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West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on Monday launched a blistering attack on Prime Minister Narendra Modi when she alleged that he was responsible for the second wave of Covid-19 in the country.

Addressing a public meeting in Kaliganj, the CM said, “Why did not you (Prime Minister) make plans to stop corona in the last 6 months?… You have to answer this. The Prime Minister is responsible for the second wave of Covid-19. If he would have taken responsibility at the right time then this would not have happened.”

Mamata Banerjee urged the Election Commission to club the remaining phases of the West Bengal Assembly polls into a single round in view of the surge in the Covid-19 cases.

“With folded hands, I request the Election Commission to hold three phases of polls on a single day or in two days. Please do not play with the lives of people,” she said at a public meeting in Chakulia in Uttar Dinajpur.

The chief minister later on Monday held a press conference in Kolkata to brief the state government’s measures against the intensifying pandemic situation. Asked about whether to impose night curfew, Banerjee said, “The night curfew is not the solution. We should remain alert. There is nothing to panic about. We have increased 20 per cent beds in hospitals. We have decided to start summer vacation for all schools from tomorrow till June.”

The poll-bound West Bengal reported 8,419 fresh Covid-19 cases and 28 deaths on Saturday, the state health department informed on Sunday. “There are 49,638 active Covid-19 cases in West Bengal, while with 28 new, deaths the death toll in the state has gone up to 10,568,” the health department said.

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NEW DELHI : Israeli deputy envoy Rony Yedidia Clein informed that the Israeli embassy is in touch with the family of a Kerala woman who was killed in a rocket attack in the Israel city of Ashkelon. He added that arrangements are being made to bring her mortal remains to India.

Soumya Santosh, a 30-year-old Indian woman hailing from Idukki in Kerala was among those killed in a rocket attack by a Palestinian Islamist group in Israel on Tuesday. She was working as a caretaker to an elderly woman at a house in the Ashkelon, which borders the Gaza strip. According to her family, she was living in Israel for the last seven years. Her husband and nine-year-old son are living in Kerala.

“We have been in touch with the family. She was talking to her husband when this happened and I can imagine how horrendous it’s for the husband. I can only sympathise with what he must be feeling,” said Clein in an exclusive interview with ANI. “Ambassador [Ron Malka] spoke with the family yesterday and conveyed his condolences and condolences of entire Israel. We’re in touch with the family and with the embassy in Tel Aviv that is arranging to have her body flown back to India, to be properly taken care of,” she added. Israeli ambassador Ron Malka on Wednesday said that he has spoken to the family of Soumya Santosh and extended his condolences on behalf of the state of Israel. Taking to Twitter, Malka said his heart goes out to Santosh’s nine-year-old son, who lost his mother at such a young age. “I just spoke to the family of Ms Soumya Santosh, the victim of the Hamas terrorist strike. I expressed my sorrow for their unfortunate loss and extended my condolences on behalf of the state of Israel. The whole country is mourning her loss and we are here for them,” Malka had tweeted. 

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The death toll in Gaza has reached 65, and seven in Israel as the Hamas group launched a new barrage of airstrikes, in the midst of the deepening unrest between Israel and Palestine. Al Jazeera reported that heavy bombardment on the Gaza Strip continued, killing Hamas Gaza City commander, Bassem Issa, in one of the Israeli airstrikes along with our senior members, the Hamas group confirmed.

The death toll in Gaza rose to 65 Palestinians, including 16 children and five women, according to Gaza’s Health Ministry. At least 365 people have been wounded, including 86 children and 39 women.

Meanwhile, a five-year-old boy was killed and at least 20 Israelis were hurt as Gaza launched a fresh spade of rocket attacks that set off warning sirens in the Tel Aviv metropolitan area and cities in the south on Wednesday night, reported The Times of Israel.

In a rare incident, rocket shrapnel punctured the shelter’s window, critically injuring the minor and also wounding his mother. He was pronounced dead several hours later, reported local media

With the boy’s death, the number of fatalities has reached seven, including five Israeli civilians, an Indian national and an IDF soldier killed by anti-tank missile fire on the Gaza border.

According to the Israeli army, 180 rockets were fired at Israel since 6 a.m. on Wednesday, of which 40 fell in Gaza. In response to the rocket fire, the IDF launched strikes on upwards of 500 targets in the Gaza Strip, aimed at Hamas personnel, weaponry and infrastructure throughout the enclave

The Israeli police have said that 374 people have been arrested so far tonight in rioting throughout the country, with 36 cops hurt during events, reported The Times of Israel.

The ongoing violence between Israel and Palestine marks a dramatic escalation of tensions linked to the potential eviction of Palestinian families from East Jerusalem by Israeli settlers and access to one of the most sacred sites in the city, which is a key hub for Islam, Judaism and Christianity.

A senior Hamas official on Wednesday said the terror organisation is ready to end the current intensive fighting with Israel, the Times of Israel reported citing the Russian foreign ministry’s statement.

Deputy Chairman of the Hamas political bureau conditioned it on Israel halting strikes and on the international community pressuring the Jewish state to end “military actions” at the Al-Aqsa Mosque on the Temple Mount.

Tensions between Israel and Palestine are rapidly rising with the ramping up of rocket attacks and the United Nations has warned that the conflict is moving towards a ‘full-scale war’.

United Nations Special Coordinator for the Middle East, Tor Wennesland, called on both sides to de-escalate tensions the day before.

“Stop the fire immediately. We are escalating towards full-scale war. Leaders on all sides have to take responsibility for de-escalation. The cost of war in Gaza is devastating and is being paid for by ordinary people. The UN is working with all sides to restore calm. Stop the violence now,” he tweeted. 

US President Joe Biden on Wednesday (local time) spoke to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on the Israel-Palestine conflict and said he hopes that the hostilities will conclude.

“My expectation and hope are that this will be closing down sooner than later. But Israel has a right to defend itself when you have thousands of rockets flying into your territory. But I had a conversation for a while with the — with the Prime Minister of Israel. And I think that — I hope that we will see this concluding sooner than later,” Biden told reporters at the White House. The US President spoke on the issue for the first time since the violence erupted at the start of the week.

According to a White House readout, Biden in a phone call to Netanyahu condemned the rocket attacks by Hamas and other terrorist groups, including against Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. He conveyed his unwavering support for Israel’s security and for Israel’s legitimate right to defend itself and its people while protecting civilians.

He also conveyed the US encouragement of a pathway toward restoring a sustainable calm and shared his conviction that Jerusalem, a city of such importance to people of faith from around the world, must be a place of peace.

Biden also updated Netanyahu on the United States’ diplomatic engagement with regional countries, including Egypt, Jordan, and Qatar, as well as with Palestinian officials.

The two leaders agreed to maintain the close consultation between their teams, which has included consistent engagement by their respective foreign ministers, defence ministers, chiefs of defence, and national security advisors, and to stay in touch personally in the days ahead, according to White House.

Earlier on Wednesday, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken spoke to Netanyahu and expressed his concerns over the ongoing violence.

According to US State Department spokesperson Ned Price, Blinken and Netanyahu discussed the ongoing violence in Jerusalem and the Secretary reiterated his call on all parties to de-escalate tensions and bring a halt to the violence.

The ongoing violence between Israel and Palestine marks a dramatic escalation of tensions linked to the potential eviction of Palestinian families from East Jerusalem by Israeli settlers and access to one of the most sacred sites in the city, which is a key hub for Islam, Judaism and Christianity. With ramping up of rocket attacks and airstrikes from both sides, concerns have emerged that the conflict is likely to evolve into a full-blown war.

Meanwhile, the death toll in Gaza rose to 65 Palestinians, including 16 children and five women, according to Gaza’s Health Ministry.   WITH ANI INPUTS

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According to food and public distribution authorities, Rs 66,896.87 crore was saved due to the removal of over 2.98 crore bogus beneficiaries from the system, with the help of technology. The JAM Trinity has eliminated the web of middlemen and is a fine example of preventing corruption through technology.

Sanju Verma



“We must ensure that technology is accessible, affordable, and adds value”

—PM Narendra Modi

Farmers have always been at the epicentre of the Modi government’s economic philosophy that encourages enterprise and inclusivity. Prime Minister Narendra Modi will release the eighth instalment of financial benefits under “PM-KISAN” on 14 May 2021. This will enable the transfer of more than Rs 19,000 crore to more than 9.5 crores beneficiary farmer families. Under the “PM-KISAN” scheme, a financial benefit of Rs 6,000 per year is provided to the eligible beneficiary farmer families, payable in three equal, four-monthly instalments of Rs 2,000 each. The fund is transferred directly to the bank accounts of the beneficiaries. In this scheme, “Samman Rashi” of over Rs 1.15 lakh crore has been transferred to farmer families so far. This annual financial support is given to farmers having combined landholding or ownership of up to two hectares. Since its inception in December 2018, the Modi government has given seven instalments to these farmers. The Central government’s Rs 75,000-crore annual scheme aims to cover 125 million farmers, irrespective of the size of their landholding in the country. 

The scheme defines a family as a husband, a wife, and minor children. The fund of Rs 2,000 is directly transferred to the bank accounts of the farmers/farmer’s family, with no room for middlemen or pilferage of any kind. Who is eligible for the PM Kisan scheme? Well, landholding farmers’ families with cultivable landholding in their names can apply under this scheme. Farmers from both urban and rural areas, small and marginal farmers families, are all eligible. Who is not eligible for the PM Kisan scheme? Institutional landholders, present or retired officers and employees of State/Central government, as well as PSUs and government autonomous bodies, cannot apply for the scheme. Again, beneficiaries with higher economic status are not eligible, either.

Those who pay income tax, farmer families holding constitutional posts, professionals like doctors, engineers and lawyers and retired pensioners with a monthly pension of over Rs 10,000, are not eligible.

How to register for PM Kisan Samman Nidhi?

Farmers have to approach the local revenue officer or a nodal officer nominated by the State government. The Common Service Centres (CSCs) have also been authorised to do the registration of the farmers for the Scheme upon payment of fees. Prime Minister Modi’s ease of doing business (EODB), is not limited to only big corporates.

For instance, on the official website of PM Kisan Samman Nidhi Yojana –, there’s a section called the “Farmers’ Corner”. Farmers can register themselves through the Farmers’ Corner on the portal and know the status of their payment. Apart from Aadhaar which is mandatory, landholding papers and bank account details have to be submitted to the concerned authorities.

During the Nehru-Gandhi era, 85% of what was allocated to farmers or marginalised sections was pilfered by commission agents and nefarious middlemen. However, Prime Minister Modi has completely dismantled the “Cut Money” culture. For instance, recently, while wheat harvesting was in full swing in Punjab and Haryana, farmers, for the first time, started receiving minimum support price (MSP) payment directly in their bank accounts under the Direct Benefit Transfer Scheme (DBT).

Over Rs 5,385 crore has been transferred so far in the ongoing procurement season by the Central and State procurement agencies to farmers, against the purchase of their crops in both these states, again a vindication of how the Modi government has made last-mile delivery, a pleasant reality. In Punjab, over Rs 2,600 crore has been paid directly to accounts of farmers till 20 April 2021, under the DBT scheme. Over 54 lakh tonnes of wheat have arrived in ‘mandis’ in Punjab till 20 April, out of which 50 lakh tonnes have been procured and more than 20 lakh tonnes lifted by various government agencies. Amid the ongoing procurement and payments under the DBT, several farmers in Ludhiana Amritsar, Moga and elsewhere are actually relieved that they do not have to run from pillar to post and are very contented with the DBT mechanism. Again, in Haryana, over Rs 2,785 crore has been transferred directly to the accounts of farmers till 20 April 2021.

The Haryana government has procured over 3.11 lakh tonnes through various procurement agencies, at MSP. Of the 64.77 lakh tonnes of wheat that arrived at procurement centres till 20 April 2021, 55.62 lakh tonnes has already been procured.

What the aforesaid numbers clearly highlight is the Modi government’s unflinching commitment to empowering farmers, cutting across political, demographic and geographical divides if any, so that “Jai Jawan, Jai Kisan”, is not a mere slogan, but an abiding work ethic, that financially strengthens the hands of our “Annadata”. The primary aim of this Direct Benefit Transfer program is to bring transparency and terminate pilferage from the distribution of funds sponsored by the Central Government of India. 

Talking of DBT, it was launched in just 20 districts by the erstwhile Congress regime in 2013, but largely remained a non-starter, thanks to lethargy and corruption that has been a part of the Congress DNA. But today, under PM Modi, DBT results in annual savings of over Rs 1.7 lakh crore, with over Rs 13 lakh crore worth of payments made, to the weakest sections of the society, spread across 400 schemes and 51 ministries. 

Central Plan Scheme Monitoring System (CPSMS), being implemented by the Office of Controller General of Accounts, acts as the common platform for routing DBT. 

The ‘JAM Trinity’ of the Jan Dhan-Aadhaar-Mobile, has made it easier to identify bogus beneficiaries and preventing leakages in government schemes. In MGNREGA for instance, since job cards and accounts of the labourers were linked to Aadhaar, a large number of bogus beneficiaries were caught. Till December 2019, 5.55 lakh bogus labourers had been weeded out from the scheme. This ensured that Rs 24,162 crore was not misused. Otherwise, this money would have reached the accounts of bogus labourers. Similarly, due to the DBT scheme, 98.8 lakh bogus beneficiaries were caught in schemes under the Ministry of Women and Child Development. The deletion of fake beneficiaries prevented a possible scam to the tune of Rs 1523.75 crore.

Making the linking of Aadhaar and mobile mandatory, saved more than Rs 66,000 crore in government ration distribution from going into the wrong hands. According to food and public distribution authorities, Rs 66,896.87 crore was saved due to the removal of over 2.98 crore bogus beneficiaries from the system, with the help of technology. The JAM Trinity has eliminated the web of middlemen. This is a successful example of preventing corruption through technology. 

DBT scheme transfers money directly to the account of the beneficiary in social assistance schemes such as LPG subsidy, MGNREGA, PDS, old age pension and scholarships. More than 44 crore Jan Dhan accounts, over 100 crore Aadhaar, and over 100 crore mobiles have come in handy for direct transfers to beneficiaries on the ground. To cut to the chase, it would be apt to end with a quote by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, where he says, “I see technology as a means to empower and as a tool that bridges the distance between hope and opportunity”.

Sanju Verma is an economist, national spokesperson of the BJP and bestselling author of ‘Truth &Dare: The Modi Dynamic’. The views expressed are personal .

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Urvashi Khona



Amid the scourge of Covid-19 infections and rise in requests for hospitalisation across the country, several young people have come together to start a website which would help Covid patients search for hospital beds.

The ‘Find A Bed’ initiative has been started by the world’s largest youth-run organisation, India’s International Movement to Unite Nations or IIMUN. Using the website, the team will help Covid-19 patients by providing them with real-time information of hospital beds in their area.

“This is India’s first information repository where you can find your nearest Covid centre from across 446 cities in India. The website also helps facilitate building Covid centres as well,” said Priyank Vasani, IIMUN Vice President and core member.

A team of around 26,000 students is working across the 446 cities.

On the website, one will need to type the city name or zip code and they will get a list of centres available near them.

To publicise the initiative further, Vasani has requested politicians and celebrities to join as ambassadors for the cause. “We need politicos and celebrities who can help us amplify the message. Karan Johar, Sonakshi Sinha, Shraddha Kapoor, Chetan Bhagat, Anita Dongre, amongst numerous others, have done it. People in politics too have tremendous reach on social media, so we request all of them to join in as cause ambassadors or just put out a tweet and a post on Instagram,” he said.

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Preeti Sompura



Bajaj Auto has announced that in the case of the death of an employee due to Covid-19, the company would continue to pay salaries to his/her family for two years.

The company has also decided to provide funding for the education of children belonging to the families of employees affected severely by Covid.

Apart from these facilities, the period of medical insurance for Bajaj employees and their families will be extended for five years. This will be in addition to the life insurance benefits already being provided by the company.

The company made this announcement through a LinkedIn post.

In the same post, Bajaj Auto said, ‘Under this assistance policy, a salary of up to Rs 2 lakh for 24 months, Rs 1 lakh per annum for a maximum of two children studying up to 12, and Rs 5 lakh per annum for children who are graduating will be given.’

All the permanent employees of Bajaj Auto will be given the benefit of this assistance policy.

Bajaj also said that employees will be provided other facilities related to Covid-19 like testing, help with hospitalisation and finding vaccination centres.

The company also said in its statement that they are recognized as an institution which gives special attention to employees and will continue to fully support all employees through the use and initiative of various teams in the future.

Earlier in May, Borosil and Borosil Renewables rolled out a similar programme for its employees. The Mumbai-based glassware company said that the families of employees who lose their lives to Covid-19 would continue to receive their salaries for two years. In addition, Borosil promised to fund the education of their children until their graduation in India.

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Sukhbir Badal asks CM to establish mini Covid centres in all blocks



SAD leader Sukhbir Singh Badal

Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) President Sukhbir Singh Badal on Thursday requested Punjab Chief Minister Capt Amarinder Singh to lead the fight against Covid from the front and take immediate measures to establish mini Covid Care Centres, accelerate the vaccination process, re-employ medical staff and put a cap on treatment charges at private hospitals, besides waiving off power bills for six months, to save the lives of and give relief to people.

Addressing a press conference, the SAD president said it was the need of the hour to establish mini Covid centres with level one and two facilities in all blocks of the state. He said people need access to basic care and oxygen after being infected by the coronavirus and the mini centres could give them immediate relief. He said the SGPC had already taken an initiative in this regard and the government could replicate this model across the state. He also said the SAD was ready to provide ‘langar’ service at the Covid centres opened by the government.

Sukhbir Badal further said that the government should accelerate vaccinations and ensure the entire state is vaccinated in the next three months. He said 500 teams could be formed to cover all 12,000 villages and that the government should augment its vaccine supply by going in for global tenders.

The SAD president also appealed to the government to re-employ all doctors and paramedical staff who had superannuated in the last one year for an additional year. Similarly, interns and nursing students should be hired to fill in crucial gaps and ensure there is no shortage of manpower, he suggested.

He also called for putting a cap on the treatment charges at private hospitals. He called for the Punjab government to subsidise Covid treatment and stopping the black marketing of medicines immediately.

Stating that the common man has faced a lot of hardship due to the pandemic, Badal also suggested that the government waive off electricity and water bills for a six-month period and provide financial relief to taxi drivers, rickshaw pullers, small shopkeepers and labourers.

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