SRINAGAR COMES IN ORANGE ZONE AS HUNDREDS OF NEW COVID-19 CASES EMERGE - The Daily Guardian
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SRINAGAR COMES IN ORANGE ZONE AS HUNDREDS OF NEW COVID-19 CASES EMERGE

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There is a sharp increase in the Covid-19 positive cases in Srinagar and other parts of Kashmir while the Covid curve is still manageable in Jammu region according to the officials.

The city has witnessed several deaths in the past 24 hours and many patients have been hospitalized. Due to the fresh wave of covid-19 Srinagar city is already in the orange zone and the Deputy Commissioner of Srinagar has issued several fresh instructions to the residents to adhere to or face action.

Many residents were fined by the police for not wearing the mask as the Deputy Commissioner Srinagar has asked police to act against all the violators of instructions given by him.

The government is trying to control the situation while the bed capacity is still healthy to take the intake of positive cases, but the administration is taking all the steps to ensure that the curve of the second wave of coronavirus is flattened in Srinagar city.

Already the testing facilities have been put in place on Srinagar airport and other surface links so that all the visitors are tested before they enter into the valley.

Among the fresh deaths in Srinagar include an aged tourist from Maharashtra who succumbed in the hospital due to the Covid infection.

Most of the cases in the second wave have been reported from the Kashmir valley while Srinagar city tops the list among the cities in Jammu and Kashmir.

The Jammu region is witnessing a slow surge as the authorities are trying their best to make people adhere to the Sop’s already announced to curb the second wave of infection. Srinagar district reported 159 of the new cases of covid-19 in the past 24 hours.

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India doubled tiger population 4 years ahead of schedule, says PM Modi

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Prime Minister Narendra Modi, on the occasion of International Tiger Day on Thursday, said that India has achieved the target of doubling of tiger population four years ahead of schedule of the Saint Petersburg Declaration on Tiger Conservation.

In a series of tweets, PM Modi extended his greeting to the wildlife lovers, especially those who are passionate about tiger conservation on the occasion of International Tiger Day. “On #InternationalTigerDay, greetings to wildlife lovers, especially those who are passionate about tiger conservation. Home to over 70 per cent of the tiger population globally, we reiterate our commitment to ensuring safe habitats for our tigers and nurturing tiger-friendly eco-systems,” said PM Modi.

The Prime Minister said that the last tiger census of 2018 showed a rise in the tiger population. “India is home to 51 tiger reserves spread across 18 states. The last tiger census of 2018 showed a rise in the tiger population. India achieved the target of doubling of tiger population 4 years ahead of schedule of the St. Petersburg Declaration on Tiger Conservation,” he tweeted.

He further said that India’s strategy of tiger conservation attaches topmost importance to involving local communities. “We are also inspired by our centuries-old ethos of living in harmony with all flora and fauna with whom we share our great planet,” PM Modi added.

The Saint Petersburg declaration on tiger conservation was signed in 2010. In the meeting, it was decided to celebrate July 29 as Global Tiger Day across the world to create awareness on tiger conservation. WITH ANI INPUTS

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KERALA COVID SPIKE RAISES CENTRAL CONCERN, HIGH-LEVEL TEAM SENT

Reporting 22,064 new cases, Kerala announces complete lockdown on 31 July and 1 August; Maharashtra eases Covid curbs in 25 districts.

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Even as the Maharashtra government on Thursday decided to ease Covid-19 related restrictions in 25 districts of the 36 districts as the state is witnessing a decline in fresh infection cases, the Centre dispatched a high-level team to Kerala in view of the rising cases in the southern state.

Maharashtra Health minister Rajesh Tope made the announcement about relaxations after a meeting of the Covid-19 task force chaired by Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray who will take the final call and an order on the same will be out in a day or two. The 25 districts, including Mumbai, are those where the positivity rate and weekly growth rate are lower than the state’s average.

On Thursday, Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray, along with Tope, met the task force to know their view on relaxation and easing of Covid-related restrictions across several districts of the state. “We’ve decided to give relaxation in restrictions in 25 districts. Relaxation will be given in functioning of shops, theaters, cinema halls, gyms. There would be restrictions in wedding functions, etc, we would discourage using an air-conditioned hall,” Tope said, as the state witnessed 6.8 thousand new cases on Thursday. 

At a same time, no relaxations will be given to 11 districts that have more than average positivity and growth rate. “Things will be open on Saturdays with limitations, on Sunday, the restrictions will continue. Detailed guidelines will be issued in the next 2-3 days. Hotels and shops timings will increase till 8-9 pm. But they need to ensure staff is fully vaccinated; they’ll be allowed to function with 50% capacity,” Tope said. The state currently has 10 districts with positivity rates above the state average of 3.8%. These are Satara, Pune, Kolhapur, Sangli, Sindhudurg, Solapur, Ahmednagar, Beed, Raigad, and Ratnagiri.

The task force also discussed the issue of allowing fully vaccinated citizens to travel by local trains, Mumbai’s lifeline. The public health department of state is not in favour of allowing people with two Covid-19 doses to commute in suburban trains amid the threat of spread of infection due to the Delta Plus variant. While there has been rising demand for local trains, no decision has been taken yet on the same.

Meanwhile, the Union Ministry of Health & Family Welfare has dispatched a high-level multi-disciplinary team to Kerala, which reported 22,064 new cases and pandemic-related 128 deaths on Thursday,to collaborate with the state health authorities in instituting effective public health measures for Covid-19 management. The six-member Central team to Kerala is headed by Dr S.K. Singh, Director, National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC). The team shall reach Kerala on Friday and visit the most affected districts.

The team shall work closely with the state health department, and take a stock of the ground situation and recommend necessary public health interventions to contain the large number of cases being reported by the state.

The Kerala government on Thursday announced a complete lockdown amid the spike of Covid-19 cases from 31 July to 1 August, this year.

Kerala, with an active case load of 1.54 lakh, is contributing 37.1% of the total active cases in the country, with a growth rate of 1.41 in the last seven days. Average daily cases being reported in the state are above 17,443. The state has also reported a high case positivity of 12.93% cumulatively and 11.97% weekly. Six districts are reporting more than 10% weekly positivity.

Meanwhile, registering a spike, India reported 43,509 daily new cases on Thursday. As per the data shared by the Union Health Ministry, India’s active caseload now stands at 4,03,840 and active cases now constitute 1.28% of the country’s total positive cases.

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Govt to offer 27% quota for OBCs, 10% for EWS in medical courses

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The Central government on Thursday announced a 27 per cent quota for OBCs and 10 per cent reservation for the Economically Weaker Section (EWS) category in the All-India Quota (AIQ) scheme for undergraduate and postgraduate medical and dental courses from the current academic year, 2021-22.

“This decision would benefit every year nearly 1,500 OBC students in MBBS and 2,500 OBC students in postgraduation and also around 550 EWS students in MBBS and around 1,000 EWS students in postgraduation,” a statement issued by the health ministry said.

Terming it a “landmark” decision, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said that the move will ‘immensely’ help thousands of youth every year.

According to an official statement issued by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare on Thursday, Prime Minister in a meeting held on Monday had directed the Union Ministries concerned to facilitate an effective solution to this long pending issue.

“Ministry of Health and Family Welfare has taken a historic and a landmark decision for providing 27 per cent reservation for OBCs and 10 per cent reservation for Economically Weaker Section (EWS) in the All India Quota (AIQ) Scheme for undergraduate and postgraduate medical/dental courses (MBBS / MD / MS / Diploma / BDS / MDS) from the current academic year 2021-22 onwards,” the release informed.

The All-India Quota (AIQ) scheme was introduced in 1986 under the directions of the Supreme Court to provide for domicile-free merit-based opportunities to students from any state to aspire to study in a good medical college located in another state. All-India Quota consists of 15 per cent of total available UG seats and 50 per cent of total available PG seats in government medical colleges. Initially, there was no reservation in AIQ Scheme up to 2007.

In 2007, the Supreme Court introduced reservations of 15 per cent for SCs and 7.5 per cent for STs in the AIQ Scheme. When the Central Educational Institutions (Reservation in Admission) Act became effective in 2007 providing for uniform 27 per cent reservation to OBCs, the same was implemented in all the Central Educational Institutions like Safdarjung Hospital, Lady Harding Medical College, Aligarh Muslim University and Banaras Hindu University.

However, this was not extended to the AIQ seats of state medical and dental colleges. “The present government is committed to providing due reservation both to the backward category as well as the EWS category. The Union Government has now taken a historic decision to provide for 27 per cent reservation for OBCs and 10 per cent reservation for EWS in the AIQ Scheme. The OBC students from across the country shall now be able to take benefit of this reservation in AIQ Scheme to compete for seats in any state,” the statement said.

“Being a Central Scheme, the Central List of OBCs shall be used for this reservation. Around 1500 OBC students in MBBS and 2500 in postgraduation will be benefitted through this reservation,” it added.

In order to provide benefit to students belonging to the EWS category in admission to higher educational Institutions, a Constitutional amendment was made in 2019 which enabled the provision of 10 per cent reservation for the EWS category.

Accordingly, seats in medical/dental colleges were increased over two years in 2019-20 and 2020-21 to accommodate this additional 10 per cent EWS reservation so that the total number of seats available for the unreserved category do not reduce. In the AIQ seats, however, this benefit had not been extended so far.

Therefore, along with the 27 pe cent reservation for OBCs, 10 per cent reservation for EWS is also being extended in AIQ seats for all the undergraduate/postgraduate medical/dental courses from the current academic year 2021-22.

This will benefit every year around more than 550 EWS students for MBBS and around 1,000 EWS students for PG medical courses. This decision is also in sync with the significant reforms carried out in the field of medical education since 2014.

During the last six years, MBBS seats in the country have increased by 56 per cent from 54,348 seats in 2014 to 84,649 seats in 2020 and the number of PG seats have increased by 80 per cent from 30,191 seats in 2014 to 54,275 seats in 2020. During the same period, 179 new medical colleges have been established and now the country has 558 medical colleges, including 289 government and 269 private.

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SNOOPING SAGA DISRUPTS PARLIAMENT, KNOCKS CJI DOORS

Opposition wants Pegasus discussion in presence of PM Modi and Amit Shah; 519 people and groups write a letter to the Chief Justice of India, seeking intervention.

Ashish Sinha

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The Leader of Opposition (LoP) in the Rajya Sabha Mallikarjun Kharge on Thursday said that the Opposition wants to discuss the Pegasus snooping row in the ongoing monsoon session of Parliament in the presence of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Union Home Minister Amit Shah. The day also saw 519 people and groups across the country writing a letter to the Chief Justice of India, requesting him to intervene in the matter. The letter states that using Pegasus spyware, the phones of journalists, Opposition party leaders and others have been spied on. 

Speaking to ANI after the joint meeting of the Congress parliamentary party groups consisting of Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha MPs, Kharge said: “The Pegasus is being discussed in more than 50 countries. What is there to discuss, the Home Minister should come to the House, discuss, give replies to the questions. After that, it will be up to us to take further steps.”

He added, “We have taken MPs views on future strategies. They want a discussion on Pegasus. Prime Minister and Home Minister’s presence is necessary during the discussion. This issue comes under the Ministry of Home Affairs. Probe on Pegasus is being done in other countries including France and Germany, than why not in India.”

The Opposition has alleged that names of several Indian politicians, journalists, lawyers and activists have appeared on the leaked list of a potential target for surveillance by the unidentified agency using Pegasus software. A joint meeting of Congress parliamentary party groups in Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha was held on Thursday.

The meeting was held amid continuing protests by the Opposition parties led by the Congress in both Houses over their demands including the probe into allegations of surveillance through Pegasus and the repeal of three new farm laws.

As for the letter written to the Supreme Court, it said: “Human rights defenders have been imprisoned and victims of sexual harassment have also not been spared such shocking forms of state sponsored cyber-crimes, which are analogous to digital forms of state terror.”

“We are deeply disturbed by reports that journalists, lawyers, clients, activists, academics, students, and even complainants of sexual harassment, witnesses and their support persons were made persons of interest and targets of the Pegasus malware. Human rights activists have repeatedly asserted that such hacking as well as other kinds of abuse of office have resulted in malicious prosecution, wrongful imprisonment, custodial torture, and custodial death of political prisoners,” the letter said.

The letter has been signed by various activists, including democratic reforms (Aruna Roy, Anjali Bhardwaj) and human rights (Kavita Srivastava, Teesta Setalvad, Harsh Mander), scholars and practitioners of the law and lawyers (Vrinda Grover, Kalpana Kannabiran, Jhuma Sen, Aparna Chandra, Pratiksha Baxi) eminent academics and scientists (Zoya Hasan, Niraja Gopal Jayal, Utsa Patnaik, Jayati Ghosh, Rosemary Dzivuchu, Romila Thapar, Sukanta Chaudhuri, Ram Ramaswamy), acclaimed writers (Arundhati Roy, V. Geetha, Githa Hariharan, Amit Chaudhuri), musicians and artists (T.M. Krishna), architects and artists (Pushpamala N., Prem Chandavarkar, Vivian Sundaram), persons in political life (Kavita Krishnan, Manoj Jha, MP), journalists (Anuradha Bhasin, Patricia Mukhim, John Dayal) and others.

WITH ANI INPUTS

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ALWAYS TRY TO TAKE UP RELATABLE PROJECTS: VARUN SHARMA

In an exclusive conversation with NewsX, actor Varun Sharma spilled the beans about his new show ‘Chutzpah’, his working style, and much more.

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Varun Sharma will be seen in a new show ‘Chutzpah’. Talking about it, he said, “Internet is now embedded in our blood and system. It is impossible to live without it. The show talks about three to four different stories. The madness, chaos, craziness, relatability, and the reality of the digital world, is what ‘Chutzpah’ has to offer. I am playing Vikas, who is in love with Shikha. The show talks about how they are in a long-distance relationship due to certain situations, and how things change. The feelings and the rush of emotions are the same but because of not being physically there for each other, they are rather connected virtually and the story progresses further.”

Commenting on the comfort level of again working with people he has earlier worked with, Varun expressed, “It felt like a homecoming as it is the same people. Immediately after ‘Ruhi’, this is coming out. Dinesh Vijan had produced ‘Ruhi’ and it was created by Mrighdeep Singh Lamba. Once you work with friends and the people that you are close with, a lot of things become easier. In that sense it was a blessing to be working with them. The interesting fact is Manjot and I did not shoot together. We were working on different stories but we used to keep chatting about how is it going.”

Speaking about the relatability factor of ‘Chutzpah’, he said, “It is very relatable. Two years back, no one thought that everything will go digital. For example, we never thought of doing virtual interviews sitting in our houses. But things have changed. There is a lot of reality in the show which is relatable. Whether it is ‘Fukrey’, ‘Fukrey Returns’, ‘Dilwale’, ‘Chhichhore’, I have always tried to do, relatable projects. People comment that ‘Oh, even I do this, or my friend does this or this guy is the Chucha or the Sexa of our group.’ Playing a relatable character is something I always crave to do when I want to be a part of a project. That is also the same thought I had in mind when it came to ‘Chutzpah’. The show is out and people will witness how relatable the character is and they would want to talk about it.” Varun added, “This show is also going to be an eye-opener for so many relationships, which are long-distance right now. Couples will think, ‘Why are we talking like this? It is not because I don’t love you but because I am not physically there with you for the longest time.’ That’s why the conversations and the interactions are getting shorter. The camaraderie is getting affected. It is not because the love is fading away but the physical presence is not there. If people realise that it may save certain relationships. There are so many relationships around me that have been called off because of the pandemic and two people not being together.”

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Love thy nature to lessen pandemic anxiety

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The young but fragile Himalaya is blessed with rich biodiversity. Its valuable resources have traditionally served as the foundation for the economic and cultural life of a vast and vibrant population. 

A few attitudinal differences and climate change developments coupled with variation in soil conservation create striking changes in the terrain having fabulous flora and fauna. Such unique biodiversity not only encompasses ecological, scientific or economic values but it is also a capital of inheritance, passed down over generations, stressing the need for sustainable development.

BIOTIC INTERFERENCE 

Developments of past and present indicate extremes of biotic interference. Making wise use of biodiversity inheritance should not be tutored. It has to be felt, imbibed and carried forward when one is confronted with the tentacles of Covid auntie and whims and fancies of the Covid uncle. Without entering into the realm of discussion about the origin of the virus, one should believe that SARS-CoV-2 is an offshoot of the prevailing environment. An environment throttled by one and all.

FAUNA NEEDS FRESH LOOK

Coming to judicious utilisation rather than exploitation of floral and faunal wealth, there may be a need for a fresh approach. Not only do farming communities near forests have to be sensitised to extract forest and non-forest timber products properly but they also have to be briefed to leave enough scope for growth and sustenance of grass, shrubs, water bodies etc, vital for the life of animals such as lions, elephants, tigers, and deer etc. While saying so, one is not aiming to touch upon the crucial food chain, rather the purpose is to prick our mind specifically about the plight of gentle elephants, who, being vegetarian, show full loyalty towards their masters.

Of 27,000 Asian Elephants in India, 21% reside in Assam. Due to the loss of forest habitat, they are increasingly coming face to face with humans. Every year, around 100 of them, unfortunately, get killed. They are also misused in the Tourism industry. The Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972 bans the sale of captive and unregistered elephants.

The mere fact that they live, eat and move in groups or clusters, goes on to show their strong family instincts, something reflected glaringly in:

A) Episode of 18 elephants in Nagaon, Assam in May 2021 crushed by lightning

B) Freak, directionless walk of over 500 km by 15 elephants in Kunming area of Yunan province of China in June 2021.

SYMPATHY IS NECESSARY

Despite the inherent friendly attitude of the elephants and many other animals often the reports of entry into the human habitations hit the headlines. There has to be some reason for such an entry. What they get in return is hectic, irrational, and merciless action. The facial expression of the fauna in such a situation shows their state of helplessness. The onlookers, nevertheless, get sarcastic pleasure in having an exciting glimpse. Whether it is a case of entry by the loveable monkeys, leopards, tigers or the elephants into towns of different states, these should not be considered as an intrusion by the animals.

ASSERTION OF RIGHTS

 It is felt that such behaviour has to be viewed as a valiant act of assertion of rights by certain species to counter the actual intrusion into their bonafide habitat by shrewd human beings. There should be no justification to suppress or subjugate the innocent animals either by mechanical or muscle power.

Will our Forest Service friends wake up and take requisite action especially during the current wave of Covid-19 pandemic, when almost two dozen ‘positive’ tigers and a couple of similarly infected lions have already left the world? Lingering threat to pets and domestic animals who soothes our feelings when we are tired, and exhausted, also fill the atmosphere, time and again.

 Having stated so, I may humbly submit: “When the animal instinct among the humans crosses conceivable limits, the actual and bonafide sons and daughters of mother earth are left with no alternative but to react vehemently or justifiably.”

UNHEALTHY TUSSLE

It is not only the competition or tussle factor for habitat between the animals and human beings but it is a question of displaying adequate love and care for the natural endowments, indiscriminately gifted by the Almighty.

SAVIOUR DUTY

It may not be out of context to remind ourselves about the basic Hindu philosophy of emphasising reverence to the flora and fauna right from childhood. For generations, plants, such as peepal, banyan, tulsi, banana, mango etc. and the animals namely, cow, bull, lion, tiger, elephant, monkey, rat, cobra snakes etc. were being worshipped. Also, the morning ritual of offering water to Sun God, tulsi plant and peepal tree not only has given the requisite faith and confidence to the worshippers but it can also teach us again the forgotten lesson to do everything possible to Preserve flora and fauna.

To sum up, if we are mandated to avoid Social Interaction due to coronavirus and the more lethal third wave, how can we afford to undermine similar ‘social’ instincts among the animals?

Their state of hunger and helpless facial expressions during the last two rounds of lockdowns, calls for improving our overall attitude towards them. The timely food intake and sound health of fauna not only can improve their internal social behaviour but may also ensure a refined attitude towards their human handlers, caretakers or masters.

Even if we get rid of Covidity clinically, the love and affection displayed by the pets may prove much more valuable if not decisive in reducing our anxiety and depression. It may ultimately facilitate satisfactory healing of the community.

The writer is former Chief Secretary, the Government of Sikkim. The views expressed are personal.

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