Union Health Minister Dr Harsh Vardhan on Sunday said that the first shot of a Covid-19 vaccine could be administered in “any week of January”. He said that the safety and effectiveness of vaccines would be the first priority and that there won’t be any compromise on that parameter.
“Our first priority has been safety and effectiveness of vaccines. We don’t want to compromise on that. I personally feel, maybe in any week of January, we can be in a position to give first Covid vaccine shot to people of India,” news agency ANI quoted Vardhan as saying.
The Drugs Controller General of India (DCGI) is examining the applications of Bharat Biotech, Serum Institute of India (SII) and Pfizer to grant emergency use authorisation for their Covid-19 vaccines. Last week, the Centre had said that the DGCI has sought more data from these companies but it will not impact the timeline of vaccine rollout.
The National Expert Group on Vaccine Administration for Covid-19 (NEGVAC), headed by NITI Aayog member Dr VK Paul, has recommended that 10 million healthcare staff, 20 million frontline workers and 270 million people over the age of 50 or with co-morbidities be given the vaccines on priority once it becomes available.
Dr Harsh Vardhan on Saturday had announced that India is at the cusp of authorising the first set of Covid-19 vaccines and expressed the need for an expeditious vaccination drive to cover all the target populations estimated to be around 30 crore. He made the announcement while chairing the 22nd meeting of the high-level Group of Ministers (GoM) on Covid-19 through a video-conference here as India crossed the one crore infection mark. He also expressed the need for an expeditious vaccination drive to cover all the target populations estimated to be around 30 crore.
The Minister said that India’s Covid-19 pandemic growth has dropped to 2 per cent and the case fatality rate is amongst the lowest in the world at 1.45 per cent. “India’s Recovery Rate has peaked to 95.46 per cent, while the strategy of testing 1 million samples has decreased the Cumulative Positivity Rate to 6.25 per cent,” he added.
Observing the fact that despite festivals in October and November, Vardhan said no new surge of cases was observed in this period due to comprehensive testing, tracking and treatment policy implemented on the ground.
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Indian student in Aussie jail for saving Tricolour from Khalistanis
A band of Haryanvis had clashed with a group of Khalistanis at Harris Park in Sydney, Australia, in February 2021, following which one Vishal, originally from Kurukshetra, Haryana, had been arrested by the Australian police. He has been in custody since the last three months and no consular access has been given to him.
Vishal’s “fault” was that he was chanting “Modi zindabad” and tried to save the India’s Tricolour. When the pro-Khalistan group was conducting a rally at Sydney’s Harris Park to support the farmers and what happened at the Red Fort on 26 January 2021, Vishal, with a few other students, opposed the Khalistani group raising slogans against PM Modi and India. He, along with other people, started shouting “Modi zindabad” and “Hindustan zindabad”. He was beaten up by a mob there.
Vishal, along with other pro-India students, had organised a “Tiranga car rally” on 26 January night and also burnt the Khalistani flag. After that incident, he became the target of Khalistanis all over Australia. Khalistanis tried to attack him multiple times by breaking into his house and attacking the car, but they never got him. Instead, they beat up a few other Indian students brutally. One of the incidents was when they attacked an Indian student belonging to Padha village in Karnal, Haryana, and glorified it by saying that they had avenged the burning of the Khalistan flag and Vishal was punished by them.
Vishal’s family, staying in Kurukshetra, spoke to The Daily Guardian exclusively. Vishal’s father Nathuram said: “We want consular access to Vishal. He should be free as early as possible, he tried to save India’s flag, he has done nothing wrong, but Khalistani people framed him.”
According to his brother Ravi, “Vishal went to Australia as a student. When he saw some Khalistani groups protesting against India, he shouted ‘Modi zindabad’. We came to know that one Khalistani policeman beat up Vishal inside the jail. We want the Indian government to intervene in this case.”
According to Vishal’s friend Gaurav: “We have no idea about Vishal’s current condition; he should be released from jail as early as possible.”
Meanwhile, some Indian organisations have come forward in Australia to help Vishal; they have arranged a lawyer to secure his release. Nitin (name changed), who lived in Sydney, told The Daily Guardian that since the last few months, pro-Khalistan groups have been targeting pro-Modi groups in Australia. They malign India’s image through TikTok. Several attacks took place in the last three months in Sydney, Canberra and Melbourne. Around five lakh Indians stay in Australia.
Ayodhya Mayor calls Ram temple land scam charges ‘conspiracy’
The politics of Uttar Pradesh has heated up after allegations of scam on the land purchased by the Shri Ram Janmabhoomi Teerth Kshetra Trust for the construction of the temple in Ayodhya. These allegations of scam have been made by the Congress, Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) Rajya Sabha MP Sanjay Singh and former Samajwadi Party MLA from Ayodhya and former minister Pawan Pandey. Since then, accusations and counter-accusations have been made by all the Opposition parties and trusts.
Reacting to such accusations, Ayodhya Mayor Rishikesh Upadhyay said: “The construction work of the mandir of Shri Ram is going on. At this time, the whole country wants to build its house in Ayodhya. The Uttar Pradesh government is also running a 1,200-acre master plan in Ayodhya, on which work is going on at a fast pace. The land near the railway station was decided by the Trust. The land allotted was less than the market rate. According to the circle rate, that land was worth Rs 24 crore. We got that land for Rs 18.5 crore. There has been an agreement sale since 2011. This was not a day’s work, the allegation is baseless.”
Upadhyay added: “The land was in the name of Sultan Ansari’s father in 2011. Renewal took place in 2014, 2017 and 2019. After 2019, when the verdict on Ram Janmabhoomi came, the price of land in Ayodhya started increasing rapidly. Sultan Ansari is a resident of Ramkot. Ansari gave the land in the name of Lord Ram. I am only a witness. There are many such lands in which I am a witness, Kaushalya Bhawan, etc.”
Asked whether he was a witness in the land purchase of Sultan Ansari and the Trust also, Rishikesh Upadhyay said: “I am a witness in the purchase of many temples. The witness is only for the fact that you took so much money in lieu of the land. The witness has nothing to do with the rest of the work.”
But Opposition parties have leveled a volley of accusations. Addressing a press conference virtually on Monday, Randeep Surjewala, general secretary of the Congress, said, “The trust was established on the direction of the Supreme Court and now the court should take cognisance of the issue and investigate the matter.” He said the court should audit all the accounts and make public the report including the purchase of the land. Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, too, attacked the people involved in the deal and said in a tweet, “The misuse of contribution is disrespect to crores of devotees’ faith.”
Deputy Chief Minister of Delhi and Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) leader Manish Sisodia on Monday accused the Ram temple trust of buying a piece of land for the proposed shrine inAyodhya at an inflated price. “The Ram Janmabhoomi Trust has purchased a piece of land in Ayodhya for Rs 18.5 crore. It was sold for just Rs 2 crore five minutes before it was bought by the Ram temple trust. There has been a scam in purchasing this land for the pious work of building the Ram temple. The Trust must clarify why the land was bought at such a high price,” he said at a press conference in Delhi.
The allegation on the Shri Ram Janmabhoomi Teerth Kshetra Trust is that they have purchased land for the temple of Rs 18.5 crore which was purchased at Rs 2 crore. But the Shri Ram Janmabhoomi Teerth Kshetra Trust has strongly denied allegations of corruption levelled by opposition parties, in land purchase. A statement, signed by Trust secretary Champat Rai, said, “After the Supreme Court order, a lot of people started coming to Ayodhya to purchase land, and as the UP government is also purchasing a lot of land for development works, the land price increased suddenly. The land on which discussion has started is very close to the railway station and, therefore, is at a very important location. All the land purchased by the Trust is purchased at a price much lower than the market price.”
Asked if the Aam Aadmi Party and Congress are raising this issue ahead of the elections in Uttar Pradesh, the Mayor of Ayodhya said: “Absolutely. This is a political conspiracy. This is a conspiracy to mislead the country. Chief Minister Yogiji did a good job regarding corona pandemic crisis control. This is the anger of the Opposition parties. If nothing can be found, then raise this issue.”
Asked about an investigation, he said: “Absolutely. The difference between the truth and lies will emerge. These people do not believe in Ram. These people are shocked by the popularity of Yogiji.”
Uncle Paras corners Chirag to take the LJP reins, praises Nitish
Less than a year after a crushing defeat in the Bihar Assembly election, Lok Jan Shakti (LJP) chief Chirag Paswan faces an overnight coup by his own uncle and Member of Parliament Pashupati Kumar Paras, as his party MPs in the Lok Sabha joined hands against him and elected Paras as their leader in Lok Sabha. In a late night development on Monday, Lok Sabha Speaker Om Birla accepted their request and recognised Paras as the leader of the LJP in the Lok Sabha.
Apart from Chirag Paswan, the LJP has five MPs in the Lok Sabha. The five rebel MPs wanted a new leader to replace Chirag Paswan. They had a meeting in the evening on Sunday and elected Paras as their leader. This group had conveyed this decision to the Lok Sabha Speaker and formally asked him to remove their leader of the parliamentary party.
Chirag is son of party founder Ram Vilas Paswan who died last year.
Ram Vilas Paswan was a member of the Modi cabinet until his death and a cabinet reshuffle is widely expected.
Chirag Paswan was hoping to fill the vacancy that arose on the death of his father, but this revolt has crushed his hope and Paras has become a top contender for a ministerial berth in the cabinet.
Paras, who is an MP from Hajipur, has been supported by Chirag’s cousin Prince Raj, MP from Samastipur, Mehboob Ali Kaiser, MP from Khagaria, Veena Devi, MP from Vaishali, and Chandan Singh, MP from Nawada.
Chirag Paswan came to know about this development late night on Sunday and rushed to meet his uncle at his official residence in Delhi on Monday morning. Some dramatic scenes followed this event, as Chirag Paswan was made to wait to enter at Paras’ residence for 20 minutes in his car. Paras was not present at his residence, and Chirag had to go back with empty hands.
Paras had long been unhappy with Chirag’s style of functioning and he found support from other MPs. This group believed that his campaign against Nitish Kumar during the Bihar Assembly election had left them at a disadvantage in the state. On Monday morning, Paras told reporters that he had no complaints against his nephew and that he was only trying to rescue the party. He also praised Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, calling him “vikas purush”. Paras also made it clear that his group will continue to be part of the BJP-led NDA, and added that Chirag can remain in the organisation. The Paras-led group is also likely to stake a claim in the Election Commission to represent the real LJP.
New Delta variant emerges as India sees lowest spike in 74 days
Highly transmissible Delta variant of SARS-CoV-2 mutates to form the Delta Plus, but experts say no cause of concern for now
Even as India maintained its declining trend of cases and reported the lowest single-day Covid-19 rise in 74 days, scientists have said that the highly transmissible Delta variant of SARS-CoV-2 has mutated further to form the “Delta Plus” or “AY.1” variant, They, however, added that there is no immediate cause for concern in India as its incidence in the country is still low.
The Delta or B.1.617.2 variant was first identified in India and is one of the drivers of the deadly second wave. The new Delta Plus variant has been formed due to a mutation in the Delta or B.1.617.2 variant. “Delta Plus” is resistant to the monoclonal antibody cocktail treatment for Covid-19 recently authorised in India, though there is no indication yet of the severity of the disease due to the new variant.
According to Public Health England, 63 genomes of Delta (B.1.617.2) with the new K417N mutation have been identified so far on the global science initiative GISAID. In its latest report on coronavirus variants, updated till last Friday, the health agency said “Delta Plus” was present in six genomes from India as of 7 June.
The “AY.1” variant is characterised by the acquisition of K417N mutation, Vinod Scaria, clinician and scientist at Delhi’s CSIR-Institute of Genomics and Integrative Biology (IGIB), tweeted on Sunday. The mutation, he said, is in the spike protein of SARS-COV-2, which helps the virus enter and infect the human cells.
The variant frequency for K417N is not much in India at this point in time. The sequences are mostly from Europe, Asia and America, Scaria wrote on Twitter. The earliest sequence of this genome was found in Europe in late March this year. Noting that the travel histories for the variant are not readily available to make assumptions, Scaria said an important point to consider regarding K417N is the evidence suggesting resistance to monoclonal antibodies Casirivimab and Imdevimab. This cocktail recently received emergency-use authorization in the country from the Central Drugs Standard Control Organisation. Drug majors Roche India and Ciplas have priced the antibody cocktail at a steep Rs 59,750 per dose.
Scaria also indicated the mutation may be associated with the ability to escape the immune response against the virus. Similar to antibodies which are proteins that the body naturally produces to defend itself against the disease, monoclonal antibodies are artificially created in a lab and tailor-made to fight the disease they treat. Casirivimab and Imdevimab are monoclonal antibodies that are specifically directed against the spike protein of SARS-CoV-2, and designed to block the virus’ attachment and entry into human cells.
Allaying fears, immunologist Vineeta Bal said that while there may be some setback in the use of commercial antibody cocktail due to the new variant, resistance to the therapy is not an indication of higher virulence or severity of a disease. How transmissible this new variant is will be a crucial factor to determine its rapid spread or otherwise, Bal, guest faculty at the Indian Institute of Science Education and Research, Pune, told a news agency.
Meanwhile, the Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare said on Monday that 70,421 new Covid-19 infections were reported in the last 24 hours. With this, the total cases have reached 2,95,10,410, and the daily positivity rate stands at 4.72 per cent, which is less than 10 per cent for the 21st consecutive day. Also, the weekly positivity rate dropped below 5 per cent and today stands at 4.54 per cent. The active caseload remained below 10 lakh after 66 days and today stands at 9,73,158. According to the health ministry, a total of 3,921 deaths were reported in the last 24 hours, taking the death toll to 3,74,305 in the country.
WITH AGENCY INPUTS
CORNERED IN KASHMIR, TERRORIST GROUPS PLAN MAJOR IED ATTACK
Lashkar and Jaish have been given the responsibility of carrying out major IED attacks, while the task of grenade attacks is given to Hizbul, TRF and Al Badr.
Frustrated by the ever-increasing pressure of security forces in Kashmir and the killing of all major commanders, terrorist outfits in the Valley are in the process of organising a major IED blast.
The Daily Guardian has accessed the report of intelligence agencies which has been sent to the Union Home Ministry. The report suggests that terrorists present in the Valley are in the process of carrying out major attacks on security forces’ “naka”, security forces’ convoys, security forces’ pickets as well as security forces’ installations. Pakistani intelligence agency ISI has instructed all terrorists to work together and has assigned different tasks to all terrorist organisations.
ISI has assigned different tasks to different terrorist outfits for the attack. Lashkar and Jaish were given the responsibility of carrying out major IED attacks, while the task of grenade attacks was given to Hizbul, TRF and Al Badr.
In this report, an alert has been issued in South Kashmir regarding four districts of Anantnag, Kulgam, Pulwama and Shopian. Special instructions were given to attack the road opening party (ROP) and naka and picket, the sudden attack on security forces would cause more damage to the security forces as well as snatch weapons from them.
According to intelligence agencies, about 45 youths have joined various terrorist groups this year, most of them joining Lashkar and Al Badr, while about 48 youths are missing. There is no concrete information about them. The security forces are investigating through various means whether they joined the terrorist organisation or not. The involvement of local youths in terrorist outfits is a matter of concern for the security agencies.
The most dangerous areas in the region are Hef Sharimal in Shopian district, Sambura, Lilahar, Pulwama town and Tral in Pulwama district. The special aspect is that Lashkar has engaged its overground workers to collect information about informer of security forces, and ensure the entire family of such people would be eliminated.
According to the information given by the intelligence agencies, Lashkar is in the process of snatching weapons by attacking the security forces, especially the Jammu and Kashmir Police, while about Srinagar, the agency said in its report that Lashkar is preparing to attack the security forces and carry out grenade attacks on picket. Terrorists are trying to snatch modern weapons from the security forces deployed in the area.
There is an intelligence report about Budgam that terrorists have prepared a plan to attack the security forces, especially the Road Opening Party (ROP).
Dangerous things have been said in the report about Pulwama. For example, the three factions of Jaish are preparing to attack the security forces through IEDs. Manzoor and Ilyas, who are the deputy commanders, have been given the responsibility of the roads on which IEDs will be installed. Pulwama-Sangam Link Road, Pulwama-Litre Link Road, and the Kakapora-Pulwama-Sopiyan Link Road, which connects to NH-44, are in the terrorists’ radar. Along with this, Hizbul and Jaish terrorists are preparing to blast IEDs from Bijbehara to Pampore and Lasipora to the Kakapora area.
Lashkar, Jaish, Hizbul and TRF are now trying to make 220 ground workers active terrorists in the Valley, out of which about 30 have become active overground terrorists. This has happened because most of the young terrorists have been killed. According to sources, the number of overground workers who are active in the Valley is as follows: 25 in Tral, 35 in Pulwama, 100 in Sopiyan and 60 in Kulgam.
FASHION WAS NEVER A PLAN B FOR ME: RANNA GILL
NEW DELHI: Fashion designer Ranna Gill recently joined NewsX’s special series NewsX India A-List . She gave an insight into her journey and shared how the pandemic has impacted the fashion industry.
An alumnus of the prestigious Fashion Institute of Technology in New York, Ranna Gill launched her label ‘Ranna Gill’ two decades ago. Over the years, she has carved a space of her own in the Indian fashion industry. Ranna recently joined NewsX’s special series NewsX India A-List and spoke about not only her journey but also how the pandemic has impacted the fashion industry.
Speaking about how the pandemic has impacted her label and how she overcame the challenges, Ranna said, “We are still fighting. The challenges were big. We overcame them a little bit and then we came back to the fighting ground again. We have two businesses, so we have an export business in the United States and then we have stores and retail in India. So, we kind of need to paddle both. When this side of the river is stormy, we jump to the other side. We kind of need to paddle both sides and somehow try to come out of it, get out of the troubled water and we will.”
When asked about the brand ‘Ranna Gill’ and how was it conceptualised, she responded, “It is a lot of work. I started this brand with my mother, so the company is owned by my mom and me. I always loved fashion as a young student. I went to fashion school, it was my passion, it was my first love. It was what I always wanted to do so it’s not a plan B. It’s not like I wanted to be something else and I just rolled into fashion. I studied fashion. I have got bachelors in fashion from FIT New York, so I am a student of fashion and as well as a fashion designer. So, I have trained in fashion and I have always loved it. Even to this date, after having done designing for over twenty years, I still get excited when I look at products when I look at fashion I look at colours. Colours to me are like what candy is to children. It’s just such a special treat to look at the colour palette, to look at swatches, to dip die, to look at textures. Prints are an important USP to our brand. Even now, I am wearing a print from my collection. I love prints, the play of prints, and colours. We like to do easier, more playful, more ready to wear bodies, using these tools. We always stay closer to the story, what it is speaking, what the brand is speaking to its customers. You will always see colour in our collection and you will always see prints in our collection.”
Talking about the trick or mantra behind increased online sales amid the pandemic, she said, “I think it’s mostly product and the price point. It’s not very expensive, not very pricey and it’s not very difficult to wear. You don’t need to think of an occasion before coming onto our website or our stores to buy a line. To buy our products, whether it is a blouse, a tunic or a dress, you can always buy them over this weekend or two weekends down. You can wear it in the summer or bring it up in the falls. I think the product is always the king and we stay close to our language or the message we are sending to our customers. We don’t pivot from sarees to sometimes go on to make a blouse. We are always going to make the blouses, the dresses and tunics and that’s what we are going to always be designing into and circling back to. I think the product is crucial, that helped us through this time, price point, sensible pricing. sensible making of products. It’s not too fashionable that it won’t be relevant next year or two years down the line. So it’s all of those things that we kind of always come back to.”
Finally, when asked about the lessons she learned during this phase and future plans for her brand, she said, “We want to 100% focus on our online business. That is where we are headed and that I think is the future. Having said that I think we can bring more to our stores maybe. I am a little old school but I still think that they are very lovely to come to our shop. The customer has this special feeling. When she comes to our store, the girls know her she wears the garment so I think it’s going to be a bit of both. It’s really not going to be some clear messaging but at the moment it’s online, of course.”
She added, “There have been some really hard learning lessons. I think one has to for all of us. For our brand, it was just mainly we just decided to fight for the brand. We were not going to give it away or let it go and we just kind of all held hands. When did our business quietly and just fought for what we stood for so many years? One thing we learnt in our business, is working via technology. In the past, we used to take a flight and go to any place and really quickly. We would meet a buyer or meet or go to fashion fair or meet. I feel that one of the great learning is that we all got out of this phase was using technology for fashion, for all streams of business, even to connect with friends and family and fighting for your own business. Those were the two big learnings for me.”
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