-tolerance policy on indiscipline. As an initial action, the Federation has provisionally suspended the individual pending further investigation,” the statement read. But now as it stands, he has been sacked by the Supreme Court appointed Committee of Arbitrators (COA) tasked with running the daily affairs of AIFF till the federation conducts fresh elections and elect new office bearers. COA had earlier placed him under provisional suspension. 

“Alex Ambrose, Assistant head coach of Under 17 women’s team has been sacked for sexual misconduct. Further action under process,” Dr. S.Y Quraishi, a key member of the COA said on microblogging site Twitter.

Talking to the Daily Guardian, Dr Quraishi said that apart from the disciplinary action, legal action will also be taken against Ambrose. “Yes, definitely we will be taking legal action against him. We are still in the process of finalising the process and understanding the pros and cons of the situation. Once we have ironed few things, that is by tonight or tomorrow morning we will soon be filing an FIR with the police,” Dr. Quraishi told this newspaper over telephone.

Talking about the internal committee which will be conducting a probe on it own as well, the former Chief Election Commissioner of India said, “We already have a committee in place and have requested some other expert as well to join us on this as it will make the committee more strong.”

When quizzed if any special counselling session has been arranged for the members of the squad as the incident could be harrowing for them, Dr. Quraishi said, “No we have not done that yet. The players are still training abroad and once they are back, we will have a proper and thorough discussion with the players.”

The trouble for Ambrose meanwhile does not end here as the All India Federation of Coaches has decided to strip him of core team membership and all associated posts. 

“In light of the recent condemnable incident that happened in the IndiaU-17 Women›s National Team, The Association of Indian Football Coaches (AIFC)has come to a unanimous decision to strip Alex Ambrose of the core team membership and all associated posts,” AIFC announced through a social media statement.

The Members Associations (AIFF) also took condemned the incident and has requested the COA and AIFF administrators to conduct an independent inquiry as well file an FIR.

“State associations would like to recommend stringent action including legal and exemplary punishment with a life ban from football and even cancelling his coaching licenses,” Members Associations’ said in a statement.

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NEW INDIA SHOULD BE OF DREAMS OF FREEDOM FIGHTERS: PM MODI

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Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Monday said that the new India should be an India of the dreams of fighters who gave their lives for the freedom of the country.

PM Modi also called on youths to work toward building New India with new opportunities, growth avenues and dreams. He was addressing the 125th birth anniversary celebrations of Alluri Sitarama Raju in Andhra Pradesh’s Bhimavaram. “Our new India should be an India of the dreams of fighters who gave their lives for our freedom. In past eight years, we have worked with full devotion, walking on principles of Alluri Sitarama Raju, we’ve worked towards the welfare of tribals,” he said.The Prime Minister said when the poor, marginalized, women, youth, and all citizens of the country come together, nothing can come in the way of New India.

“During India’s freedom struggle, the youth played a pivotal role. Today, as we are building a New India, the youth needs to come forward and contribute to this vision,” he said.

He further said that for the first time after Independence, to create awareness about Adivasi Gaurav and Viraasat the government is building museums to tell the story of the great tribal leaders of India.

“For the first time since independence, tribal museums are being set up to showcase the tribal pride and heritage in the country. ‘Alluri Sitarama Raju Memorial Tribal Freedom Fighters Museum’ is also being built in Lambasingi, Andhra Pradesh,” said PM Modi.

In his speech, PM Modi further said that it is the responsibility of everyone in New India to fulfill the dreams of heroes.

“Today, it is the responsibility of all of us countrymen to fulfill the dreams of these fighters in Amrit Kaal. Our new India should be the India of their dreams. An India in which poor, farmers, labourers, backward, tribals have equal opportunities,” added PM Modi.

He also remembered that once, Alluri Sitarama Raju dared the Britishers to stop him.

“Alluri Sitarama Raju once said – “Dum Hai Toh Mujhe Rok Lo!” Today, 133 crore citizens are saying to every hurdle in the path of the country’s development – “Dum Hai Toh Hamein Rok Lo!” said PM.

PM Modi also unveiled the 30-feet tall bronze statue of Alluri Sitarama Raju on the occasion.

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