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PM Modi urges nations to work together to fight Covid, says CoWIN to be made open source

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Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Monday said that India has adopted a completely digital approach while planning its vaccination strategy as it helped in tracking the usage of vaccination and minimising the wastage.

Addressing CoWin Global Conclave via Video conferencing, PM Modi began by remarking that there was no parallel to such a pandemic like Covid 19 in hundred years and no nation, however powerful, can solve a challenge like this in isolation. 

“The biggest lesson from the Covid-19 pandemic is that for humanity and the human cause, we have to work together and move ahead together. We have to learn from each other and guide each other about our best practices,” said the Prime Minister.

Underlining India’s Commitment for sharing experiences, expertise and resources with the global community, the Prime Minister also expressed India’s eagerness to learn from global practices. Emphasising the importance of technology in the fight against pandemic, Mr Modi said India made its Covid tracking and tracing App open source as soon as it was technically feasible. He pointed out that with nearly 200 million users, the ‹Aarogya Setu› app is a readily available package for developers. Having been used in India, the Prime Minister told the global audience, you can be sure that it has been tested in the real world for speed and scale.

He added that given the importance of vaccination, India decided to adopt a completely digital approach while planning its vaccination strategy. This helps people in proving that they have been vaccinated, expediting the normalcy in the post-pandemic globalised world. A safe, secure and trustworthy proof helps people to establish when, where and by whom they have been vaccinated. 

In line with India’s philosophy of considering the whole world as one family, the Prime Minister said that Covid vaccination platform CoWin is being prepared to be made open source. Soon, it will be available to any and all countries.

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Malls, multiplexes may soon reopen in Maharashtra

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The Maharashtra government may soon allow malls, multiplexes, restaurants and gymnasiums to reopen and operate at 50 per cent capacity while shops and other establishments may get extended hours of operations, beyond 4 pm, in 25 districts with low Covid-19 positivity rates. State Health Minister Rajesh Tope said that a formal order on easing the restrictions will be issued in the next few days.

On Thursday, Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray held a meeting with the state Covid task force and senior health department officials to discuss the easing of restrictions a day after several ministers demanded relaxations in the state cabinet meeting.

Tope said on that Mumbai and 24 other districts will be in Level 2. Eleven districts, including Palghar, Raigad, Ahmednagar and Pune, which are part of MMR or share borders with it, will remain in Level 3 because of their higher test positivity rate and cases.

He also said that after the meeting that the issue would be decided by the Chief Minister regarding the resumption of the local trains.

Weekends may see some relaxations but Sunday will remain completely shut. Only fully vaccinated (2 doses) citizens will be able to travel in local trains. As of now only government employees and people involved with essential services are allowed to travel in local trains. 

Cinema halls likely to be open for the public with limited capacity. Local shops, hotels, and gyms will be allowed to remain open for longer hours now.

Districts which will still see the curbs are Pune, Solapur, Sangli, Satara, Kolhapur, Palghar, Raigad, Ratnagiri, Sindhudurg, Beed, and Ahmednagar. These districts have higher positivity rates than average.

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INDIA-CHINA TALKS TODAY, GOGRA, HOT SPRINGS DISENGAGEMENT ON CARDS

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India and China will hold the 12th round of Corps Commander-level talks on Saturday. It will be aimed at discussing disengagement from the remaining friction points in the eastern Ladakh sector Army sources told ANI.

India and China have already disengaged from the banks of Pangong lake after extensive talks and the Gogra Heights and Hot Springs areas are left to be resolved as these friction points were created post-Chinese aggression last year. According to Army sources, the 12th round of Corps Commander level talks between India and China is scheduled to be held in Moldo on the Chinese side of the Line of Actual Control around 10:30 am.

“12th round of Corps Commander level talks between India and China to be held in Moldo on the Chinese side of the Line of Actual Control around 10:30 am. India and China expected to discuss disengagement from the Hot Springs and Gogra Heights areas,” Army sources said.

The two countries have been engaged in a military standoff for almost a year but disengaged from the most contentious Pangong lake area last month after extensive talks at both military and political levels.

The credit for the disengagement was given to all stakeholders by Army Chief General Manoj Mukund Naravane who also talked about the country benefitting from the inputs given by the National Security Advisor Ajit Doval during the crisis.

Earlier, India and China held 11 rounds of talks at the Corps Commander level to reach the arrangement to disengage from the Pangong lake area.

With ANI inputs

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IT WILL AFFECT FREEDOM OF PRESS: HC TO SHILPA SHETTY ON HER MEDIA GAG PLEA

Urvashi Khona

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The Bombay High Court on Friday, while hearing a defamation case filed by actress Shilpa Shetty Kundra against media outlets, said that passing a blanket gag order on the media against reporting anything against her shall impact the freedom of press, adding that there is a judicial limit on what can be construed as good or bad journalism. However, some media outlets were asked to take down a few videos and contents that were found to be defamatory by the actress.

Shilpa Shetty, wife of Raj Kundra arrested in the pornography case, on Thursday filed a defamation case against 29 media outlets.

The Bombay HC, however, directed the three videos uploaded on YouTube channels of three private persons be deleted and not uploaded again as they were malicious in nature. The court noted that the freedom of press has to be balanced with the right to privacy of an individual.

The actress, in an interim application, had sought for the media to be restrained from allegedly publishing any incorrect, false, malicious and defamatory content.

The court noted that the articles referred to by Shilpa Shetty in her suit do not seem to be defamatory. “It cannot be like if you (media) are not going to write or say anything nice about me (Shilpa Shetty) then do not say anything at all. How can this be,” it asked.

vThe court noted that most of the articles referred to in the suit, including one that claimed that “Shetty cried and fought with her husband Kundra” when he was brought to their house by the police for joint interrogation, was based on what police sources said.

Shetty had objected to news articles about the actress breaking down and confronting Raj Kundra when Mumbai Police raided their residence. Saraf said, “It was something that had happened between a husband and wife and it was private and should not have been reported.” To this, the court said that the act of Shetty happened in front of outsiders (policemen) and it was reported from “crime branch sources. Also, the act of crying was not defamatory but it shows that she’s a human”.

The HC also said that the media just can’t sing praises and that Shetty is a public figure and that such articles are not defamatory. “You (Shetty) chose a life in public life. Your life is under a microscope. It cannot be that if the media is not going to say anything nice about her (Shetty) then they will be asked to say nothing at all.”

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PEGASUS ROW: SC TO HEAR NEXT WEEK PLEA SEEKING SC-MONITORED PROBE

Ashish Sinha

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The Supreme Court on Friday agreed to hear next week the plea of senior journalists N, Ram and Sashi Kumar seeking a court-monitored SIT inquiry headed by a sitting or retired judge of the apex court to investigate into the reports of the government using Israeli software Pegasus to spy on politicians, activists, and journalists.

A Bench led by Chief Justice of India N.V. Ramana said that the petition would be heard next week after senior Congress leaders and senior advocates Kapil Sibal and A.M. Singhvi mentioned before it. 

Sibal said that civil liberties of citizens, politicians belonging to Opposition parties, journalists, court staff have been put under surveillance. As it is, the issue is making waves in India and world over and requires an urgent hearing, he said 

N. Ram and Sashi Kumar on Tuesday had filed a plea in Supreme Court for an independent probe headed by a former or sitting top court judge into Pegasus issue. 

The petitioners also sought direction to the Centre to disclose if the government or any of its agencies have obtained licence(s) for Pegasus spyware and/or used/employed it, either directly or indirectly, to conduct surveillance in any manner whatsoever. 

The petitioners stated that such targeted surveillance using weapons grade Pegasus software violates Article 21, 19 and 14 of the Constitution of India, as it breaches the right to privacy and the right to freedom of speech and expression. The present surveillance is also in complete derogation of the Telegraph Act, 1885 and the Information Technology Act, 2000 and as such is completely illegal and a criminal act, it added.

The plea further stated that such targeted surveillance violates the right to privacy, which is the constitutional core of human dignity and is protected under Article 21, 19, 14, 25, 28, the Preamble and Part III of the Constitution according to the landmark judgment of a nine-judge bench of this Court in K.S. Puttaswamy v. Union of India. 

The right to privacy extends to the use and control over one’s mobile phone, including but not limited to both oral conversations and messages, and any interception by means of tapping/hacking is a breach of privacy and an infraction of Article 21 of the Constitution, the plea said.

The conscious targeting of politically engaged persons such as journalists, doctors, lawyers, civil society activists, government ministers, opposition politicians and constitutional functionaries for surveillance seriously compromises the effective exercise of the fundamental right to free speech and expression under Article 19(1)(a), the plea added.

The plea also stated that the government response does not provide any clarity whatsoever on how such mass surveillance using military grade software was carried out with such impunity. This is clearly illegal and a serious abridgment of fundamental rights, not to mention a criminal offence, the plea said.

The petitioners alleged that no investigation into these extremely serious allegations has been initiated by the respondents, despite the extremely grave ramifications of such a targeted attack using weapons-grade spyware.

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India logs highest new Covid cases in three weeks

India reports 44,230 daily new cases in last 24 hours; Kerala remains the highest contributor with 22,064 cases. Delta variant is as contagious as chickenpox, says a study.

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The Delta variant, responsible for disastrous second Covid-19 pandemic in India during the months of April and May, is said to be much more contagious and spreads as easily as chickenpox, according to an internal document from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The document, obtained by The Washington Post, described the Delta strain as “a variant so contagious that it acts almost like a different novel virus”. It said that Delta, which was first classified in India last year, leaps from target to target more swiftly than even Ebola or the common cold.

Dr Rochelle P. Walensky, the director of the CDC, noted on Tuesday that vaccinated people with so-called breakthrough infections of the Delta variant carry just as much virus in the nose and throat as unvaccinated people and may spread it just as readily, if less often.

Meanwhile, in a worrisome trend, India reported 44,230 daily new cases in the last 24 hours, highest tally in past three weeks. Kerala remained the highest contributor as the southern state saw more than 20,000 Covid cases for the fourth day in a row.

Kerala on Friday reported 20,772 new Covid cases. The state’s test positivity rate (TPR) rose to 13.61 per cent. Up to 116 people died of the disease. Its caseload touched 33,70,137 while fatalities hit 16,701, according to a government release.

Some of the worst-hit districts were Malappuram (3,670 cases), Kozhikode (2,470), Ernakulam (2,306), Thrissur (2,287), Palakkad (2,070), Kollam (1,415), Alappuzha (1,214), Kannur (1,123), Thiruvananthapuram (1,082), and Kottayam (1030), PTI reported.

About 116 people died of the disease. Its caseload touched 33,70,137 while fatalities hit 16,701, according to a government release.

Similarly, Assam reported 1,299 new positive cases, while Karnataka reported 2,052 new Covid-19 cases and 35 deaths.

Earlier, Union Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushan wrote to Kerala government on “super spreader events” observed in Kerala recently, indirectly referring to relaxations given during Bakrid festival.

Rebutting all charges of laxity, Kerala Health Minister Veena George said that seroprevalence study by ICMR shows that almost 42% of people have antibodies in them, shows that our preventive mechanism was very good.

More than 50% of the total population is still unaffected. The type of Coronavirus which is spreading in this phase is Delta virus, the infectability is more. So, naturally, we are trying our best, the Kerala Health Minister added.

As per the data of Health Ministry, India’s active caseload now stands at 4,05,155 and active cases now constitute 1.28% of the country’s total Positive Cases. 

Weekly Positivity Rate is currently at 2.43% and the Daily Positivity rate stands at 2.44% today. Daily Positivity rate has remained below 5% for 53 consecutive days now, the data further read.

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GOVT’S DUTY TO RUN PARLIAMENT: KHARGE ON SNOOPING UPROAR

Aishvarya Jain

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In Parliament, the Opposition continued to put pressure on the Central government over the Pegasus report and agriculture regulations. The Rajya Sabha and Lok Sabha were compelled to adjourn due to repeated interruptions. The Opposition has been adamant in calling for a full debate on the Pegasus report and the contentious agriculture laws.

‘It is the duty of the government to run Parliament, and it is not new; under rule 267 permission was granted in 2010, 2011, and 2013 on various issues, and even under the NDA government, permission was granted in 2015 and 2016, but now what is the problem with the government that they are not willing to discuss under 267,” said Mallikarjun Kharge, the Leader of the Opposition while speaking exclusively to The Daily Guardian. 

“The government should understand that we are prepared to talk any subject, whether it is a farmer’s concern or a fuel price hike, but when the unified Opposition wants to debate Pegasus, why are they avoiding it?’ Kharge added.

In the ongoing monsoon session of Parliament, which began on July 19, the Centre has scheduled at least 23 bills to be introduced in the Lok Sabha. Six legislations have already been introduced.

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