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India registers 152,879 fresh cases on the day Modi government launches Covid-19 mass vaccination festival; Centre prohibits exports of Remdesivir till situation improves.

Aishvarya Jain



As India added 152,879 new Covid-19 cases to its total, setting another grim one-day record, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Sunday declared the beginning of the “second big war” against the virus.

At the ‘Tika Utsav’ or Covid-19 mass vaccination festival, the PM asked to make targets at the personal, social and administrative levels and emphasised on testing, awareness and eligible individuals getting vaccinated.

In a message on the occasion, the Prime Minister stressed on four points regarding the nationwide vaccination drive. “Firstly, ‘Each One, Vaccinate’. Those who can’t go for vaccination, such as illiterate and old people, should be assisted. Secondly, ‘Each One, Treat One’. This involves helping people in getting who do not have resources or knowledge to get treated. Thirdly, ‘Each One, Save One’, which means that “I should wear a mask and save myself and others”. Finally, the community should lead in creating ‘micro-containment zones’ even in case of a single positive case. They are a key component of the fight against Covid-19 in a densely populated country like India,” the Prime Minister said.

He added that success would be determined by awareness, not moving out of homes unnecessarily, vaccinating all eligible persons, and following Covid-appropriate behaviour. He expressed hope people would participate and reminded the country about “dawai bhi, kadai bhi”.

The PM also insisted that the country has to move towards zero vaccine wastage and optimum utilisation of vaccination capacity.

Among concerns about shortages of vaccines and essential medicines, the Centre on Sunday prohibited exports of Remdesivir injections and Remdesivir Active Pharmaceutical Ingredients (API), which is considered a key anti-viral drug in the fight against Covid-19.

Additionally, all domestic manufacturers of the drug have been advised to display details of their stockists/distributors on their website. A total of seven Indian companies are producing Injection Remdesivir under a voluntary licensing agreement with Gilead Sciences in the USA.

The Department of Pharmaceuticals has been in contact with the domestic manufacturers to ramp up the production of Remdesivir, stated the press release issued by the Union Government.

Drug inspectors and other officers have also been directed to verify stocks, check malpractices and take effective actions to curb hoarding and black marketing. State Health Secretaries will review this with the Drug Inspectors of the respective states and UTs.

The Union has also advised the states that the extant “National Clinical Management Protocol for Covid-19”, which is based on evidence, has been developed after many interactions by the Committee of Experts and is the guiding document for treatment of Covid-19 patients. In the protocol, Remdesivir is listed as an investigational therapy, and shared decision-making is essential, besides taking note of contraindications mentioned in the detailed guidelines, it said further.

States and UTs have been advised to communicate the information to all hospitals, both public and private, and to monitor compliance.

These steps were taken as India’s Covid tally reached over 1.33 crore cases. 839 deaths in the last 24 hours pushed the total death count to 1.69 lakh.

Active cases have seen a steady increase for the 32nd day in row. The active cases increased to 11,08,087, comprising 8.29 percent of the total infections, while the recovery rate further dropped to 90.44 percent.

India’s worst-affected state Maharashtra reported 63,294 new cases and 349 deaths due to the virus. The state’s active case tally has mounted to 5,65,587.  

Delhi recorded 10,774 fresh cases of Covid-19 in the last 24 hours, which is the highest single-day surge in the national capital till date. The previous highest-ever single-day spike in Delhi of 8,593 cases had been reported on November 11, 2020. 48 new fatalities were also recorded, pushing the death toll to 11,283. The fresh cases came after more than 1.14 lakh tests were conducted the previous day, which is a record number for Delhi. The positivity rate stood at 9.43 percent.

The Covid-19 death toll in Haryana reached 3,268 with 16 more fatalities, while 3,440 fresh cases pushed the infection tally to 3,16,881. While three fatalities were reported from Jind, two deaths each were reported from Panipat, Yamunanagar, Bhiwani, Karnal, Ambala, and one death each from Gurgaon, Hisar and Sirsa districts.

Uttar Pradesh reported 15,353 new Covid-19 cases, the highest single-day spike since the outbreak of the virus, while 67 fresh deaths took the toll in the state to 9,152. The total number of cases in the state stands at 6,92,015. The count of active is 71,241. In this month, so far, the highest single-day death toll has been 67.

Madhya Pradesh reported 5,939 fresh cases, the highest in a single day, taking the tally to 3,38,145, while 24 fatalities pushed the toll to 4,184. Madhya Pradesh is now left with 35,316 active cases. A total of 3,306 patients were discharged from hospitals in the last 24 hours, taking the count of recoveries to 2,98,645.

Gujarat reported 5,469 new Covid-19 cases and 54 deaths in the last 24 hours. The case tally went to 3,47,495, including 27,568 active cases.

Jammu and Kashmir reported 915 fresh infections while five more people succumbed to the virus in the last 24 hours.  Among the fresh cases, 288 cases were reported from the Jammu division and 627 from Kashmir Valley, taking the total tally to 1,38,390.

Kerala logged 6,986 new Covid-19 cases, which included 27 health workers, and 16 related deaths, taking the total affected to 11.67 lakh and the death toll to 4,783. As many as 2,358 people were also cured of the disease, taking the total number of recoveries to 11,17,700. The test positivity rate stood at 10.75 percent.

Meanwhile, Karnataka reported 10,250 new coronavirus cases, 2,638 discharges and 40 deaths in the last 24 hours.

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Punjab CM declares Malerkotla state’s 23rd district, announces development projects



Punjab Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh on Friday declared Malerkotla as the 23rd district of the state, while also announcing a slew of projects for the development of the historic city.

The Chief Minister made these announcements during the state-level celebration of Eid-ul-Fitr, held virtually in view of the pandemic. On the occasion, the Chief Minister underscored India’s secular character, which he said was manifested in the defeat of communal forces in the recent Assembly elections in Tamil Nadu and West Bengal.

Recalling the rich history of Malerkotla, the CM said its conversion into a district, which had been a long-standing demand of the local people, would ease their hardships and enable them to resolve administrative problems more seamlessly.

Initially, said the Chief Minister, the sub-divisions of Malerkotla and Ahmedgarh, as well as the sub-tehsil of Amargarh, would be included in the newly created district. The process of bringing villages under the jurisdiction of Malerkotla district would begin later, after the conclusion of the census operations, he added. The Chief Minister directed the Deputy Commissioner Sangrur to find a suitable building to immediately start the functioning of the District Administration office. The Deputy Commissioner for the newly carved out district would be appointed soon, he said.

Announcing various development projects for Malerkotla, Capt Amarinder Singh also announced the establishment of a government college for girls and a government medical college. The medical college, in the name of Nawab Sher Mohammed Khan, would be set up soon at a cost of Rs. 500 crore, and the state has allotted 25 acres of land on Raikot Road and the first instalment of Rs. 50 crore has already been sanctioned, he added. A new bus stand will also be constructed at a cost of Rs. 10 crore, he said, adding that Malerkotla will also get a ‘Mahila Thana’ which would be exclusively managed by women.

To ensure holistic urban development, the Chief Minister also announced a sum of Rs. 6 crore for the Urban Environment Improvement Program (UEIP).

Further, to promote the cultural heritage of Malerkotla, the Chief Minister said the Punjab Government has acquired the Mubarak Manzil Palace and that he has written to His Highness the Aga Khan Foundation UK to undertake its conservation and restoration. He also recounted his memories with the then Nawab of Malerkotla and spoke about the city’s significance in Sikh history.

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Raipur : The Chhattisgarh government has decided to pay for the education of children who have lost their parents/guardians to Covid and children from families where the earning member has died of Covid.

CMO Chhattisgarh tweeted, “Chhattisgarh government will pay for the education of children who lost their parents due to #COVID19, scholarship also to be provided under state’s Mahtari Dular Scheme. State govt will also take care of the education of children whose earning member of the family has died of Covid”.

Children orphaned due to Covid will also be provided with scholarships under the state’s Mahtari Dular Scheme.

The CMO also tweeted that such children will be given preference for admission in Swami Atmanand English Medium Schools. No fee will be charged.

As per the Health and Family Welfare Ministry of Chhattisgarh, 9,121 Covid cases were recorded on Friday out of 67,738 tests conducted. With this, the total number of cases in the state are reached 8,92,331. The state also recorded 195 deaths on Friday, wherein 92 were from Covid, while 103 patients died of co-morbidities. The Ministry also reported 12,274 total recoveries, including those discharged from home quarantine, bringing the total number recoveries to 7,61,592.

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Messaging app WhatsApp told the Delhi High Court on Friday that it is not forcing any user to accept the 2021 update in its privacy policy as it is not mandatory. It said users will have a choice to accept the new update or choose not to, and are free to delete their WhatsApp accounts any time.

Replying to a petition challenging the privacy policy of the app, WhatsApp submitted that users were not previously given the option to opt out of its privacy policies if they wanted to use the service.

The social messaging app also said that it is not under any legal obligation to provide such opt-outs to its users and added that the law permits companies to not provide their services to users who do not consent to their terms.

The company also said that such practices are commonly practiced by online platforms across the industry whenever they update their terms. The company also said that online platforms are often less transparent by simply implying consent through continued use of their service after a certain date, rather than prominently and clearly giving users control and choice, as WhatsApp did.

The company also submitted that such interference in the privacy update policy would “cripple” the internet-based applications and websites industry.

The messaging app also said that the petitioners’ allegations regarding the alleged disparity with European users are meritless. The company maintained that the 2021 update, which applies to users in India, also applies to most of WhatsApp’s users around the world, including in the US. On the different policy for WhatsApp’s users in the “European Region”, the social messaging app submitted that it is due to different rules and obligations in the European Regio

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Given the Covid crisis, Haryana has announced to give parole to convicted persons who were sentenced for more than 7 years imprisonment. It was decided at a meeting of the High Powered Committee held under the Chairmanship of Justice Rajan Gupta, Judge, Punjab and Haryana High Court and Executive Chairman, Haryana State Legal Services Authority.

As informed by the Prisons Department, Haryana, a total of 21,804 (108%) prisoners are presently lodged in 19 jails of Haryana against the authorized capacity of 20,041 (100%). Since the first meeting of the High Powered Committee, held on 24 March 2020, 2,580 convicts sentenced for more than 7 years imprisonment were released on special parole. Similarly, 2,094 (656+1438) convicts/undertrials sentenced up to 7 years or facing trial for offences which stipulate maximum imprisonment up to 7 years were released on special parole/interim bail under the orders of HPC.

Subsequently, with a decrease in Covid cases, the High Powered Committee had directed the return of the convicts released on parole in cases where they were undergoing imprisonment for more than 7 years in 9 phases. Till date 2,170 convicts have surrendered in jails under 8 phases and the 9th phase consisting of 280 convicts started from 14 May, 2021.

In pursuance of directions issued by Hon’ble Supreme Court of India on 7 May 2021 in Suo Motu Writ Petition (Civil) No.1 / 2020 – In RE: Contagion of Covid-19 in Prisons, and considering the emergent situation in and around due to sudden spike in Covid, the Committee has decided to release all convicts sentenced to imprisonment for more than 7 years who were released earlier on special parole under the categories prescribed by the Committee on special parole till 31 August 2021. Special parole granted to convicts who were to surrender in the 9th phase has also been extended till 3 August 2021.

However, convicts who have failed to surrender on the date fixed or are absconding or against whom new cases were registered while on special parole are not entitled to special parole. No special parole shall be applicable to those who are not covered by the categories approved by the High Powered Committee in its previous meetings.

Competent authorities have been directed to consider the concern of inmates who may not wish for release in view of their social background and the fear of becoming Covid victims and may allow them to stay in jail after taking a written declaration from them.

The Committee has also extended the parole/interim bail of 2017 convicts/undertrials who are sentenced up to 7 years/facing trial for offences which stipulate maximum imprisonment up to 7 years till 31 August 2021. State and jail authorities have been asked to consider the cases of all such convicts/undertrials for parole/interim bail as well as any other convict/undertrial covered by the categories prescribed by the High Powered Committee.

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Urvashi Khona



After facing backlash for the Maharashtra government’s allotment of Rs 6 crore to a private PR agency for handling Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar’s social media accounts, Pawar has cancelled the notification of the appointment. He clarified that he does not need any outside PR firm and the government department will do its work.

An order issued on Wednesday by RN Musale, under-secretary at the General Administration Department for the year 2021-22, stated that an external agency was to be appointed, with a budget of Rs 5.98 crore, for handling the social media accounts of NCP leader Ajit Pawar. As per the order, this was because the Directorate General of Information and Public Relations (DGIPR) lacks the professional and technical competence to deal with social media. The PR agency which was to be appointed in consultation with the Deputy Chief Minister, Secretariat and DGIPR was also tasked to see how messages and decisions by Ajit Pawar reaches the common man.

However after severe backlash, including from the Opposition, that crores of rupees were being spent merely for advertisements amid the Covid crisis, the Deputy CM – who also holds the finance and planning portfolio – cancelled the decision.

“There is no need to appoint an external agency to handle the social media of the Deputy Chief Minister’s Office. The order in this regard should be cancelled immediately,” read his press statement with an add-on clarification that communication with citizens and the media would be maintained only through the existing public relations system.

Meanwhile, BJP MLA Ram Kadam attacked Pawar, raising the question that if this was the amount to be spent for one minister, what it would be for the others. “People have died in the pandemic due to the negligence of the Maharashtra government. On one hand, the government is saying that they don’t have enough money to purchase vaccines and on the other hand, to pat their backs on social media a team is hired for the Deputy Chief Minister at a budget of Rs 6 crore. If this budget is for one minister, what is the budget for all the ministers?” he asked.

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New Delhi : A plea has been filed in the Supreme Court seeking directions to the Centre, Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) and the Council for the Indian School Certificate Examination (CISCE) to cancel the CBSE and ICSE Class XII examinations.

CBSE, through its letter dated 14 April, had cancelled the examination for class X and postponed the examination for Class XII. CISCE, through its circulars dated 16 and 19 April, had cancelled the examination for Class X and postponed the examination for Class XII for an unspecified period. The plea asked the court to set aside these notifications issued only in respect of clauses dealing with the postponement of the Class XII examination.

The petition filed by advocate Mamta Sharma asked the court to devise an objective methodology to declare the result of Class XII within a specific time frame. The plea stated that for the innocent students of Class XII, “step-motherly, arbitrary, inhuman directions” have been issued to postpone their final examination for an unspecified duration.

“In view of the unprecedented health emergency and rising numbers of the Covid-19 cases in the country, the conduct of examination, either offline or online or blended in upcoming weeks is not possible and delay in the examination will cause irreparable loss to the students as time is the essence in taking admission in higher education courses in foreign universities,” the plea said.

It added that delay in declaration of results will ultimately hamper one semester of the aspiring students as admission cannot be confirmed until the Class XII result is declared.

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