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Article 370 anniversary: Rs 1,700 crore project for J&K panchayats

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A security personnel stands guard during a two-day curfew imposed in the Valley ahead of the first anniversary of the scrapping of Article 370, in Srinagar on Tuesday. Photo: IANS

Srinagar: In order to strengthen the grassroots democracy in Jammu and Kashmir, the administration has decided to spend Rs 1,700 crore to empower the newly constituted panchayats and give them control of 21 departments to be headed by Panchs and Sarpanchs.

On the first anniversary of the abrogation of Article 370, the UT administration shared the plan with IANS under which it says the administration has devolved Rs 1,000 crore while another Rs 700 crore is in the pipeline. The plans, a government data reveals, were prepared soon after Panchayat elections for nearly 4,500 Panchayat Halqas– a cluster of villages represented by a sarpanch — in Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh were successfully conducted in 2018 despite many fears and apprehensions and number of boycott calls by militant elements.

In addition, functions like nutrition of Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS) centres, Mid Day Meals and salaries of certain functionaries have also been formally devolved to the Panchayats, the data mentions.

Besides, there is a continuous attempt to institutionalise and energise the functioning of Panchayats and to assist them wherever they face any impediments in using the funds.

 Panchayats, in addition to being involved in the selection of eligible beneficiaries for various government welfare schemes, can get Rs 50 lakh-Rs 80 lakh per year for implementation of key national schemes such as the National Health Mission, Samagra Shiksha. A group of around 5,000 gazetted officers of all levels of seniority — one for every Panchayat — also stay for two days and a night in the villages notwithstanding any challenges of geography, climate or law and order to address issues like impediment faced by Panchayats, level of cooperation (or otherwise) received from the departments and the administration, office and procedural delays.

“In fact a questionnaire to be filled in by the visiting officer specifically,” a Jammu and Kashmir official involved in the process told IANS.

Principal Secretary (Power and Information) Rohit Kansal said Panchayat level and other developmental projects were undertaken by the Jammu and Kashmir government to specially strengthen grassroots level democracy and participatory development.

 The Valley simmers with anger against the Centre’s decision and the subsequent curbs on civil liberties, local representatives have been thrust into an uneasy spotlight. But nearly a year after they were elected, Panchs and Sarpanchs here say they are yet to receive the kind of help they were expecting.

Ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, leading to over three months lockdown in the Valley, they say might be one of the reasons. While talking to IANS, two Panchs, requesting anonymity, told IANS they hope for better developments at village level. “We have not received help which was expected during elections. Initial two months were very crucial for the government which was busy in managing law and order. For the last more than three months, there is lockdown in the Valley due to Covid-19. Several steps were taken by the government but the implementation on the ground is much more desirable. We expect for better situation in coming days,” said one of the Panchs in Kupwara district — around 100 km from Srinagar.

Although Panchayati Raj was introduced by the Dogra rulers of Jammu and Kashmir in 1935, the system has historically been weaker than in other parts of the country. Before August 5, the erstwhile state followed the Jammu and Kashmir Panchayati Raj Act of 1989, and rules were introduced in 1996. They provided for a three-tier system.

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From the corporate sector to being an award-winning writer, read about Sabarna Roy’s incredible journey

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Sabarna Roy

In an exclusive conversation with NewsX in its special segment, NewsX A-list, Author Sabarna Roy shares his literary career and works and how he turned out to become an author.

Sabarna Roy shares with us how he started writing from an early age. “I wrote poems in English and Bengali during my university years between 1984 and 1988. In 1986, my first book which was an anthology of English poems titled Pain was published and it created a stir in the student community of Kolkata. At the end of 1988. I joined the corporate sector and wrote on and off between 2000 to 2005 and I was an oral storyteller.”

Roy talks about the turning point in July 2007 where he felt if he did not write, he might not be able to survive and then started writing very seriously. Roy’s first book titled Pentacles was published in 2010. Talking about how he found his root in literature and writing Roy tells since an early childhood he was interested in interdisciplinary learning. “My engineering studies did not stop me from reading literature, history or other social sciences or to juggle between two professions of being a senior engineering professional and an author seamlessly. If you have the right kind of passion, you will find time otherwise not.”

Sharing his literary feat and published works till date, Roy further adds the themes and subjects he dealt with. “Actually, I have six literary works, till date. They have been critically acclaimed and bestsellers at some point in time. I mostly write about love loss, happiness defeats surrounding my city of Calcutta, or Kolkata in the time span between the 1970s and the present time. In the specific city, the very right, one can find the universal and concerning themes that cities all across the globe are undergoing because of aggressive most modern urbanization.”

Many critics while appreciating his work said that there are so many different layers. Sabarna Roy has captured human emotion, human behaviour very realistically. Talking about his writings and their underlying themes, Roy very beautifully elaborated on many issues any individual might currently be facing. “The underlying theme of my writing is how an individual is being pushed to an order in the rapid hyper modernization and hyper-consumerism. Apart from human and societal decay I also write about ecological and environmental degradation, very passionately.”

Sabarna Roy has published a technical book titled Articles on Ductile Iron Pipelines and Framework Agreement Contracting Methodology where he attempted to elaborate various issues in irrigation application.

Roy to his credit is also a renowned International speaker on matters of ecology on environmental issues. “I must say that I’m a strong believer in the fact that the havoc and mass destruction that has been unleashed on the ecology and environment by humankind in the last 250 years has not happened in the preceding 5000 years of existence. It is time to wake up. Climate change is for real. I’m a strong believer in the Paris Climate accord. It is incumbent on all of us as individuals, communities or nations to incrementally escalate carbon footprint. speak on the subjects, very passionately.”

Sabarna Roy was awarded the Literoma Laureate Award for fiction in 2019 and Literoma Star Achiever Award for 2020. On a concluding note, Roy tells us about his upcoming book which focuses on the pandemic. “I’m presently writing a book on the pandemic and I wish to publish this book around the spring of 2021. This is a book on the human story during the pandemic as I have seen it.”

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Be honest & start moving forward: Mohit Chobey, Business Leader & Author

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Mohit Chobey

Mr Mohit Chobey, a business leader, TEDx speaker and someone who has competed in the Ironman competition joined NewsX in a special segment, NewsX A-List to talk about his journey. Mr Chobey has also written a book, which is titled ‘1000 KMs to Leadership’.

Mohit Chobey gave some very important insights about his life, and how he arrived at the point he is today. Talking about his journey as an author, he said, “I have been informally writing in terms of blogs, but I think the formal process of getting into an authorship happened pretty recently. I had a plethora of writings, which I had put together, many of the experiences in terms of how I saw myself evolve as an individual, as a person, a human being, in the process of becoming an endurance athlete. So one of the most impactful events which happened to me was when I undertook this journey to South Africa, and participated in something called the Comrades Marathon, it’s more than 100 years old, and it is the largest and possibly the biggest ultramarathon in the world, it’s 90 km distance over 12 hours.”

Mr Chobey said, “During the process, the way I evolved, I think the articulation of that into feelings was something very difficult. So over the years, I kind of put together my thoughts. And eventually, it forced me to come out with a book and not just a book, it’s a series of three, this is just the first in the trilogy, called 1000 KMs to Leadership.”

Mohit comes from an army background, so he obviously has that resilience. Talking further about his background, he said, “I think it always plays a role, genetics, and the environment in which you’re brought up makes a difference for me, since my father donned the uniform for 38 years, and I’ve been to some very interesting escapades and adventures along with him. He was a national-level hockey player and I think to that extent, at least, the athleticism and the sports element was ingrained in me. And very early from in my life, I think sports was an integral part of me. So it will be very, you know, kind of apt to say that part of the upbringing, which was, you know, kind of, eventually helped me become an athlete.”

Mr Chobey added, “Some other traits, which also got developed as a part of the same process was that you end up residing in different cities, and going to different schools, that allows a certain amount of versatility and adaptability. And I think to that extent, that helped me become a much better and stronger business leader, and to be able to manage situations much better.”

Mohit Chobey was able to soak in the metropolis of the country of India as well as get an insight into what rural India or Bharat is basically all about. Talking about the same, he said, “My first few years in the corporate world were with FMCG companies, and they further ensured that my understanding of India was not limited to the metropolis, but to the last mile, to the hinterland to the villages. And it is a matter of fact that this entity, this nation of ours, is actually a conglomeration of different aspects to be merely being able to see it from one city. You really have to dive deep into it, dwell into it to really get the holistic understanding of the nation. And I think early in my career, that’s something which happened to me. I’m very grateful for that.”

Not too many people were informed of the Ironman competition before Milind Soman completed it. It’s basically a 3.8-kilometre swim, typically in open water, might be a lake or river and ocean. It is followed by a 180-kilometre bike ride and culminates in a full marathon of 42.2 kilometres. The overall distance is 226, which is expected to be covered between 15 and a half to 17 hours depending on the terrain. “For me, I think the trigger point was after I became a fairly serious endurance athlete in the running space. I was exposed to the idea of Ironman and as I believe challenges help us evolve as individuals, this is something which I was really looking forward to, I knew it was not really my domain, because swimming in the open water kind of takes you into a different level altogether. I’ve tried to capture some elements of it in my second book, but the challenge is something which I thrive on”, said Mohit.

Talking about his 2nd book, Mr Chobey said, “The second book’s title is ‘Coming Back to Life and there is a figurative element, and there’s a fair amount of factual element in the title of the book. But that’s something which the viewers will get to see, maybe three, four months down the line.”

The first time Mohit competed in the Ironman competition, he was disqualified. That disqualification worked as a catalyst for him. “It taught me a lot. Incidentally, as I said, swimming is my Achilles’ heel and I actually had a life-threatening experience while I was training for Ironman. I actually had to be pulled out of a lake in Faridabad before I really went down the third time, and possibly the final time underneath the water. We thankfully had a lifeguard with us who pulled me out. And that day, I realized that I really needed to kind of break the barriers in my mind, I really needed to cross that Rubicon. But sadly, the first time I competed in Iron Man that was in France and by the time I came out of the water because I had meandered so much, I ended up missing the cut off for 10 minutes. And I realized that you know, sometimes No matter how much effort you put in, things don’t work out the way you would want them to be. But that’s okay. The point is very clearly, are you ready to take it up, ready to pick up the conflict and have another shot at it? Incidentally, it so happened that once I got back into a mental frame to do so I ended up doing five Iron Man in a matter of 12 months, three full Ironman and two half Ironman across three continents in the world,” said Mohit. 

Talking about his 2nd book, Mr Chobey said, “The physical powers and the motivation elements are the add ons to it but the book is about a life journey, it’s about a professional journey. So anyone and anybody out there who wants to look at life, and wants to see some elements of their life that resonate in a book, and go through the travails and challenges what life throws at us, should pick up the book. Incidentally, the background or the context is running, and in running, specifically, the ultramarathon comrades which I had mentioned. But if you are a reader, you’re looking at some roller-coaster journey into life, into professional life and you want to take have some interesting takeaways from that, I think you should pick up the book.”

Mohit spoke about the challenges he faced during his journey, he said, “I faced challenges and most importantly, the slotting of the book. So like who is the book for and straightaway the two thoughts which cross your mind are in terms of motivation and in terms of physical progress. And I had initially a tough time trying to convince publishers to understand that it’s not about that, it is merely the canvas of running, but the painting is about life. And that, you know, movement or moving from one domain to the other is something which eventually I was able to convince invincible publishers, I did have another publisher who was comfortable and eventually understood the idea of publishing this book, out of the timeframe wasn’t suitable for me. It took some convincing for me to get people to understand that it’s a very broad-based book and does not merely stick to a specific domain.”

Addressing Physical Fitness notions in India, Mohit said, “I guess I’ll quote an example and maybe use the Hindi idiom “Sathiyajana”, which is basically somebody turning 60. The fact is that when somebody turns 60, that’s what the term you use and the underlying notion behind that is basically your mental faculties and possibly your physical faculties are not at the same level. Now, to give an example, when I did the Comrades the first time, the 90 kilometre race over mountains, one gentleman was 63 years old, and he finished 30 minutes ahead of me. I think it was a Eureka moment for me, it was a life-changing moment for me.”

Mr Chobey further said, “Age is nothing but just a number and possibly the reason is that our parents were so involved in putting bread on the table to explain expand your horizons into physical fitness and mental robustness, they were not able to spend the time. But the current generation, I think they have enough and more time to be able to understand the need for it not merely in terms of physical health, but how it also impacts mental health. And I think that’s a very relevant topic right now, going around that physical activities do not merely help you keep your body fit up, it also keeps your mind robust, and positive.”

Mohit Chobey is also a business leader and has been a TEDx speaker. Talking about that aspect of his life, Mohit said, “I think all of us are multifaceted and it’s up to us to understand which are the strong points which we have and we can shine them and chisel them enough for it to be, you know, really sparkling. For me, I have been in the corporate domain for the past 22 years now and I was given responsibility a bit earlier in life. I think so I was hitting a business when I was nearly 29 years old, it was unheard of at that point of time. So 17 years across multiple industries, whether financial services, banking, the FMCG space, or across hospitality and hotels, e-commerce, so I’ve kind of done it all. And incidentally, I was having a conversation with one of the groups on SRCC yesterday, and they said, so why do you have such a broad-based experience? And the simple answer was, as business leaders, what we need to understand is the levers of the business, you cannot create a high level of finesse in terms of subject matter, expertise beyond a certain level. It’s like saying, I’m going to sharpen the pencil, but the pencil can only be sharpened to a certain extent. After that, the lead gets broken. So for me, my adaptability, which I think was a part of my growing up years, is something which has held me in good stead and made me a leader who’s adaptable, not nearly to industries, but to surroundings, to people, and to situations. And I think that really helps to bring the best out of me, in consonance with the endurance sports which I’m involved in, creates and enhances the gravitas, which is expected from a business leader. Lastly, as a TEDx speaker, I think, for me to be able to share my story across a broad spectrum of viewers and listeners that a lot of things can be possible and nothing needs to be straitjacketed, it does require resilience, it does require effort, but you can ensure that your multiple facets can really shine out and bloom.”

Mohit ended up writing an article on the ongoing Coronavirus pandemic. He said, “It’s called ‘Opportunity in adversity. Too many times we end up getting so overwhelmed by the change in fortunes of situations that we do not see the opportunity which presents. To put it into perspective, the very fact that I could come up with my book was possible because of COVID. I’m not undermining the kind of global impact it has had. The fact of the matter is, it created certain time availability. For me, I was able to dedicate more time, my transition time, like transit time was not there anymore. I could allocate without not compromising either in my fitness or in my corporate responsibilities. So I think that’s something for each one of us. Anytime situations change, we do find opportunities for doing something new. I was very surprised and pleasantly surprised that the Bhagavad Gita mentions the same. So I was like, okay, there’s something right, I must be doing because a sacred text seemed to be resonating the same thing.”

Giving a piece of advice to the young generation, Mohit said, “I think the most important thing is being honest. Honesty to yourself about what you want, honesty to yourself about what you are, and honesty to yourself about what you aspire to be. If you’re able to have that honesty about yourself, at least you’ll be able to baseline yourself with in terms of traits, skills and, if you’re clear about what your direction is, not necessarily the destination, the destination keeps on evolving, if you’re clear about the direction, I’m sure enhancements in physical fitness, enhancements in your mental prowess, and overall happiness quotient will naturally come to force. And that’s my simple advice, be honest, and just ensure that you make a meaningful difference and start moving forward in the same.”

As Mohit mentioned in his 2nd book, he is aiming at a trilogy. “So I have actually put together elements of four different books right now. One is a trilogy, and one is a bit more on the emotional side. But the trilogy is basically evolution for me as an athlete, as an individual, and as a leader because every time within the leadership scheme of things, we take up bigger responsibilities, we look at adversity, the kind of difficulty we end up facing seems to only increase and you need to find different ways and better ways to be able to manage that. So I think so, as the journey unfolds. The same will be told through the three books, which are in the offing.”

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Keep politics and nepotism away from cinema: Filmmaker Rahul Mittra

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Rahul Mittra

Filmmaker Rahul Mittra started his journey in Bollywood with Saheb Biwi Aur Gangster 10 years ago. Having been behind the camera and in front of it, he has gained key insight into the Hindi industry as a whole. Rahul recently joined NewsX for a candid chat for its special segment NewsX A-list, wherein he talked about not only his upcoming projects and prevalence of nepotism in Bollywood but also his Covid-19 experience.

Sharing his Covid-19 experience, Rahul Mittra said, “My family and I just recovered from Covid-19 after nearly 15 days of testing positive. We don’t know how it happened. We just shifted in a new home. Within just 15-20 days of that, my wife tested positive, followed by my son and then me. My daughter and our cook were the only one who didn’t contract the virus. We went into complete isolation. It feels grateful to come out of it.”

Rahul Mittra recently found himself and Saheb Biwi Aur Gangster trending on Twitter. When asked about the story behind the trend, he responded, “On 30th September, exactly 9 years ago, Saheb Biwi Aur Gangster was released. I was feeling very nostalgic so I put out a tweet and tagged everyone associated with the film. I offered gratitude to everyone. Before I knew, I started trending and people started calling me. With all humility, I was amazed at the response.”

Before becoming a filmmaker, Rahul was a journalist. Sharing his experience of making the transition between the two industries and entering Bollywood, he revealed, “I started my career as a journalist and then I shifted towards brand management, promotions etc. I believe in ‘What you seek is seeking you’. I feel cinema and entertainment was pulling me towards it. There are two types of filmmakers – one who are a product of cinema and other who are product of life. I am very proud to say that I am a product of life. It just happened and it was very organic. All of us work hard to achieve our goals but I have really enjoyed this journey. I decided to make a film on one fine day and went ahead. We completed the film in 28 days in Gujarat and I think the result was crazy. We swept all the awards and the film became one of the sleeper hits of 2011. “

Was it beginners luck? Rahul says, “When I look back, everything didn’t go well. In my case, it was all upside down. Tigmanshu Dhulia was a friend. We got talking about Saheb Biwi Aur Ghulam. We started discussing about how the society has changed over the years. Before i knew, I started scouting for a location. We had a concept and then we started looking for a location followed by story and then the actors. It was destined like that. It was my passion. It worked out well for everyone associated with the project.”

The filmmaker is now gearing up for his upcoming film Torbaaz with Sanjay Dutt. Calling Torbaaz a film on triumph of human spirit, he expressed, “It is a very special project for all of us. It is a beautiful story on suicide bomber kids and how Sanjay Dutt transforms their life to cricket. It is triumph of the human spirit. When I started making films, I was very intrigued by the journey of characters. We all are aiming for triumph, triumph over evil or triumph of human spirit. I feel it very beautiful. It was very difficult to shoot this film, since it involved multiple locations and extreme weather conditions. But it is a very special and beautiful film. It will be a Netflix Original later this year and releasing in over 90 countries and multiple languages.”

Opening up about how he felt extremely disturbed after seeing multiple speculations around Sanjay Dutt’s health, Rahul added, “Sanju is like an elder brother. When the speculation started regarding his health in the media, I was very pained. I feel that we as a society have become very intolerant about everything. Why would we want to wish anything like that upon anyone?! I got a call from a top newspaper. I just blasted saying that nobody has the right to speculate. Has he said he has 4th stage cancer? All we can do is pray for his good health. He is not just a survivor but he is a warrior and he will be back with a bang really soon. “

In recent times, several allegations have been levelled against Bollywood, with a key focus on nepotism. Rahul, on the other hand, opines that one should keep politics and nepotism away from cinema. He opines, “When I was entering the industry, there were so many people, who were not even remotely linked with the entertainment industry, saying ‘what are you doing, whom are you placing your bets on, what will happen’. Look at me, I have completed 10 years in the industry. It has been a beautiful journey. Problems like nepotism are prevalent in the society. They are prevalent in corporate world, politics, everywhere but you can’t just target something. According to me, Nepotism can only shorten your queue but, after that, everyone is on their own. Same is the case with nepotism. Your queue can be shortened but you cannot do well if audiences don’t like you or your content doesn’t cater to the sensitivities of the people. Content and context is king. Cinema is the most interactive form of art. Everybody around the world is touched by cinema. Keep politics and nepotism away from cinema. Just enjoy the celebration of art. “

On a parting note, NewsX asked Rahul to share his acting plans since he is now gearing up to play an Afghan army head in Torbaaz. He said, “As far as acting, I played a small roles in the Saheb Biwi Aur Gangster series. I also had a role in Revolver Rani. It has been fun. It is often the directors and actors telling me to do a certain part. Sanjay Dutt and Girish Khan felt I should play this role and this will be my first proper acting assignment. Yesterday, I got an offer to play a role in a web series for a very prominent OTT platform. It is something I enjoy doing. I love to be behind the camera and now I am enjoying being in front of the camera. Once things normalise, I will get back to my other films.”

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‘Handing out academic degrees shouldn’t become a business’, says Chairman of LNCT group Jai Narayan Chouksey

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Jai Narayan Chouksey

Jai Narayan Chouksey, Chairman of the LNCT group, recently got into an exclusive conversation with NewsX for its special segment NewsX A-list and shared his valuable inputs on the new education policy (NEP 2020), its strengths, weaknesses and how LNCT is working towards integrating better technology in India.

Assessing the new education policy, Mr Chouksey said, “Any policy is a good policy. What we really need to focus on is whether the team assigned to implement the policy is trained or not. Only floating a policy will not suffice. The team who has made the policy surely would have put in a lot of hard work but it is also important to note that the implementation of the policy would need 10 years. We would be able to see the accurate results only after 10 years. It is not that we start a policy today and we start seeing the results from tomorrow. It is also important to focus on building the required infrastructure and training of the team, which is responsible for the implementation of the policy.”

When asked how LNCT is working towards the goal of integrating better technology in India to make NEP a success, he stressed, “Although the policy has been made keeping in mind better technology, our country still lacks on that front. We can see that school education is shifting online now. But, some parents are still unaware of how to make use of the technology. Neither the children, nor the parents are trained enough to make full use of the technology. We can hear people say that online classes should be conducted but India is not ready for it right now. It will take time. We need to train people and build a team who can train people and LNCT is working towards that.”

Along with training, universities would need to incorporate various changes with assistance from state and central government. Mr Chouksey stresses, “If Universities need to take this policy forward, the government would need to focus on each one. There are many universities that enroll 3000-4000 students but lack enough facilities, especially in private universities. Giving out academic degrees should not become a business. If we don’t focus on the practicalities of the policy, we would only be left with papers and theoretical implementation of the policy. This policy allowed a student to take breaks from learning and we encourage that. One’s training for their professional life should begin in high school. Training is a must. State and Centre should pay special attention on the functioning of these universities.”

NEP 2020 has set another goal for universities, i.e to set up incubation labs so that students become innovators and thinkers. Would it help reduce brain drain from India? Mr Chouksey opines, “A student should be trained for their professional prospects. His/her training should be focused on what he/she wants to become. There is no point of teaching something that would never come to use. Specialisation is a must and it should begin early. By the age of 14-15, a student should know what they want to become and do in life. This scheme would surely be beneficial in building future leaders of the country.”

Lastly, sharing his vision for higher education in India, he concluded, “Higher education should be given to students who really want to excel in that field. Those who want to become a scientist should become a scientist. If a student is put in a specific field, he/she would put all their effort into that.”

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MASSIVE FIRE AT PATNA’S SECRETARIAT, RJD CRIES FOUL

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A massive fire broke out at the state Secretariat in Patna on Tuesday, resulting in the destruction of files, records and documents of the Bihar Rural Development Department, even as the opposition RJD smelt a conspiracy to “destroy evidence of scams during the NDA rule”.

According to fire official, the blaze broke out around 11.30 pm on Monday on the ground floor and gradually spread to the first floor of the building. The fire was eventually doused on Tuesday after almost 15 hours.

“The fire broke out on the ground floor. As the Secretariat has its own fire brigade, fire tenders were pressed into service to douse it. However, the fire was intense and we had to sent one dozen more fire tenders to the spot. They continued with firefighting till around 1.30 pm on Tuesday,” said a spokesperson for the Patna fire service.

“The firefighters faced huge difficulties due to intensity of the fire. In the absence of access, dousing of the flames on the second floor was extremely challenging for them. No loss of human life was reported but we believe damage to properties and important documents of the Bihar government,” he added.

Meanwhile, Rashtriya Janata Dal cried foul. Party spokesman Chitranjan Gagan claimed that “it is a criminal conspiracy to destroy official documents and records”.

“The fire did not break out but someone intentionally lit the fire to prevent unearthing of scams in the future.”

“The leaders of NDA allies Janata Dal-United and BJP have realised that their government will not return to power in Bihar. They are now gripped by fear that scams done during the NDA rule will be inquired into when the RJD returns to power in Bihar. Hence, they have destroyed evidence by lighting the fire in the Secretariat building,” Gagan said.

He claimed that the NDA government led by Chief Minister Nitish Kumar was involved in over 60 scams, including the Srijan scam in Bhagalpur.

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VIRUS CAN HIT RECOVERED COVID PATIENTS ONCE ANTIBODIES START DEPLETING: ICMR

‘There are multiple studies which suggest that the antibodies that develop after Covid-19 sustain for up to five months,’ says Balram Bhargava, Director-General of ICMR.

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Patients who have recovered from Covid-19 can again get infected once the antibodies of the viral disease starts depleting, the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) said on Tuesday.

“According to the Centre for Disease Control (USA), you call it a reinfection (of Covid-19) if the person is reinfected after 90 days from turning negative to the Sars-CoV-2 after testing positive to it. However, there are multiple studies which suggest that the antibodies that develop after Covid-19 sustain for up to five months,” said Balram Bhargava, Director-General of ICMR, while answering a query in the weekly press briefing of the Union Health Ministry.

“Since the disease is new, we do not have any further information about it. However, people can recontract the infection if antibodies start depleting from the body,” he added.

Bhargava also stressed that one should not become complacent, and follow all precautionary measures such as wearing mask, staying cautious and not relying on antibodies to astray the re-contraction.

“Even after contracting the virus, one must not avoid using a mask,” he cautioned.

Bhargava also informed that the ICMR is conducting an assessment on the subject of reinfection as commissioned by the Union Health Ministry, and its result will be out shortly.

Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan had earlier informed that the ICMR had set up a committee of experts to study reported cases of reinfection among Covid-19 patients. However, he had termed some of the supposed cases of Covid reinfections that had been reported as “misclassified”.

As per the ICMR, so far, three cases of reinfection have been reported in the country — two from Mumbai and one from Ahmedabad. The apex body of medical research had also stated that the cut-off date for depletion of antibodies set by it for the assessment is 100 days from the infection.

“There are various cut-off days that are being referred to for reinfection. Though the public is going by up to 110 days, we are taking 100 days as the cut-off period because the antibodies last until then,” Bhargava had said.

Daily mouthwash may inactivate human coronaviruses

Meanwhile, scientists have found that certain oral antiseptics and mouthwashes may have the ability to inactivate human coronaviruses. The results, published in the Journal of Medical Virology, indicate that some of these products might be useful for reducing the amount of virus in the mouth after infection and may help to reduce the spread of SARS-CoV-2, the coronavirus that causes Covid-19.

“While we wait for a vaccine to be developed, methods to reduce transmission are needed. The products we tested are readily available and often already a part of people’s daily routines,” said study researcher Craig Meyers from the Penn State University in the US.

During the study, the research team tested several oral and nasopharyngeal rinses in a laboratory setting for their ability to inactivate human coronaviruses, which are similar in structure to SARS-CoV-2.

The products evaluated include a one per cent solution of baby shampoo, peroxide sore-mouth cleansers, and mouthwashes.

The researchers found that several of the nasal and oral rinses had a strong ability to neutralize human coronavirus, which suggests that these products may have the potential to reduce the amount of virus spread by people who are Covid-19-positive.

They used a test to replicate the interaction of the virus in the nasal and oral cavities with the rinses and mouthwashes.

They treated solutions containing a strain of human coronavirus, which served as a readily available and genetically similar alternative for SARS-CoV-2, with the baby shampoo solutions, various peroxide antiseptic rinses and various brands of mouthwash.

They allowed the solutions to interact with the virus for 30 seconds, one minute and two minutes, before diluting the solutions to prevent further virus inactivation.

According to Meyers, the outer envelopes of the human coronavirus tested and SARS-CoV-2 are genetically similar so the research team hypothesizes that a similar amount of SARS-CoV-2 may be inactivated upon exposure to the solution.

To measure how much virus was inactivated, the researchers placed the diluted solutions in contact with cultured human cells.

They counted how many cells remained alive after a few days of exposure to the viral solution and used that number to calculate the amount of human coronavirus that was inactivated as a result of exposure to the mouthwash or oral rinse that was tested.

The one per cent baby shampoo solution, which is often used by head and neck doctors to rinse the sinuses, inactivated greater than 99.9 per cent of human coronavirus after a two-minute contact time.

Several of the mouthwash and gargle products also were effective at inactivating the infectious virus.

Many inactivated greater than 99.9 per cent of the virus after only 30 seconds of contact time and some inactivated 99.99 per cent of the virus after 30 seconds.

The results with mouthwashes are promising and add to the findings of a study showing that certain types of oral rinses could inactivate SARS-CoV-2 in similar experimental conditions, the study noted.

With IANS inputs

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