Restoration work underway at Kotli Fort in J-K's Udhampur - The Daily Guardian
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Restoration work underway at Kotli Fort in J-K’s Udhampur

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Udhampur (Jammu and Kashmir) [India], February 23 (ANI): Restoration work is underway at the Kotli Fort in Udhampur district of Jammu and Kashmir, which on completion would boost tourism here, said an official on Monday.
An official of the tourism department in Udhampur told ANI, “Kotli Fort, one of the oldest forts in the Udhampur district of Jammu and Kashmir, is believed to have been built in the 18th century by the rulers of Chenani. In phase one, the restoration/repair work of the fort has started at a budget of nearly Rs 94 lakhs.”
“We aim to build this monument as a heritage site. After the restoration and repair work gets completed, we aim to attract more tourists to this place. The Department of Archaeology and the Department of Tourism under the government of India are helping us tremendously in carrying out these activities,” he said.

Subhash Chandra, a resident who stays near the fort said: “This is an old fort built by kings and queens. This had got damaged due to lack of maintenance. Now, the government has given money to reconstruct this fort. If tourism in the valley surges, it will benefit people here.”
Dakshin Kumar, a labourer who was working at the venue said, “This fort was not maintained for years. With repair work underway, the government of India has provided us with employment opportunities. We thank the Centre and feel happy to work here.”

Prem, another resident of the place said: “I am observing the repair activities going on here. This fort was not well maintained. Once built, we hope that tourism flourishes in our valley.” (ANI)

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CALLER ON BBC LIVE RADIO SHOW ABUSES PM MODI’S MOTHER, CAUSES OUTRAGE

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BBC Asian Network’s “Big Debate” drew massive flak and caused outrage across social media after a clip of a caller using a misogynistic slur for Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s mother on the show surfaced on Twitter.

A speaker who had dialled in for an episode of the live radio show, which was broadcast early on 1 March, used an offensive phrase in Punjabi against the mother of PM Modi. “This offensive statement… is a common Punjabi offensive slur that is used to degrade women with the sole purpose to offend,” noted the Twitter handle ‘British Indians Voice’.

Since the video clip was shared on Twitter, many have slammed BBC and the radio show host for allowing such a comment to be aired, while others have called out to the UK’s Office of Communications to review the broadcaster’s licence. Users also marked their tweets with the hashtags #BoycottBBC and #BanBBC, causing them to trend on the platform.

“This is absolutely disgusting! BBC Asian Network needs to be held accountable for such vile language used during the day when minors can be listening and such disgraceful words used against India’s Honourable Prime Ministers mother. Serious action needed!! (sic)” said a Twitter user.

Host Piya Rai issued an apology later during the show, saying, “Before we carry on though, we would like to apologise for some of the offensive language used by the guest on the show earlier. It’s a live show and we discuss controversial issues often. There was no reason for the type of language that was used and I would like to say sorry again for any offence that was caused.”

The BBC also edited the programme to remove the derogatory remarks and issued a statement which clarified, “This programme has been edited since the broadcast.”

The caller had uttered the offensive slur during the course of a debate on the topic of racism against Sikhs and Indians in the United Kingdom. However, the talk had veered towards the massive ongoing protests against the three new farm laws which are seeing the participation of thousands of farmers, mostly from Punjab, Haryana and western Uttar Pradesh.

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In a first, jawans to take part in PM Modi-headed military meet

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For the first time, jawans from armed forces would be taking part in the Combined Commanders’ Conference to be addressed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi later this week. The Combined Commanders’ Conference was till now involved only Commander-in-Chief rank officers who along with their respective Services chiefs would be addressed by the Prime Minister and given the directives on dealing with the security challenges perceived by the government.

“The jawans would take part in different discussions involving issues related to the functioning of forces and operations,” government sources told ANI. Sources said the suggestion to involve jawans in the discussions came from the Prime Minister’s Office itself.

The jawans participating in the discussions would include Junior Commissioned Officers and Non-commissioned officers and they would be giving presentations on topics given to them, the sources said.

Sources said the insights of jawans come in very handy in day to day functioning of the forces and during the recent India China clash also, the jawans provided valuable suggestions during the digging of trenches and building defences against the Chinese. Prime Minister has changed the usual way of conducting the combined commanders’ conference as he took it out from the South Block and held it on operational bases.

After his first address in 2014, at a conference in the south block, it has been held on aircraft carrier INS Vikramaditya, Indian Military Academy, Dehradun and Jodhpur airbase.

This time, it is being held in the Kevadia town of Gujarat in front of the Sardar Vallabh Bhai Patel’s Statue of Unity where the top brass of the military would be staying in tents for the duration of the conference. ANI

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Bypoll results indicate what will happen in MCD elections: AAP’s Gopal Rai

After winning 4 out of 5 seats in the MCD bypolls, the AAP calls the victory a ‘precursor to the upcoming MCD election’.

AJEET SRIVASTAVA

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In a major upset for the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) bagged four seats, including Kalyanpuri, Rohini-C, Shalimar Bagh (North) and Trilokpuri, in the bypolls held on five seats of the MCD. The Congress won the Chauhan Banger ward, whereas the BJP drew a blank.

After winning 4 out of 5 seats in the MCD bypolls, the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) has termed the victory as a “precursor to the upcoming MCD election”. The surprise was Congress winning one and BJP failing to win any. AAP’s Delhi Pradesh president and Cabinet Minister Gopal Rai spoke to The Sunday Guardian about the AAP’s victory in the MCD bypolls.

Excerpts:

Q: In the bypolls, AAP won 4 seats, including wresting Shalimar Bagh from the BJP, but lost the Chauhan Bangar ward. How do you evaluate this performance?

A: The mandate of this by-election is against the BJP which is in power in the Delhi corporation. BJP has made MCD the base of corruption. In this way, the use of BJP councillors also came to light. People have indicated as to what is going to happen in the next municipal elections. The people of Delhi want a government of corruption-free and working people. People have liked the Kejriwal model and the Aam Aadmi Party will now work on it.

Q: What happened in Chauhan Bangar? Will you analyse the reason why you lost that seat?

A: We have taken feedback of Chauhan Bangar and so far, there has been a local factor and whatever deficiencies have been there, we will have a review meeting and further decisions will be taken based on the input received. 

Q: Is the local factor the reason behind AAP’s defeat in Chauhan Bangar or something else?

A: It is not right to add any other reason. 

Q: Will the financial condition of the corporation improve after this victory?

A: The people have refused to believe in the lies of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). I think the amount of money Kejriwal has given to the MCD government, no government has given that much money. We will make Delhi beautiful from this budget itself.

Q: What is to be believed that there will be no shortage of budget in the corporation?

A: There was no shortage of funds in the corporation. They get siphoned off due to corruption.

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Covaxin 81% effective, works on UK variant: Bharat Biotech

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Covaxin, a vaccine against Covid-19 which has been developed by Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) in partnership with Bharat Biotech International Limited (BBIL), is 81 per cent effective in preventing Covid and can work against the UK variant of the virus, Bharat Biotech said Wednesday while explaining Phase 3 results of the vaccine.

“The bench-to-bedside journey of completely indigenous Covid-19 vaccine in less than eight months’ time showcases the immense strength of Aatmanirbhar Bharat to fight the odds and stand tall in the global public health community. It is also a testament to India’s emergence as a global vaccine superpower,” said Dr Balram Bhargava, Director General, ICMR.

Trials for the third phase were jointly initiated by ICMR and BBIL in November last year. Trials were conducted on a total of 25,800 individuals across 21 sites.

“The interim efficacy trend of 81 per cent, analysed as per the protocol approved by the rugs Controller General of India (DCGI), puts it at par with other global front-runner vaccines,” read a statement by ICMR.

“Covaxin demonstrates high clinical efficacy trend against Covid-19 but also significant immunogenicity against the rapidly emerging variants,” Bharat Biotech Chairman Krishna Ella said in a statement, referring to its vaccine.

It said the analysis is based on 43 cases of Covid-19 patients who showed symptoms ranging from mild to moderate and severe, and of the total cases, 36 were from a placebo group, while seven were from those who received the vaccine.

The positive result also brightens prospects for sales overseas, with the vaccine, India’s first successful homemade Covid-19 shot, already attracting interest from more than 40 countries, according to the firm.

The company, which signed a deal with Brazil to supply 20 million doses of the shot, said the next interim analysis will target 87 cases and the final analysis will be based on 130 cases.

Its first interim analysis was based on a Phase III clinical trial involving 25,800 participants which was conducted with the Indian Council for Medical Research (ICMR), a federal government body. The trial included 2,433 participants who were older than 60, and 4,500 participants with co-morbidities.

The trial results were evaluated by an independent data safety and monitoring board, the ICMR said in a separate statement. Covaxin is one of two Covid-19 vaccines that was granted emergency use approval in the country early January.

The DCGI in early January gave permission to Covaxin “for restricted use in an emergency situation.” However, a huge backlash followed the announcement as the vaccine had yet not completed phase three trails.

On Monday, Prime Minister Narendra Modi received the first dose of Covaxin at AIIMS in Delhi as the second phase of the vaccination drive in the country began.

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CHINESE HACKERS STILL ACTIVELY TARGETING INDIAN PORTS: US FIRM

Recorded Future chief Stuart Solomon says that the US firm could see a ‘handshake’—indicating an exchange of traffic—between a China-linked group and an Indian maritime port. Indian authorities deny any cyberattacks, but say that malware has been found.

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A US Firm on Wednesday said that Chinese hackers are still actively targeting Indian ports.

Recorded Future chief Stuart Solomon said that the US firm could see a ‘handshake’—indicating an exchange of traffic—between a China-linked group and an Indian maritime port. Calling the group RedEcho, Recorded Future said that the hackers had targeted as many as 10 entities under India’s power grid as well as two maritime ports when the company first notified the Computer Emergency Response Team on 10 February. Most of these connections were still operational as recently as 28 February, the Recorded Future chief added.

“There’s still an active connection between the attacker and the attackee,” Solomon said, referring to the port. “It’s still happening.”

The 10 entities which RedEcho infiltrated account for nearly 80% of India’s landmass from an electricity-coverage perspective, said Solomon. The intrusions could have remained unexposed and undetected until they were needed as leverage, he said. “If it was meant to take down the lights, it would have taken down the lights,” Solomon said. “It didn’t.”

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said in Beijing on Wednesday that without any proof, slandering a specific side is irresponsible behaviour and an ill-intentioned one.

However, federal officials in India have denied any cyberattacks, but said that malware has been found.

On the other hand, the National Critical Information Infrastructure Protection Centre emailed the central Power System Operation Corp about the threat from RedEcho on 12 February, the Power Ministry said in a statement on Tuesday. Dispatch centre employees shut down control functions that allow circuit breakers to be operated remotely. They changed user credentials and isolated vulnerable equipment.

Initial information had suggested 14 Trojan Horses, that is malicious code, and 8 gigabytes of unaccounted foreign data could have been transferred to the main electricity board. Maharashtra Home Minister Anil Deshmukh on Wednesday said that black-listed IP addresses had tried to log-in to the board’s servers. However, he didn’t attribute the attack to any country or entity.

Some of the Trojan Horses have been used to carry out similar cyberattacks around the world, Maharashtra’s energy ministry said in a statement on Wednesday.

The intrusions into India’s critical infrastructure have been occurring since at least the middle of last year, according to Recorded Future, at a time when Indian and Chinese soldiers were in a standoff along the Line of Actual Control in eastern Ladakh.

The October collapse of the power grid that supplies Mumbai had brought the financial hub to a halt for several hours, impacting stock markets, transport networks and thousands of households.

“It’s not unusual to see this type of technique used by nation states as an instrument of national power,” said Solomon. “This could be as simple as trying to drive influence operations to be able to signal either to the people or the government that at any given time they have leverage that can be used against them,” he added.

Solomon’s firm, Recorded Future, is a privately-held cybersecurity firm based near Boston that tracks malicious activity by nation state actors. However, the firm hasn’t made any connection or assertion between the traffic observed under RedEcho and the Mumbai outage.

WITH AGENCY INPUTS

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Delhi HC says weight in claim for declaring persons associated with judicial functioning as frontline workers to receive COVID-19 vaccination

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By Amiya Kumar Kushwaha
New Delhi [India], March 4 (ANI): Taking suo-motu cognisance of demand for inclusion of all associated with judicial functioning as frontline workers, the Delhi High Court on Wednesday issued notice to Secretary, Principal Secretary of Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, and the Government of National Capital Territory (GNCT) of Delhi, Serum Institute of India and Bharat Biotech.
“There is weight in a claim made by Bar Council of Delhi for declaring all associated with judicial functioning including Judges, Court Staff and lawyers as frontline workers so they could receive COVID-19 vaccination on priority, without limitations of age/physical condition,” the Delhi HC said.
A Division Bench of Justices Vipin Sanghi and Rekha Palli took this decision while initiating a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) of its own.
The court took this decision after receiving communication by Ramesh Gupta, Chairman, Bar Council of Delhi.
The court listed the matter for today for further hearing.
The Chairman, Bar Council of Delhi has sent a communication to the Chief Justice on March 1 requesting that appropriate directions be issued to the concerned authorities to make available necessary infrastructure on Court premises.
The Full Court of the Delhi High Court has already taken a decision to re-open the full-fledged physical functioning of the Delhi High Court and all Courts subordinate to it from Monday (March 15).
The Court said that there is a clear pattern emerging that the number of COVID-19 positive cases increase with greater intermingling and congregation of people.
The HC observed that the need of the hour is to vaccinate the masses, in view of the raging pandemic, on a war footing so as to secure the life and health of all those who step out of their homes to attend to their avocations and professions.
Courts, by their very nature, are places which have very high density congregations of people on a daily basis. Thousands of cases are listed in any given court complex every day. Apart from judges, the court staff and advocates, a large number of litigants visit Courts in which their cases are listed, on a daily basis, the Delhi High Court said in its order.
In fact, the number of persons visiting a Court complex -Tiz Hazari Courts on any given day, may well be in excess of the number of persons visiting and thronging the hospital for treatment of patients, the Court also noted. (ANI)

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