Two days ahead of President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration day, the US Capitol Hill on Monday went into a temporary lockdown after a fire broke out under a nearby bridge.
The US Secret Service informed that the fire that prompted the lockdown was extinguished and there is no threat to the public. “Public safety and law enforcement responded to a small fire in the area of 1st and F streets SE, Washington, D.C. that has been extinguished. Out of an abundance of caution the U.S. Capitol complex was temporarily shutdown. There is no threat to the public,” US Secret Service tweeted.
The US Capitol and its surrounding areas have been turned into a military zone ahead of Biden’s inauguration day on 20 January. Elaborate security arrangements have been made in wake of the Capitol Hill riots, which has shaken the country’s confidence and put scrutiny on law enforcement and safety in Washington.
According to a report by The Hill, seven-foot barriers have been staged around the Capitol and its office buildings, and the Supreme Court.
As many as 25,000 National Guard troops will be deployed, and many of them will be armed. Troops have been photographed sleeping in nearly every corner of the Capitol—an inauguration preparation not seen since President Lincoln was set to take office amid the Civil War, the Hill said.
On January 6, a group of Trump supporters stormed the US Capitol to protest legislators confirming Joe Biden’s electoral victory in the presidential elections held in November 2020. Five people died in the riot, including one police officer as well as one Air Force veteran and a Trump supporter who was shot dead by police.
Following the violence, the US House of Representatives last week impeached Trump for “inciting” the deadly violence at Capitol Hill on January 6, making him the first US President to be impeached twice. Congress voted 232 to 197 on the single article of impeachment charging Trump with “incitement of insurrection”. WITH ANI INPUTS
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RUDRAPRAYAG FOREST DIVISION HARVESTS OVER 10 MILLION LITRES OF RAINWATER
In May 2016, with major fires blighting around 1,900 hectares of forests in Uttarakhand, the government had to send two MI-17 helicopters, NDRF, SDRF, and Army personnel to douse the flames. A total of 1890.79 hectares of the green cover was destroyed inthat fire season cycle of four years. Now, in 2021, the Rudraprayag Forest department has turned the tide. Forest fires used to be a major setback for Chamoli, Pauri, Rudraprayag, Tehri, Uttarkashi, Almora, Pithoragarh, and Nainital. But now these areas are brimming with harvested water, and that has not only been able to combat fire incidents but has also helped livestock and created contour trenches to save soil as well.
With all these efforts amid the pandemic, the Rudraprayag Forest division has managed to store 10 million litres of water within 330 hectares of forest that is now declared treated and can combat every four-year fire cycle. It has been possible due to extensive efforts which enabled the creation of small ponds, trenches, and check dams.
Speaking about the issues in Rudraprayag forest division, IFS officer Vaibhav Singh told The Daily Guardian, “We have around 30000 hectares of Chir Pine dominated forests. As Chir always grows in the dryer parts of the forest it makes it more vulnerable to fire. Secondly, due to the dry forest floor and no soil moisture, hardly any vegetation comes up in these forests.”
“Many villages in the district source their water from the nearby forest areas through small streams and channels. In peak summer season, these water bodies dry up and create issues for the adjoining villages. Not only humans but the wild and domestic animals also suffer from lack of water,” Singh added.
To combat these issues, the forest department in Rudraprayag has been working extensively for the past couple of years in conserving rainwater and soil moisture.
With monsoon knocking on doors, the hilly state of Uttarakhand has started recording heavy rainfall. While national highways are getting blocked due to landslides, places like Chamoli, Rudraprayag, Bageshwar, and Pithoragarh are facing a rise in the river water levels.
“With the efforts of my staff, field team, and other people, we have managed to conserve more than 80 lakh litres of water during these 15-20 days of heavy rainfall,” Singh said.
To conserve rainwater in Rudraprayag, the traditional ways of “Chal Khal” system were mostly followed in the Garhwal region. The villagers would dig small percolation pits on every bit of available land on the slopes that surrounded a drain line. The pits prevent water and soil erosion and also enhance percolation. The rainwater oozes into the soil and recharges the groundwater, and ultimately forms a river body.
Singh told The Daily Guardian, “We have been doing this work for the past two-three years, but last year in particular we did it on a very large scale. Out of all the six ranges in the division, we selected areas vulnerable to fires. With the help of funds availed from the State Compensatory Afforestation Fund Management and Planning Authority (CAMPA) and NamamiGange scheme, we made around 1732 check dams of various types ranging from vegetative to crate wires and contour trenches were dug up in 330 hectares of degraded Chir Pine forests. With this, around 612 water bodies of different capacities were created with a total water retention capacity of more than 1 crore litres.”
Pegasus row: Bihar CM demands probe, JD(U) first BJP ally to do so
Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar on Monday demanded an investigation into the Pegasus spyware scandal.
“A probe should be done, indeed. We have been hearing about telephone tapping for so many days, the matter should be discussed (in Parliament). People (Opposition) have been reiterating (for talks) for so many days, it should be done,” Kumar said when asked if the matter should be investigated.
While Opposition parties have mounted an attack on the central government pressing it to conduct a discussion on the issue in Parliament, this is the first time that an ally of the BJP has demanded an investigation into the scandal. JD(U) is a coalition partner of the ruling National Democratic Alliance at the Centre.
Addressing reporters in Patna, the Bihar Chief Minister also echoed the Opposition’s demand for a discussion on the issue in the ongoing Monsoon Session of Parliament.
He said that people know only what’s been said in the Parliament and what the media is showing, but to know the whole truth, the matter should be probed.“In today’s time, people can misuse technology. There should be a probe so that this can’t be misused to exploit anybody. If the Opposition is demanding discussion for so many days, then there should be a discussion on the matter,” Nitish Kumar said.
Meanwhile, both houses of the Parliament were adjourned for the day amid the Opposition’s demand over discussion on the alleged use of Pegasus spyware to snoop on journalists, politicians and other eminent personalities.
WITH ANI INPUTS
DHANKAR MURDER CASE: POLICE NAME SUSHIL KUMAR AS MAIN CULPRIT
The Delhi Police on Monday filed a chargesheet against Olympic medallist wrestler Sushil Kumar and 12 others in the Sagar Dhankar murder case.
Delhi Police sources told The Daily Guardian that they have filed chargesheet against Sushil Kumar as the main accused before the Rohini court.
The court will announce the date for hearing of the case at the point of taking cognisance of the 1,000-page chargesheet on Tuesday.
The chargesheet names 13 accused, including Sushil Kumar. A total of 15 accused have been arrested in the case and five are on the run.
Delhi Police had filed an FIR in the case under Sections 302 (murder), 307 (attempt to murder), 308 (culpable homicide), 364 (kidnapping), 365 (kidnapping), 325 (causing grievous hurt), 323 (voluntarily causing hurt), 341 (wrongful restraint), 342 (wrongful confinement) of the Indian Penal Code (IPC).
It has also been registered under Sections 452 (house trespass), 188 (Disobedience to order by public servant), 269 (negligent act likely to spread infection of disease), 120-B (criminal conspiracy) and 34 (common intention), 147 (rioting), 148 (unlawful assembly) of the IPC.
According to sources, more than 50 people, including four victims, security guards of Chhatrasal Stadium, neighbours of Sagar Dhankar living in Model Town and some people living in Shalimar Bagh have been made witnesses.
As for the electronic evidence, the police have a video of Dhankar and his accomplices on the crime spot, which was recovered from the possession of one of the accused Prince. There is also CCTV footage of the accused coming and going there. Also, the mobile location of all the accused suggests they were at the crime spot at the time of the incident.
In their chargesheet, police have mentioned that “encroachment of property”, “threat to eliminate” and supremacy were the reasons for the dispute which resulted in Sagar Dhankar’s death.
Sushil Kumar and his associates allegedly assaulted Dhankar and two of his friends—Sonu Mahal and Amit Kumar—over a property dispute, at the stadium on the intervening night of 4-5 May.
Congress politicising Assam-Mizoram tension: 16 BJP MPs to PM Modi
A delegation of 16 BJP MPs from Northeast met Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Monday and submitted a memorandum amid the ongoing border dispute in Assam and Mizoram. These MPs alleged that the Congress is playing politics over the recent conflict in Assam and Mizoram and want to throw the Northeast into the “fire of violence”.
These MPs have said that foreign powers are also exaggerating this incident and are working to incite people. This needs to be stopped immediately. The Northeast border dispute is the result of the Congress party itself. If the country’s first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru, and leaders from Indira Gandhi to Rajiv Gandhi had resolved the Naga-Mizo problem seriously, this situation would not have happened today. “Former Prime Ministers Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru and Indira Gandhi were not sensitive to the aspirations of Mizo and Naga communities,” they said. The MPs said that the Congress has always used these states for its political gains. If strict measures had been taken on China in the initial phase under the Congress rule, then today the people of Arunachal Pradesh would be sleeping peacefully with more peace.
The MPs from Northeast further said, “The Naga accord, Bodo accord, Bru Reang moved towards peaceful resolutions. Northeast is home to infrastructures like Bogibeel bridge and Dhola Sadiya bridge. Insurgency and violence have been reduced. On the contrary, Congress has no regard for the culture of the Northeast.” The MPs further alleged that during the tenure of the previous Congress governments, chief ministers of North Eastern states had to wait for hours before they could get an appointment from Congress leaders and if they managed to get the appointment “they would play with their pets”. “Today North-East Democratic Alliance (NEDA) is looking after the inclusive development of Northeastern states. Unable to digest this, Congress and its ecosystem is trying many dirty tricks. In 2018 they tried to make CAA and NRC a political issue, but the people of the Northeast gave them a befitting reply. Today, they are trying to stoke tempers between Assam and Mizoram,” said the BJP MPs in their memorandum to PM Modi.
After meeting the Prime Minister, Union Law Minister and MP from West Kemang in Arunachal Pradesh Kiren Rijiju alleged that foreign forces were distorting provocative statements and materials. These forces have been doing so to fuel the fire in the area. Rijiju said that the Prime Minister told the MPs that the Northeast is very close to his heart, so his love for the region is also natural. He never looked at the Northeast through the prism of politics.
During the meeting, the MPs also submitted a memorandum to PM Modi and said that whatever elements are looking at the Assam-Mizoram issue as a medium to spread disorder in India, they want to tell them that their mischief is not going to work. The MPs also said that the National Democratic Alliance government led by Prime Minister Modi has done historic and unmatched development work in the Northeast. In the last seven years, Rs 2 lakh crore has been spent on infrastructure projects in the Northeast. “Those who are working to spoil the happiness and peace in the Northeast, we condemn him.” Of the 16 MPs from the Northeast present in the delegation, 12 were from Assam, two from Arunachal Pradesh and one each from Manipur and Tripura.
Meanwhile, Union Home Minister Amit Shah on Monday met Mizoram Governor Dr Hari Babu Kambhampati in New Delhi. “Governor of Mizoram, Dr Hari Babu Kambhampati met Union Home Minister Shri Amit Shah,” Home Minister’s Office tweeted. Before his meeting with Shah, Kambhampati said that the Union Home Minister is trying to defuse the situation and find a solution. “It is an unfortunate incident. Union Home Minister Amit Shah is trying to defuse the situation and find a solution. Both the CMs (Assam and Mizoram) reiterated that peace will be restored,” the Governor told ANI. Earlier in the day, the Mizoram Governor met Prime Minister Narendra Modi to discuss the current border situation and how to diffuse the tensions between the two states.
(WITH AGENCY INPUTS)
PM Modi launches digital payment system e-RUPI
We see technology as tool to help poor, e-RUPI will give new dimension to digital governance, says PM Modi.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Monday launched a new mode of digital payment called e-RUPI. This payment system is developed by the National Payment Corporation of India (NPCI) and the launch took place via video conferencing.
e-RUPI a cashless and contactless digital payment system which has been developed in collaboration with the Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare and Department of Finance. While launching this new system, PM Modi said that this is a “person and purpose specific” digital solution.
“If any person or any organisation wants to donate money, e-RUPI will ensure that the amount of money donated is being used for that purpose itself. It ensures that the objective with which money has been donated is being used to fulfil that objective,” PM Modi said. “e-Rupi will help in boosting digital payments and Direct Benefit Transfer (DBT) in the country,” the Prime Minister added. He expressed his happiness that the system was launched weeks before India celebrates its 75th anniversary of Independence. e-RUPI is expected to help not only in contactless payment system, but also in Direct Benefit Transfer (DBT).
There is going to be a QR code or a SMS-string based e-voucher which will be delivered directly to the phone of the beneficiary. According to a statement from the government, the beneficiary will be able to redeem the voucher without a card, digital payments app or internet banking access at the service provider. The mechanism connects services with beneficiaries and service providers in a digital manner without any physical interaction.
Addressing the event through video conference, the PM said cashless and contactless instrument for digital payment will help in targeted, transparent and leakage-free delivery. The Prime Minister said that the world is recognising India’s strength in digital infrastructure and digital transactions due to the work done in the last six-seven years. “Especially in Fintech, a huge base has been created. This is not there is big countries also,” he said. He said India is proving to the world that it is second to none in adopting technology and adapting to it. “Whether it is innovations, use of technology in service delivery use of technology in service delivery, India has the ability to give global leadership along with other major countries of the world,” he said.
The Prime Minister said some people used to say earlier that technology is for the rich and India is a poor country and does not need it and when his government talked of making technology a mission, it was questioned by the political leaders and certain types of experts. “But today the country has proved this thinking wrong and fallacious. Today the country thinks differently. Today technology is seen as a tool for the progress of the poor,” he said.
As Covid sees southern surge, ICMR says Covaxin is effective against Delta Plus
Till now, the prevalence of Delta AY.1 has been found to be low in India and 70 cases of coronavirus Delta Plus variant were found in genome sequencing by the INSACOG (Indian SARS-CoV-2 Consortium on Genomics). However, there has been no information on the efficacy of currently available vaccines against the Delta AY.1 variant.
The domestically developed Covaxin is effective against the Delta plus variant of Covid-19, the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) has claimed in its study, released on Monday. Covaxin is developed by Bharat Biotech in collaboration with ICMR and the National Institute of Pune. “Here, we have evaluated the IgG antibody titer and neutralising potential of sera of Covid-19 naive individuals full doses of BBV152 vaccine, Covid-19 recovered cases with full dose vaccines and breakthrough cases post-immunisation BBV152 vaccines against Delta, Delta AY.1 and B.1.617.3.” the study said.
The recent emergence of the SARS-CoV-2 Variant B.1.617.2 (Delta) with its high transmissibility has led to the second wave in India. Covaxin, a whole-virion inactivated SARS-CoV-2 vaccine used for mass immunisation in the country, showed a 65.2 per cent protection against the Delta variant in a double-blind, randomised, multicentre, phase 3 clinical trial. Subsequently, Delta has further mutated to Delta AY.1, AY.2, and AY.3. Of these, AY.1 variant was first detected in India in April 2021 and subsequently from 20 other countries as well, the study said. The study is a pre-print and has not been peer reviewed. Covaxin demonstrated 77.8 per cent effectiveness against symptomatic Covid-19 and 65.2 per cent protection against the B.1.617.2 Delta variant, Bharat Biotech had said while concluding the final analysis of Covaxin efficacy from Phase 3 trials on July
“Sera of individuals who were fully immunized (with 2 doses) didn’t show significant reduction in the NAb titer against Delta, Delta AY.1 and B.1.617.3”, said Dr Samiran Panda, Head of epidemiology and infectious diseases. NAb titer of sera of recovered cases with vaccinations and breakthrough cases were significantly high compared to those with two doses of vaccinations. According to Dr Panda, immunization is key to protect from severity and deaths in the current situation and reduce the burden on healthcare system.
Meanwhile, after Kerala, Karnataka has witnessed a steep spike in coronavirus cases. Notably, Karnataka reported 2,052 fresh cases of Covid-19 and 35 deaths, taking the total number of infections to 29,01,247 and the toll to 36,491. The capital city logged 506 cases, 34 per cent more than Wednesday’s count of 376. Besides, Bengaluru Urban, other districts where a large number of new cases were reported are Dakshina Kannada 396, Udupi 174, Mysuru 157, Hassan 136. Bengaluru Urban district tops the list of positive cases, with a total of 12,26,463, followed by Mysuru 1,72,637 and Tumakuru 1,17,667. The total number of active cases in the state is at 23,253. The state’s positivity rate was 1.37 per cent and case fatality rate 1.70 per cent across the state. The infection claimed 35 lives, including nine in Bengaluru, taking the state’s death toll to 36,491 and the city’s toll to 15,852 since the pandemic broke out in March over a year ago.
India, meanwhile, reported 40,134 new cases of Covid-19 and 422 deaths in the last 24 hours, as per the Union Health Ministry. The total number of cases currently stands at 3,16,95,958. The death toll has climbed to 4,24,773. The number of active cases of Covid-19 in the country is 4,13,718. A total of 36,946 patients recovered in the last 24 hours and 3,08,57,467 people have recovered from Covid-19 since the beginning of the pandemic. This constitutes an overall recovery rate of 97.35%. Less than 50,000 daily new cases have been reported since thirty-six continuous days. This is a result of sustained and collaborative efforts by the Centre, the states and UTs. According to the Health ministry, India’s Covid-19 vaccination coverage has exceeded 47.22 crore. Cumulatively, 47,22,23,639 vaccine doses have been administered through 55,99,690 sessions, as per the provisional report till 7 am today. 17,06,598 vaccine doses were administered in the last 24 hours. The new phase of universalization of Covid-19 vaccination commenced on 21 June 2021.
—With agency inputs.
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