Hyderabad (Telangana) [India], February 20 (ANI): The Hyderabad-based Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology (CSIR-CCMB) said there is emerging evidence that coronavirus variant N440K is spreading “a lot more” in southern states in the country.
Scientists from CSIR-CCMB, in a recent publication, have presented an exhaustive analysis of over 5,000 coronavirus variants in India and how they have evolved over the course of the pandemic.
“The novel variants that are worrying many countries globally have been identified with only a low prevalence in India so far. These include the variants with immune-escape E484K mutation and the N501Y mutation with higher transmission rate. However, their apparent low prevalence might be simply because not enough sequencing has been done. More coronavirus genomes need to be sequenced across the country to accurately identify the emergence of these and other new variants”, said Dr Rakesh Mishra, Director, CCMB and corresponding author on the study.
According to a release by CSIR-CCMB, the study also finds that a few novel variants are spreading more in some states of India.
“We now have emerging evidence that N440K is spreading a lot more in southern states. Closer surveillance is needed to understand its spread properly. Accurate and timely detection of new variants that may show greater infectivity or worse clinical symptoms, including immune escape, will be extremely important to preempt disastrous consequences,” said Dr Mishra.
In the paper, the authors explain how different coronavirus variants gained prevalence in India during the last year.
“One of the variants called the A3i had mutations that were predicted to make its spread slower. The study confirms that it was overtaken by the globally prevalent A2a variant, carrying the D614G mutation, by June 2020. The A2a variant has remained in global dominance for the major part of the year 2020. The recently discovered variants in many countries have raised concerns because of their mutations in the Spike protein, that makes the coat of the virus and come in contact with the human cells,” read the release.
“The Spike protein is required for binding to the receptors on human cells. Mutations in this protein can help the virus in some cases. It can increase viral transmission rates by enhancing its affinity to human receptors. Some of these coronavirus variants can also be immune-escape and cause reinfection. Our immune systems cannot identify them from previous infections because of the changes in their protein structures,” it said.
The paper documents the Spike mutation landscape of SARS-CoV-2, showcasing the ones that have emerged with high prevalence in the country and abroad.
“Spike protein mutations have implications in COVID-19 surveillance and management, vaccines, therapeutics, and the emergence of re-infections. We need to have a focused approach towards monitoring the virus mutations. India has not been sequencing SARS-CoV-2 isolates to full capacity, having deposited only about 6,400 genomes so far. The Indian government’s initiative of INSACOG, which aims to sequence 5 per cent of all positive cases, should soon address this,” said Dr Divya Tej Sowpati, the co-corresponding author.
Dr Surabhi Srivastava, the lead author of the study said the success in the development and administration of vaccines is promising but other non-therapeutic prevention measures, such as masks and physical distancing, will still prove to be the most effective in curbing further spread of the disease.
Lesser spread of the virus also decreases the scope for emergence and accumulation of harmful mutants, she said.
“The take-home of this comprehensive work is that due to the natural process of mutation, variants will keep emerging. The best way to control the potential damage is to exercise extensive genome surveillance and take measures to prevent the spread of new variants as and when detected,” read the release. (ANI)
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21-yr-old woman sarpanch toils hard to bring change in Naxal stronghold Gadchiroli
Gadchiroli (Maharashtra) [India], March 7 (ANI): A 21-year-old woman sarpanch is strengthening the voice of democracy in Maharashtra’s Naxal stronghold Gadchiroli by working day and night to bring about change in the tribal villages.
She drives through the kutcha roads along the forests on a bike to reach out to the villagers and communicate with them.
21-year-old Bhagyashree Lekami is the sarpanch of Koti village located in Bhamragad Tehsil of Gadchiroli in Maharashtra. The Koti village is situated on the border of Maharashtra and Chhattisgarh, very near to the densely forested and mountainous Naxal dominated area of Abujmarh, at a distance of 2,000 km from Maharashtra’s capital city Mumbai.
Speaking to ANI, Bhagyashree said, “Our village is at a distance of 2,000 km from Mumbai. Even the government cannot reach here. This is why the government cannot understand the problems of our village. To change the situation of the village, people of the village will have to come forward. Therefore, I decided to become a sarpanch.”
For two years, no sarpanch was elected to the Koti Grampanchayat comprising nine villages. Due to the fear of the Naxals, people neither file nominations nor cast votes.
But in 2019, the people of the village exercised their democratic right and voted to elect 21-year-old educated Bhagyashree Lekami as the sarpanch.
Lekami was just like every other student in the village who dreamt of moving to a big city to make a career but as soon as she was elected as the sarpanch she decided to stay back in the village and work for resolving the problems of the villagers.
As of now, Bhagyashree has completed two years of her tenure as the sarpanch. In these two years the village has witnessed significant changes including construction of pucca roads and water supply.
Bhagyashree wants to make her village number one.
“But I do not want to hurt the traditional identity of the village while developing. Whatever work I will do, it will definitely change the picture of the village, but the village will retain its importance”, said the young sarpanch of the Koti Grampanchayat.
The biggest problem the village is facing is unemployment and lack of medical facilities, for which the sarpanch is working day and night.
Meanwhile, women’s health and menstruation related diseases have been placed on top priority on Bhagyashree’s agenda. The sarpanch has already started working in this direction by making sanitary pads available to the women of the village from government funds.
To travel to the nine villages falling under the Koti Gramanchayat, one needs to cover the distance through kutcha roads. Some villages can only be reached through the river, either by walking in the water or through a boat.
All these villages have in the past witnessed Naxal violence including encounters, IED blasts, attacks on the police. Despite all these factors, Bhagyashree makes sure that she travels to all the nine villages on a bike and communicate with the villagers.
“I was born and brought up in this village. All the people have seen me since childhood. This is the reason why people give me love and respect and tell me their problems without any hesitation. They also hear what I say and never consider me weak as a woman. I also work neck and neck with my male comrades, added the sarpanch. (ANI)
TDP chief accuses YSRCP of luring voters with money
Vijayawada (Andhra Pradesh) [India], March 7 (ANI): Telugu Desam Party (TDP) National President N Chandrababu Naidu on Sunday slammed YSRCP for allegedly luring the voters with money.
Naidu, while campaigning in Vijayawada for the upcoming Municipal Corporation polls, hit out at the Jagan Mohan-led party and said, “Village and ward volunteers of YSRCP are trying to lure voters with money.”
The TDP leader also alleged the YSRCP-led state government of misusing the police to threaten its rivals.
“Jagan’s regime is full of chaos and anarchy. Corruption became rampant in Jagan’s rule. Entire state is destroyed in Jagan rule. There is no development in any part of the state,” he said.
“The tax slabs of property tax, water tax etc are being increased from coming April,” Naidu said.
The TDP chief also remarked that it is high time to teach lesson for YSRCP and urged people to vote for TDP and ally Communist Party of India (CPI) candidates in the municipal elections.
CPI state secretary K Ramakrishna and other TDP leaders participated in the campaign. CPI is in alliance with TDP in the municipal elections which will be held on March 10 across the state. (ANI)
Goa Congress says Centre’s new OCI notification will ‘finish Goans working abroad’
Panjim (Goa) [India], March 7 (ANI): In a scathing attack on the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led Central government, Goa Pradesh Congress Committee (GPCC) president Girish Chodankar on Sunday said the ‘draconian Overseas Citizens of India (OCI)’ notification issued by the Union Home Ministry will ‘finish the hard working Goans abroad’.
Addressing a press conference here, Chodankar said that since coming to power, the ruling BJP government in the state “is all out to sell Goa to crony capitalists friends of Prime Minister Narendra Modi with the three linear projects, Railway Double Tracking and Coastal Zone Management Plan (CZMP).”
The Congress leader said the Union Ministry of Home Affairs’ (MHA) notification issued on March 4 dramatically altered the status of OCIs (including Non-Resident Goans).
“The notification issued under Section 7B of the Citizenship Act, 1955, supersedes three earlier notifications issued during the UPA Government’s time and laid down the rights of the OCIs. The new notification humiliates and illegally classifies OCIs as “foreign nationals” and introduces a series of new restrictions that dramatically curtails the rights and liberties of OCIs of India,” said Chodankar.
He alleged that the Central government is working on the behest of Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) and implementing their ideologies to create more troubles for people.
“They together want to sell Goa to crony capitalist friends of PM Modi,” the Congress leader claimed.
Further attacking Chief Minister Pramod Sawant-led government in the state, he said “Goa government is not able to give jobs to the people of this state, hence our youths find jobs overseas. This new notification will disconnect them with Goa and also will create hurdles to send money, by creating a wall of bureaucracy, to their families. Hence this notification should be immediately withdrawn as it will further collapse the economy.”
Chodankar further claimed that non-resident Goans abroad will now not be able to send money to their families in India without having to go through the hardships of Foreign Exchange Management Act (FEMA) regulations.
“Goan OCIs, especially those with Portuguese passports, will not be able to participate in religious activities such as organizing feasts and donating to temples, churches, mosques and gurudwaras in Goa,” he said.
“I want to remind the BJP Government that the OCI privileges were a gift and a right extended to the Goans overseas from Indian National Congress. Congress Party had implemented the concept not to just give people of Indian origin with foreign national citizenship a right-filled pass to participate in the future of their country of origin but was the first experimental step towards dual citizenship where people like Goans with Portuguese passports would be able to vote in elections in India,” he added.
He further claimed that after the new notification, children of OCIs will not be able to study in India at par with other Indian citizens.
“Goans children residing abroad wishing to study in IITs, IIMs, AIIMS will not be able to do so anymore, claimed Girish Chodankar… This bill does not just deny people of Indian origin living abroad their lifelong wish of dual citizenship, it severs the legal and emotional link they have to their motherland,” he said. (ANI)
Committed to increasing Jan Aushadhi Kendras to 10,000 by 2024: Harsh Vardhan
New Delhi [India], March 7 (ANI): Union Minister for Health and Family Welfare Harsh Vardhan on Sunday informed that there are 7500 Jan Aushadhi Kendras across various districts of the country and said that the government is committed to increasing their number to 10,000 by the year 2024.
The Minister was inaugurating a Jan Aushadhi Centre at Deep Market in Ashok Vihar area of the national capital on the occasion of Jan Aushadhi Diwas, today.
Detailing Pradhan Mantri Bhartiya Janaushadhi Pariyojana (PMBJP)’s journey at the event, Harsh Vardhan said, “In the first six years of the scheme – from 2008 till the year 2014, only 86 stores were opened. In the next six years (up to 2020) the number of outlets have grown to 7,300. All the districts of the country have already been covered. Today, we have started the 7500th Kendra. We are committed to increasing the number of stores to 10,000 by the year 2024.”
Approximately 1 to 1.25 crore people are taking medicines from Jan Aushadhi Kendra every month, the Union Minister said.
“More than 15,000 persons are directly employed at various levels in Pradhan Mantri Bhartiya Jan Aushadhi Kendra’s (PMBJKs), with logistics partners like distributors, quality testing labs etc. It is also praiseworthy to note that more than 1,000 Kendras are run by women entrepreneurs/pharmacists,” he said.
The Union Minister also informed regarding two initiatives taken under PMBJP scheme.
“The incentive provided to the Kendra owners has been enhanced from existing Rs 2.50 lakh to Rs 5 lakh, maximum at Rs 15,000 per month. Further, one time incentive of Rs 2 lakhs for computer and furniture have been approved for stores opened by women, SC and ST & any entrepreneur in aspirational districts or North-Eastern States,” he said.
“The second initiative taken is the ‘inclusion of 75 Ayush medicines in the product basket of PMBJP’ to expand the utility of Kendras,” he added.
The Union Minister recollected having been satisfied at the availability of Jan Ausadhi at Mon in Nagaland in his recent trip. The district is one of the geographically remotest parts of North East.
During the event, Harsh Vardhan appreciated the role of PMBJKs during COVID-19 pandemic.
He said, “In the wake of COVID-19 pandemic, PMBJKs have rendered essential services to the nation. All Kendras (PMBJKs) maintained their operations regularly and made medicines available to citizens. The sale of medicines in the stores increased during the nationwide lockdown.”
In 2019, Prime Minister Narendra Modi declared March 7 as Jan Aushadhi Diwas for promoting and increasing the outreach of generic medicines.
The theme of 3rd Jan Aushadhi Diwas this year is “Seva bhi- Rozgar Bhi” to highlight the meaningful employment to pharmacists along with assured access to quality medicines for all sections of the society. (ANI)
Fuel price, farmers’ movement will impact Assembly polls, says Digvijaya Singh
Indore (Madhya Pradesh [India], March 7 (ANI): Congress leader Digvijaya Singh during his Indore visit on Sunday said that the fuel price hike and the farmers’ movement will have an impact on the upcoming Assembly elections five states.
“Congress is contesting elections according to its strategy and we hope that good results will come. The way the prices of petrol, diesel cooking gas have increased and the way the farmers’ movement has gone, this will definitely have an impact,” said Singh.
“Congress is ready for the civic elections in Madhya Pradesh and Kamal Nath has sent observers everywhere,” he added.
The Election Commission of India on February 26 announced the schedule for the assembly elections that will be held in Assam, West Bengal, Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Puducherry.
The terms of these states’ assemblies will come to an end in May and June. However, President’s Rule has been imposed in Puducherry after the V Narayanasamy-led Congress government failed to win the trust vote.
Tamil Nadu assembly elections to be held in a single phase on April 6, Kerala also goes to polls on April 6; Assam assembly elections to be held in 3 phases- 1st phase of polling- March 27, second phase polling- April 1 and third phase of polling- April 6; Puducherry elections to be held on 6th April.
The West Bengal Assembly elections will be held in eight phases starting from March 27 with the final round of voting taking place on April 29.
Counting of all votes will be held on May 2. (ANI)
UDF-LDF turned Kerala into centre-stage of political violence, corruption: Amit Shah
Thiruvananthapuram (Kerala) [India], March 7 (ANI): Slamming the popular alliances Left Democratic Front (LDF) and United Democratic Front (UDF) in Kerala, Union Home Minister Amit Shah on Sunday said the state that was known as the land of social revolution is now known for corruption, political violence and ill-governance.
“This land of Kerala has always been the land of social revolution. However, this land is known for corruption, political violence, and ill-governance today,” said Shah while addressing the valedictory function of BJP’s Kerala Vijay Yatra in Shangumugham.
He said Kerala was the first state to defeat illiteracy and develop tourism as an industry, but today, with UDF-LDF, it has turned into the “center-stage of political violence and corruption”.
“When UDF comes, it does the Solar scam. When LDF comes, it does the Dollar scam. They’re both competing in how corrupt they can be!” the Union Minister said.
Demanding public answers from Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan, Shah raised questions about the gold smuggling case.
“Did the chief accused in the dollar and gold smuggling case work under you in your office? Did your department or government pay them a monthly salary of Rs 3 lakh? Did your Principal Secretary help the chief accused or not? Did you and your Principal Secretary take this woman at government cost on a foreign trip? Why did this accused woman continuously come to the CM’s residence? What was going on? Did the CM office pressurize customs when the smuggled gold was found? If yes, why? Did you investigate in detail the attack on ED and Customs officers? An important person died under mysterious circumstances. Did you get that investigated?” asked the Minister and said the people of Kerala want to know answers to all these questions.
Talking about Kerala Vijaya Yatra, Shah said the 1,940 km long Yatra was started with the idea of transformation in Kerala. “With 62 large rallies and innumerable rural rallies, today it concludes in Trivandrum. From today, we start working on the mission of Aatmanirbhar Kerala,” he said.
Praising the newly inducted member of the BJP, ‘Metro Man’ E Sreedharan, the Union Minister said, “Due to the development of Konkan railway, South India was connected to the rest of the country and development reached here. E Sreedharan Ji has played a key role in this journey! We all are happy that infrastructure maker ‘Metro Man’ has chosen BJP for ‘Bharat Nirman’.” (ANI)
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