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We will provide Covid-19 vaccines for free: Kejriwal

Delhi government, approving the purchase of 1.34 crore vaccines, has decided to provide free vaccines to everyone above 18 years of age

AJEET SRIVASTAVA

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Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal on Monday said that the Delhi government has decided to provide free COVID-19 vaccines to everyone above 18 years of age and the approval has been given for the purchase of 1.34 crore doses.

“Delhi government has decided to provide free vaccines to everyone above 18 years of age. Today we have approved the purchase of 1.34 crore vaccines. We will make an effort to ensure that it is purchased soon and administered at the earliest to people,” said Kejriwal.

Emphasising that vaccines should have the same price throughout the country, he requested the Centre to bring down the price and also appealed to vaccine manufacturers to sell the jabs at cheaper rates.

“This is not the time to make a profit but to help,” said Kejriwal. “We will make an effort to ensure that vaccines are purchased soon and administered to people at the earliest,” he added, while noting that vaccines have emerged as an effective tool to tackle coronavirus pandemic.

“One vaccine producer said that they’ll provide vaccines to the state governments at Rs 400 per dose and the second producer said that they’ll provide at Rs 600 per dose. Both of them will keep the price at Rs 150 per dose for the Central government. I hope that the prices remain the same for all,” the Delhi CM said.

The Aam Aadmi Party leader pointed out that Covid-19 does not cause serious health issues in people. Pointing towards efficacy of vaccines, Kejriwal said that people who are vaccinated and later contract the virus normally do not require hospitalisation.

It may be noted here that Serum Institute of India, which is manufacturing Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine (called Covishield in India) has said that it will provide the vaccine at Rs 400 per dose to state governments, while at Rs 600 per dose to private hospitals, under the third phase of vaccination programme starting 1 May.Bharat Biotech, which has indigenously developed Covaxin, has set the pricing at Rs 600 per dose for state governments and Rs 1,200 for private hospitals.

Arvind Kejriwal also called on scientists and vaccine manufacturers to ensure Covid-19 vaccines for children as well, who too have become highly vulnerable in the second wave as mutant variants are continuing to wreak havoc. “We’ve seen children below 18 getting infected too. Some died. It’s time to think for them too. If these vaccines are safe and effective for them, they should be given these. If not, then I hope new vaccines will be developed soon that will be effective and safe for children,” the Delhi CM said.

Kejriwal said that Sardar Patel Covid Care Centre has started functioning again at Radha Soami Satsang Beas from Monday morning.

“The centre opened for patients at 10 am today. It is being started with 500 beds. It will be further increased to 2,000 beds and then to 5,000 beds even further. A 200-bed ICU is also being started there,” Kejriwal said.

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Rains devastate Kerala, death toll mounts to 21

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The death toll in Kerala caused by heavy rains and landslides mounted to 21 on Sunday, according to the state’s Information and Public Relations Department. The flood situation has become so grave that two Indian Army teams have been deployed in Thiruvananthapuram and in Kottayam to carry out rescue and relief operations along with the local administration. The Defense Security Corps (DSC) has deployed one team in Kozhikode and one in Wayanad. The National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) has been deployed in Pathanamthitta, Alappuzha, Idukki, Ernakulam, Thrissur and Malappuram districts. In addition, five more teams have been directed to be deployed in Idukki, Kottayam, Kollam, Kannur and Palakkad districts.

The Air Force and Navy have been instructed to be ready for emergencies. Two choppers of the Air Force reached Thiruvananthapuram from Sulur near Coimbatore. In Pathanamthitta district, it has been reported that people are trapped near Mallappally. The Air Force helicopter was deployed following a recommendation from the District Disaster Management Authority that an airlift may be needed, although firefighters are trying to carry out rescue operations. Navy helicopters were deployed to distribute food parcels to landslide affected areas in Kokkayar.

According to a statement issued by the Indian Army, 40 Indian Army personnel from Pangode Military Station was the first rescue team to be deployed at the site in Kavali in Kottickal of Kottayam district, which had witnessed the loss of lives and heavy damage to property from the thunderstorms since early Friday. The statement further stated that one Column of Army personnel from DSC Centre, Kannur with engineering and medical components arrived at Wayanad and commenced the rescue operations.

Another specialist Engineering Task Force (ETF) under Headquarters Dakshin Bharat Area from Bengaluru arrived at Mundakayam and Koottickal. A total of three columns have been deployed by the Army so far, it said.

The statement further said that despite the harsh and inclement weather conditions the Army reached the spot within a few hours of requisition and have been since employed in assistance to the civil administration in rescue and relief operations in the area. Working since the late hours, the team was the first to reach the site at Kavali and have been successful in recovering three bodies from the debris, it added. The Indian Army said in its statement that during the process of recovery, the team had salvaged a large quantity of gold and expensive accessories which were immediately handed over to the civil administration for further accountability. It also mentioned that the team have also been clearing and managing the traffic on the roads and diverting the flow of water into streams thereby ensuring the unhindered movement of rescue materials. The team is working in close coordination with the DC, Kottayam and the Tehsildar of Kanjirapally in the distribution of the much-needed relief material and in ensuring that normalcy returns in the area at the earliest, it added.

Earlier in the day, Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan urged the people of the state to remain cautious and prepare themselves to move to relief camps, higher ground or safer localities if requested by government officials. He also advised against inessential travel. The CM said that 105 relief camps have been set up across the state and arrangements made to start more camps as soon as possible amid heavy rainfall and landslides. In a statement issued by the Chief Minister’s Office Vijayan said, “People should take precautions to avoid accidents. Follow the instructions of the authorities and shift if necessary. Avoid unnecessary trips.”

According to the CMO press statement, a red alert has been issued for dams Kaki in Pathanamthitta district, Sholayar in Thrissur district, Peringalkuthu, Kundala, Kallarkutty, Mattupetty and Kallar in Idukki district. A red alert has also been issued for the dams of the irrigation department in Chulliyarbin Palakkad and Peechi in Thrissur district. An orange alert has been declared in Vazhani, Chimmini in Thrissur district and Minkara, Mangalam and Malampuzha in Palakkad district. A blue alert has been issued for Ponmudi dam, Idukki dam in Idukki district and Pampa in Pathanamthitta. A blue alert has also been issued in Pothundi in Palakkad district and Neyyar dams in Thiruvananthapuram district.

Meanwhile, the Indian Meteorological Department (IMD) predicted that the intense spell of rainfall activity over Kerala, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu and Puducherry is likely to reduce from today. There would be a significant reduction in rainfall in Kerala today as compared to Saturday, said Indian Meteorological Department senior scientist Naresh Kumar on Sunday. “There is going to be rainfall of a maximum of 6-7 cm today as compared to the 29 cm of rainfall recorded Saturday. And thereafter, there would be clear weather,” Kumar said. “Yesterday there was a low-pressure area over south-east Arabian sea adjoining Kerala. Today morning it is markedly less. It is weakened today. Because of its effect, yesterday there was extreme rainfall, more than 29 cm rainfall,” said Kumar.

Fishing has been banned in Kerala, Karnataka and Lakshadweep coasts after IMD warning.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi spoke to Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan on Sunday and discussed the situation in the state following heavy rains and landslides. The Prime Minister expressed condolences to the bereaved families and assured the state’s people that the authorities were working on the ground to assist the injured and affected. “It is saddening that some people have lost their lives due to heavy rains and landslides in Kerala. Condolences to the bereaved families,” PM Modi tweeted.

“Spoke to Kerala CM Shri @vijayanpinarayi and discussed the situation in the wake of heavy rains and landslides in Kerala. Authorities are working on the ground to assist the injured and affected. I pray for everyone’s safety and well-being,” the Prime Minister tweeted.

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Army using Heron drones to track PLA activities along LAC

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Indian Army’s aviation base with its Heron drones is helping India keep a hawk-eye on Chinese activities along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in the highly sensitive Arunachal Pradesh sector. The Army base is also equipped with other important assets including the ALH Dhruv including its weaponised version Rudra to enhance the capabilities of forces on the ground at a time when India and China have been engaged in a military standoff since last year.

Explaining in detail the capabilities of the Israel-origin Heron drones, Major Karthik Garg told ANI, “This is the most beautiful aircraft as far as surveillance resources are concerned. Since its inception, it has been the backbone of surveillance. It can climb up to 30,000 ft and continue to give feed to commanders on the ground. So that, we can manoeuvre forces on the ground. It has an endurance of 24-30 hours at a stretch.”

Talking about surveillance during bad weather, Major Karthik added, “We have day and night cameras and for bad weather, we have synthetic aperture radar which can give track of entire terrain.”

Describing the capability of Missamari Army Aviation Base, Lieutenant Colonel Amit Dadhwal said, “These rotary-wing platforms provide a plethora of capabilities so that you know they can achieve success in all kinds of operations. This aircraft is fully capable of carrying troops and full battle load to any kind of treacherous terrain, or in any kind of weather conditions. This lean and mean machine is made in India is made by Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL). This equipment and this aircraft are fully capable to carry out operations in.”

Speaking further about Dhruv, Dhadwal also described the night evacuation capability and mentioned that the aircraft has been instrumental in saving more than 50 lives in the sector by doing night casualty operations.

He further added, “Over a period of time, when we give you a general time of operation, we are fully capable of doing night casualty evacuations, from the same aircraft has been further modified and weaponized into a more lethal version, which we call it as ALH WSI which stands for Advanced Light helicopter weapon system integrated, which is known as the Rudra helicopter, this aircraft is fully equipped with various mission systems as well as weapon systems onboard.”

Dadhwal spoke about Cheetah and said the helicopter proved itself and “for the past 50 years in the Indian Army, and it has been one of the stable and more reliable aircraft of Indian Army”. ANI

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PUNJAB’S LAST CHANCE FOR RESURRECTION: SIDHU WRITES TO SONIA GANDHI

He seeks time to present her with a 13-point agenda that can be the basis of the ‘Punjab model’ ahead of the Assembly elections next year.

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P unjab Pradesh Congress Committee (PPCC) president Navjot Singh Sidhu has written a letter to the party’s interim president Sonia Gandhi, seeking time to discuss issues related to the 2022 Assembly elections. He shared on Twitter on Sunday a copy of the letter dated 15 October, Friday. Talking of the “priority areas that Punjab government must deliver upon” Sidhu requested for a meeting to present his 13-point agenda, which he thinks should be made part of the Congress election manifesto. Calling this “Punjab’s last chance for resurrection and redemption”, he said that he has come to this conclusion “after multiple deliberations and consultations with party workers from across Punjab and with a deep understanding of the public sentiment over 17 years of public life”. “I express with a lot of pain in my heart that this is Punjab’s last chance for resurrection and redemption,” he added. “The issues at Punjab’s heart as understood very well by you, and signified by the 18-Point agenda given to the last Chief Minister are equally relevant today. I stood for each point in that agenda through the responsibility vested in me of the organization, keeping the executive under check, to be the guardian of Punjab’s rights,” said Sidhu in his letter. Sidhu stated that Punjab for decades was the richest state of the country and today it is the most indebted state. He further said that Punjab is submerged under lakhs of crores of debt due to gross financial mismanagement over the last 25 years and diversion of public resources making a few powerful people rich while leaving the state “debt-distressed”. Sidhu in his letter further alleged, “It has been supplemented by 7 years of BJP rule discriminating against Punjab while paying its financial dues such as GST payments, Rural Development Fund payments, Post-Matric Scholarship for Scheduled Castes payments etc. Subsequently, the increasing debt overhead Punjab has led to our financial resources being

used for merely paying off the old debt and interest upon it.”

Sidhu said in his letter, every year, Punjab has to take new debt to support basic development works, to invest in 60:40 shared Central development schemes, providing healthcare, education and infrastructure needs of the stat.

He added that Punjab has nearly one lakh vacant government posts, caused by the “lack of resources”. Government hirings are at “lowest wages” and contractual, school teachers have to work on probation for 4 years on minimum wages, “delays in implementation” of 6th Pay Commission by five years are all due to “state not having enough resources”.

Sidhu also mentioned drug menace in his letter, writing, drugs have “plagued almost an entire generation” of Punjab. He suggested a solution to the problem by writing, “This requires a stern action, as I always reiterate all corruption flows from the top, thus heads must roll from the top. The Big-Fish behind drug trafficking in Punjab as mentioned in the STF report must be immediately arrested and given exemplary punishment.”

On agriculture, the Punjab Congress chief says that while agriculture is the backbone of Punjab, “as we all protest against the Centre’s three black laws, the government of Punjab must reject them completely by announcing that they will not be implemented in Punjab at any cost. As we did in the case of Satluj Yamuna Link Canal (SYL), such stern resolve is needed today. This resolve must be supported on the ground by bringing in structural changes.”

Raising the issue of electricity, Sidhu writes that cheap and 24 hour electric supply should be provided to all domestic consumers, especially urban domestic consumers who suffer the most due to cross-subsidy burden upon them, as power tariff for industrial and commercial use, and give free power for agriculture is decreased. He further said that fixed power subsidy must be given to all domestic consumers, be it the decreasing price of power to 3 Rs per unit or 300 units of free power to all.

Writing on his 13-point agenda, Sidhu also mentioned, “Release White-Paper on Power Purchase Agreements (PPAs) and cancellation of all faulty PPAs as promised along with considering the present coal-shortage in the country, Punjab must move towards smart, cheap and efficient PPAs to meet state’s power demands, with a special focus on cheap solar power and aggressively pursuing grid-connected roof-top and institutional solar.”

Writing on Scheduled Caste and Backward Class welfare, Sidhu wrote, “Even after High Command’s progressive decision of appointing a Dalit Chief Minister to give the under-privileged more voice in the Government, it has not been supported in the State in equal measure, we should have at least one Mazbhi Sikh in Cabinet, representation to Dalits from Doaba, at least two representatives from Backward Caste Community in the Cabinet. Special package of 25 Crore for development of reserved constituencies.”

“We must fulfil our promise of 5 Marla plots to SCs, money for pakka ceiling for every Dalit household, agricultural lands to landless poor, fixing responsibility and initiating an inquiry into Post-Matric scholarship scam, while clearing dues to the Dalits students for pursuing their education further,” he added.

Stressing on the issue of employment generation, Sidhu suggested filling up of thousands of vacant government posts on a regular basis, while also addressing the grievances of the employees’ unions. “More than 20 Unions are protesting across the state. We must take their demands under compassionate consideration. The government must open doors for discussion, consultation and deliver what it can, considering its fiscal means,” Sidhu’s letter reads. He suggested that more emphasis should be given to bringing industries to Punjab especially in areas such as agro-processing, knitting and hosiery.

The immediate focus should be on implementing more reforms to promote Ease of Doing Business (EoDB), enabling time-bound single-window clearances, supporting MSMEs with a specific focus on employment-generating industries, he wrote

He also recommended that Punjab must bring in a youth policy to increase participation of the youth in governance, adding that emphasis should be on enhancing and enabling infrastructure on sports, skill development and startup culture. Concrete measures should be taken to increase the participation of women in politics, governance and opportunities for employment, he added.

He also raised the issue of liquor by writing, “I have been fighting for this cause since the first Cabinet meeting of our government in 2017, Punjab must monopolise liquor trade in the State, by bringing it under a state-run Corporation, as in case of Tamil Nadu, Punjab should own distilleries and liquor vends, giving at least 20,000 crores more revenue to the state along with thousands of jobs.”

He added, “I further request you to kindly give me a personal audience to present to you the Punjab Model with a 13-Point Agenda to be part of the Congress Manifesto for the 2022 Assembly Elections, which is separate from this by means of its long-term vision to be implemented over a longer period of time, have crafted it through years of consultations with academics, civil society, party workers and feedback from the People of Punjab.”

Following are the issues raised by Sidhu: justice for sacrilege, drugs, agriculture, electricity, PPAs, Scheduled Caste & Backward Caste welfare, employment, single window system and comparative advantage, women and youth empowerment, liquor, sand mining, transport and cable mafia.

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Two non-locals shot dead, one injured in south Kashmir

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On Sunday evening, two non-locals were shot dead and one injured after unidentified gunmen fired upon them in Kulgam district of Jammu and Kashmir. The security forces have cordoned off the area. The three non-locals have been identified as Raja Reshi Dev (dead), Joginder Reshi Dev (dead), and Chunchun Reshi Dev (injured)—all belonging to Bihar. Dr Mohammed Iqbal Sofi, Medical Superintendent GMC Anantnag said that the injured non-local labourer has a ballistic trauma in his arm and is stable for now.

“#Terrorists fired indiscriminately upon #NonLocal labourers at Wanpoh area of #Kulgam. In this #terror incident, 02 non-locals were killed and 01 injured. Police & SFs cordoned off the area. Further details shall follow. @JmuKmrPolice,” Kashmir Zone Police tweeted.

The horrific attack took place after two non-locals were shot dead in Srinagar and Pulwama. Of late, there has been a spike in the targeted killings of civilians in the valley.

A week after a series of attacks on civilians, a state of panic gripped Kashmir once again, as on Saturday evening, unidentified gunmen carried out an attack killing two non-locals.

On Saturday, Arvind Kumar Sah, a gol gappa vendor from Bihar, was shot in his head from point-blank range in Srinagar. Minutes later, reports came of Sagheer Ahmad, a carpenter belonging to Saharanpur in Uttar Pradesh, being shot at in south Kashmir’s Pulwama. Ahmad later succumbed to his injuries.

Virendra Paswan, another non-local vendor from Bihar was shot dead in Srinagar on 5 October, besides renowned Kashmiri Pandit chemist Makhan Lal Bindroo, while Mohammad Shafi Lone, president of the local cab drivers’ association in Naidkhai was killed in Bandipora district. Other civilians who have been killed recently include Parvez Ahmad, Majeed Guru, Shafi Dar, Satinder Kour, Deepak Chand, and Arvind Kumar.

Amid the spate of killing of non-combatants, especially non-local labourers, in Kashmir, the region’s police chief Vijay Kumar was said to have issued an emergency advisory, directing police officials to give protection to all non-local labourers in their jurisdiction in police stations, and several other security establishments. The report was circulated over social media on Sunday evening. However, moments later, The Daily Guardian confirmed from IGP Vijay Kumar that the circulated report was fake, and there were no orders given as such.

Meanwhile, top leaders of several major political parties in J&K have condemned the civilian killings.

Former Chief Minister of Jammu and Kashmir, and the president of JKPDP, Mehbooba Mufti, took to Twitter to say, “There are no words strong enough to condemn the repeated barbaric attacks on innocent civilians. My heart goes out to their families because they leave the comforts of their homes to earn a dignified livelihood. Terribly sad.”

Omar Abdullah, former Chief Minister of J&K and vice president of National Conference also tweeted condemning the killings that took place on Saturday: “Strongly condemn the killing of Sageer Ahmed in Pulwama today. Another man who came to the valley in search of an income, in this case as a carpenter. His death in the 2nd terror attack today is a grim reminder of the precarious security situation in Kashmir these days.”

IGP Kumar, few days earlier, had denied that the incidents were the result of any security lapses. “I have been saying time and again that there was no security lapse… (The militants) attacked soft targets, whom we had not provided security. It is not possible to provide security to every soft target,” he told journalists.

“We have identified them (suspected assailants behind the killings of civilians). Two have been neutralised. Three others will also be neutralised soon,” he added.

Meanwhile, police on Friday claimed to have killed two militants in separate gunfights in Srinagar and Pulwama—Shahid Bashir and Tanzeel Ahmad, both residents of Srinagar—as “collaborators” in the recent killings.

In the month of October so far in Jammu & Kashmir, nearly 38 persons have lost their lives in armed violence, which include 9 members of Indian Army (including two Junior Commissioned Officers), 12 non-combatants, 13 militants, and three government soldiers who died by suicide.

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Jaishankar visits WWI cemetery in Jerusalem, pays homage to Indian soldiers

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External Affairs Minister (EAM) S. Jaishankar on Sunday visited the Indian cemetery in Jerusalem and paid homage to the Indian soldiers who died during World War I.

Jaishankar arrived in Israel on Sunday on a three-day visit. He is scheduled to hold talks with Israel’s top leadership. “Visited the Indian Cemetery at Talpiot as my first engagement in Jerusalem. Paid homage to the brave Indian soldiers who made the supreme sacrifice during World War I,” Jaishankar tweeted.

This ongoing visit is Jaishankar’s first to the country as the External Affairs Minister.

After reaching Israel, the minister wrote on Twitter: “Shalom Israel! Arrived on my first visit as External Affairs Minister. Looking forward to a great visit.”

During his three-day visit, Jaishankar will hold a bilateral meeting with the Foreign Minister of Israel Yair Lapid and will also call on Israeli President Isaac Herzog and Prime Minister Naftali Bennett.

India and Israel elevated bilateral relations to a Strategic Partnership during the historic visit of Prime Minister Narendra Modi to Israel in July.

Earlier on Saturday, the Ministry of External Affairs said that Jaishankar will interact with the Indian-origin Jewish community in Israel, Indologists, Indian students who are currently pursuing their education in Israeli universities, and business people, including from the hi-tech industries.

The visit will also be an occasion to pay tribute to the valiant Indian soldiers who laid their lives in the region, especially during the First World War.

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Around 53 Egyptian vultures spotted on Yamuna river in Delhi

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As many as 53 Egyptian vultures were spotted two days ago by an ecologist on a sandy mid-island on the Yamuna river in Delhi.

While talking to ANI, TK Roy, who is an ecologist, said, “I found 53 Egyptian vultures here two days back in Delhi, which is the largest number in the last five years. This place is suitable for them.”

Roy further informed us that there are around 47 Egyptian vultures in the area at present.

“The population is slowly rising because of a ban on diclofenac, an anti-inflammatory drug that has a toxic effect on vultures and awareness among people on vulture conservation,” the ecologist added.

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