Stepping up his efforts to resolve the rail blockade crisis, Punjab Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh on Thursday urged the Centre to show magnanimity and not link the restoration of freight services with the movement of passenger trains and to support the state government in creating a congenial environment for ending the prolonged farmers’ agitation.
It is the joint responsibility of both the state and the central governments to provide a conducive environment for resolving the current crisis resulting from the suspension of train services, said the Punjab CM, who is likely to hold meetings soon with the Kisan Unions in Chandigarh as well as the Prime Minister and the Union Home Minister in Delhi.
Singh said that he intended to hold discussions with farmers’ representatives and to meet Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah regarding the issue.
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Naveen Patnaik sanctions scholarship worth Rs 101 cr for SC, ST students in Odisha
Bhubaneshwar (Odisha) [India] March 3 (ANI): Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik sanctioned Rs 101 crore for providing scholarships to 50,000 Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe students.
An official release said the scholarship amount will be transferred directly to the bank accounts of students. The Chief Minister also inaugurated three ‘Akanshya’ hostels and 68 other hostels. He also launched “My Hostel” cards for 5.75 lakh students living in hostels.
Addressing the event, Patnaik said, “Education is the basis of reformation and my government has always focused on the education and because of this SC&ST students have been excelling in various fields.”
He also stated: “A total of 1.5 lakh student will be benefited through the programme. They can avail post-matric scholarship through Odisha State Scholarship portal directly in their bank account.”
“This will benefit around 5.75 lakh students in getting proper accommodation and study facilities in 6,700 hostels constructed for SC & ST students. Steps have been taken to provide proper education to them.
Highlighting the nutrition programme yesterday for the tribes, the Chief Minister said that this is another important programme of the state government. (ANI)
Three masked robbers loot jewellery worth Rs 20 lakh in Patna
Patna (Bihar) [India], March 3 (ANI): Three masked robbers looted jewellery worth over Rs 20 lakh from a jewellery shop at gunpoint at Patna in Bihar.
“Robbers entered the shop in the presence of customers. One of them pointed a gun at the attendant and snatched gold chains from his hand. One of the accused dropped a gun in the shop,” Superintendent of Police Jitendra Kumar Singh told reporters.
The police recovered the gun and further investigation is underway.
Shopkeeper Jagjeet Singh claimed that the robbers looted jewellery worth over Rs 20 lakh from his shop. (ANI)
BJP to take action after checking authenticity of sex video allegedly involving Karnataka Minister, says Pralhad Joshi
Hubli (Karnataka) [India], March 3 (ANI): Union Minister Pralhad Joshi on Tuesday said that the BJP will take action after checking the authenticity of the alleged sex video tape in which Karnataka Minister Ramesh Jarakiholi is said to be involved.
“I have seen the video of state minister Ramesh Jarakiholi in the media. I will speak to the Chief Minister and the party chief about it tomorrow. We will check the authenticity of the CD and take action accordingly,” the Union Minister told reporters.
A case was registered against Jarkiholi on Tuesday for allegedly sexually assaulting a woman.
Addressing reporters, the complainant Dinesh Kallahalli, who is a social activist, said, “I have lodged a complaint with police, demanding a probe into a sex scandal involving Ramesh Jarkiholi.”
Jarkiholi denied the allegations, saying that he will resign from politics if these allegations are proven true.
Speaking to reporters, the minister said, “I do not even know the woman and the complainant. I am going to meet my high command to convey a clarification about the alleged video. I was in Mysuru and I went to Chamundeshwari Temple. I do not even know what that video is about because I never spoke to that woman. I will resign from my MLA post and politics if these allegations are proven against me.”
“It is a serious allegation against me. I have spoken to the Chief Minister and I will also seek action against the culprits. A thorough investigation must be conducted in this issue,” he added.
“We have taken the complaint filed by Dinesh Kallahalli against Ramesh Jarakiholi. We will investigate accordingly,” informed Bengaluru Central District Commissioner of Police (DCP) Anucheth. Further details are awaited.
Meanwhile, Congress workers in Bengaluru staged a protest against Jarkiholi over his alleged involvement in a sexual assault case.(ANI)
BJP core committee will declare election candidates soon: Dilip Ghosh
Kolkata (West Bengal) [India], March 3 (ANI): Ahead of Assembly elections in West Bengal, Bharatiya Janata Party President Dilip Ghosh on Tuesday said that the Core Committee of the party will soon declare names of the candidates for the first and second phase of elections in West Bengal.
“Core Committee discussed candidates for the first and second phase of the election here in West Bengal. It will soon name declare the names,” said Ghosh while speaking to ANI.
The BJP leader also said that they also reviewed the upcoming election rallies in West Bengal.
“We also reviewed the upcoming election rallies of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Union Home Minister Amit Shah, party national President JP Nadda and Yogi Adityanath in the state,” he added.
The elections for the 294 Assembly seats in West Bengal will begin on March 27. The state is going to witness eight-phase Assembly polls this year.
West Bengal is likely to witness a triangular contest this time with TMC, Congress-Left alliance and the BJP in the fray. (ANI)
Man held for stopping Ajay Devgn’s car over his tweet on farmers’ protest
Mumbai (Maharashtra) [India], March 3 (ANI): Mumbai police arrested a man for allegedly stopping Bollywood actor Ajay Devgn’s car over his tweet regarding farmers protest, in the Goregaon area of Mumbai on Tuesday morning.
The man identified as Rajdeep Ramesh Singh was later released on bail on the same day, police said.
Farmers have been protesting at Delhi’s borders for over three months against the newly introduced farm laws.
Several international celebs like Rihanna and Greta Thunberg were seen supporting the farmers. After Rihanna and Greta’s tweet, the Singham actor had tweeted, “Do not fall for any false propaganda against India or Indian policies. It’s important to stand united at this hour w/o any infighting.”
Meanwhile, the farmers’ protest — which began on November 26 last year against the newly enacted three farm laws — continues as no new dates for discussions between the government and farmers’ unions have been declared.
Farmers are protesting against the Farmers’ Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Act, 2020, the Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance, and Farm Services Act, 2020, and the Essential Commodities (Amendment) Act, 2020 at Delhi’s borders. However, the implementation of the three laws was in January put on hold by the Supreme Court. (ANI)
India saved itself with a timely lockdown, travel restrictions: Study
On 16 September 2020, India had recorded 97,859 cases of Covid-19, the highest single-day number since the beginning of the pandemic. As cases had risen rapidly and the country had been put under one of the strictest lockdowns in the world, critics had viewed the restrictions with suspicion. However, since then, India has seen a major decline in total active cases and the number of daily cases, which dropped to about 11,000 per day in February 2021—something being termed now as a ‘mystery’.
To demystify India’s success with handling the pandemic and bringing about a drastic decrease in the number of daily cases, a recent research paper by Sunil Kumar Raina of Dr R.P. Government Medical College and Yaneer Bar-Yam of the New England Complex Systems Institute has reviewed the strengths and policies which worked in India’s favour, most prominently India’s restrictions on the movement of people and ramping up of testing capacities.
Among the existing strengths that India had were fewer urbanised areas, limited modes of domestic travel, a lower international tourist footprint and, most importantly, prior experience and success with pandemics. While the last factor made it easier to regulate the spread after the government took proactive measures, the first three factors limited transmission between communities and led to an uneven distribution in cases.
As the paper demonstrates, although Covid-19 wreaked havoc on the country, the highest numbers of cases were restricted to certain regions only. This had also been seen in the case of the 1918 Spanish flu, which had wiped out an estimated 10-20 million of India’s population then but had affected the state of Bombay more than Bihar, for example. Similar observations had been made during the 2009 H1N1 pandemic. Even currently, the majority of daily cases in India seem to be coming out of only six major states including Maharashtra.
However, just as India had done during the previous pandemics, with Covid-19 too, the country has shown a great ability to identify these strengths and leverage them to its advantage. The paper credits the policymakers and government for imposing the nationwide lockdown, which started on 25 March 2020, and putting stringent restrictions on person-to-person transmission, calling it probably the most effective step taken.
The government’s gradual move to a “smart lockdown”, where zones were identified and strict restrictions continued in the worst-hit districts and states, also helped India strike a balance between keeping an eye on affected areas and relaxing norms just enough to restart economic activities. In fact, stringent restrictions and curfews are still in place in certain parts of Maharashtra, where Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray has threatened another lockdown if people do not follow safety protocols.
The closure of schools and universities for extended periods has also been listed by Raina and Bar-Yam as a major factor for lowering the number of Covid cases in the country. However, with plans being put into place about partial reopening of educational institutions, the researchers say that its epidemiological consequences remain untested.
Along with the nationwide lockdown, the country’s restriction on inter-state and foreign travel early during the pandemic also kept the spread in check. While movement between states and entering the country has been allowed to certain extents now, travel is still being regulated through e-passes and foreign travellers requiring to undergo quarantine and RT-PCR tests.
Besides the policy of shutting down places and taking punitive action against violators, the government’s strategy of immediate isolation and contact tracing for positive cases also proved to be a success. As the research paper notes, “Quarantines of locations (not just of individuals) are also applied (where) the area/building or site is sealed off if the cases come in a cluster. In one such case when 14 inmates of an old age home in the state of Himachal Pradesh tested positive on 31st of January 2021, a 50 meter area around the old age home was completed sealed off and contained.” The movements of the contacts are restricted till they are confirmed to be negative.
This also highlights a major leap taken by the Indian government in tackling an unprecedented public health crisis: The rapid development in laboratory testing capacities. “From a single lab capable of doing RT-PCR for Covid-19 to more than 2300 (in both Government and Private sectors) has been a significant public health initiative. The addition of a greater number of labs has reduced the test result return time, strengthening the isolation/quarantine strategy,” state the researchers. In fact, the ICMR-backed testing strategy had yielded 8 crore tests till 30 September 2020, out of which 3.1 crore tests had been done in September alone, with a daily average of 10,42,750 tests. The ability to conduct rapid tests, along with initiatives like door-to-door tracing and testing, helped highly dense states like Uttar Pradesh turn a morbid situation into a manageable one. Even as recently as 13 February, the total number of tests being conducted was 6,97,114, which add to the impressive cumulative total of 20,62,30,512 tests across the country.
Another crucial area where India showed a tremendous response was manufacturing of necessary protective equipment like masks and suits and medical equipment like ventilators. “The industry responded to the needs of the pandemic like never before. From a country producing no high-end masks and personal protective equipment to its capability of being able to supply to the world, the shift was swift and decisive,” say Raina and Bar-Yam. In fact, the scaling up of manufacturing capacities was so quick that India’s production of PPE kits went from zero to the second-highest in the world within two months.
Now, with what is being called the world’s largest vaccination drive, the Government of India is one of the leading forces in the battle against Covid-19. Depending largely on the indigenously made Covaxin and the Serum Institute’s Covishield, India started its vaccination programme on 16 January. While the first phase covered the country’s healthcare professionals and frontline workers, the second phase, which began earlier this week, will cater to senior citizens and older adults with co-morbidities. The approach is expected to have an increasingly significant impact on the outbreak, foresee the researchers.
According to the paper, to further reduce the number of daily cases, India needs to strengthen what it has been doing so far with its strategic combination of restriction and relaxation and quick response to new cases. “As the country intends to vaccinate 300 million individuals by July 2021, a vaccination strategy integrated into the pandemic response programme may be helpful,” suggests the research article.
India’s strategy has served a major example for other countries, especially Western observers. With global powers like the US still struggling to rein in the virus, India has shown a prime example of how the “travel and time of local response are the key components of this pandemic’s outcomes”. As the researchers highlight, the states which continue to have restrictions on travel have done better than others, for example, Kerala, which had a significantly high number of cases, owing also the large number of expatriates coming back.
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