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Aditya Nair



The government on Wednesday announced that people above the age of 60 and those over 45 with co-morbidities will be able to receive Covid-19 vaccines from 1 March.

Speaking at a media briefing, Union minister Prakash Javadekar said that the vaccinations will be given free of cost at around 10,000 government centres spread across the country.

Vaccines will also be provided at 20,000 private centres, but there, people will have to pay to get inoculated, he added. This comes as the Bengal government has made it mandatory for passengers travelling in flights from Maharashtra, Kerala and two other states to produce a negative Covid-19 report.

In the meantime, India reported 13,742 new Covid-19 cases and 104 deaths in the last 24 hours, according to data released by the Union Health Ministry. With this, the country’s total caseload has risen to 1,10,30,176, while the death toll has surged to 1,56,567. The total number of active cases is now at 1,46,907, while the number of people who have recuperated from the disease is now over 1,07,26,702, the Ministry said.

Mumbai on Wednesday recorded 1,167 new Covid-19 cases, the highest daily spike in about four months, the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) said. The tally of cases in the country’s financial capital thus rose to 3,21,698, while the death toll reached 11,453 with four new fatalities. 

Kerala has recorded 4,106 new cases with the tally now touching 10.45 lakhs. The active number of cases in the state currently sits at 52,689.

Gujarat, on the other hand, reported 380 new cases taking the total to 2.68 lakhs.

In Goa, as many as 52 persons tested positive for coronavirus, while 35 were discharged from hospitals after recovering from the infection on Wednesday, an official from the health department said. With the addition of the latest cases, the state’s Covid-19 tally has reached 54,700, of which 53,416 patients have recovered so far, the official said.

Andhra Pradesh reported 94 new cases and 66 recoveries in the last 24 hours. There were no deaths reported in this period. This has taken the total number of cases to 8,89,503 with the total recoveries at 8,81,732. The total death toll stands at 7,168 in the state while active cases are at 603.

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Sonia flags a ‘lack of clarity, cohesion’ among Congress leaders



Congress interim president Sonia Gandhi on Tuesday called on her party to “fight the diabolical campaign of BJP and RSS ideologically” and said that the fight to defend democracy, the Constitution and the party’s ideology should begin with being fully prepared to identify and counter false propaganda.

Chairing a meeting of the party’s general secretaries at the party headquarters, Sonia Gandhi also asked her party leaders to re-emphasise the paramount need for discipline and unity and train party workers on the unceasing onslaught of malicious disinformation campaigns at the behest of the BJP/RSS. The Congress interim President said, “We must fight the diabolical campaign of BJP/RSS ideologically. We must do so with conviction and expose their lies before the people if we want to win this battle. The AICC releases important and detailed statements almost every day on issues that the nation is facing. But it is my experience that they do not percolate down to our grassroots cadres at the block and district level. There are policy issues on which I find a lack of clarity and cohesion even amongst our state-level leaders.”

“You must train our workers to take on the unceasing onslaught of malicious disinformation campaigns at the behest of the BJP/RSS. And you must train our people to fight it while upholding and projecting the core Congress ideology,” Sonia Gandhi said. She said that the party must re-double its fights for the “victims” of the present ruling party in the Centre.

Launching a scathing attack on the Prime Minister Narendra Modi-led NDA government in the Centre, the senior leader said, “The Modi government has sought to erode our institutions so it may evade accountability. Our own history bears witness to the fact that if an organisation is to succeed against injustice and inequality if it is to effectively champion the rights of the marginalised, it must become a widespread agitation down to the grassroots.”

Sonia Gandhi also gave emphasis on identifying and assigning Congress leaders and office bearers for the task of enrolling members in the party in a transparent fashion. She also talked about the training programmes for the party workers.

“You must ensure the clear delineation of the responsibilities of these individuals at the state, district, block, ward and village level. This is a vital responsibility that you are entrusted with,” she said. “Training programmes for our workers are therefore an absolute necessity. I want to emphasise that you should take it on priority. The fight to defend our democracy, our Constitution and the Congress party’s ideology begins with being fully prepared to identify and counter false propaganda.”

“Five states are going to election in the coming months. Congress party workers and leaders in these states are gearing up to take on these battles. Our campaign must be founded upon concrete policies and programmes emanating from widespread discussions with all sections of society,” she added.

Earlier in the day, Sonia Gandhi presided over a meeting with core party leaders to discuss the upcoming Assembly elections to Punjab, Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Manipur and Goa, among other issues. The meeting was held at party headquarters today. Rahul Gandhi, Priyanka Gandhi Vadra and other Congress leaders attended the meeting.

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Covaxin may get nod within 24 hours: WHO



A World Health Organization technical advisory group was reviewing data on India’s Covaxin shot against Covid-19 on Tuesday with a decision on its emergency use listing likely soon, a spokesperson said. “If all is in place and all goes well and if the committee is satisfied, we would expect a recommendation within the next 24 hours or so,” Margaret Harris told journalists at a UN press briefing.

Millions of Indians have taken the shot produced by Bharat Biotech, but many have been unable to travel pending the WHO approval.

Last Friday, speaking on the Covaxin issue, a top official of the WHO said the process of thoroughly evaluating a vaccine for use and recommending it sometimes takes a long time, but it has to be ensured that the right advice is given to the world. “The World Health Organisation is very clear that we want all countries to recognise vaccines that have been given an Emergency Use Listing (EUL) by the WHO advisory process. But it’s also very important that WHO, when it makes a recommendation like that, is making that globally,” WHO Health Emergencies Programme Executive Director Dr Mike Ryan had said.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi met Indian Covid-19 vaccine manufacturers on Saturday and discussed various issues including furthering the vaccine research. The meeting was held within days of the country achieving a key milestone of administering one billion doses of the jabs.

Meanwhile, a report from New Delhi quoted Union Health Minister Mansukh Mandaviya as saying on Tuesday that approval for Bharat Biotech’s Covaxin will be given on the basis of the meeting which will be convened by the WHO today. “WHO has a system in which there is a technical committee which has approved it (Covaxin) while the other committee is meeting today. The approval for Covaxin will be given on the basis of today’s meeting,” Mandaviya said during a press briefing in New Delhi. Mandaviya also said that a government panel of experts was looking into a Delta subvariant, AY.4.2, that has been detected in the United Kingdom.

Earlier this month, WHO chief scientist Dr Soumya Swaminathan had said that WHO’s technical advisory group will meet on 26 October to consider emergency use listing (EUL) for Covaxin. “The timeframe for the WHO Emergency Use Listing procedure is dependent on how quickly a company producing the vaccine is able to provide the data required for WHO to evaluate the vaccine’s quality, safety, efficacy and its suitability for low- and middle-income countries,” the WHO had said. Bharat Biotech has been submitting data to WHO on a rolling basis and submitted additional information at WHO’s request on 27 September.

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No bail for Aryan Khan, hearing to resume today



The Bombay High Court on Tuesday adjourned the hearing on the bail application of Aryan Khan, accused in the drugs on cruise case, till tomorrow. Former Attorney General of India Mukul Rohatgi appeared for Aryan Khan today. A special court in Mumbai had on Wednesday refused to grant bail to Aryan and two others in connection with the seizure of drugs. Following this, Aryan Khan moved a bail application in the Bombay High Court against the NDPS court order on his bail rejection. On 21 October, the Bombay High Court said that it would hear Aryan Khan’s bail application on 26 October.

A five-member team of NCB will go from Delhi to Mumbai tomorrow to probe the allegations of corruption made by Prabhakar Sail, who is a witness in the drugs-on-cruise matter of Mumbai. Sources said the team will comprise DDG NCB Gyaneshwar Singh, along with four other NCB officers.

Meanwhile, an accused in the Mumbai drugs on cruise case, Manish Rajgaria, was granted bail by a city-based special Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (NDPS) court on Tuesday. As per Rajgaria’s lawyer, Ajay Dubey, the court has granted his bail plea in the matter.

Rohatgi, appearing for Aryan Khan’s bail plea, on Tuesday said that Aryan Khan was invited to cruise as a special guest. “He (Aryan Khan) was invited to the cruise as a special guest. He was invited by Pratik Gaba who was like an organiser. He invited accused 1 Aryan and accused 2 Arbaz Merchant. Both were invited by the same person. They both landed up together at the cruise terminal,” Rohatgi said in the courtroom. Rohatgi further attributed NCB’s presence at the cruise to some prior information. “It appears that NCB had some prior information that people on this cruise were having drugs so they were present in a certain strength,” he stated. He said that nothing was recovered from Aryan Khan when searches were conducted. “My client, Arbaz and many others were apprehended. A search was conducted and nothing was recovered from Accused 1 (Aryan Khan). No medical at any point was conducted to ascertain if he has taken any drug,” he added.

Talking about the recovery of six grams of charas from Arbaz Merchant, Rohatgi said that Aryan Khan has no relation with him except for arriving with him there and there was no recovery of drugs from Aryan and no proof of consumption was reported.

NCB Mumbai Zonal Director Sameer Wankhede reached the NCB office in the national capital on Tuesday. Speaking to reporters in New Delhi, Wankhede said, “I have not been summoned. I have come here for a different purpose. All the allegations against me are baseless.”

In a related development, NCB Zonal Director Sameer Wankhede’s wife Kranti Redkar Wankhede on Tuesday dismissed the allegations posed by NCP leader Nawab Malik and questioned the credibility of the anonymous letter cited by the minister. Addressing the media, Kranti said, “Anyone can write these kinds of letters. Such letters have no merit. Malik’s allegations are all lies and if he has proof, he should produce it before the court. We cannot find anything by doing ‘Twitterbaaji’. Anyone can write anything on Twitter. I can also write on Twitter. Such letters, as shared by Nawab Malik, hold no relevance.” Reacting to Nawab Malik’s allegations of extortion and illegal phone tapping against the NCB official, Redkar said, “This all are false claims. My husband is not wrong. We will not tolerate this.”

She further said that her family is receiving death threats. “I have been given police protection as our family is receiving death threats. A lot of people may benefit if Sameer Wankhede is removed from his current post at NCB,” she said.

On Malick’s challenge to file criminal defamation case against him, Kranti said “Why should we go to court? Those levelling allegations against us should go to court. We are not ‘crorepatis’, we are simple people. The court is supreme, we cannot believe in hearsay. Sameer is an honest officer which is why many people wish that he should be removed.”

Speaking on the birth certificate of Wankhede, she called for more research by NCP and said that their research team is ‘fantastic’ so they should find the original certificate. “You can check the certificate of the entire village, of the whole Wankhede family. One person’s certificate may be forged but how can it be of the entire village. Yesterday daddy also showed and proofed that his caste is original. It seems to me that they haven’t researched properly. They should do more research. Their research team is fantastic so they should find the original certificate,” she said.

Meanwhile, NCB officer Sameer Wankhede’s sister Yasmeen said that “we are receiving death and threat calls”. “Who’s he (Nawab Malik) to look for a bureaucrat’s birth certificate? His research team calls a picture posted in Bombay from Dubai…We’re receiving death, threat calls. I feel I should also present false evidence every day,” said Yasmeen.

Earlier in the day, the Maharashtra minister said that he has received a letter from an unnamed NCB official alleging that a number of people have been framed in false cases by the anti-drugs agency. The Maharashtra Minority Affairs Minister said that he is forwarding the letter to NCB Director General S.N. Pradhan, to include it in the agency’s probe into the cruise drug bust case involving Shah Rukh Khan’s son Aryan Khan.

Malik said that the letter he received mentions 26 cases in which it is alleged that Sameer Wankhede “did not follow proper rules while investigating the matter”. Wankhede has, meanwhile, said that all the allegations were false. Malik had earlier also shared the birth certificate of Wankhede on Twitter saying “Sameer Dawood Wankhede’s fraud started from here.” Following this Wankhede said he will fight Malik legally.

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6 civilians hurt in terrorists’ grenade attack in J&K



At least six civilians were injured in a grenade attack in Jammu and Kashmir on Tuesday. The J&K Police said the attack took place in Bandipora district this morning, in which one woman also sustained injuries. “A few civilians were injured when terrorists lobbed a grenade in the Sumbal bridge area of Bandipora today,” the Jammu and Kashmir Police said initially.

A police official later said the terrorists had tried to target an Army convoy. “At about 10:20 am, terrorists hurled a grenade upon the Army convoy near bus stand Sumbal which missed the target and exploded on road side,” the police official informed.

Security forces were at the site of the attack and a hunt was on to nab the unidentified terrorists. The injured were rushed to the SMHS hospital where their condition was stated to be stable.

On Sunday, a civilian was allegedly killed in cross-firing after terrorists attacked a battalion of the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) in the Union territory’s Shopian district, police said. The incident evoked strong reactions from mainstream political parties in the Kashmir valley, who demanded a probe into it.

This month, at least 11 people have been killed in shootings targeting civilians, mostly non-locals, in Jammu and Kashmir. Recently, Union home minister Amit Shah discussed various security issues, including the recent killing of civilians, in a meeting with state police and central armed police forces chiefs. The overall security situation in the country, including the recent incidents of targeted killings of civilians in Kashmir, were discussed in the meeting.

A report from Pulwama said Shah on Tuesday paid tribute to 40 CRPF jawans killed in the 2019 terror attack, at the memorial in Jammu and Kashmir’s Pulwama. Lieutenant-Governor Manoj Sinha also laid a wreath at the memorial, paying tribute to the personnel killed in the 2019 Pulwama terror attack. Earlier on Monday, Shah visited the CRPF camp and interacted with the security personnel at Lethpora in the Pulwama district of Jammu and Kashmir.

The attack on the CRPF convoy took place in Jammu and Kashmir’s Pulwama district on 14 February 2019. A 22-year-old suicide bomber Adil Ahmad Dar rammed an explosive-laden vehicle into the bus.

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In a significant development, the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) has arrested a serving Indian Navy officer along with two retired ones in connection with the leakage of confidential information related to the modernisation of a Kilo-class submarine.

Top government sources said that after the developments took place last month, the Indian Navy also ordered a high-level probe under a Vice Admiral and a Rear Admiral to probe the leakage of information and look for ways to prevent any such incident in the future. “After getting inputs from agencies concerned, the CBI arrested a serving Navy officer of the rank of Commander (Lt Col equivalent in Army) who is currently posted in Mumbai for passing on unauthorised information related to the Kilo-class submarine modernisation project to retired officers,” said sources.

The CBI has been questioning a number of other serving officers who were in touch with the arrested officers, they said. The Indian Navy has been providing assistance in the ongoing investigations by the Central agency and providing its men for questioning by investigating officers, defence sources said.

The top brass of the government including the agencies looking after national security has also been given a briefing on the status of the investigations. Sources said as soon as the matter was brought to the notice of the top Naval brass, they formed a five-member team headed by a Vice Admiral also started a parallel probe to investigate the matter and plug any other possible information leaks in the force and suggest ways to prevent them in future, they said.

Sources said the probe agencies have been monitoring the activities of a large number of ex-servicemen officers from all three services which lead to the arrests in the case. More arrests are possible as some more inputs have been received by them, they said. Sources said the central agency is also checking the hardware and date accessed by the arrested officer in his official capacity and the possibility of it getting leaked to and external agencies. A number of cases in the recent past have come up where defence personnel have been found compromised for leaking information to the suspected Pakistani agencies virtually.

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Renowned International model Elvisa has recently launched her new venture Elvisa cosmetics. Elvisa revealed she’s been working on the brand for the past few years and that her friends and family have been testing out the products. Amongst its many firsts, the Elvisa Cosmetics offers an innovative range of different makeup products including different shades of foundations, lipsticks, primer, and other beauty essentials where you can mix and match to create your desired signature shade in trendy tones. Besides personalised skincare consultations from beauty advisors, the brand also offers mini makeovers and makeup tutorials by Elvisa that consist of diamond lips, smokey eyes, charcoal glitter lids, golden glam eye shadow, sculpt and contour, tips to get perfect eyebrows and iconic eyeliner looks. The various categories of products have been divided into convenient sections enabling shoppers to pick their favourites with ease. Commenting on the launch, Elvisa, CEO, Elvisa Cosmetics said, “We are thrilled to launch our first-ever cosmetic range for the most diverse women across the world. We are extremely delighted with the response we are getting for our unique products. With this launch we are also unlocking the potential of our online store to create an endless aisle shopping experience for our loyal customers and deepen our bond with them.” Currently, she has an online family of 721K followers on her Instagram page. She loves to experiment with her clothes, it’s colour shades. She loves to travel and keeps her social media handle regularly updates about her whereabouts. She loves pink, black and brown colours and we can see her trying on different attires of these particular shades. The latter has earlier been seen on various fashion runways and shows flaunting her unique clothing style and walk. She started her journey on Instagram, a photo and video sharing online app which has given a breakthrough to numerous fashion icons. “I wanted to start my own cosmetics line because I want to build my own unique brand and leave a legacy behind. My goal wasn’t to always wear brands, it was to become one.”

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