The Taliban on Tuesday announced its new government, ending days of speculation and reports of infighting within the group, which apparently delayed the announcement of the new dispensation in Afghanistan. Mullah Mohammad Hasan Akhund, chief of the Taliban’s powerful decision-making body, “Rehbari Shura”, or “leadership council”, will head the new “caretaker” government in the country it had seized control of on 15 August. A hardliner, Akhund was allegedly behind the destruction of the Bamiyan Buddhas in March 2001. He is allegedly involved in several killings and is on the UN terror list. Addressing a press conference in Afghanistan’s capital, Taliban spokesperson Zabihullah Mujahid said that the group’s co-founder, Abdul Ghani Baradar would be the acting deputy Afghan leader. Sirajuddin Haqqani, the leader of the proscribed Haqqani network, a Pakistan-backed terror group, and a US-designated global terrorist, has been named the new interior minister. Mullah Yaqoob, one of the deputy leaders of the Taliban since 2016 and the son of Taliban founder Mullah Omar, will act as caretaker defence minister. Abdul Salam Hanafi has been made the second deputy to Prime Minister Akhund. Amir Khan Muttaqi has been given the post of acting foreign minister in the new Afghan Cabinet.
No non-Taliban figures were immediately announced, an indication that the outfit had not bowed down to domestic and international pressure to create an inclusive regime.
Akhund, the not-so-well-known Taliban leader, belongs to Kandahar and was among the founders of the radical militia. He worked for 20 years as head of Rehbari Shura and remained close to Taliban chief Haibatullah Akhundzada. He had served as foreign minister and deputy prime minister during the Taliban’s previous government in Afghanistan from 1996 to 2001.
The appointment of Mullah Baradar—who headed the Taliban’s political office in Doha—as Akhund’s deputy came as a surprise as Baradar was being considered for the top post. Baradar has been the Taliban’s most visible face in recent years as the group’s chief, Haibatullah Akhundzada, largely stays out of the public view.
As for Sirajuddin Haqqani, the new interior minister, he is the leader of the notorious Haqqani network, which is a US-designated terror group aligned with the Taliban and Al Qaeda. Haqqani has a US$5 million US bounty on his head and is a “specially designated global terrorist” according to the US. He is suspected of organising a series of bomb blasts in Kabul in 2008 and plotting the assassination of then-Afghan President Hamid Karzai.
Taliban spokesperson Zabihullah Mujahid also revealed key figures who will lead the economic and financial departments of the government, with Qari Din Mohammad Hanif taking over as acting economy minister, Mohammad Idris as head of Afghanistan’s Central Bank, and Hedayatullah Badri appointed acting finance minister.
Mawlawi Abdul Hakim Sharie has been named acting minister of justice, and Abdul Haq Wasiq has received the post of acting director of intelligence. Ahmad Jan Ahmady will serve as the acting director of the Administrative Office of the President.
Sheikh Mawlawi Noorullah has been awarded the office of acting education minister, while Abdul Baqi Haqqani will be filling the role of the country’s minister of higher education. Mullah Khairullah Khairkhah, in turn, will become acting minister for information and culture.
On Tuesday, the Taliban’s supreme leader Haibatullah Akhundzada said that Sharia law would be in force in Afghanistan, Sputnik reported.
“In the future, all issues of governance and life in Afghanistan will be governed by the laws of holy Sharia,” Sputnik reported, quoting a statement from the Taliban chief. Akhundzada said that the Afghan authorities will take serious steps to protect human and minority rights “within the framework of Islam”.
‘DEATH TO PAKISTAN’
Meanwhile, in Kabul, chanting “death to Pakistan”, hundreds of Afghans took to the streets and demonstrated in front of the Pakistan embassy, asking Islamabad to stop meddling in the internal affairs of Afghanistan and helping the Taliban. The Taliban fired shots into the air to disperse the crowds at the protest. The protest was led by women, after which a number of men joined them. They held banners and chanted anti-Pakistan slogans, Tolo News reported. “Pakistan, Pakistan, Leave Afghanistan,” a slogan on a signboard read. Pakistan and its notorious intelligence agency have been accused of supporting the Taliban in taking over Afghanistan. Pakistan has been a key player in removing the elected Afghan government from power and establishing the Taliban as a decisive power in Afghanistan. The protesters also chanted “Freedom, freedom”, “Death to ISI”, “Death to Pakistan”.
Several videos appeared on social media showing a group of Taliban men dispersing the women in Kabul, by firing their weapons in the air. It is the latest in a string of small demonstrations led by women around the country. The Taliban forces prevented some journalists from filming the protest. They detained TOLOnews cameraperson Wahid Ahmadi and confiscated his camera.
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INDIA’S COVID-19 VACCINATION COVERAGE EXCEEDS 81.85 CRORE
With the administration of 96,46,778 vaccine doses in the last 24 hours, India’s Covid-19 vaccination coverage exceeded 81.85 crores (81,85,13,827) as per provisional reports till 7 am on Tuesday, informed the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare.
The ministry said that this has been achieved through 80,35,135 sessions. As per the data, as many as 1,03,69,386 healthcare workers have been inoculated with the first dose of the Covid vaccine while 87,50,107 have been inoculated with both doses. The number of frontline workers vaccinated stands at 1,83,46,016 (first dose) and 1,45,66,593 (two doses).
According to the health ministry, 33,12,97,757 vaccine doses were administered as the first dose and 6,26,66,347 vaccine doses were given as the second dose in the age group 18-44 years.
Also, in the age group of 45-59 years, 15,20,67,152 people have received the first dose and 7,00,70,609 have received the second dose whereas 9,74,87,849 vaccine doses were administered as first dose and 5,28,92,011 vaccine doses given as the second dose to the people over 60 years. Meanwhile, India reported 26,115 new Covid-19 cases in the last 24 hours.
Sustained and collaborative efforts by the Centre and the states, UTs continue the trend of less than 50,000 daily new cases that are being reported for 86 consecutive days now.
“The recovery of 34,469 patients in the last 24 hours has increased the cumulative tally of recovered patients (since the beginning of the pandemic) to 3,27,49,574,” the ministry said.
The active caseload is presently 3,09,575 which constitutes 0.92 percent of the country’s total positive cases while the recovery rate stands at 97.75 percent. The testing capacity across the country continues to be expanded. The last 24 hours saw a total of 14,13,951 tests being conducted. India has so far conducted over 55.50 crores (55,50,35,717) cumulative tests. The weekly positivity rate at 2.08 percent remains less than 3 percent for the last 88 days now. The daily positivity rate was reported to be 1.85 percent. The daily Positivity rate has remained below 3 percent for the last 22 days and below 5 percent for 105 consecutive days now.
People are more aware of the quality of products after Covid: Ashish Khandelwal
In an exclusive conversation with NewsX India A-List, Managing Director of BL Agro Industries Limited Ashish Khandelwal spoke about new initiatives undertaken by his company.
Ashish Khandelwal joined NewsX for an exclusive conversation for its special segment NewsX India A-List. Speaking about the company, Ashish spoke about how it was formed in 1999 and was made by his forefathers. Having been in the business for the past 75 years, BL Agro Industries Limited has created a niche for itself.
When asked about the reason behind the entry into kitchen ready products, Ashish said, “Basically for diversification, we started it. We are doing distribution and all the customers and retailers ask for quality products. So we decided why not move forward with diversification and move into food products.”
Talking about the response gained for the product, he said, “Just after the launch, Covid-19 pandemic started. It started in January 2020. The journey has not been very long. We faced lockdown. Moving forward, we will hit our targets.” After Covid-19 pandemic hit, kitchen ready products became one of the most searched products and most of the people started exploring various options. Talking about this, Ashish said, “We got a good push in delivery because of this. Otherwise, a new product introduction during lockdown would have been tough.”
When asked about the existing market and new markets in India, he replied, “Right now, we are in northern parts like Delhi, Uttar Pradesh, Haryana, Uttarakhand, Bihar, etc. and we are permanent here. In a couple of months, we are moving to the South.” Stressing on the company’s new marketing strategy, Ashish informed, “We are always after distribution. We try to maintain relations with distributors. So, companies provide sales staff and everything. The sales staff gathers all the market reports and demands and then we work on it. The more prominent and convenient strategy is retailing nowadays because nobody is moving out much and going to market often. Today, the Covid-19 pandemic is causing problems for retailers to move out. So we are trying to maintain our market. We recently started our online portal. Soon it will be fully functional.”
Most people are used to bigger platforms like Amazon but small companies have also curated their apps that shows whatever product is available. BL Agro Industries Limited has the same plan. He said, “We are launching an app. We will be available side-by-side on the websites. We are trying to fulfil the desire of the customers.”
“We are thinking about expansion, typically in pulses, and other grocery products. In India, it has not been innovated. There are not many innovations. So we have tried to introduce some machines. Right now, we are grinding it with the stone mill which is modernised and is from Austria. We have started vacuum packaging of pulses and food items. Nobody in India does vacuum packs for pulses. Similarly, we try to procure more specific machines and try to give more flavours and more specific aromas and the best quality we can provide,” added Ashish.
He expressed, “After the Covid-19 pandemic, people are more aware of the quality of products. They are more concerned about the quality. So we are trying to produce good and better quality products today. We are focusing on Indian pulses.”
When asked about organic chains, Ashish said, “Right now, we are not planning for organic because organic has lost its quality as every brand is producing organic products. Specifically, we don’t have any tests for organic. That is the problem when we say organic, it needs a specific amount of time. It takes seven years for an organic crop to come and is financially not feasible.”
After the Covid-19 pandemic, people are more aware of the quality of products. They are more concerned about the quality. So we are trying to produce good and better quality products today. We are focusing on Indian pulses.
EVERYBODY CAN BE A SUPERHERO: VIVEK OBEROI, DR VIVEK BINDRA ON ‘I AM OXYGEN MAN’ CAMPAIGN
Vivek Oberoi, a well-known actor, and Dr Vivek Bindra, founder and CEO, Bada Business, recently joined NewsX and spoke about the campaign ‘I am Oxygen Man’ and more.
Covid-19 taught us the importance of helping each other. The pandemic, being a blessing in disguise, made the people more empathetic towards each other and etched the concept of humanity deeper into the fabric of the society. Vivek Oberoi, a renowned actor, and Dr Vivek Bindra, founder and CEO, Bada Business, recently joined NewsX’s special series NewsX India A-list to speak about their campaign, ‘I am Oxygen Man’. The campaign has managed to raise around Rs 7.5 crore and helped numerous families in such dismal times.
Talking about the advent of the campaign and the drive behind becoming a co-pilot for this initiative, Oberoi said, “For me, it’s funny how aside from the life of an actor, I live an alternate life of a philanthropist. Vivek Bindra is a friend, and I am the brand ambassador for the CSR work for Bada Business. He reached out to me with a plan to fight the problem of lack of oxygen.”
Highlighting the leadership of Dr Bindra and the zeal of the team at Bada Business, the actor added, “The entire team at Bada Business was hugely motivated to work for the cause, and Dr Bindra is a master motivator. The campaign built up in a matter of four days. What I thought will take at least a month to achieve was executed from nothing in four days. I am just playing a supportive role, and I am proud to be a small part of such a big initiative. More than 800 lives have been saved through it, and that gives me immense satisfaction.”
‘I am Oxygen Man’ is a brainchild of Dr Bindra. Talking about this philanthropic cause, he said, “The idea was to create a human contributing to humanity in difficult times. A businessman always looks at a hassle and creates a premium out of it by solving the problem. Therefore, I believe every negative situation can attract new customer acquisition. Due to this, a businessman is always solution-oriented. Real solutions are those which involve every individual. Through ‘I am Oxygen Man’, we aimed at making every commoner a superhero.”
Elaborating more on the vision, Dr Bindra added, “A comedian, an actor, a journalist, a hotel manager, a rickshaw puller, a railway employee, anybody can be a superhero. Humein doosron ki madad karne ke jazbaat rakhna zaroori hai. We wanted people to come forward to help the community as an Oxygen Man.”
Many celebrities like Sanjeev Kapoor, who gave PPE kits and Kailash Kher, who contributed Rs 25 lakh, also helped achieve the vision that Vivek Bindra and Vivek Oberoi had. Vivek Oberoi also donated a sum of Rs 25 lakh to this campaign. Three organisations together worked for the cause involving ISKON, Kailash Kher Foundation, and Bada Business. “Bada Business basically means Vivek Square (Vivek Oberoi and Vivek Bindra)”, said Dr Bindra. The campaign also garnered a total of 1 million views in just four hours.
Talking about a new initiative for the first time, Dr Bindra said, “I am thinking of starting an ‘Oxygen Man Challenge’, similar to the ‘Ice Bucket Challenge’, which was started to raise awareness for ALS and ‘Rice Bucket Challenge’ initiated by Manju Lata Ji, inspired by the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge, which involved cooking a bucket of rice and feeding the poor. A small challenge can bring a big change in the society.”
The next wave, which is believed to hit children, is problematic. Talking about the road ahead and preparations for the same, Oberoi said, “The thing about Bada Business as an organisation and as a family is that they do not stop. They always think about the next big thing.” Echoing the thoughts on the social media challenge, he added, “Social Media is a potent tool. If people cannot contribute capitally or physically, they can at least use the power of social media to spread the word about the problem and its solutions.”
When asked about how can the viewers contribute to their campaign, Dr Bindra urged the users to post pictures on social media helping others, use the hashtag ‘IAmOxygenMan’ and tag five of their friends. Oberoi added, “We don’t want to be a complaining man; we want to be an Oxygen Man.”
INDIA SHOULD UPHOLD INDIAN LIFESTYLE & CULTURE EVEN IN JHATKA VS HALAL DEBATE
Only those religious codes which don’t intervene with the lifestyle of other religious groups would be feasible in a democracy like India. As long as Muslims practise or prefer it in their private lives, there aren’t reasons to complain. However, when such practices enter the public domain and question the Indian system and Constitution, these should enter wider public scrutiny and consensus.
“An appeaser is one who feeds a crocodile, hoping it will eat him last,” warned Winston Churchill. Indian politics has a long history of appeasement. The pandering to the wishes of a small minority who vote en bloc has been a lucrative career choice for decades until PM Modi arrived at the scene and gave a reality check. In many ways, the Indian situation of appeasing the Muslims is more ridiculous than other nations. Just a few generations ago, India was divided on cultural lines and the Indian society had clear ideas of the choices. Muslims who chose to stay back in India have exercised that choice by saying No to an Islamic nation. Given this historical and cultural background, under no circumstances do Muslims expect or require special treatment or religious code. Yet, religious codes exist and demand for Sharia and other Islamic practices find many takers in secular parties and in the Muslim community. The outright appeasement in the Shah Bano case was a defining case in point when the Indian masses said enough of it and rallied behind the nationalists.
Like Sharia law, halal is also one of the core principles of the Islamic way of life. Halal—an Arabic word that means “permissible” runs completely in contrast to the system India has adopted. If an ancient religious code can dictate what is permissible (halal) or forbidden (haram) in India today, it’s a challenge to every legal system which isn’t an Islamic one. But then, the target of those promoting such concepts is precisely to introduce foreign cultural influences to subvert our national life. Strangely, the usual proponents of halal and Sharia are the same set of people who harp on secularism. It’s clear from this double-standard of theirs that what they actually seek is pick-and-choose. They want an Indian secular state to protect where they find themselves weak while also weakening the superstructure by insisting on exclusive religious codes.
The halal and jhatka food debate is part of this larger debate on how many religious sanctions of earlier eras should apply to modern India. One is about sticking to religious dogma while another is a question of a more humane approach to slaughter. The proponents of halal claim that the halal lifestyle is mandated for Muslims. In a practical sense, no religious mandates should be allowed to subvert the lifestyle of anyone else except followers of the specific religion. In the case of halal, it ain’t so. Halal food is food that is slaughtered by Muslims only which makes it a clear case of discrimination and runs counter to our system. Secondly, the brutality incurred on the animal needs to be reduced as much as practical. That’s a humanitarian argument devoid of any religious bias. The Sikhs and others who support Jhatka are taking a better approach when they insist on minimum suffering. Numerous western countries practice stunning the animal to instant death than incurring the woes which it would otherwise suffer. However, halal in Islam isn’t simply about food but encompasses many aspects of the life of which food is just one element. Beginning with halal food, the aim is to introduce halal finance, halal lifestyle and many other aspects which is nothing but a red herring for Sharia. All these tendencies should be nipped in the bud and a strong legal framework should be brought to ensure to avoid pandering to any segment of the society.
As a final word, only those religious codes which don’t intervene with the lifestyle of other religious groups would be feasible in a democracy like India. As long as Muslims practice or prefer it in their private lives, there aren’t reasons to complain. However, when such practices enter the public domain and question the Indian system and constitution, these should enter wider public scrutiny and consensus. As long as nationalists like PM Modi occupy the seat of power, such appeasement won’t ever happen. It’s up to the Indian system to guard against any attempt to push agendas. In the New India of today, primacy will be to Indian culture and the Indian way of life and nobody has any reason to complain.
Shweta Shalini is BJP spokesperson and advisor to former Chief Minister of Maharashtra Devendra Fadnavis. She is also state-in-charge of the BJP North Indian Cell.
STATE NARCOTICS CONTROL BUREAU MULLING OVER A PLAN TO OPEN 17 BRANCHES AT DISTRICT LEVEL IN HARYANA
Drug menace continues to prevail in the state, particularly in areas adjoining to neighbouring state of Punjab.
In wake of this, the state government has taken several steps to curb the drug menace and the issue has been raised by the legislators of ruling and opposite factions so many times. In continuation to this, it is worth mentioning that branches of the Narcotics Control Bureau have been established in 12 districts. These districts include Hisar, Fatehabad, Karnal, Sirsa, Kaithal, Ambala, Panchkula, Kurukshetra, Faridabad, Rohtak, Gurugram and Rewari. The State Narcotics Control Bureau has been established in Haryana on the pattern of the Centre (MHA), and is the first State Narcotics Control Bureau in the country.
In view of the ongoing scenario, the state government is mulling over a plan to open 17 branches at the district level all over Haryana. A sub-inspector level officer has been made in-charge of toll free number, who will immediately inform the units of the respective districts. Any person can give information on toll free numbers. The name of the person giving information will be kept strictly confidential.
In this series and while talking to ADGP, State Narcotics Control Bureau, Shrikant Jadhav, Haryana Governor Bandaru Dattatraya has stressed the need of involving public and private universities and other educational institutions in wiping out the crime of drug trafficking from Haryana. Dattatraya said that youths will be effective in checking the use of illegal substances and preventing drug trafficking effectively. He said the officers of the Bureau should coordinate with educational institutions and make youths aware of drug prohibition in rural and urban areas.
The Governor said, “The university administrations can play a better role in preventing drug trafficking and illegal use through their own information system, social media and other means of media including street plays, rallies and other such activities. Students in the universities can create awareness against drugs in urban, village and other far-flung areas by giving effective messages through the above media tools. He also said that NCC Scouts and students associated with NSS can play an important role as well. Along with this, the cooperation of the Red Cross and other social, government and non-governmental organizations can also be taken into consideration to make people aware.”
PGIMER TO HOST 5TH NATIONAL CONFERENCE ON TOBACCO OR HEALTH
National level experts, policymakers, implementers, academia, researchers and civil society advocates will assemble at the 5th National Conference on Tobacco or Health hosted at PGIMER, Chandigarh. All of them are concerned on one single issue i.e. increasing tobacco addiction in this particular region. Appallingly, kids and adolescents are not even escaped from this vicious circle. PGIMER Chandigarh different departments like Cardiac, Pulmonary medicine, community medicine, psychiatry happen to see kids getting admitted with tobacco addiction.
Dr. Sonu Goel, the Organizing Secretary and Professor at PGIMER exhorted, “Its not about the numbers of kids suffering from tobacco addiction, its about why anyone; be it a kid, adolescent or adult shall suffer from this poison. Appallingly, Adolescents are suffering from such addiction due to easy availability of tobacco in many forms”.
A 3-day virtual 5th National Conference on Tobacco or Health (NCTOH) scheduled from 25th – 27th September 2021 shall be hosted by the Department of Community Medicine & School of Public Health, PGIMER, Chandigarh.
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