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Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan said that the message of this year’s Dandi Yatra held in the 75th year of Independence is the creation of self-reliant India and commitment of all of us towards it. “It is my great privilege that I am getting the opportunity to join this Dandi Yatra today, organised in the memory of the Father of the Nation, Mahatma Gandhi’s Dandi Salt Satyagraha”, he said.

The Chief Minister said that the Father of the Nation, Mahatma Gandhi, brought freedom to the country, Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel united the country and now Prime Minister Narendra Modi is building a self-reliant India.

Chief Minister Chouhan attended the “Amrut Festival of Independence”, held at Chaparbhata village, in Surat, Gujarat. Raman Lal Patkar, Minister of Forest and Tribal Welfare, Gujarat, Member of Parliament Darshana Ben, etc, were present.

Chouhan said that on 12 March 1930, Mahatma Gandhi started the Dandi Yatra Salt Satyagraha from Sabarmati Ashram and on 6 April, after reaching Dandi Navsari, picked up a handful of salt and broke the ban imposed on salt by the British rule. The salt is a symbol of loyalty, patriotism and in today’s context, it is a symbol of self-reliance. “At that time, Gandhi resolved to liberate the country through the Dandi Yatra, today, through the Dandi Yatra led by our Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, we are taking a resolution to build a self-reliant India,” he said. The CM said that in the history of 1,000 years of the world, there has been no personality like Mahatma Gandhi, who gave freedom to the country through non-violence.

We did not get freedom from the British easily. On one hand there was Gandhi’s non-violent movement, and on the other hand, thousands of revolutionaries sacrificed their lives for the freedom of the country.

The MP Chief Minister said that from the very day that Prime Minister Modi announced the creation of a self-reliant India, the construction of self-reliant Madhya Pradesh has been going on fast. First of all, the roadmap was prepared and now it is being implemented with promptness. Self-reliant India is a mantra for us. We will fulfill it with full devotion, effort and dedication.

Chief Minister Chouhan said that Gujarat has given great personalities like Mahatma Gandhi, Vallabhbhai Patel and Narendra Modi to our country. Tapti and Narmada connect Madhya Pradesh and Gujarat with hearts. He said that during his visit to Gujarat, he performed Darshan and Pujan of Mother Narmada and Maa Tapti, this morning. Both the rivers originate from Madhya Pradesh, flow in Madhya Pradesh and Gujarat and connect both the states with hearts.

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Ashish Sinha



Panda Dharam Rakshini Sabhat, a registered association for priests and pandas of Deoghar at Baba Baidyanath Jyotirlinga Temple, on Thursday filed a petition in the Supreme Court seeking directions to the authorities and permitting the priests/pandas of the Baba Baidyanath Jyotirlinga Temple at Deoghar and limited number of devotees (5,000 per day) to perform the customary and symbolic Kanwar Yatra and Sharavni Pooja at the Baba Baidyanath Jyotirlinga and Baba Basukinath Temple in terms with the latest Covid-19 guidelines issued by the State of Jharkhand, Bihar and Union of India for the Holy Month of Shrava.

The petitioners also sought direction to allow a select and limited numbers priests/pandas of the Baba Baidyanath Jyotirlinga Temple at Deoghar to collect the Holy Ganges water from Sultanganj, Bihar, and offer the same to the deities at Baba Baidyanath Jyotirlinga Temple and Baba Basukinath Temple and perform the customary pooja for the Holy Month of Shravan in terms of the latest Covid-19 guidelines issued by the authorities.

The petitioners in their petition stated that not holding the annual Kanwar Yatra and eventual offering of Ganga Jal collected from Sultanganj in Bihar to the Baba Baidyanath shall have a profound effect on the faith of crores of individuals who are devouts of Baba Baidyanath and the Hindu faith. It is one of the utmost and sacred Hindu pilgrimage centres with the Baidyanath Temple being one of the twelve Shiva Jyothirlingas spread across the country and one of the 51 Shakti Peethas in India and holds very a important place for the worshiper of Lord Shiva. It is only the second Jyotirlinga where the shaktipeeth is located. The Shiva and Shakti reside together at the Baba Baidyanath Temple, it added. The Baba Baidyanath Temple board has a strict mechanism in place to avoid Covid-19 spreading in the area. The temple has developed a system under which around 5,000 individuals can be allowed to visit the temple for darshan in 24 hours, by following proper social distancing and sanitization as per the general Covid-19 pandemic protocol and as set by the Centre and the state government.

The petitioners further stated that Hindu devouts and Kanwars of the Baba Baidyanath believe that offering of Ganga Jal to Baba Baidyanath frees Shiva from the negative effect of the poison which he drank in order to save the entire cosmos. The poison which released as a result of churning of the ocean by the Devatas and Danavs was consumed by Bhagwan Shiv and held in his throat. The interruption in the holy ritual will cause deep agony and pain to the Hindu devouts, the plea said.

Compared to the Kanwar Yatra in Uttar Pradesh, the Kanwar Yatra in Jharkhand and Bihar is less risky and dangerous in the state of present pandemic. The yatra takes place from collecting Ganga Jal at Sultanganj Ganga, where the river runs north, and ends at Deoghar. It is a pilgrimage of approximately 105 km, whereas, in Uttar Pradesh, the Yatris/Kanwars usually collects Ganga Jal from Gaumukh and Haridwar and the Ganga Jal is then offered at local temples. Thus, the Kanwar Yatra in Uttar Pradesh is comparatively difficult to manage, it added.

The petitioner body is not seeking opening of the temple for public darshan or offering. The petitioner body has limited its prayer seeking permission for the Kanwar Yatra by the pandas or priests only, the plea said.

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



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



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



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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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



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.


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



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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