Covid-19 protocols not followed in Maharashtra, 2 other states: Centre - The Daily Guardian
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Covid-19 protocols not followed in Maharashtra, 2 other states: Centre



Amid the massive surge in Covid-19 infections in the country, the Centre on Sunday wrote to Maharashtra, Chhattisgarh and Punjab over reports submitted by Central health teams regarding Covid-19 testing and containment operations, hospital infrastructure and vaccination to contain the virus spread.

In the letters addressed to the three states, Union Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushan noted that a brief summary of key performance indicators related to testing, hospital infrastructure and vaccination, as reported by the health teams, has been shared and asked state or district administrations to take appropriate corrective measures.

30 Central teams were deployed to the worst-affected districts in Maharashtra. After feedback from them, Bhushan pointed out that containment operations were suboptimal in Satara, Sangli and Aurangabad, with less than satisfactory perimeter control and a lack of active surveillance for influenza-like illness (lLl) cases.

“Efforts at surveillance and contact tracing were

found to be sub-optimal in Buldhana, Satara, Aurangabad and Nanded, mostly due to limited manpower engaged in this task. The team from Bhandara has reported that most cases are being reported from outside of containment zones. This requires increasing the areas of containment zones or notifying new containment zones,” the health secretary stated.

Feedback on the testing capacity in Satara, Bhandara, Palghar, Amrawati, Jalna and Latur districts is that it is already overwhelmed, resulting in delay in reporting of test results. The Central teams from Nanded and Buldana have reported a very skewed RT-PCR/RAT ratio. Community resistance to Covid-19 testing has also been reported from Bhandara district, Bhushan observed.

“ln Bhandara and Satara, a large percentage of Covid-19 patients are under home isolation, which requires rigorous follow up to minimize mortality. Such follow up is not happening presently. It was also observed that delayed reporting by patients to definitive treatment centres in Satara district is leading to a large number of deaths within the first 72 hours of hospital admission,” the letter further noted.

The Central team also highlighted that occupancy rates of available hospital beds are very high in Ahmednagar, Aurangabad, Nagpur and Nandurbar.

“Team to Aurangabad reported dependency of the district on neighbouring districts for management of critical patients and critical care infrastructure upgradation thereon. Medical oxygen supply was found to be an issue in Bhandara, Palghar, Osmanabad and Pune. Malfunctioning ventilators have been reported by teams from Satara and Latur. Hospital-level and district-level oxygen planning must start without any delay, as per the guidance issued by this Ministry,” the letter added.

An acute shortage of healthcare workforce has also been reported by the teams from Aurangabad, Nandurbar, Yawatmal, Satara, Palghar, Jalgoan and Jalna. The rostering of healthcare workers and hiring of contractual health workers need to be expedited as well. The letter also noted that data management in Satara and Ahmednagar is facing issues due to a shortage of manpower.

“Adherence to Covid-appropriate behaviour was found to be lacking by almost all Central teams that visited the districts. This would require greater enforcement effort,” the letter stated.

Meanwhile, in the letter to the Government of Chhattisgarh, Rajesh Bhushan noted that containment zones are not strictly observed and RT-PCR tests are also decreasing.

“The team from Raipur, Jashpur has reported a lack of perimeter control in containment zones. There appears to be no restriction on movement of people inside containment zones too. Hence, containment zone including micro containment zones need to be strictly implemented,” the letter said,

“Contact tracing efforts need to be reinforced in Korba. Resistance (even attacks on healthcare workers) to containment activities and testing was reported by the team from Dhaneli Village, Raipur. This needs to be addressed on an urgent basis,” Bhushan added.

Highlighting the low testing rate in the districts of Chattisgarh, the letter further read, “A lack/shortage of RT-PCR testing facilities in Korba, Durg, Balod districts is leading to increased testing turnaround time. Similarly, limited RT-PCR testing capacity was alsoreported from Balod. State may facilitate RT-PCR testing by exploring the use of mobile testing labs.”

According to feedback received from the Central teams, patient referral in Durg is being hampered by the unavailability of an adequate number of ambulances and it needs to be strengthened without any delay.

Bhushan also noted that hospital bed occupancy rates are high in Balod, Raipur, Durg and Mahasamund. “The district administration needs to ramp up hospital infrastructure and other logistical requirements to meet any demand arising due to surge in cases. Similarly, shortage ofRemdesivir, Low Molecular Weight Heparin needs urgent attention in Korba,” Union Health Secretary added.

The feedback also highlighted limited availability of oxygen and oxygen wastage in Raipur. “District-level and hospital-level oxygen planning must start in all districts, as per the formal guidance of this Ministry,” the letter suggested.

Further, a shortage in workforce was reported in Durg, Jashpur and Rajnandangaon. The letter advised that rostering for healthcare workers and contractual appointments be explored in Chhattisgarh too.

Bhushan also said that there is a need for refresher training of surveillance teams and vaccinators in Balod and Korba, respectively.

“The teams have also reported non-adherence to Covid-19 appropriate behaviour by the public. Overcrowding and no physical distancing was observed in the vaccination centre visited by the team in Rajnandangaon. There is a need for enhancing IEC activity efforts in Durg district and strengthening enforcement effort across all districts,” observed the letter.

The Health Ministry deployed Central teams to 11 of the most-affected districts in Chhattisgarh. They were tasked to work along with District Health Authorities on Covid-19 preparedness and response, with a focus on testing, contact tracing and containment operations, Covid-appropriate behaviour and its enforcement, hospital infrastructure and the availability of logistics, and vaccinations.

Finally, in Punjab, the Ministry noted that there is a need to enhance focus on contact tracing in Patiala and Ludhiana. Contact tracing and surveillance in SAS Nagar are being hampered due to shortage of manpower and additional workforce must be deployed, Bhushan said in his letter to the Punjab health secretary.

Feedback from the northern state showed that there is no dedicated Covid hospital in SAS Nagar and Rupnagar, and patients are being referred to neighbouring districts or Chandigarh. Low rates of testing were reported from Patiala and the unavailability of RT-PCR testing labs in Rupnagar. These need to be addressed, said the letter from the Centre.

Hospital bed occupancy rates in some districts are high and arrangements must be made by authorities to deal with the surge in cases, the letter suggested. The Central teams also reported issues with the procurement of ventilators in SBS Nagar and less than optimum use of ventilators in Rupnagar due to a workforce shortage. A shortage in workforce was reported in Patiala and SAS Nagar. The Centre’s letter said that contractual hiring of health workers can address the problem.

Further, it said that Patiala and Ludhiana have reported a slow pace of vaccination among people above 45 years with co-morbidities and those above 60 years.

The Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare has been actively engaging with states in coordinating and collaborating preparedness and response to Covid-19, said all the letters, adding that the Centre has taken note of issues related to vaccine availability in the states, and required action to augment supplies will be taken based on available stock.


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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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