Day: February 23, 2021

Rahul Gandhi interacts with PSC rank holders

They have launched a hunger strike.

Congress leader Rahul Gandhi on Tuesday night made an impromptu visit to PSC rank holders’ agitation venue in front of the Secretariat.

His visit seems to have thrust the month-old agitation for placement into the national limelight. Mr. Gandhi interacted with protesters who had commenced a hunger strike from Monday.

They told him that the government was yet to give any assurance regarding their placement prospects. Leader of the Opposition Ramesh Chennithala said the government had repeatedly refused to engage the youth in talks.

It had despatched officials instead. Moreover, Ministers had resorted to vindictive and individualised criticism against some rank holders who had gone to meet them personally.

Mr. Gandhi said he wanted to meet the youth after Mr. Chennithala appraised him of the agitation. The PSC rank holders said two government officials had engaged them in talks. Their assurances were mainly off the record. The political executive had deemed their protest as politically motivated.

The protesters include those on the rank list for appointment to posts of last-grade employees and civil police officers. National games medal winners were also protesting in front of the Secretariat to press their demand for government jobs.

Former Chief Minister Oommen Chandy, AICC general secretary K.C. Venugopal and Shashi Tharoor, MP, accompanied Mr. Gandhi to the agitation venue.

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Covid-19: Next phase of vaccination to start very soon, says govt | India News

NEW DELHI: Even as many are eagerly waiting to get vaccinated against Covid-19, the government said it will “very soon” start inoculating a larger population of those above 50 years and those younger but with severe co-morbidities.
Health secretary Rajesh Bhushan said the third phase of Covid-19 vaccination will start “very soon” with larger participation from the private sector.
The private sector is already working very closely with the government in delivering healthcare. Out of over 10,000 hospitals currently involved in administering Covid vaccine, around 2,000 are from the private sector, Bhushan said. He also underlined the private sector participation in other public health schemes such as the free health insurance scheme Ayushman Bharat-Pradhan Mantri Jan Arogya Yojana and the Central government Health Scheme (CGHS) – both of which have many private hospitals including big healthcare chains enrolled for providing services.
TOI reported on Monday that the government plans to rope in the private sector in a major way with 40-50% of the total sessions in the third phase likely to be in private sectors.
The government is aiming up to 50,000 sessions each day to cover larger population of around 27 crore in the next round which is likely to start early March.

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Covid-19 cases in Maharashtra Today: Maharashtra again reports more than 6,000 Covid-19 cases; 51 die | Mumbai News – Times of India

MUMBAI: After slipping below 5,000 for a day, new Covid-19 cases again crossed the 6,000-mark in Maharashtra on Tuesday on the back of a spike in the Akola division, while 51 patients died, a multi-week high, in the state, the health department said.
The state reported 6,218 new Covid-19 cases, up from 5,210 on Monday, taking the tally to 21,12,312, it said.
The state — which has witnessed an upsurge in Covid-19 cases since February 10 — reported 6,112 infections on February 19, followed by 6,281 on February 20 and 6,971 on February 21.
Also, Maharashtra on Tuesday reported one of the highest fatality counts in recent times at 51, taking the death toll to 51,857, said a health department official.
Out of these 51 deaths, 32 occurred in the last 48 hours and 12 in the last week. The remaining seven deaths occurred in the period before the last week, he said.
The Akola division in Vidarbha reported the highest number of cases in the state at 1,392, leaving behind the Mumbai division, which usually leads the daily infection tally, at 1,250.
The Akola division, which consists of Amravati, Yavatmal, Buldhana, Washim and Akola districts, has emerged as the new Covid-19 epicentre in Maharashtra.
Mumbai city reported 643 new cases, taking the cumulative Covid-19 tally to 3,20,532. Eight more deaths pushed the city’s toll to 11,454, the official said.
With 1,250 new cases, the Mumbai divisions tally increased to 7,16,299, while 11 fresh deaths took the toll to 19,768.
The Pune division also reported higher number of cases than the Mumbai division.
With 1,288 cases, the Pune divisions tally reached 5,17,760, while the fatality count stood at 11,716.
“Pune city alone reported 679 cases, highest by a municipal corporation in the state. With this, the city’s cumulative Covid-19 figures reached 2,05,437, while the death toll stood at 4,566, the official said.
Within the Akola division, areas under the Amravati Municipal Corporation reported 515 cases and other parts of the district 271.
Akola city (121), Yavatmal (165) and Buldhana (161) were the other major contributors, the official said.
The Covid-19 tally in the Akola division rose to 88,761, while eight more deaths pushed the toll to 1,710, he said.
Also, 5,869 patients were discharged from hospitals during the day, taking the state’s recoveries to 20,05,851, the official said.
Maharashtra now has 53,409 active cases, he said.
Currently, there are 2,79,288 people in home quarantine and 2,484 in institutional quarantine.
With 67,488 more statewide coronavirus tests, the number of samples examined so far rose to 1,58,60,912.
Maharashtra’s Covid-19 figures are as follows: Positive cases: 21,12,312, new cases: 6,218, death toll: 51,857, discharged: 20,05,851, active cases: 53,409, people tested so far: 1,58,60,912.

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Anjali Bhardwaj: US announces anti-corruption award for social activist Anjali Bhardwaj | World News

WASHINGTON: The Biden administration on Tuesday named Indian social activist and anti-graft crusader Anjali Bhardwaj for a newly instituted International Anticorruption Champions Award that it said was aimed at emphasizing commitment to truth, transparency, and accountability in “a mission that we must live at home and exemplify abroad.”
Announcing the award, US secretary of state Antony Blinken said the 12 individuals recognized for the award, including Bhardwaj, have worked tirelessly, often in the face of adversity, to defend transparency, combat corruption, and ensure accountability in their own countries. Biden administration, he said, recognizes that “we will only be successful in combating these issues by working in concert with committed partners, including courageous individuals who champion anti-corruption efforts and countries working to fulfill their commitments to international anti-corruption standards.”
Blinken said United States enforces “one of the most robust anti-corruption frameworks in the world” and was the first to criminalize foreign bribery and, in partnership with foreign counterparts, has recovered and returned more than $1 billion in stolen public assets in the past two years alone. Washington uses use a range of tools to promote accountability for corrupt individuals, combat impunity globally, and engage in multilateral fora to fight corruption and strengthen citizen engagement, he maintained, adding that it will defeat corruption by implementing sound reforms consistent with international anticorruption commitments; developing transparent, accountable institutions; and empowering citizens, journalists, and civil society organizations to help defeat this global threat to security and democracy.
Honorees for the award are from Albania, Ecuador, Guatemala, Iraq, Libya and Ukraine among other countries.
Bhardwaj, is a co-convenor of the National Campaign for People’s Right to Information (NCPRI) and a founding member of Satark Nagrik Sangathan. Her activism helped drive the Right to Information Act 2005, the Whistle Blowers Protection Act, 2011, The Lokpal and Lokayuktas Act, 2013, and the Grievance Redress Bill among other legislation.

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Mumbai: MMRDA approves Rs 12,969 crore budget for financial 2021-22 | Mumbai News – Times of India

MUMBAI: Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority (MMRDA) has approved an outlay of Rs 12,969 crore, of which around 35 per cent has been allocated for various Metro projects , in the budget estimates prepared for the financial year 2021-22.
The budget estimate for 2020-21 was 15,819 crore but it was revised to Rs 9,851 crore as per actual expenditure.
MMRDA spokesperson said, “The budget was approved by MMRDA meeting under the chairpmanship of state urban development minister Eknath Shinde today. The budget makes special provisions for infrastructure projects like public transport and Metro railway. This will help reduce the traffic congestion in Mumbai and ensure that Mumbaikars have a comfortable and shorter commute.1”
The MMRDA has earmarked Rs 250 crore for the Colaba- Bandra- SEEPZ (Metro 3 corridor) which is executed by the Mumbai Metro Rail Corporation (MMRC).
The Metro rail routes 2-A from Dahisar to DN. Nagar in Andheri and corridor 7 from Dahisar (East) to Andheri (East) are likely to begin commercial operations from this year and hence, they have been provided an outlay of Rs 700.65 crore and Rs 999.45 crore respectively.
Similarly, the budget has provided an amount of Rs 4,571.25 crore for Metro Railway projects.
An amount of Rs 329.30 crore has been provided for the Metro Bhawan and Metro employees housing, and provisions have also been made for the Mono Railway project (Rs 120.20 crore) and Mumbai Trans Harbour Link project (2,900.35 crore), late Balasaheb Thackeray memorial (Rs 100 crore), Bharat Ratna Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar memorial (Rs 260 crore), Bandra Kurla Complex (including the Kalanagar flyover) (Rs 60 crore), Mumbai Urban Transport Project (MUTP) (Rs 405 crore), Mumbai Urban Infrastructure Project (MUIP-Extended) (Rs 776.85 crore), planning and composite traffic planning for Metro stations (Rs 300 crore), development of water sources at the regional level (Rs 613.35 crore), Santacruz Chembur Link Road extension project (Rs 200 crore), project to improve the elevated road at the Chheda Nagar junction (Rs 60 crore), maintenance and repairs of the Eastern and Western express highways (Rs 200 crore), City Park to Maharashtra Nature Garden elevated hanging bridge (Rs 77.05 crore) and for other projects (Rs 985.35 crore). Similarly, allocations have been made for surveys and grants (Rs 175.35 crore), loan disbursement and fixed deposits (Rs 273 crore), capital expenditure for administrative purposes (Rs 548.60 crore).
In the budget for the 2021-22 financial year, an expenditure of Rs 12,969.35 crore is expected and an amount of Rs 9,833.75 crore is expected to be received.
The Authority has approved the annual report for the year 2019-20 and sanctions have been given for the extension of the Metro Railway 2-B (D.N. Nagar to Mandale) and interchange and the Metro Railway corridor-7 (Andheri East to Dahisar East) interchange. The MMRDA also approved the appointment of a project management consultant for the surface topping of the Eastern Express Highway and for works on the Western Express Highway.

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Railway to run weekend special trains between Mumbai and Madgaon | Mumbai News – Times of India

MUMBAI: Railway has decided to run weekend special train between LTT-Madgaon and Panvel-Madgaon to clear extra rush of passengers.
Central Railway said, “Train no. 01101 special will leave LTT at 8.50 pm on every Friday from February 26 to March 26 and arrive Madgaon at 9.55 am next day. Train no. 01102 special will leave Madgaon at 4 pm on every Sunday from February 28 to March 28 and arrive LTTs at 3.45 am next day.”
Enroute the train will halt at Thane, Panvel, Roha, Mangaon, Khed, Chiplun, Sangameshwar Road, Ratnagiri, Adavali, Rajapur Road, Vaibhavwadi Road, Kankavali, Sindhudurg, Kudal, Sawantwadi Road, Thivim, Karmali
He further said, “Train no. 1105 special will leave Panvel at 11.55 pm on every Saturday from February 27 to March 27 and arrive Madgaon at 1 pm next day. Train no. 01106 special will leave Madgaon at 12 pm on every Saturday from February 27 to March 27 and arrive Panvel at 10.30 pm same day.”
Enroute it will halt at Roha, Mangaon, Khed, Chiplun, Sangameshwar Road, Ratnagiri, Adavali, Rajapur Road, Vaibhavwadi Road, Kankavali, Sindhudurg, Kudal, Sawantwadi Road, Thivim, Karmali
Bookings for fully reserved special trains o special charges will open on February 24 at all computerised reservation centres and on website www.irctc.co.in.

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Mumbai: Metro authorities to fine commuters not wearing masks | Mumbai News – Times of India

MUMBAI: Mumbai Metro One, which operates the 12 km long Versova-Andheri-Ghatkopar (VAG) corridor will start fining commuters who fail to wear mask while traveling on their system.
The decision has been taken to control the spread of coronavirus as there has been an upward trajectory in the number of infected over the last few days.
Mumbai Metro One Private Ltd (MMOPL) official said, “Any commuter found flouting mask norms is first counseled. If a commuter still refuses to fall in line and doesn’t wear a mask, then they are fined under Section 59 of The Metro Railways Operations and Maintenance Act.”
The offenders can be fined to maximum of Rs 200. Mumbai Metro One has initiated campaign “Be Responsible, Be Safe” to follow norms. It has increased patrolling inside trains to kept a eye on those not wearing masks.
The official said, “We broadcasting announcements and displaying messages to wear masks at all times while travelling.

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‘Very optimistic’ of meeting target to lift Covid lockdown but nothing can be guaranteed, says Johnson

LONDON: United Kingdom Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Tuesday said that he is “very optimistic” about meeting the government’s target of fully lifting the Covid -19 legal limits on social contact by June 21, but admitted that nothing can be guaranteed.
“I am hopeful but obviously nothing can be guaranteed and it all depends on the way we continue to be prudent and continue to follow the guidance in each stage,” Johnson told reporters during a visit to a school in south London, as quoted by Sputnik.
On meeting the June 21 target, the UK Prime Minister said his optimism relies on the success of the vaccination campaign.
“Because science has given us this way of creating a whole shield around our population, we can really look at that June 21 date with some optimism. That’s how I’d put it. I’m very optimistic that we would be able to get that,” he said.
Sputnik reported that according to official data, more than 17.7 million people in the UK had already been given the first dose of a Covid-19 vaccine, and the government hopes that by July 31, all the adult population in the country has the possibility of getting a jab.
When asked if those who have been immunised would receive a vaccine certificate, Johnson said that the government would be looking at it, because “there are deep and complex issues that we need to explore.”
On Monday, the Prime Minister had announced the government’s roadmap out of the lockdown in England, calling it a “one-way road to freedom.”He had warned there will be more deaths from Covid-19 as the country “cautiously, but irreversibly” exits lockdown.
“We cannot escape the fact that lifting lockdown will result in more cases, more hospitalizations and sadly more deaths,” he told lawmakers in the UK Parliament as he announced his roadmap toward lifting restrictions, according to CNN.
“No vaccine can ever be 100 per cent effective, not everyone will take them up and like all viruses, Covid-19 will mutate… There will always be some vulnerable people that will not be affected by vaccines,” he had added.
Johnson had told lawmakers that step one would begin on March 8, as schools finally reopen across England, as well as the return of limited outdoor social interaction, such as sitting on a park bench with one other person.

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Ministry disowns Rashtriya Kamdhenu Aayog’s ‘cow science exam’

RKA had no mandate for it, says Animal Husbandry Dept.

With the Rashtriya Kamdhenu Aayog having cancelled its “indigenous cow science” examination after widespread criticism about its promotion of fake claims and pseudoscience, the Animal Husbandry Department said the two-year old body had “no mandate” to conduct such an examination. Any future awareness programme would be conducted “on a scientific basis”, the senior official overseeing the RKA told The Hindu.

Under the leadership of its chairman Vallabhbhai Kathiria, the RKA had announced a national “Kamdhenu Gau Vigyan Prachar Prasar Exam” to be held on February 25. Reference materials for the exam made a number of unscientific claims, including that the dung of indigenous cows protected against radioactivity, and that their milk has traces of gold, and that cow slaughter causes earthquakes. The RKA had the backing of the University Grants Commission (UGC), which publicised the examination, causing widespread outrage.

“This gau vigyan (cow science) programme was announced by the then chairman, Mr. Kathiria. And his term was up to February 20 only. Before leaving the office, he postponed it,” said O.P. Chaudhary, joint secretary in the Animal Husbandry Department which oversees the RKA. Mr. Kathiria did not respond to calls or requests for comment on the postponement.

‘No role’

“Until date, the Ministry was not involved. Only Mr. Kathiria was involved and he was conducting the exam. Ministry does not know the exam paper and did not play any role in the reference material for the exam…We will now examine everything on a scientific basis, and then take some decision,” Dr. Chaudhary told The Hindu.

He said that when the RKA was set up in February 2019, it was given a mandate as an advisory body on issues related to the protection, conservation and development of the indigenous cow and its progeny.

“Awareness programme is always part of the role, no issue. But conduction of an exam is something different. AICTE, UGC, all these bodies take [conduct] exams. Taking exam is not the mandate of the RKA. Creation of awareness is certainly the mandate, but it must be on a scientific basis,” he added.

After examining the situation, the Ministry will appoint a new chairperson for the RKA and send fresh information to those who had already registered for the examination, said Dr. Chaudhary.

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Prince Philip Treated for Infection, to Stay in London Hospital

London: Britain’s Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh, is responding to treatment for an infection but is expected to remain in hospital in London for several days, Buckingham Palace said on Tuesday. The 99-year-old husband of Queen Elizabeth II was admitted to the King Edward VII’s Hospital in central London last week and has spent seven nights there for treatment so far.

“The Duke of Edinburgh remains at King Edward VII’s Hospital where he is receiving medical attention for an infection,” Buckingham Palace said in a statement. He is comfortable and responding to treatment but is not expected to leave hospital for several days,” the statement said.

The exact reason for Prince Philip’s admission has not been disclosed but it had been confirmed earlier that it is not related to coronavirus. Earlier, the royal’s youngest son, Prince Edward the Earl of Wessex, told ‘Sky News’ that he had spoken to his father over the phone and that his father is “a lot better” a week after he was admitted to hospital.

“He’s a lot better thank you very much indeed, and he’s looking forward to getting out, which is the most positive thing. So we keep our fingers crossed,” said Prince Edward. Asked if his father was frustrated at being in hospital, Edward added: “Just a bit! I think that gets to all of us, and then, you can only watch the clock so many times and the walls are only so interesting.” Over the weekend, Prince Philip’s eldest son Prince Charles was driven down for a hospital visit. A sombre-looking Charles, 72, was seen entering the King Edward VII’s Hospital wearing a facemask on Saturday and his Clarence House office later said that the Prince of Wales was then driven back to his Highgrove residence in Gloucestershire, south-west England. Under England’s current coronavirus lockdown rules, visiting someone in a hospital is considered a “reasonable excuse” to leave home, although visits are being allowed on a case by case basis by most hospitals.

The Queen, 94, remains at Windsor Castle and performed her first face-to-face event of the year last Thursday, when she knighted a royal aide during a private socially-distanced ceremony at her south-east England residence in Berkshire. The Duke, who turns 100 in June, was admitted to the same London hospital as a “precautionary measure” for treatment for a “pre-existing condition” in December 2019. He spent four nights in hospital at the time.

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