Day: February 23, 2021

Election Commission to hold meeting on Wednesday to finalise upcoming Assembly elections of 5 states | India News

KOLKATA: The Election Commission of India (ECI) is scheduled to hold a meeting on Wednesday to finalise the upcoming Assembly elections of five states, official sources of the ECI confirmed.
On Friday, deputy election commissioner Sudip Jain, who is also the in-charge, will be travelling to Kolkata to take note of the preparedness and updates. During his visit, Jain will hold a series of meetings with district magistrates and police superintendents.
The ECI is a statement had informed that 12 companies of the Central Police Forces (CPF) will be sent to West Bengal, as is routinely sent in advance to poll stations for area domination to all the States or Union Territories where Lok Sabha and Vidhan Sabha elections are to take place and not specifically to West Bengal.
On 12 companies of central force reaching the state of West Bengal ECI in a press release stated that the Central Police Forces (CPF) are routinely sent in advance to poll stations for area domination to all the States or Union Territories where Lok Sabha and Vidhan Sabha elections are to take place and not specifically to West Bengal.
The numbers of polling booths are likely to increase owing to the current pandemic situation.
The terms of the legislative assemblies of five poll-bound states — West Bengal, Tamil Nadu, Assam, Kerala, and Puducherry are will come to an end either in May or in June this year.
Elections for the Legislative Assembly of West Bengal that comprises 294 seats are set to be held this year as the current tenure ends on May 30.

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Crocodile rescued from pond in Navi Mumbai

After four days of search, a marsh crocodile, measuring 6.43 ft and weighing 35.4 kg, was rescued from a pond behind the Navi Mumbai Municipal Corporation (NMMC) headquarters on Tuesday. Thane Forest Range officers and Wildlife Welfare Association (WWA) officials began rescue operations on Friday after a video of the crocodile went viral on February 17 and sparked complaints from residents and the NMMC’s disaster management cell.

Aditya Patil, president of WWA, said, “On 17 February, we received a request to relocate the crocodile. Over the next few days, we secured the pond’s exit points. We located the reptile on Sunday morning using a boat and set up a cage, containing meat, that night. We trapped the crocodile at 12.10 a.m. on Tuesday.”

Mr. Patil said the pond was spread across two acres and the cage was partially submerged in water. The cage was equipped with a camera and WWA volunteers monitored it 24×7. “Crocodiles need to breathe once on land and can then remain in water for close to an hour. So locating them is a big challenge,” he said.

Thane Forest Range officer Narendra Muthe said the around six-year-old female crocodile had been roaming the sewers and creeks of Navi Mumbai for several years and many videos of it had gone viral on social media.

Mr. Patil said the crocodile was also spotted in Juinagar creek and it later inhabited an artificial pond used for fish rearing.

Mr. Muthe said, “The reptile entered a pond behind the NMMC headquarters. Since it posed a threat of stepping out and attacking pedestrians and residents of nearby hutments, we decided to relocate it.”

After a medical test at Sanjay Gandhi National Park to check if the reptile had swallowed any hazardous material like plastic or metal, it was shifted to a safe location beyond city limits on Tuesday evening.

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Nationwide vaccination programme ‘fairly satisfactory’: Govt | India News

NEW DELHI: The off take of vaccines in proportion to supplies from manufacturers under the government’s nation-wide vaccination programme against Covid-19 is “fairly satisfactory”, health secretary Rajesh Bhushan said underlining that issues are limited to just one state, indicating at Chhattisgarh that is reportedly not been using Covaxin.
“We have found that in proportion to the vaccines available with us its off take is fairly satisfactory. We have absolutely no cause for concern. Our only issue is with only a particular states – one state,” Bhushan said.
He added, health minister Harsh Vardhan has already responded to the concerns raised by the state government and is still in constant dialogue with state health minister as well as its Chief Minister.
While Chhattisgarh health minister TS Singh Deo had raised concerns about safety and efficacy of Bharat Biotech’s Covaxin, the Centre has countered the concerns and fears saying vaccines supplied to the state are safe and immunogenic.
“Only those Covid-19 vaccines that have been granted permission for restricted use in emergency situation by the DCGI i.e. Covishield and Covaxin are being used for Covid-19 vaccination drive in the country,” Vardhan had said in a letter earlier this month, responding to concerns raised by the state government.
The Centre has also asked the state government to expedite vaccination of its prioritized beneficiaries to mitigate the impact of the pandemic.
Bhushan said the supplies of Covishield from Serum Institute of India and Bharat Biotech’s Covaxin are variable because of the difference in their manufacturing capacity.
“Therefore, the supplies that have come so far to the government’s vaccination programme of healthcare and frontline workers are also variable in the sense that a particular vaccine has come in higher quantities as compared to other vaccine is not in those comparable quantities,” he said.

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Bombay HC dismayed at Centre’s stand on State’s proposal

The Bombay High Court recently expressed dismay at the Central government’s stand of seeking repeated justification from the Maharashtra government on its proposal to notify police officers as trafficking officers as per the Immoral Traffic Prevention Act (ITPA).

A Division Bench of Chief Justice Dipankar Datta and Justice G.S. Kulkarni was hearing a criminal public interest litigation (PIL) filed by the NGO, Rescue Foundation, in 2017 through advocate Chetan Mali.

The PIL sought appointment of special police officers under ITPA and establishment of anti-human trafficking units.

Last week, Additional Solicitor General Anil Singh, appearing for the Centre, told the court that the State had been called on to justify its proposal by a letter, dated December 02, 2020, and a subsequent reminder with respect to the appointment of special officers.

The court said, “We are surprised that such a letter seeking justification could at all have been issued, particularly when the object of the Act is noble, that appointment of trafficking police officers is required to be made to give effect to the provisions of the Act, and that there was a judicial order of this Court requiring the State to forward a proposal to the Union of India in this behalf. Dismayed at the stand of the Union of India.”

On two occasions — January 27, 2021 and April 11, 2018 — the Union government had told the State to make proposal/statement for appointments. On January 27, 2021, Deepak Thakare, public prosecutor appearing for the State, had informed court that a proposal has been forwarded to the Union of India on October 26, 2020, to notify all Assistant Commissioners of Police and all Deputy Superintendents of Police as well as Assistant Superintendents of Police as “Trafficking Police Officers” as provided in Section 13 (special police officer and advisory body) of ITPA.

Mr. Thakare had said the Union of India is yet to convey its decision on such a proposal to the State. However, the advocate appearing for the Centre said he needs time to apprise the court on the matter.

On April 11, 2018, the Centre told the court that the State has to make a statement for appointment of the officers after a letter, dated April 4, 2018, sent to the Additional Public Prosecutor by the Deputy Secretary mentioned that certain officers have been conferred with powers under Section 13 of the ITPA by a government notification of 2006.

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Smuggled goods worth ₹15 cr. seized

The Mumbai Customs on Tuesday seized smuggled goods worth ₹15 crore. A highly placed source confirmed that the seizure was made following an operation that began on February 17.

The official said, “Usually such items are found in cargo, but it is uncommon to find a parcel of this worth and so many items from Dubai. It was sent from the UAE postal service – Emirates.”

From February 17 to 18, twelve consignments from Chakala MIDC Post Office were seized, and from February 19 to 23, twenty-six consignments from Foreign Post Office, Ballard Estate, and five consignments from Air Parcel Sorting Office, Vile Parle, were seized. They included 1,470 iPhones, 322 Apple watches, 64 drones, 41 air pods, 391 cigarette sleeves and 36 auto parts

“The Rummaging and Intelligence Division of the Preventive Commissionerate, New Customs House, Ballard Estate, Mumbai, conducted a coordinated anti-smuggling operation. These goods were attempted to be cleared through the postal mode by mis-declaring the description of the goods, value and quantity, thus evading the applicable customs and IGST tax. During investigation, the names and addresses of the consignees (recipients) of the said consignments were found to be fake/dummy,” a press release said.

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Top takeaways from Gujarat civic polls as BJP registers impressive win, AAP beats Congress in Surat | India News

NEW DELHI: The BJP registered an impressive victory in the Gujarat municipal elections, counting for which is still underway. It is a relief for the ruling party before the 2022 assembly elections. In all, the party the state has so far won 449 of the total 576 seats, Congress 44, AAP 19, BSP 3 and one independent candidate in state civic polls.
The performance of the Congress, which had improved its tally in the 2017 state polls, has deteriorated. Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal-led AAP not just opened its account in Surat but also emerged as the second-largest party in the city.
These are the highlights of the municipal election results:
Pro-incumbency for BJP
The results are a major shot in the arm for the BJP and Gujarat chief minister Vijay Rupani as they come about 20 months before the state assembly elections. The outcome proves there is a pro-incumbency mood for the Vijay Rupani government.
It should be a pleasant development for the BJP as the party’s performance had slumped in the 2017 assembly elections as compared to the 2012 polls. In 2012, the BJP had won 115 seats in the 182-member assembly. However, the tally declined to 99 in the 2017 elections.
The municipal election results should bring cheers for the BJP which has won six consecutive assembly elections since 1995.
The municipal election results should bring cheers for the BJP which has won six consecutive assembly elections since 1995.
No impact of farmers’ protest
The municipal election results in Gujarat could be compared with those in the recently-held polls in Punjab. Led by chief minister Amarinder Singh, the Congress registered a resounding victory in Punjab by winning six municipal corporations (Pathankot, Hoshiarpur, Bathinda, Batala, Kapurthala and Abohar) and emerging as the single largest party in Moga.
Amarinder Singh got the advantage of pro-incumbency mood of the voters and the ongoing farmers’ protest against the three central farm laws. The majority of the agitating farmers are from Punjab.
Singh’s Gujarat counterpart Vijay Rupani too got the benefit of pro-incumbency mood. However, it is clear that unlike Punjab, there is no impact of the farmers’ agitation in Gujarat.
Setback for Congress
If the Gujarat municipal election results are a boost for the BJP, conversely they are a major dampener for the principal rival Congress.
Led by Rahul Gandhi, who was declared the Congress president in the midst of the 2017 Gujarat assembly elections, the party emerged as a principal challenger of the ruling BJP.
The Congress’s tally rose from 61 in 2012 to 77 in 2017. The party’s vote share also jumped from 38.95 per cent in 2012 to 41.4 per cent in 2017, an increase of 2.45 per cent.
The Congress’s position seems to have deteriorated and it would have to cover a lot of ground in the next assembly polls.
Emergence of AAP in Surat
As per the results announced so far, the BJP has won 126 out of 145 seats in Ahmedabad, 68 out of 72 seats in Rajkot, 50 out of 64 seats in Jamnagar, 44 out of 52 seats in Bhavnagar, 65 out of 72 seats in Vadodara and 92 out of 111 seats in Surat.
The Congress has won 14 seats in Ahmedabad, 4 in Rajkot, 11 in Jamnagar, 8 in Bhavnagar and 7 in Vadodara. By bagging 19 seats in Surat so far, AAP has emerged as the second largest party and is ahead of Congress.
Buoyed over the results in Surat, AAP convener Arvind Kejriwal has decided to visit Gujarat and hold a roadshow in Surat on February 26.
AAP has become the BJP’s main challenger in Surat. It may try to expand its base in other parts of Gujarat for the next assembly elections.
The results in Surat are a reflection of the 2020 Delhi assembly results. Surat, like Delhi, has migrant labourers in plenty due to the diamond-cutting and polishing industries. They seem to have supported Kejriwal in Surat as well.
Secondly, the migrant labourers had suffered the most during the lockdown period from March 25 last year in the wake of Covid-19 pandemic. They apparently have voted against the BJP in Gujarat municipal elections.

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After 9 years, Vasai homes get piped gas connections

After nine years of follow-ups, Vasai taluka received piped natural gas (PNG) supply on Tuesday.

Pravina Thakur, former Mayor of Vasai-Virar City Municipal Corporation, inaugurated the first connection at a residential complex in Evershine Nagar.

Since 2012, former Palghar MP Baliram Jadhav has been writing to the Petroleum and Natural Gas Regulatory Board seeking a network of compressed natural gas and PNG in Vasai-Virar, Palghar and other areas of the district.

Kshitij Thakur, Bahujan Vikas Aghadi (BVA) leader and Nallasopara MLA, said a network of PNG pipelines is being laid and soon the district will have access to it. He said, “The timing couldn’t have been better considering the skyrocketing prices of LPG and petrol. With everything becoming expensive amid the financial crisis sparked by COVID-19, PNG connections in people’s kitchens is a big relief. I thank Mr. Jadhav for constantly following up on the issue.”

Hitendra Thakur, BVA president and Vasai MLA, said thousands of emails and letters were written to the regulatory board and the ministries concerned. “Since 2012, we have been after the authorities to get a nod for laying PNG pipelines. We had promised the people of our taluka and we are happy that we did not let go of the issue and ultimately delivered as pledged,” he said.

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AstraZeneca to Miss Second-quarter EU Vaccine Supply Target by Half, Says Official

BRUSSELS: AstraZeneca expects to deliver less than half the COVID-19 vaccines it was contracted to supply the European Union in the second quarter, an EU official told Reuters on Tuesday.

The expected shortfall, which has not previously been reported, comes after a big reduction in supplies in the first quarter and could hit the EU’s ability to meet its target of vaccinating 70% of adults by the summer.

The EU official, who is directly involved in talks with the Anglo-Swedish drugmaker, said the company had told the bloc during internal meetings that it “would deliver less than 90 million doses in the second quarter”.

AstraZeneca’s contract with the EU, which was leaked last week, showed the company had committed to delivering 180 million doses to the 27-nation bloc in the second quarter.

“Because we are working incredibly hard to increase the productivity of our EU supply chain, and doing everything possible to make use of our global supply chain, we are hopeful that we will be able to bring our deliveries closer in line with the advance purchase agreement,” a spokesman for AstraZeneca said, declining to comment on specific figures.

The European Commission, which coordinates talks with vaccine manufacturers, declined to comment on the figures.

The EU official, who spoke to Reuters on condition of anonymity, confirmed that AstraZeneca planned to deliver about 40 million doses in the first quarter, again less than half the 90 million shots it was supposed to supply.

AstraZeneca warned the EU in January that it would fall short of its first-quarter commitments due to production issues. It was also due to deliver 30 million doses in the last quarter of 2020 but did not supply any shots last year as its vaccine had yet to be approved by the EU.

All told, AstraZeneca’s total supply to the EU could be about 130 million doses by the end of June, well below the 300 million it committed to deliver to the bloc by then.

The EU has also faced delays in deliveries of the vaccine developed by Pfizer and BioNTech as well as Moderna’s shot. So far they are the only vaccines approved for use by the EU’s drug regulator.

AstraZeneca’s vaccine was authorised in late January and some EU member states such as Hungary are also using COVID-19 shots developed in China and Russia.

OUTPUT BOOST DOWN THE LINE?

While drugmakers developed COVID-19 vaccines at breakneck speed, many have struggled with manufacturing delays due to complex production processes, limited facilities and bottlenecks in the supply of vaccine ingredients.

According to a German health ministry document dated Feb. 22, AstraZeneca is forecast to make up all of the shortfalls in deliveries by the end of September.

The document seen by Reuters shows Germany expects to receive 34 million doses in the third quarter, taking its total to 56 million shots, which is in line with its full share of the 300 million doses AstraZeneca is due to supply to the EU.

The German health ministry was not immediately available for a comment.

If AstraZeneca does ramp up its output in the third quarter, that could help the EU meet its vaccination target, though the EU official said the bloc’s negotiators were wary because the company had not clarified where the extra doses would come from.”Closing the gap in supplies in the third quarter might be unrealistic,” the official said, adding that figures on deliveries had been changed by the company many times.

The EU contracts stipulates that AstraZeneca will commit to its “best reasonable efforts” to deliver by a set timetable.

“We are continuously revising our delivery schedule and informing the European Commission on a weekly basis of our plans to bring more vaccines to Europe,” the AstraZeneca spokesman said.

Under the EU contract leaked last week, AstraZeneca committed to producing vaccines for the bloc at two plants in the United Kingdom, one in Belgium and one in the Netherlands.

However, the company is not currently exporting vaccines made in the United Kingdom, in line with its separate contract with the British government, EU officials said.

AstraZeneca also has vaccine plants in other sites around the world and it has told the EU it could provide more doses from its global supply chain, including from India and the United States, an EU official told Reuters last week.

Earlier this month, AstraZeneca said it expected to make more than 200 million doses per month globally by April, double February’s level, as it works to expand global capacity and productivity.

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Mumbai: POCSO court rejects bail of father who claimed there was 90 per cent chance he would be acquitted | Mumbai News – Times of India

MUMBAI: A special Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act court on Tuesday rejected the bail plea of a 45-year-old father accused of sexually assaulting his two teenage daughters.
He claimed that since the conviction rate in the city was only 9 per cent, there was a 90 per cent chance that he would be acquitted.
The court, however, held that the record revealed that there is prima facie evidence about his involvement in the commission of heinous offence of penetrative sexual assault on his daughters.
The court further held that as the investigations are in progress, it was not a fit case for granting bail.
The older daughter is currently in a children’s home.
The survivor, who was 17 years old, lodged the FIR last month with the help of her teacher.
The teenager confided in her teacher after her mother refused to pay heed.
She said that the first incident took place when her mother had gone to their village in 2018.
The girl also found that the accused was also assaulting her now 14-year-old sister.
The school teacher contacted Child Helpline and got help.
Opposing the man’s bail plea, the prosecution submitted that since both the minor and he were residing in the same house, there is every possibility that he may pressurize her.
Among other grounds for seeking bail, the accused said that he is the sole bread earner of his family and they were dependent upon him.
He also said that he was suffering from a heart ailment, diabetes and blood pressure and Covid-19 pandemic put him in the vulnerable category.
(The victim’s identity has not been revealed to protect her privacy as per Supreme Court directives on cases related to sexual assault)

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9/11 every day for 6 months: US Covid deaths explained in numbers

NEW DELHI: On February 6 last year, the United States reported its first known death due to Covid-19.
Just over a year later, it has now surpassed the grim milestone of 500,000 coronavirus casualties, a horrific marker in the country’s long and tiring battle against the virus.
The half-million milestone, as recorded by Johns Hopkins University, comes as states redouble efforts to get the coronavirus vaccine into arms after last week’s winter weather closed clinics, slowed vaccine deliveries and forced tens of thousands of people to miss their shots.
Here are a few numbers to understand the magnitude of the tragedy:
Matching toll of three wars
The staggering number all but matches the number of Americans killed in World War II, Korea and Vietnam combined.

According to data from the Department of Veteran’s Affairs, approximately 405,000 Americans died in the Second World War while 36,000 lost their lives in the Korean War.
The Vietnam War resulted in another 58,000 deaths with the collective toll of all three conflicts coming in at around half a million.
As of February 23, 2021, the Johns Hopkins University lists 500,310 Americans as having died from Covid-19.
If a minute of silence was held for every death during the pandemic, it would take nearly a year – 347 days – to honor all the people the US has lost.
The number of deaths reported by America is in fact akin to a 9/11 every day for nearly six months.
Most deaths in winter
Data further shows that the US recorded almost half its deaths during the winters, with 232,099 people losing the battle to Covid-19.

The least number of deaths took place during the summer season, with around 79,000 succumbing to the virus.
This corroborates the long-held theory that the virus is deadlier during the winters and less harmful in the summer season.
From 1 to 5,00,000
US deaths from Covid-19 came faster as the pandemic wore on.
The country’s first known Covid-19 death occurred in Santa Clara County, California, on February 6, 2020, and by the end of May, 100,000 people had died.

It took four months for the nation to log another 100,000 deaths; the next, about three months; the next, just five weeks.
The virus has reached every corner of America, devastating dense cities and rural counties alike through surges that barreled through one region and then another.
One in 670 Americans died of Covid
The United States accounts for about 20% of the world’s known Covid deaths, but makes up just 4.25% of the global population.

About 1 in 670 Americans has died of Covid-19, which has become a leading cause of death in this country, along with heart disease and cancer, and has driven down life expectancy more sharply than in decades.
The losses, monumental for the country, have been searingly personal for the relatives and friends of the 500,000.
New Jersey, New York reported most deaths
When deaths are measured per 100,000 of the population, the US has recorded 152, a figure that is lower than some other countries such as the UK and Italy with 182 and 158, respectively.

When it comes to the worst-affected states, New Jersey and New York have suffered the highest number of deaths per 100,000 inhabitants with 258 and 239, respectively, according to a New York Times analysis.
Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Mississippi, Arizona, Connecticut, South Dakota and Louisiana have also suffered at least 200 deaths per 100,000 of their inhabitants.

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