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SC asks govt to prepare Covid vaccination policy

NEW DELHI, May 31: India’s Supreme Court asked Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government to prepare a vaccination policy that prices the shots equally for all and better protects the poor.

“Please smell the coffee," Justice D.Y. Chandrachud said during a hearing on Monday, questioning the mandatory online registration in a country where many don’t have access to the Internet. “We want you to realize what’s happening in the country and make the necessary amendments."

A three-judge bench asked the government to submit a statement on oath and come up with a policy document in two weeks.

India’s vaccination policy has had a rough ride, starting from Modi’s much lauded vaccine diplomacy during a brief lull between the first and second coronavirus waves, to a current severe shortage for India’s own citizens. At the current vaccination rate estimated at 2.81 million doses per day, it will take 1.8 years to cover 75% of the population with a two-dose vaccine, data collected by Bloomberg News and John Hopkins University project.

Defending the government, Solicitor General Tushar Mehta said the administration is aware of issues and is fine-tuning its policies everyday. All eligible people will be vaccinated by the end of this year, Mehta said.

The prices of two vaccines -- Serum Institute of India Ltd.’s Covishield and Bharat Biotech Ltd.’s Covaxin -- are sold to state governments at a higher price than those to the federal government.

During the hearing, the judges asked Modi’s administration to form a policy to ensure vaccines are available to all citizens at equal prices and to vaccinate people with disabilities and those who lack Internet access.

“The policy today is completely exclusionary for rural areas," Chandrachud said.

Modi Govt has betrayed Poeple's trust: Congress

NEW DELHI, May 30: On the 7th anniversary of the Narendra Modi dispensation, the Congress on Sunday alleged that it is harmful for the country as it has failed on every front and betrayed people’s trust.

The Congress released a seven-point charge-sheet of "blunders” it accused the government of committing, and alleged that the Modi dispensation abdicated its responsibilities towards people.

The Congress listed out what it called the major failures of the government, including a declining economy, rising unemployment and inflation, and COVID-19 mismanagement.

Congress leader Rahul Gandhi said the government needs to have the right intention, policy and determination to fight the coronavirus and not just a monthly talk.

"You need the right intention, policy and determination to fight Corona and not just a pointless talk once in a month,” Gandhi said in a tweet in Hindi, on a day when Prime Minister Modi delivered his monthly "Mann ki baat” radio address.

Congress general secretary and chief spokesperson Randeep Surjewala said the last seven years have been a story of unprecedented devastation, abdication of responsibility and abandonment of India’s people by a government that was showered with all the love and affection.

"This government is harmful for the country as it has betrayed the faith of people of India. It is betraying the trust and the innate faith the people reposed in prime minister Narendra Modi,” he said.

”This is a deception of the worst kind heaped upon 140 crore Indians by a government they elected based on innumerable promises. After seven years time has come to do stock taking. Time has come to ask why the country is suffering,” he said.

The Congress also came out with a 4.5-minute video, "Bharat Mata ki Kahani”, listing out the "failures” of the government in the last seven years.

India PM announces ₹10 lakh fund, free education, other benefits for kids who lost parents to Covid

NEW DELHI, May 29: Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Saturday announced that all children who have lost both parents or guardians due to coronavirus will be supported under the ‘PM-CARES for Children’ scheme.

The prime minister said that such children will get a monthly stipend once they turn 18 and a fund of ₹10 lakh when they turn 23 from PM-CARES.

"All children who have lost both parents or surviving parent or legal guardian/adoptive parents due to Covid-19 will be supported under ‘PM-CARES for Children’ scheme," the PMO said in a statement.

The office of the Prime Minister said that the PM CARES will contribute through a specially designed scheme to create a corpus of ₹10 lakh for each child when the child reaches 18 years of age.

The PMO said that the ₹10 lakh corpus will be used to give monthly financial support from 18-23 years of age to take care of the child's personal requirements during the period of higher education.

On reaching the age of 23 years, the child will get the corpus amount as one lump sum for personal and professional use.

Further, the prime minister said that the child will be given admission to the nearest Kendriya Vidyalaya or in a private school as a day scholar.

If the child is admitted to a private school, the fees as per the Right to Education norms will be given from the PM CARES, the PMO added.

"PM-CARES will also pay for expenditure on uniforms, textbooks, and notebooks," it added.

The child will be given admission to any Central Government residential school such as Sainik School, Navodaya Vidyalaya, etc.

In case, the Guardian/ grandparents/ extended family looks after the child, then he or she will be given admission to the nearest Kendriya Vidyalaya or in a private school as a day scholar.

The child will be assisted in obtaining an education loan for professional courses, or Higher Education in the country as per the existing Education Loan norms. The interest on this loan will be paid by the PM-CARES.

As an alternative, scholarships equivalent to the tuition fees, or the course fees for undergraduate/ vocational courses as per the government's norms will be provided to such children under Central or State Government Schemes. For children who are not eligible under the existing scholarship schemes, PM-CARES will provide an equivalent scholarship, the PMO said in a statement.

All children will be enrolled as a beneficiary under Ayushman Bharat Scheme (PM-JAY) with a health insurance cover of ₹5 lakh.

The premium amount for these children till the age of 18 years will be paid by PM CARES.

PM's Image Is Dead, He's Responsible For Second Wave, Says Rahul Gandhi

NEW DELHI, May 28: Rahul Gandhi, in one of his sharpest attacks yet on the government's handling of Covid and the deadly second surge, said today that Prime Minister Narendra Modi was responsible for the second wave and that he "did not understand Covid at all".

The Congress leader also predicted "multiple waves" in the country if vaccinations continued at the current pace. Soon after, the government hit back and declared that vaccinations would be completed before December this year.

"The first wave no one understood...but the second wave is the PM's responsibility. His stunts (nautanki)... His failure to fulfil his responsibilities is the reason for the second wave," the Congress leader said, addressing a virtual press conference.

"Unfortunately, the Prime Minister is an event manager. He cannot deal with more than one event at a time. Anything happens, he will organise an event and deal only with that. We cannot do with an event manager in such times. We need effective and speedy administration," he commented, also accusing Modi of "ignorance" on the virus.

Vaccines were the only permanent solution to Covid and lockdowns, social distancing and masks were temporary ones, Gandhi said, stressing that without a proper vaccination strategy, India would witness multiple waves of infection. India, he said, had vaccinated only three per cent of its population, leaving the rest open to infection.

"I directly told the PM that if India does not sort out its vaccination strategy, there will be multiple waves since the virus adapts. The Prime Minister is the head of the country. He is responsible for its well-being. The buck stops with the Prime Minister. But the Prime Minister lives in a bubble... no one talks to him because of the way he handles things. So, in effect, the ship is moving without a clue," said the Congress leader, heaping blame on the Prime Minister.

"The PM is trying to repair his image but his image is gone... It is time the Prime Minister stands up and leads the nation. These are the times where he has to show his leadership, his courage, his strength. The Prime Minister must stand up and deliver... don't be afraid. Time has come to show what a good leader you are. So please deliver."

In the government's return fire, Union Minister Prakash Javadekar lashed out at Gandhi's use of the word "nautanki" while targeting Modi.

"The Prime Minister is fighting Covid with the people of the country. And he uses words like nautanki, which is an insult to the nation and the people. The people have long put an end to their nautanki."

The minister said Gandhi's words "confirmed that the Congress had indeed prepared a toolkit", referring to the BJP's allegations of an alleged "Congress toolkit" to discredit Modi and the government over Covid. The Congress has denied it and accused the BJP of circulating fake screenshots.

Javadekar said: "Vaccinations in India will be complete in 2021 before December. If Rahul-ji is worried about vaccination then he should focus on Congress-ruled states where there are problems in the drive."

1 crore people in Bengal affected, 3 lakh houses damaged due to cyclone Yaas: Mamata Banerjee

NEW DELHI, May 26: At least one crore people in Bengal have been affected by this natural disaster and three lakh houses have been damaged as of now due to rough weather condition arising out of Cyclone Yaas, Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee said on Wednesday.

She added that one person died an accidental death even after he was rescued. Relief materials worth Rs 10 crore were sent to the affected areas, she said.

Cyclone Yaas, which began its landfall on Wednesday morning near Dhamra port in Odisha, has completed the process, the India Meteorological Department (IMD) said.

West Bengal:

The resort town of Digha in East Midnapore, which shares a border with Balasore district of Odisha, was completely inundated with the Army being called in for rescue operations, a defence official said.
The nearby beach resorts of Mandarmani, Tajpur and Shankarpur were also flooded with seawaters entering the hotels and flooding the roads, besides causing damage to kutcha shops and houses. In certain areas, the waves even went past the top of coconut trees that line these popular beaches.

The Army has deployed 17 columns in West Bengal to assist the state administration, the defence official said. Rescue operation by the Army was also on at Orphuli in the Howrah district, he said.

In South 24 Parganas, many places, including Kakdwip, Fraserganj, Gosaba and Maipith in the Sunderbans region were flooded, displacing lakhs of villagers as thousands of kutcha houses were extensively damaged in the surging water and gale wind, officials said.

Several rivers in the riverine delta region were in spate owing to the phenomenal rise in water level caused by the dual effect of storm surge from the cyclone and the astronomical tide due to the full moon, they said.

Flooding was also reported from Sagar island at the confluence of Hooghly and Bay of Bengal. The water level rose to nearly five feet in front of the famed Kapil Muni temple near the beach on the island, officials said.

Some fishing boats and equipment were also destroyed at harbours in Kakdwip, leaving the fishermen devoid of their livelihood.

The weather office has forecast extremely heavy rainfall in East and West Midnapore districts and heavy to very heavy rainfall in Jhargram, Bankura, South 24 Parganas districts over the next 24 hours.

Heavy rain will occur at isolated places in Purulia, Nadia, Murshidabad, Purba Bardhaman, Howrah, Hooghly, Kolkata, North 24 Parganas, Darjeeling and Kalimpong districts owing to the effect of 'Yaas', the weather office said.


Odisha shifted 5.8 lakh people to safer places, while West Bengal moved 15 lakh people ahead of the cyclone, amid concerns over following COVID-19 norms at the temporary shelters as the two states battled the pandemic, reporting thousands of new cases daily.

Local sources said that a person was killed in Panchupalli village in Anadapur block of Kenojhar district after a tree fell on him but there was no official confirmation of the death. The man was identified as Purna Chandra Nayak. Besides, a man was injured in the Balasore district after he was hit by a falling tree, Odisha's Special Relief Commissioner PK Jena said.

In Odisha, a red warning of heavy to very heavy rainfall was issued for nine districts. "Heavy to very heavy rainfall at a few places with isolated extremely heavy fall very likely to occur over the districts of Balasore, Bhadrak, Jajpur, Kendrapada, Jagatsinghpur, Cuttack, Mayurbhanj, Keonjhar and Dhenkanal," the weather office said.

The system lay centred at about 15 kilometre west of Balasore at 1.30 pm with intensity of 100-110 kmph, gusting to 120 kmph. It would move north-northwestwards and weaken gradually into a cyclonic storm during the next six hours, the weather office said.


Jharkhand, which was already on high alert, continued evacuating low-lying areas amid the forecast that the cyclone would be hitting the state by midnight, officials in Ranchi said.

Operations are being executed on war-footing in the vulnerable areas in East and West Singhbhum, besides some other districts, in view of Yaas, Disaster Management Secretary Amitabh Kaushal told PTI.

East Singhbhum, West Singhbhum and Saraikela-Kharsawan districts of the state are likely to witness "very high seas" situation with wind speed of 92-117 kmph, the weather office said.

Ramdev 'Withdraws' Allopathy Remarks After Huge Row, Minister's Letter

NEW DELHI, May 23: Yoga guru Ramdev, the face of one of India's biggest consumer goods and alternative medicine empires, on Sunday said he was "withdrawing" remarks in which he ostensibly said more people died of modern medical treatments during the COVID-19 crisis than the coronavirus itself following a massive controversy.

"Received your letter Dr Harsh Vardhan. In that context and to end the whole controversy over the conflict of different treatments with regrets, I am withdrawing my statement," he tweeted, hours after Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan asked him to rescind the remarks.

However, just eight minutes later, he also retweeted a post by a Twitter user that said: "Yoga and Ayurveda give us compete health. Modern medical science has limitations. It only gives symptomatic treatment whereas Yoga and Ayurveda gives systemic treatment."

In a two-page letter in Hindi, Dr Vardhan had written to him, "The people of the country are very hurt with your remark on allopathic medicines. I have already told about this feeling over phone. Doctors and health workers are like gods for the people of the country for whom they are fighting against the coronavirus risking their lives."

"You have not only insulted Corona warriors, but have hurt the feelings of the people of the country. Your clarification yesterday is not enough to make up for it... I hope you will think hard on it and withdraw your statements completely," he added.

Ramdev had drawn outrage and a legal notice from the the Indian Medical Association (IMA), demanding a written apology for the statement that it said damaged the reputation of practitioners of allopathy and modern medicine when they are striving to save lives during the pandemic.

In a video that was widely shared on social media, Ramdev was heard saying at a recent event, "Lakhs of people have died because of allopathic medicines, far more than those who died because they did not get treatment or oxygen." He also purportedly called allopathy a "stupid and bankrupt" science.

Till now it was still tolerable but this video by Ramdev has crossed all limits. I am not against Ayurveda but this fraud man is making serious allegations now!Considering the following this bigot has,he is nothing less than a pandemic now ! He should be taught his limits ASAP !

— Tushar Mehta (@dr_tushar_mehta) May 21, 2021

Facing a backlash over the comments, Ramdev's Patanjali group initially said the video had been edited and the statement "taken out of context". The 55-year-old saffron-robed producer of Ayurvedic products had "no ill-will against modern science and good practitioners of modern medicine", it said.

"It is necessary to mention that the event was a private event and Swami jee (Ramdev) was reading out a forwarded WhatsApp message received by him and various other members who were participating in the event... what is being attributed against him is false and nugatory," it said.

Patanjali, based in Uttarakhand's Haridwar, added Ramdev "believes that allopathy is a progressive science; and a combination of allopathy, Ayurveda and yoga will be beneficial to everyone during such difficult times."

Besides the Indian Medical Association (IMA), which represents 3.5 lakh doctors, the Federation of All India Medical Association (FAIMA) too served a legal notice to Ramdev, condemning the "baseless and unscrupulous claims made for cheap publicity".

The IMA, earlier in a media statement, had said the Union Health Ministry should take action and prosecute Ramdev under the Epidemic Diseases Act as he had misled people by making "unlearned" statements and defamed scientific medicine.

It also claimed that Ramdev had called doctors "murderers" in front of the Health Minister - a doctor himself - during the "release of his wonder drugs".

With close ties to the ruling BJP government, Ramdev has courted controversy during the pandemic earlier as well. Flanked by Health Minister Harsh Vardhan and his colleague Nitin Gadkari, Ramdev had launched what he called the "first evidence-based medicine for COVID-19" in February.

The World Health Organisation had to issue a clarification saying it had "not reviewed or certified the effectiveness of any traditional medicine for the treatment COVID-19" after Ramdev said his medicine called Coronil had been cleared by the agency.

Ramdev's latest row erupted on a day when the IMA said as many as 420 doctors had died battling the second wave of the coronavirus pandemic, making a grim total of over 1,200 since the beginning of the crisis last year.

Moderna refuses to send vaccines to Punjab, says it only deals with Indian govt

CHANDIGARH, May 23: US-based COVID-19 vaccine manufacturer Moderna has refused to send vaccines directly to the Punjab government stating that it only deals with the Centre, a senior state official said on Sunday.

Punjab's nodal officer for vaccination Vikas Garg said according to Chief Minister Amarinder Singh's directions, all vaccine manufacturers were approached for direct purchase of Covid vaccines including Sputnik V, Pfizer, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson.

A reply was received only from Moderna wherein the company refused to deal with the state government, he said.

According to Moderna's policy, it deals with the government of India and not with any state government or private parties, the Punjab government said in a statement.

Earlier, the Chief Minister had directed officials to explore possibilities of floating a global tender for the procurement of vaccines from all possible sources to ensure that people of the state are vaccinated against COVID-19 at the earliest.

Notably, Punjab was forced to stop vaccination for phase 1 and phase 2 categories because of the non-availability of vaccine doses.

All efforts would be made for the procurement of vaccines to meet the acute shortage in the state, which had received fewer than 44 lakh vaccine doses so far from the government of India, the statement said.

From the government of India's allocation for phase 3 (18-44 age group), the state government has been able to buy only 4.2 lakh vaccine doses, including 66,000 received on Saturday, Garg said.

A total of 3.65 lakh have already been used and only 64,000 are left, he said.

12 opposition parties extend support to farmers nationwide protest call on May 26

NEW DELHI, May 23: Twelve major opposition parties, including the Congress, Trinamool Congress, Left parties, SP, NCP and DMK on Sunday extended their support to a countrywide protest call given by the Samyukta Kisan Morcha on May 26, marking six months of the farmers protest against the Centre's farm laws.

Farmers from various parts of the country are protesting at Delhi borders against the three farm laws brought by the Centre, alleging that the legislations will hamper farming.

In a joint statement issued here by Congress leader Sonia Gandhi, former prime minister H D Devegowda, NCP chief Sharad Pawar and chief ministers Mamata Banerjee, Uddhav Thackeray, M K Stalin and Hemant Soren said the Centre must stop being obdurate and immediately resume talks with farmer leaders and repeal the three farm laws.

Other signatories to the joint statement include former chief ministers Farooq Abdullah (JKPA) and Akhilesh Yadav (SP) besides Tejashwi Yadav (RJD), D Raja (CPI) and Sitaram Yechury (CPI-M).

'We extend our support to the call given by the Samyukta Kisan Morcha (SKM) to observe a countrywide protest day on May 26 marking the completion of six months of the heroic peaceful Kisan struggle,' the statement said.

'The Central Government must stop being obdurate and immediately resume talks with SKM on these lines,' it said.

The opposition leaders said that on May 12, they had jointly written to Prime Minister Narendra Modi demanding the “repeal of farm laws to protect lakhs of our ‘annadatas’ becoming victims of the pandemic so that they can continue to produce food to feed the Indian people'.

'We demand the immediate repeal of the farm laws and the legal entitlement to the Minimum Support Price (MSP) of C2+50 per cent as recommended by the Swaminathan Commission,' they said.

The three farm laws were passed by the parliament in September last and were later made a law after presidential assent.

The farmers have been protesting at Singhu and Tikri borders with Haryana, Ghazipur border with Uttar Pradesh and other places.

Dr Sudhakar from Andhra, suspended last year for pointing out shortages, dies

HYDERABAD, May 23: Dr Sudhakar, an anaesthetist from Andhra Pradesh who had complained last year that the state government failed to provide masks and Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) to the staff who were treating COVID-19 patients, died due to cardiac arrest on Friday at the age of 52. Former Chief Minister and leader of the Opposition N Chandrababu Naidu termed his death as a “political murder.”

Last April, he complained about the lack of protective equipment. The video of this incident went viral. Subsequently, the state government suspended him. A month later, Dr Sudhakar was arrested by the Visakhapatnam police for creating a nuisance on the road.

A shirtless Sudhakar stopped vehicles on the road in Akkayyapalem and created a ruckus using abusive words against Chief Minister Jagan Mohan Reddy. The manner in which the police detained him, by physically assaulting and tying his arms, was severely criticised.
Following this, a case against him was registered. He was also declared mentally ill. After the High Court's intervention, the Central Bureau of Investigation was directed to probe the police excess.

Following his death, Chandrababu Naidu said that the harassment by the Jagan government both physically and mentally led to the death of Sudhakar, who belongs to a Dalit community.

Stating that Jagan should take responsibility for the death, the Telugu Desam Party president said in a statement issued on Friday, “Jagan Mohan Reddy’s anti-Dalit actions led to the death of a Dalit doctor. His days of facing the consequences are nearing.” He demanded that the government give a compensation of Rs 1 crore to the deceased's family.

TDP general secretary Nara Lokesh alleged that Sudhakar was depressed after the government tormented him in various ways and “clipped his wings.” “This is not cardiac arrest. This is a murder for questioning the government.”

Condemning the action against him, the Indian Medical Association had demanded the government to withdraw the case against him and reinstate him.

COVID-19 Situation Stabilising, Positivity Rate Reducing: Centre

NEW DELHI, May 22: The COVID-19 positivity rate has declined from 24.83 per cent on May 10 to 12.45 per cent on May 22, the Union health ministry said on Saturday.

Addressing a press briefing, NITI Aayog member (health) VK Paul said that though there has been an overall decline in case burden but the positivity rate is still over 10 per cent in 382 districts.

The COVID-19 situation is stabilising with positivity rate, daily cases and active cases reducing, Paul said.

Eight states have more than 1 lakh active cases while 18 states have over 15 per cent positivity rate, joint secretary in the ministry Lav Agarwal said during the briefing.

On vaccine wastage, the ministry said Covishield wastage has reduced from 8 per cent on March 1 to 1 per cent now, while Covaxin wastage decreased from 17 per cent to 4 per cent in the same period.

Paul also said that children can spread the coronavirus but they almost always have mild infection and mortality is very low in them.

On the vaccine passport issue, Agarwal said there has been no consensus yet on the matter at the World Health Organisation level, but discussions are going on.

The daily rise in coronavirus cases in India remained below the 3 lakh-mark for the sixth consecutive day, with 2.57 lakh new cases recorded in a single day, health ministry data showed.

With the fresh cases, India's tally of COVID-19 cases climbed to 2,62,89,290. The death count due to the disease rose to 2,95,525 with 4,194 fresh fatalities, the data updated at 8 am showed.

The active cases further reduced to 29,23,400 comprising 11.12 per cent of the total infections, while the national COVID-19 recovery rate improved to 87.76 per cent.

Bharat Biotech to ramp up Covaxin production on additional 200 mn doses per year

NEW DELHI, May 20: Bharat Biotech, the company which manufactures Covaxin, a vaccine used against covid-19 has decided to ramp up its production by 200 million doses per year.

The additional covid-19 vaccines will be produced at Chiron Behring Vaccines, Ankleshwar, Gujarat, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Bharat Biotech.

"The company plans to produce 200 million doses of Covaxin per annum in the GMP facilities that are already operational for the production of vaccines based on inactivated Vero Cell Platform Technology under stringent levels of GMP and biosafety. Product availability at Ankleshwar to commence from the fourth quarter of 2021," Bharat Biotech said in a statement.

The company said that it has already deployed multiple production lines at its Hyderabad and Bengaluru campuses. "Adding Chiron Behring to this up of high containment BSL rated GMP facilities that are required to manufacture Covaxin and effectively takes the volume upto-one billion doses per annum with its own established campuses specialised for manufacturing inactivated viral vaccines under the highest levels of biosafety," the company further said in the statement.

Chiron Behring Vaccines, a 100% subsidiary of Bharat Biotech, is one of the largest manufacturers of rabies vaccines in the world.

Meanwhile, Hester Biosciences said it has tied up with the Gujarat government to explore production of COVID-19 vaccine through technology transfer from Bharat Biotech.

The Ahmedabad-based firm said it has already initiated the discussions with Bharat Biotech in this regard.

"A triparty consortium has been formed with the Government of Gujarat as the lead partner, to explore the prospects of manufacturing the Covid vaccine through technology from Bharat Biotech," Hester Biosciences CEO and MD Rajiv Gandhi said in a statement.

The discussions are currently ongoing with Bharat Biotech towards reviewing the infrastructure at Hester, the technology adaption process and the regulatory compliances, he added.

India's Health ministry releases list of blood clot symptoms to watch out for after taking Covishield

NEW DELHI, May 18: The Union health ministry said on Monday that the number of blood clot cases in people who received AstraZeneca's Covid-19 vaccine (called Covishield) in India was "minuscule". Covishield - one of three shots granted emergency approval in India - is the most widely used in the country and is manufactured by Pune-based Serum Institute (SII).

"AEFI (Adverse Event Following Immunisation) data in India showed that there is a very miniscule but definitive risk of thromboembolic events," the health ministry said in a statement, citing a report by the National AEFI Committee.

Thromboembolic events refer to the formation of a clot in a blood vessel that might also break loose and be carried by the bloodstream to plug another vessel.

The ministry separately released advisories to healthcare workers and vaccine beneficiaries to encourage people to be aware of suspected thromboembolic symptoms. These symptoms, the ministry said, occur within 20 days of taking a shot (particularly Covishield) and asked the beneficiaries to report to the health facility where vaccine was administered.

The list of symptoms mentioned in the ministry's advisory are:

pain in chest;
pain in limbs/pain on pressing limbs or swelling in limbs (arm or calf);
multiple, pinhead size red spots or bruising of skin in an area beyond the injection site;
persistent abdominal pain with or without vomiting;
seizures in the absence of previous history of seizures with or without vomiting;
severe and persistent headache with or without vomiting (in the absence of previous history of migraine or chronic headache);
weakness/paralysis of limbs or any particular side or part of the body (including face);
persistent vomiting without any obvious reason;
blurred vision or pain in eyes or having double vision;
change in mental status or having confusion or depressed level of consciousness
Any other symptom or health condition which is of concern to the recipient or the family

According to the AEFI Committee, it has completed an in-depth case review of 498 serious and severe events, of which 26 cases have been reported to be potential thromboembolic (formation of a clot in a blood vessel that might also break loose and carried by the bloodstream to plug another vessel) events - following the administration of Covishield vaccine - with a reporting rate of 0.61 cases per million doses.

Singapore virus can be India's 3rd wave, extremely dangerous for kids, warns Arvind Kejriwal

NEW DELHI, May 18: Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal on Tuesday warned the Centre of a new variant of coronavirus disease (Covid-19) found in Singapore and said that it can result in India's third wave.

The virus, Kejriwal said, is extremely dangerous for children and asked Prime Minister Narendra Modi-led government to immediately halt air services with Singapore and prioritise vaccination drive for children.

"The new form of Corona that came to Singapore is being said to be extremely dangerous for children, in India it may come as a third wave. My appeal to the central government are air services with Singapore to be cancelled with immediate effect and prioritise the options for vaccinating children at the earliest," the Delhi chief minister tweeted.

The warning comes as the national capital has started showing signs of gradual recovery. The number of daily cases has come down from the highest seen last month at more than 28,000 to less than 5,000 recorded on Tuesday.

South Asian countries like Singapore and Taiwan, lauded as success stories in containing Covid-19, are both rapidly imposing aggressive restrictions at home - and tightening travel between each other.

In Singapore, indoor dining at restaurants has been banned and working from home will now be the default, as the city-state re-imposed lockdown-like measures it last ordered a year ago. Seven schools will switch to home-based learning to “ring-fence” those affected by infections, as the city-state makes plans to vaccinate those below 16 years old.

Officials have urged Singapore residents to wear masks and avoid activities that require “masks to be down,” such as eating and drinking with others “for the next 3-6 weeks”.

Singapore’s latest curbs, announced on May 14, will remain in effect for one month, until June 13, according to the health ministry. The country added 38 new local cases on Sunday, 18 of which are currently unlinked to known clusters.

On April 29, Singapore’s daily community cases of Covid-19 climbed to the highest in more than nine months, with a cluster formed in one of the biggest hospitals in the country and another from a worker at Changi Airport. This prompted the officials to put the country on heightened alert.

The outbreaks and virus-control measures threaten the reopening progress of regional travel. Singapore had previously allowed travellers from Taiwan to enter without a quarantine. On Saturday, it announced a ban on the entry of short-term visitors with travel history to Taiwan in the past 21 days, while requiring citizens, permanent residents and long-term pass holders to quarantine when they arrive.

Delhi's Daily Covid Cases Fall Below 5,000, First Since April 5

NEW DELHI, May 17: Delhi has logged less than 5,000 daily coronavirus cases for the first time since April 5, in what appears to be early signs that the more dangerous Covid wave is receding from the city. The national capital's case positivity rate has also dropped below the 10 per cent threshold after weeks. Experts, however, urged caution as Covid tests have also declined sharply in the last few weeks.

Delhi on Monday reported 4,524 cases in 24 hours. At 340, the number of deaths remained worryingly high.

The case positivity rate that had reached over 30 per cent last month, stood at 8.42 per cent in the last 24 hours - lowest since April 8.

The city's active caseload is currently 56,000, lowest since April 15.

The recovery rate has improved to 94.42 per cent, whereas the death rate rested at 1.56 per cent.

In the last 24 hours, 10,918 patients were discharged, the government's official statement said.

The city's total of Covid cases has reached 13,98,391. The total death count is 21,846.

The national capital had recorded 6,456 fresh COVID-19 cases and 262 fatalities on Sunday. Its positivity rate was 10.40 per cent.

Delhi's positivity rate - which shows the level of infections among people - has been registering a steady decline for several days.

The city's positivity rate was 11.32 per cent on Saturday, 12.4 per cent on Friday, 14.24 per cent on Thursday, 17 per cent on Wednesday, 17.8 per cent on Tuesday, 19.10 per cent on Monday and 21.67 per cent on last Sunday.

The national capital had recorded its highest positivity rate of 36.2 per cent on April 22.

Around 91,500 people have recovered from COVID-19 in Delhi in the last one week as compared to 70,000 infections detected during the period.

The number of cumulative cases increased from 13.23 lakh on May 9 to 13.93 lakh on May 16. Recoveries rose from 12.17 lakh to 13.09 lakh during the period, news agency PTI reported.

The Delhi government has imposed a complete lockdown to bring under control the surge that has overwhelmed the city's health infrastructure.

3 Trinamool MLAs, former leader arrested by CBI in Narada scam case get bail

KOLKATA, May 17: A special court granted interim bail to two sitting ministers of Mamata Banerjee-led West Bengal government, another senior MLA and a former Kolkata mayor who were arrested by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) sleuths earlier on Monday got interim bail.

On Monday, CBI detained the three Trinamool Congress leaders -- Firhad Hakim, Subrata Mukherjee, Madan Mitra -- and former Kolkata mayor Sovan Chatterjee in connection with the 2014 Narada sting operation case and took them to Nizam Palace, the regional headquarters of the central probe agency in Kolkata.

They were virtually produced before the special court of Justice Anupam Mukherjee, who granted them bail on grounds that the CBI had not sought custody of the four accused for interrogation but prayer was for judicial custody which cannot be aground for detention of the arrested persons. The CBI had sought 14-day judicial custody for the accused ministers.

On Monday, CBI detained the four Trinamool Congress ministers -- Firhad Hakim, Subrata Mukherjee, Madan Mitra -- and former Kolkata mayor Sovan Chatterjee in connection with the 2014 Narada sting operation case.

While granting interim bail the court relied upon the recent judgment of the Supreme Court which urged decongestion of prisons to avoid the spread of coronavirus disease (Covid-19) cases. The court, however, asked the four accused to furnish personal bail bonds of ₹50,000 each.

The CBI said they move the Calcutta high court against the decision of the lower court.

While Firhad Hakim and Subrata Mukherjee are sitting ministers in the state cabinet Madan Mitra is an elected MLA. Hakim is also the chairman of the board of administrators of Kolkata municipal corporation.

Following the arrest, chief minister Mamata Banerjee rushed to the CBI’s office at Nizam Palace in south Kolkata. “Mamata told the CBI officials that she should also be arrested,” said a TMC leader, aware of the development.

Last week, Bengal governor Jagdeep Dhankhar had accorded prosecution sanction to the CBI against the three ministers and the former TMC leader.

The case pertains to a sting operation by journalist Mathew Samuel in 2014, where he posed as a businessman and offered between ₹4 and 5 lakh to the then TMC Rajya Sabha MP Mukul Roy, the then Lok Sabha MPs Saugata Roy, Aparupa Poddar, Sultan Ahmed, Prasun Banerjee and Kakoli Ghosh Dastidar; the then ministers Firhad Hakim, Suvendu Adhikari, Sovan Chatterjee (who was also the Kolkata mayor) Subrata Mukherjee and Madan Mitra.

In the video, that surfaced two years later in March 2016, shortly before the assembly elections in the state, the leaders were purportedly seen accepting cash from the representative of a fictitious company in exchange for doling out favours to them.

The then MLA Iqbal Ahmed and IPS officer Saiyaad Mustafa Hussain Mirza were also caught on camera. Among these people, Mukul Roy could not been seen in the videos accepting the cash directly but the money was purportedly taken by Mirza, according to Mathew.

Mukul Roy and Suvendu Adhikari has joined the Bharatiya Janata Party, meanwhile. Sovan Chatterjee also joined the BJP prior to the assembly polls but left the party following differences with the leadership.

We put up posters critical of Modi, arrest our MLAs if you want: AAP

NEW DELHI, May 16: The Aam Aadmi Party on Sunday said it was them who had put up posters criticising PM Modi of exporting Covid-19 vaccines and the police should arrest the party’s leaders and MLAs instead of harassing people who were simply pasting them across the city.

During a press conference on Sunday, AAP leader Durgesh Pathak said, “Ye posters Aam Aadmi Party ne lagvaye hain, ye poster maine lagvaye hain (these posters have been put up by AAP, they have been put up by me).”

It was first reported on Friday that the Delhi police have registered FIRs against the people who had pasted the posters across the city. The posters read: “Modi ji hamare bachon ki vaccine videsh kyon bhej diya (Why did you send our children’s vaccines abroad?)”.

So far, at least 25 people have been arrested by Delhi Police regarding the matter. Most of those arrested are daily wage workers or rickshaw drivers. Police had earlier said that they were probing the role of Kalyanpuri AAP councillor Dhirendra Kumar in commissioning these posters.

“Today, when people are asking why crores of vaccines were exported to Pakistan, Bangladesh, Iran and Iraq, Modiji’s Delhi police is filing FIRs and putting our workers in jail. Every morning, 500-550 workers are called to the police station and made to sit in thanas till night. What is their fault? Is it because they questioned Modiji? They asked him why he sent vaccines meant for our children to other countries. I want to tell Delhi Police and BJP – you cannot arrest us for asking these questions. We live in a democracy,” Pathak aded.

Several MLAs and senior party leaders, including Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia, also tweeted regarding the issue on Sunday. “A government that was boasting about posters put up in foreign countries is now scared of posters put up in their land,” he said.

Posters thanking Prime Minister Narendra Modi had come up in Canada last month after the country received vaccines from India.

“Who sold our children’s vaccines to foreign countries for image management,” he said in another tweet.

AAP leaders said the people that are being arrested are ones who earn a paltry sum for putting up posters.

“If you have to arrest someone, arrest me, arrest our MLAs. Don’t go after the poor people who paste these posters for Rs 100-200. We will not stop. We will paste these posters everywhere across the country. If you have to arrest someone, arrest us,” said Pathak, a long-time member of the party who is also its MCD in-charge.

'Arrest Me Too': Rahul Gandhi Tweets Covid Poster Critical Of Modi

NEW DELHI, May 16: Congress leader Rahul Gandhi, along with a bunch of his colleagues and leaders of other parties, today hit out at the Centre over reports of several people being arrested in Delhi for allegedly putting up posters critical of the government's handling of the Covid crisis.

Joining him in the gesture of protest, Priyanka Gandhi changed her Twitter profile picture to the poster itself.

"Arrest me too," Gandhi tweeted today in both English and Hindi, along with the "white Hindi words on black background" poster that led to the arrests. It read: "Modi ji, why did you send vaccines meant for our children, abroad?"

At least 17 people have been arrested by the Delhi police over posters that came up in the past few days in the capital criticising Prime Minister Narendra Modi's handling of the coronavirus pandemic.

The Delhi police, which reports to the Union Home Ministry, has said it had also registered around 21 cases under the Defacement of Public Property Act & Section 188 in the matter relating to the posters, according to a report.

India has reported more than 3 lakh infections a day over the past three weeks, overwhelming its health care system and leaving many without hospital beds, oxygen and adequate treatment.

Critics and opposition parties have targetted Prime Minister Narendra Modi's government, accusing it of mishandling the crisis and focussing on its own image.

Governments in several states like Uttar Pradesh, Gujarat, and Madhya Pradesh have been accused of trying to hide their casualties as hundreds of bodies, supposedly of Covid victims, have been seen floating in rivers and buried in sand by the banks.

Besides Gandhi, several others have criticised the arrests saying it indicates a "lawless state gone amuck".

The Trinamool Congress, Aam Admi Party, Jharkhand Mukti Morcha, and the CPM, too, voiced their opposition to the arrests.

"Busy with Election Rallies & building the Central Vista, Modi Govt didn't have time to plan for Vaccines, but has time to arrest the poor asking," the CPIM tweeted, repeating the line: "Why did you send our children's vaccines abroad?"

Congress leader Jairam Ramesh went one step ahead. Saying he would put up the posters on the compound wall of his residence, he asked the Delhi police and Union Home Minister Amit Shah to arrest him.

Others like Congress spokesperson Dr Shama Mohamed and activist Saket Gokhale, too, followed Gandhi's example and dared the police to arrest them for tweeting the same poster.


Indian scientists must beware of 'govt's trap' on Covishield dose gap: Chidambaram

NEW DELHI, May 15: Raising doubts over the government's decision to widen Covishield dose interval gap, former Union minister P Chidambaram on May 15 appealed to the Indian scientists to act cautiously and "independently". The senior Congress leader pointed out that the United Kingdom has decided to cut the dosage gap, particularly for beneficiaries aged above 50.

The UK, which was administrating the AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine - known as Covishield in India - at a gap of three months, has now decided to administer the two doses at an interval of eight weeks.

"When the (Indian) government has increased gap between the first and second dose of the Covishield vaccine to 12-16 weeks, the UK is announcing that they are going back to the gap of eight weeks, at least for people over the age of 50," he told news agency ANI.

"I'm not competent to second guess the scientists and medical experts but my humble appeal to them is please don’t play the game of the government. The government is laying a trap in which scientists and medical experts will fall, and the government will pass the blame on them," Chidambaram said.

"Please make up your mind and speak the truth irrespective of the government what's from you to say or the government says independently," he further added.

The two doses of Covishield, the COVID-19 vaccine manufactured by the Pune-based Serum Institute of India (SII), was earlier administered at a gap of four to six weeks. This was increased to six to eight weeks in March, and following the latest revision, the gap has been extended to 12-16 weeks.

The Union Health Ministry cited the recommendation of National Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (NTAGI), a top advisory body, while announcing the increase in dosage interval gap on May 13.

The recommendation was tabled before the Dr NK Arora-chaired COVID-19 Working Group - which agreed with it based on the available real-life evidence in the UK, the Health Ministry had stated.

The NTAGI's suggestion to increase the gap interval also came a couple of months after a study, published in The Lancet in March, claimed that the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine (manufactured and marketed as Covishield in India) can provide 81.3 percent efficacy if doses are administered at 12 weeks apart.

Questions, however, are being raised at the Indian government's move as the National Health Service (NHS) - the UK's top health agency - announced on May 14 that it is moving back to the eight-week gap for administrating the two doses of AstraZeneca vaccine.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said the decision was taken after reviewing the threat posed by B.1.617 variant of coronavirus, also known as the double mutant. This variant is considered to be responsible for the recent spike in coronavirus cases in India.

Dr VK Paul, Member of Niti Aayog, has defended the decision to widen the gap in India. At a press conference on May 15, the top government advisor reiterated that the "real-life evidence" emerging from the UK proves that the Covishield vaccine is more effective when the dosage interval gap is increased to 12-16 weeks.

17 Arrested Over Posters Against Modi In Delhi: Sources

NEW DELHI, May 15: At least 17 people have been arrested by the Delhi Police over posters criticising Prime Minister Narendra Modi's handling of the coronavirus pandemic that came up in the past few days in the capital, according to sources.

The police have registered more than 21 First Information Reports or FIRs under sections of the Defacement of Public Property Act besides other laws.

The arrests were made by four different divisions of the police - eastern range, east, central and northeast - suggesting the operation was a coordinated action.

The move comes over posters that had emerged in several parts of the city with messages like: "Modi ji, aapne humare bacchon ki vaccine videsh kyu bhej diya?" (Modi ji, why did send vaccines meant for our children, abroad?).

On Thursday, six people were arrested in East Delhi's Kalyanpuri area where Delhi Police received input that the posters criticising the Prime Minister were being put up. More than 800 posters and banners were also recovered, sources said.

"More FIRs are likely to be registered if further complaints are received in this regard. As of now, investigation is underway to ascertain on whose behalf these posters were being put up at various places across the city and accordingly further action will be taken," said a senior police officer.

Delhi has been one of the worst-hit territories in the second wave of the coronavirus pandemic and has seen horrific scenes in the past few weeks of hospitals being overwhelmed and running short of necessities like medical oxygen.

Though the infection numbers have come down in recent days after thousands of deaths, many have flagged a dip in testing.

India has reported more than 3 lakh infections a day over the past three weeks, overwhelming its health care system and leaving many without hospital beds, oxygen and adequate treatment.

Modi's government has faced widespread criticism for appearing more intent on addressing the bad publicity because of the missteps than solving the crisis.

The administration's vaccine policy - marked by slow-buying of vaccines and then dumping the responsibility on states once shortages kicked in - has also been widely described as botched.

Governments in several states like Uttar Pradesh, Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh have been accused of trying to hide their casualties as hundreds of bodies have been seen floating in rivers and buried in the sand by the banks.

Vaccine Makers Invited To Produce Covaxin To Address Shortage

NEW DELHI, May 13: The central government and Hyderabad-based Bharat Biotech are willing to invite other companies which want to produce Covaxin to help scale up its production, a top government advisor said on Thursday, as India grapples with a dire shortage of coronavirus vaccines.

"People say that Covaxin should be given to other companies for manufacturing. I am happy to say that Covaxin manufacturing company (Bharat Biotech) has welcomed this when we discussed it with them," NITI Aayog member Dr VK Paul said.

"Under this vaccine, a live virus is inactivated and this is done only in BSL3 (Biosafety Level 3) labs. Not every company has this. We give an open invitation to companies who want to do this. Companies that want to manufacture Covaxin, should do it together. The centre will assist so that capacity is increased," Dr Paul said.

The statement came on a day when the government announced it hoped to have more than 200 crore doses of coronavirus vaccines between August to December this year amid criticism that the government had mishandled the vaccine plan.

India recorded more than 4,000 COVID-19 deaths for a second straight day on Thursday as infections stayed below 4 lakh, and extended the interval between doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine to up to 16 weeks amid a shortage of vaccines in several states.

Experts remain unsure when numbers will peak and concern is growing about the transmissibility of the variant that is driving infections in India and spreading worldwide.

The second wave of infections, which erupted in February, has been accompanied by a slowdown in vaccinations, although Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced that vaccinations would be open to all adults from May 1.

Although it is the world's largest vaccine producer, India has run low on stocks in the face of the huge demand. As of Thursday, it had fully vaccinated just over 3.82 crore people, or about 2.8 per cent of a population of about 135 crore, government data shows.

"We are going through a phase of finite supply. The entire world is going through this. It takes time to come out of this phase," Dr Paul said. Some consignments of the Sputnik vaccine had also arrived in the country and he was hopeful they would be available from next week, he said.

50 employees of Bharat Biotech test COVID-19 positive

HYDERABAD, May 13: Bharat Biotech's Joint Managing Director Suchitra Ella's tweet saying 50 of their employees tested positive for COVID received bouquets and brickbats from netizens with some saying Covaxin was saving lives while a few questioned as to why the staff were not vaccinated.

Referring to comments by some political bosses over COVID-19 vaccine Covaxin supply issues, Ella on Wednesday tweeted 'Quite disheartening to the teams to hear some states complaining about our intentions. 50 of our employees are off work due to covid, yet we continue to work under pandemic lockdowns 24x7 for U.'

Reacting to her tweet, one user wrote: 'How come your 50 employees down with Covid? We're they not vaccinated? Also, why not hire more people on temporary basis?' Ella's tweet got 9,373 likes and was retweeted by 2,564 people (at 10.30 AM on May 13).

'Hi just wanted to say Thank you. Both my grandparents are over 75 & took their first jab 5 weeks back, both tested COVID positive 2 weeks back. Low fever were their only symptoms, tested negative today, on the road to recovery with no major issues,' tweeted another netizen.

'Thank you Bharat Biotech for your hard work and commitment on delivering vaccines every corner of India,' another Twitter user said.

Another user said, 'If you say that your employees are sick of covid, it speaks volumes about efficacy of your vaccine.' Ella said as many as 18 states received Covaxin though in smaller shipments.

The Hyderabad-based firm is supplying Covaxin to 18 states, including Andhra Pradesh, Haryana, Odisha, Assam, Jammu & Kashmir, Tamil Nadu, Bihar, Jharkhand and Delhi.

The other states are Chhattisgarh, Karnataka, Telangana, Tripura, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Gujarat, Maharashtra and West Bengal.

Stop Central Vista construction, use that money for procuring vaccines: Oppn leaders to PM

NEW DELHI, May 12: Pointing out that the Covid-19 pandemic has assumed “unprecedented dimensions of a human catastrophe”, leaders of 12 Opposition parties shot off a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi and demanded free mass vaccination against coronavirus, suspension of the Central Vista project, among others.

In the joint letter to the Prime Minister, the opposition leaders called upon Modi to use the allocated money for the Central Vista construction for procuring oxygen and vaccines instead.

Among other suggestions, they asked Modi to provide foodgrains to the needy as well as Rs 6,000 per month to the unemployed. In addition, they demanded a repeal of the three Central farm laws which, they claimed, would help protect lakhs of ‘annadatas’ (food-growers) from becoming the victims of the pandemic.

Farmers, mostly from Punjab and Haryana, have been protesting against the agrarian laws at three borders of Delhi, seeking the repeal of laws passed by Parliament in September last year.

The signatories to the joint letter include Congress president Sonia Gandhi, former prime minister and JDS leader H D Deve Gowda and NCP supremo Sharad Pawar. Others include chief ministers Uddhav Thackeray (Shiv Sena), Mamata Banerjee (TMC), MK Stalin (DMK), and Hemant Soren (JMM).

Former chief ministers Farooq Abdullah (NC) and Akhilesh Yadav (SP) have also signed the letter, alongside Tejashwi Yadav of RJD, D Raja (CPI) and Sitaram Yechury (CPI-M).

“Unfortunately, your government has either ignored or refused all these suggestions. This only compounded the situation to reach such an apocalyptic human tragedy,” they said in the letter.

Without going into all the “acts of commission and omission” by the Central government that have brought the country to such a “tragic pass”, the opposition leaders demanded that some measures suggested by them must be undertaken on a war footing.

“Procure vaccines centrally from all available sources – global and domestic. Immediately begin a free, universal mass vaccination campaign across the country. Invoke compulsory licensing to expand domestic vaccine production. Spend budgetary allocation of Rs 35,000 crores for the vaccines,” the leaders said in their letter.

“Though it has not been the practice of your office or government, we would appreciate a response to our suggestions in the interests of India and our people,” the leaders added.

India saw a record 4,205 COVID-19 fatalities in a day taking the death toll to 2,54,197, while 3,48,421 new coronavirus infections were reported, according to the Union Health Ministry data updated on Wednesday.

26 Covid Patients Die At Goa Hospital

PANAJI, May 11: Goa Health Minister Vishwajit Rane today said 26 COVID-19 patients died at the state-run Goa Medical College and Hospital (GMCH) in the early hours and sought an investigation by the High Court to find out the exact cause.

He said these fatalities occurred between 2 am and 6 am "which is a fact", but remained evasive about the cause.

Goa Chief Minister Pramod Sawant, who visited the Goa Medical College and Hospital, said the gap between the "availability of medical oxygen and its supply to COVID-19 wards in the GMCH might have caused some issues for the patients" even as he stressed that there is no scarcity of oxygen supply in the state.

Speaking to reporters, Rane admitted the shortfall in the supply of medical oxygen at the Goa Medical College and Hospital as of Monday.

"The high court should investigate the reasons behind these deaths. The high court should also intervene and prepare a white paper on oxygen supply to the GMCH, which would help to set the things right," the state Health Minister said after Chief Minister's visit to the hospital.

Rane said the medical oxygen requirement of the facility as of Monday was 1,200 jumbo cylinders of which only 400 were supplied.

"If there's a shortfall in the supply of medical oxygen, the discussion should be held about how to bridge that gap," he said.

Rane said a three-member team of nodal officers set up by the state government to oversee COVID-19 treatment at Goa Medical College and Hospital should give its inputs about the issues to the Chief Minister.

Goa's COVID-19 tally stood at 1,21,650 as of May 10, while 50 deaths had taken the total number of deaths to 1,729, an official had said.

Meanwhile, Mr Sawant warned of action against private hospitals that refuse the coverage of Deen Dayal Swastha Seva Yojana (DDSSY) to COVID-19 patients.

He said the pending financial dues on part of private hospitals under this scheme will be cleared in the next 15 days.

Bharat Biotech commences direct supply of 'Covaxin' to 14 states

NEW DELHI, May 10: Bharat Biotech has commenced direct supply of its COVID-19 vaccine 'Covaxin' to 14 states, including Delhi and Maharashtra, with effect from May 1, according to the company's Joint Managing Director Suchitra Ella.

The Hyderabad-based firm has started supplying its COVID-19 treatment vaccine to the states based on the allocations received by the central government.

'Bharat Biotech confirms direct supplies of COVAXIN to the following state govt's since 1/5/21, based on the allocations received by GoI. Requests have been received from other states, & will be processed for distribution based on availability of stocks 24x7,' Ella tweeted.

The company is supplying vaccines to Andhra Pradesh, Assam, Chhattisgarh, Gujarat, Jammu & Kashmir, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Odisha, Tamil Nadu, Telangana, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal.

On April 29, Bharat Biotech announced a cut in the price of 'Covaxin' for states to Rs 400 per dose from the earlier Rs 600 per dose.

This followed widespread criticism of its pricing policy as it sold Covaxin to the central government at Rs 150 per dose.

India has announced expansion of its COVID-19 vaccination drive by allowing its large 18-plus population to get inoculated from May 1.

Kejriwal seeks 83 lakh Covid doses every month to vaccinate Delhi

NEW DELHI, May 9: The CM said that Delhi will need 83 lakh doses every month for both the age group of 18-45 and above 45 so that vaccination can be completed in the next three months.

Aiming to vaccinate citizens of the national capital by July this year, Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal on Sunday sought an increase in vaccine doses supplied to the city-state in a letter to Union health minister Harsh Vardhan.

Kejriwal also asked the Union health minister to allow states to develop apps or separate mechanisms to facilitate vaccination drives in the wake of glitches being reported from Co-WIN app, an online platform used for registering people seeking vaccination doses.

"Delhi has around 92 lakh people in 18-45 age group. I urge you to direct Serum Institute of India and Bharat Biotech to increase their monthly supplies to Delhi to 60 lakh doses per month during May to July 2021," Kejriwal wrote in the letter.

The CM said that Delhi will need 83 lakh doses every month for both the age group of 18-45 and above 45 so that vaccination can be completed in the next three months.

Explaining the demography in the divided age groups in numbers, Kejriwal said "45+ age group has about 57 lakh persons. They would need 1.14 crore doses, out of which we have received 43 lakh doses. We need additional 71 lakh doses to cover this group."

"To complete it in three months, we would need 23 lakh doses per month from the GoI channel during the three months of May to July, 2021," Kejriwal said in his letter to health minister.

Highlighting a potential threat, Kejriwal said that as the third wave of Covid-19 is also anticipated soon, the Delhi government would want to complete vaccination of all people within three months.

"We are now using one lakh vaccines every day, which is going to be increased to three lakhs. Therefore, we will have the capacity to apply 90 lakh vaccines per month," the CM said.

In his letter, Kejriwal also sought equal pricing of the vaccine distribution among private and state buyers. He stated that the price of vaccine should be the same - whether sold to the state government or a private hospital.

In the current situation, Kejriwal said that the vaccine makers will give the jabs to private hospitals first because it has more benefit (private hospital gets expensive dose).

The ongoing lockdown in Delhi due to surging Covid-19 was on Sunday extended up to May 17 morning with the suspension of Metro train services and prohibition of wedding ceremonies at public places.

Announcing the lockdown extension, Kejriwal said although Covid-19 cases and positivity rate have come down in the last few days, any leniency would squander the gains achieved so far in the current wave of the pandemic.

Modi's Actions 'Inexcusable', Government Needs To Own Up Covid Mistakes: Lancet

NEW DELHI, May 8: India "squandered" its early successes in controlling COVID-19 and Prime Minister Narendra Modi's government could preside over "a self-inflicted national catastrophe", international medical journal The Lancet said in an editorial on Saturday.

In a piece highly critical of the government's handling of the coronavirus pandemic, the widely respected publication said the success of India overcoming the crisis will depend on Modi's administration "owning up to its mistakes".

"Modi's actions in attempting to stifle criticism and open discussion during the crisis are inexcusable," it said.

"India squandered its early successes in controlling COVID-19. Until April, the government's COVID-19 taskforce had not met in months. The consequences of that decision are clear before us, and India must now restructure its response while the crisis rages," the Lancet editorial said.

"The success of that effort will depend on the government owning up to its mistakes, providing responsible leadership and transparency, and implementing a public health response that has science at its heart," it said.

The journal called out the government for giving out the impression that India had beaten COVID-19 after several months of low case counts, despite repeated warnings of the dangers of a second wave and the emergence of new strains.

"Before the second wave of cases of COVID-19 began to mount in early March, Indian Minister of Health Harsh Vardhan declared that India was in the "endgame" of the epidemic," it noted.

"Despite warnings about the risks of super-spreader events, the government allowed religious festivals to go ahead, drawing millions of people from around the country, along with huge political rallies-conspicuous for their lack of COVID-19 mitigation measures," Lancet said.

Calling India's vaccination policy "botched" and "falling apart" at the central level, the journal noted that the government abruptly shifted course without discussing the change in policy with states and has managed to vaccinate less than 2 per cent of the population.

"At times, Prime Minister Narendra Modi's government has seemed more intent on removing criticism on Twitter than trying to control the pandemic," Lancet said.

"The Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation estimates that India will see a staggering 1 million deaths from COVID-19 by Aug 1. If that outcome were to happen, Modi's government would be responsible for presiding over a self-inflicted national catastrophe," it added.

India on Saturday reported its highest ever single-day COVID-19 deaths, as cases continued to rise and states imposed stricter lockdowns.

India's health ministry reported 4,187 fatalities over the past 24 hours, taking the overall death count to just under 2.4 lakh. Cases rose by 4,01,078, increasing the total since the start of the pandemic to 2.19 crore.

Hospitals across the country have been overwhelmed by the crisis with patients and doctors left to begging on social media for oxygen, beds and other necessities.

'Self-inflicted national catastrophe': Cong uses Lancet report to attack BJP

NEW DELHI, May 8: The Congress on Saturday accused the Centre of abject failure in protecting the lives of people and urged it to follow the suggestions of experts by declaring a national lockdown in the wake of rising cases of the novel coronavirus infection.

Congress leader Rahul Gandhi hit out at Prime Minister Narendra Modi for “not utilising the vaccination budget”.

"Vaccine budget- underutilized. Human life- undervalued. Because PM's ego- overinflated," he tweeted, tagging a media report which claimed that only ₹4,744 crore has been utilised from the vaccine budget of ₹35,000 crore.

In another tweet in Hindi on GST on COVID-19 vaccines, Gandhi alleged, "People's lives may be lost, but PM's tax extortion should not".

In yet another tweet, he said, "The Movid pandemic” and tagged a small video titled "Modi hai to mumkin hai" which showed a rising graph of COVID-19 cases and a declining graph depicting the vaccination plunge.

Congress senior spokesperson Ajay Maken quoted a report from The Lancet journal which claimed that “India will see a staggering one million deaths from COVID-19 by August 1”.

He said the report also said that “if that outcome were to happen, Modi government would be responsible for presiding over a self-inflicted national catastrophe”.

The Congress leader further said the Indian Medical Association (IMA) and The Lancet have made several suggestions similar to those made by his party leaders.

"The government should not shut its eyes on the suggestions given by experts and the opposition. If such things are coming from professionals and experts, the government should listen to them.

"If the IMA and reputed journals like The Lancet are suggesting imposition of a national lockdown, the government should impose the lockdown, but with Nyay-like schemes providing ₹6,000 per month to the poor to tide over the crisis," he said at a virtual press conference.

Maken asserted that it is the duty of the national government that people should neither die of the pandemic nor of hunger.

Congress leader Jairam Ramesh also hit out at the central government over The Lancet report.

“The government’s drumbeaters used editorials of the most prestigious Lancet to shower themselves with praise earlier. Now this….,” he tweeted and tagged the report.

Maken said the IMA has suggested that the Union health ministry should be revamped with a new minister in place, raising health budget to 8-10 per cent of GDP and universal vaccination.

He urged the Delhi government to decentralise and learn from Mumbai and Rajasthan in providing better health infrastructure, as he said the AAP dispensation failed to set up even one PSA oxygen plant in the national capital in the past year.

The Congress spokesperson also welcomed the setting up of a national task force by the Supreme Court on oxygen distribution, saying the top court had to intervene after the central government "completely failed" in its duties.

SC’s national task force to look into oxygen allocation to states, UTs amid Covid crisis

NEW DELHI, May 8: In the wake of the second Covid-19 wave, the Supreme Court Saturday set up a 12-member National Task Force to formulate a methodology for the scientific allocation of medical oxygen to the states and Union Territories (UTs) amid an unprecedented shortage in oxygen supply across various hospitals in the country.

The top court bench of Justices DY Chandrachud and M R Shah named a sub-group for carrying out the audit exercise for Delhi’s health infrastructure and allocation of oxygen and said that it shall consist of Randeep Guleria of AIIMS, Sandeep Budhiraja of Max Healthcare and two IAS officers not below the rank of Joint Secretary — one each from the Centre and the Delhi government.

Union Cabinet Secretary will be the convenor of the national task force and he can nominate an officer not below the rank of Additional Secretary to depute for him, when necessary, the court said.

The other members of the task force include Bhabatosh Biswas, former Vice Chancellor, West Bengal University of Health Sciences, Kolkata; Devender Singh Rana, Chairperson, Board of Management, Sir Ganga Ram Hospital, Delhi; Devi Prasad Shetty, Chairperson and Executive Director, Narayana Healthcare, Bengaluru; Gagandeep Kang, Professor, Christian Medical College, Vellore, Tamil Nadu; and JV Peter, Director, Christian Medical College, Vellore, Tamil Nadu.

The remaining five members are Naresh Trehan, Chairperson and Managing Director, Medanta Hospital and Heart Institute, Gurugram; Rahul Pandit, Director, Critical Care Medicine and ICU, Fortis Hospital, Mulund (Mumbai, Maharashtra) and Kalyan (Maharashtra); and Dr Saumitra Rawat, Chairman & Head, Department of Surgical Gastroenterology and Liver Transplant, Sir Ganga Ram Hospital, Delhi; Shiv Kumar Sarin of Institute of Liver and Biliary Science (ILBS), Delhi; and Zarir F Udwadia of Hinduja Hospital, Breach Candy Hospital Mumbai.

Further, the Secretary of the Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare will be ex-officio member of the task force, the top court said in its order passed on May 6 uploaded on Saturday.

The National Task Force has been set up following the consent of the Central government.

The bench said the task force shall submit its recommendations from time to time to the Court and requested it to commence work immediately, taking up the pressing issue of determining the modalities for oxygen expeditiously within a week. The tenure of the task force has been set for six months initially.

The task force will assess and make recommendations for the entire country based on need for, availability and distribution of Medical Oxygen, as well as formulate and devise a methodology for the allocation of oxygen to states and union territories on a scientific, rational and equitable basis.

The panel will also make recommendations on augmenting the available supplies of oxygen based on present and projected demands during the pandemic. It will also make recommendations on periodical review and revision of allocations based on the stage and impact of pandemic.

The sub-groups within each State and UT, the court said, will do audit to determine whether the supplies allocated by the Centre reach the concerned State/UT, the efficacy of the distribution networks in distributing supplies meant for hospitals, health care institutions and others and whether the available stocks are being distributed on the basis of an effective, transparent and professional mechanism.

The bench further clarified that the purpose of the audit is not to scrutinise the decisions made in good faith by doctors while treating their patients but to ensure accountability in respect of the supplies of oxygen provided to every State/UT.

“The purpose is to ensure that the supplies which have been allocated are reaching their destination; that they are being made available through the distribution network to the hospitals or, as the case may be, the end users efficiently and on a transparent basis; and to identify bottlenecks or issues in regard to the utilisation of oxygen,” the bench said on audit by sub-groups.

The apex court also made it clear that the central government shall continue with the present practice of making allocations of oxygen until the task force has submitted its recommendations. It added that the Union government shall, on receipt of the recommendations of the Task Force, take an appropriate decision in regard to the allocation of oxygen and on all other recommendations.

Earlier, during a hearing on supply of medical oxygen to the national capital, the Centre had urged the Supreme Court to order an audit of the oxygen requirements of various states.

The development comes on a day when India recorded over 4 lakh new Covid-19 cases in the last 24 hours ending 8 am Saturday, taking the country’s total caseload to over 2.18 crore. Out of these, over 37 lakh cases are currently active while over 1.79 crore people have recovered. With 4,187 new deaths, the toll now stands at over 2.38 lakh.

System hasn't failed, Modi government has: Sonia Gandhi on Covid-19 crisis

NEW DELHI, May 7: Amid the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic situation of the country, Congress president Sonia Gandhi on Friday said the system has not failed as India has many strengths and resources. The Modi government has failed to constructively channelise those resources, Sonia Gandhi said at the virtual Congress Parliamentary Party meeting.

On the results of the recently concluded elections in four states and one Union territory, the party president said the Congress Working Committee will soo analyse the election outcome.

Referring to the letters written to PM Narendra Modi by Manmohan Singh, Rahul Gandhi, the party president said all these helpful initiative have fallen on deaf ears as the government has made no meaningful response and continues to behave as if it alone has the answers.

It is not a "government versus us" battle but a battle between "Us versus corona", Sonia said adding that the Congress demands the meetings of the standing committees.

"The situation brooks no delay. Tackling this crisis requires able, calm and visionary leadership. The nation is sinking under the weight of the Modi government’s indifference and incompetence. This is a time for us to steel ourselves and rededicate ourselves in the service of our people," Sonia Gandhi said.

A health worker inoculates a woman with a dose of Covishield Covid-19 coronavirus vaccine at a vaccination centre in Mumbai.
5 million Covishield doses meant for export to UK to be used in India

Lambasting the goverment for its "flawed" vaccine policy, Sonia said that despite allocating ₹35,000 crore in Budget 2021 for "free vaccines for all", the Modi government put the state governments under immense pressure of procuring the vaccines in the third phase.

"The Modi government’s inequitable vaccination policy will exclude millions of Dalits, Adivasis, Other Backwards Classes, as well as the poor and the marginalized. It is utterly shocking to see the Modi government abdicate its moral obligation and its sworn duty towards the people," she said.

Mamata accuses central ministers for inciting violence, Nadda lays blame on TMC

KOLKATTA, May 6: West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee Thursday accused the central ministers of inciting the post-poll violence that has erupted in the state after election results were declared on May 2. The CM claimed that the BJP-led NDA government at the Centre is yet to come to terms with its loss in the state Assembly polls.

Addressing the press, Mamata also made a slew of announcements for those affected due to violence.

A compensation of Rs 2 lakh each for the families of deceased
Jobs of home guard to one family member each of all five persons killed in CAPF firing in Sitalkuchi.

On the other hand, BJP national president J P Nadda accused the TMC of targeting BJP workers in the state after the convoy of Union Minister V Muraleedharan was attacked in west Midnapore earlier today. Muraleedharan has claimed the attack was carried out by “TMC goons”.

The ongoing tussle between the two parties finds its genesis in the post-poll violence that took place hours after the TMC, led by Mamata Banerjee, won its third successive term in the state on May 2. Several opposition parties, including the BJP, have accused the TMC of carrying out attacks on the cadre and offices of their political opponents in the state.

On Thursday, Mamata stated that at least 16 persons – mostly from the BJP and the TMC and one of the Samyukta Morcha — died in post-poll violence.

The Centre has deputed a team of top bureaucrats to West Bengal for a fact-finding exercise on the ongoing violence in the state. The four member team, constituted by the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA), is headed by an additional secretary rank official.

“The team left this morning and is likely to begin its work in Kolkata shortly. It has been given 48 hours to come back with a report,” an MHA official said.

Sources said the team will meet top officials of the West Bengal police apart from the chief secretary and other bureaucrats in the administration. It will also make field visits to some of the places where violence has been reported since Sunday and talk to affected families, sources said.

Union Minister of State for External Affairs and BJP leader V Muraleedharan’s convoy was allegedly attacked by locals in Panchkhudi area of West Midnapore district Thursday, with the minister claiming the attack was orchestrated by “TMC goons”. The Union Minister, however, escaped unhurt.

Muraleedharan shared a video on his Twitter handle where some people could be seen throwing sticks and stones at the minister’s convoy and chasing his car. They also broke the rear window of his car. “TMC goons attacked my convoy in West Midnapore, broken windows, attacked personal staff. Cutting short my trip,” Muraleedharan tweeted.

However, TMC West Midnapore district president Ajit Maity denied the minister’s allegations and said it was a “spontaneous protest” by the people against the BJP.

SC nixes Maratha reservation, no review of 50% ceiling on quota

NEW DELHI, May 5: The Supreme Court on Wednesday quashed the 2018 law framed by the Maharashtra government to give reservation to the Maratha community, ruling the state could not have breached 50% ceiling on quota.

The constitution bench also declined to consider scrapping the 50% ceiling on reservations in educational institutions and jobs by reviewing a legal precedent that has, for three decades now, held the ceiling as inviolable.

The five-judge bench, headed by justice Ashok Bhushan, held that the law providing for quota to the Maratha community beyond 50% violated equality and that the state failed to show any extraordinary reason why Marathas should be considered as socially and economically backward class.

The bench also upheld the validity of the 102nd constitutional amendment and ruled that the Centre alone has the power to determine socially & educationally backward classes (SEBCs). It underlined that states can’t have a separate list of SEBCs and the power is only with the President to notify the list of SEBCs. In determination of SEBCs, the President shall be guided by the National Commission on Backward Classes.

The bench delivered its verdict on a clutch of petitions arising out of a law framed by Maharashtra for reservation for Marathas, causing a breach in the ceiling.

It is in the wake of the Maharashtra’s quota law that the bench was called upon to revisit its 1992 ruling by referring the issues to a bench of nine or eleven judges.

Almost 30 years after a nine-judge bench in the Indra Sawhney case (famously known as the Mandal Commission case) imposed the ceiling of 50% on total reservation, the five-judge bench had, in March this year, agreed to examine whether the 1992 ruling should be reconsidered in the wake of various states providing for quota exceeding 50% and the Central government framing a law in 2018 for reservation to economically and socially backward classes.

Other members of the five-judge bench are justices L Nageswara Rao, S Abdul Nazeer, Hemant Gupta and S Ravindra Bhat.

Terming it a matter of “seminal importance”, the bench had also heard Centre and states on the necessity of reviewing the mandate laid down in the Indra Sawhney case, which ruled that “reservation should not exceed 50%, barring certain extraordinary situations.” Further, the 1992 judgment barred reservation solely on economic criterion.

The Centre chose not comment on the validity of the Maratha reservation law and confined its submissions to the ambit of the 102nd constitutional amendment whereby it introduced quota for economically weaker sections (EWS). The Union government has maintained that the amendment has not altered any arrangement and states will continue to have the power to have a separate list of socially and educationally backward classes for the purposes of reservation.

Most states, including Maharashtra, Bihar, Jharkhand, Karnataka, Punjab, Rajasthan, Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh, were in favour of breaching the 50% limit, claiming that even after seven decades of independence, several classes and communities were deprived of development. They were united in asking for a review of the 1992 verdict.

There were, however, some organisations that argued in support of keeping the 50% ceiling, pointing out that since 1992, no judgment by the top court had questioned the sanctity of the 50% rule. Instead, they argued that subsequent judgments have followed the Indra Sawhney’s ruling.

During one hearing, the bench also wondered for how long reservation should be allowed to continue considering the scheme under the Constitution for reservation to be a temporary measure.

Based on a report by the Maharashtra State Backward Commission and using the window of “extraordinary situations” in the Indra Sawhney case, the Maharashtra law of 2018 had provided 16% reservation in jobs and admissions to the Maratha community in addition to the existing 50% quota. But the Bombay high court, by its judgment in June 2019, brought down the reservation to 12%in admissions to educational institutions and 13% in jobs, prompting the state to move in appeal.

UP panchayat polls: SP extends lead, parties try to woo Independents

LUCKNOW, May 5: The Samajwadi Party (SP) extended its lead over the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in the Uttar Pradesh panchayat elections on Wednesday as parties vied with each other to woo independent candidates, who won the largest chunk of rural body seats.

Trends and results available for 3,050 district panchayat wards on Wednesday evening showed SP winning or leading in 779 wards, BJP in 579, Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) in 361 and Congress in 76. Independents and smaller parties won or led in 1,272 wards.

The BJP, which secured a landslide victory in the UP assembly election by bagging 312 out of 403 seats in the state assembly, suffered setbacks in its bastions of Ayodhya, Varanasi, Lucknow and Gorakhpur in the panchayat elections and SP maintained its grip on strongholds of Etawah (western UP), Kannauj (central UP), Mainpuri (western UP), Azamgarh (eastern UP), Etah (western UP), Kasganj (western UP) and Farrukhabad (western UP).

The panchayat elections are not contested on party symbols, but all parties officially released the names of the candidates backed by them. The State Election Commission (SEC) has said results won’t be declared on party lines.

Independent candidates, a majority of them rebels from various political parties, are likely to play a crucial role in the election of the district panchayat chairpersons to be held later this month.

BJP has already opened communication channels with independents to try and win district panchayat chair and block chief positions. The indirect elections are to be held for 75 posts of district panchayat chiefs and 826 block chiefs, likely by the end of May, according to a SEC officer.

The victory of SP and other Opposition candidates is likely to set the ground for fresh political realignment and alliances before the assembly election in 2022.

Smaller political parties, including the Suheldev Bhartyiya Samaj Party (SBSP), Aam Admi Party (AAP), Apna Dal, Azad Samaj Party (Bhim Army) and Pragtisheel Samajwadi Party-Lohia also bagged wards in the areas of their influence.

The Bhagidari Sankalp Morcha launched by the smaller parties has called for a united alliance against the NDA in the 2022 assembly election, said SBSP chief Om Prakash Rajbhar.

The farmers’ agitation against three central agrarian laws dented the BJP’s fortunes in west UP where it had won maximum seats in the 2017 assembly elections.

The Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD), which won only one seat in the 2017 assembly election and was wiped out in its stronghold in west UP, made a comeback in the panchayat polls, winning seats in Meerut, Shamli, Bulandshahr, Baghpat, Hapur and Bijnor.

The BJP had “organised” chaupals in the villages before the panchayat elections with party MPs, MLAs and a battery of ministers campaigning in the rural areas. The defeat of family members of senior party leaders added to the woes of the BJP.

Chief minister Yogi Adityanath congratulated the victorious party candidates and thanked the voters for supporting the BJP candidates. In a tweet, Yogi called upon the victorious candidates and people to assist the administration in fighting the Covid pandemic. They should follow the Covid guidelines and corona curfew protocol, he said.

BSP that won only 19 seats in 2017 also made a comeback in its strongholds of Saharanpur (western UP), Mau (eastern UP), Amroha (western UP), Ghaziabad (western UP), Bhadohi (eastern UP) and Ambedkar Nagar (eastern UP). Party chief Mayawati had directed leaders and workers to begin preparations for the assembly election.

Congress state unit president Ajay Kumar Lallu said 389 party- supported candidates had won the district panchayat wards.

HC raps Central Govt over Delhi’s oxygen crisis

NEW DELHI, May 4: The Delhi High Court on Tuesday told the central government that IIT or IIM will do a better job if the Centre handover the management of oxygen tankers to the premier institutes.

According to the Delhi HC, the Supreme Court said the union government will have to supply 700 metric tonnes of life-saving gas. "If you don't undertake this exercise, you will be in contempt. Now, this is your job, there are tankers available but you are not willing to do this job," the Deli High Court told the Centre on Tuesday.

Further, the High Court also suggested that the Centre must rope in experts from IIMs and IITs to provide a smooth supply of liquid medical oxygen.

The High Court began hearing the petition relating to various issues arising due to the rise of Covid-19 infection in the national capital on Tuesday.

Amicus Curiae Rajshekhar Rao suggested that some unutilised oxygen tankers can be diverted from Maharashtra to Delhi.

Separately, the High Court sought responses of the Centre and the Delhi government on a PIL to temporarily increase the number of cremation and burial sites in the city.

The court directed the authorities to consider data provided by the petitioner, Pratyush Prasanna, while filing their replies.

In his plea filed through advocate Snigdha Singh, Prasanna has claimed that "due to an acute shortage of hospital beds and other necessities such as testing kits and oxygen supply, there have been an overwhelming number of deaths in the country, especially in the national capital region".

As a result, the cremation sites and burial grounds are also full and, therefore, a substantial amount of time was being taken to cremate the body, the plea has claimed.

Hospital beds being allocated to Covid patients in exchange for bribes, says ruling BJP MP

BENGALURU, May 4: At a time when many Covid patients in Bengaluru are reportedly struggling to find hospital beds for treatment, Bangalore South BJP MP Tejasvi Surya on Tuesday alleged that there was “widespread corruption” in allocating Covid beds in Karnataka’s capital city.

“Bribes are being taken to allocate Covid beds. An unholy nexus of BBMP (Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike) officers, Arogya Mitras and certain private agents is behind this scam,” Surya alleged, claiming this had led to an “artificial shortage” of beds in the city.

Speaking to the media along with Basavangudi MLA Ravi Subramanya, Surya claimed “unscrupulous methods” are being adopted and patients who require medical attention are being denied hospital beds. He also claimed that in over 4,000 instances, the BBMP-in charge had booked beds in the name of an asymptomatic patient after being alerted of a vacancy.

“So, the same bed is again allotted to another patient after a few hours, either based on monetary considerations or influence by authorities in other cases. The common man calling the helpline is left high and dry,” he alleged.

The BJP MP also claimed that there have been instances when many patients were admitted quickly in certain hospitals — Manipal, Navachetana, Aster CMI and Aster RV — after midnight hours.

“When in each of the (eight) zones and on the helpline number (108) there are 100 bookings being done per day on an average, who are the patients being admitted to hospitals and given Covid treatment?” he asked.

“Every day there are so many patients who are getting discharged, so many who are unfortunately dying and therefore there must be beds that are made available daily. When you check the BBMP website, at any point of the day, it shows all beds are blocked. How does this happen?” he further questioned.

Surya further claimed that he is aware of situations where patients were asked to pay money upfront to get a hospital bed. “My office has tipped off the police in an instance after which an accused was arrested,” he said.

Meanwhile, Karnataka Congress chief D K Shivakumar “congratulated” Surya, and MLAs Satish Reddy, Ravi Subramanya and Uday Garudachar for “exposing the corruption” in the allocation of beds to Covid patients.

“Under whose control is BBMP? They should immediately name the BJP minister responsible for people’s suffering,” Shivakumar said.

Surya’s allegations come at a time when Bengaluru reported 20,870 new Covid cases and 132 deaths on Tuesday. There was 44,631 new cases and 292 deaths in the state on the day.

Reacting to the allegations, Deputy CM C N Ashwathnarayan said that people found allotting beds for money would be arrested under the Goonda Act.

“The public can call 112 and lodge complaints about such practices. The extortion of money from Covid patients will not be tolerated. Nodal officers from the police department will be deployed to supervise such issues,” he said.

Head of the ministerial Covid task force in the state, Ashwathnarayan, said, “Blocking of beds will not be allowed. It will be made compulsory for both government and private hospitals to update the status of bed allotment in the SAST (Suvarna Arogya Suraksha Trust) portal on a real-time basis.”

The task force further explained that officials have been directed to ensure that the helpline number 1912 is working perfectly at all time and to automate the bed allotment process. “An Integrated Index App should also be created within two days in an effort to streamline Covid management,” Ashwathnarayan said after a meeting with the members of the state task force.

7 More Die In Karnataka Hospitals Due To Oxygen Shortage

BENGALURU, May 4: Oxygen crisis deepened in certain parts of Karnataka on Tuesday, with the deaths of seven COVID patients in Kalaburagi and Belagavi allegedly due to oxygen shortage.

According to sources, four people died in the morning in Kalaburagi government hospital and three in Belagavi government hospital allegedly due to shortage of the life saving gas.

However, Mining and Geology Minister Murugesh Nirani, who is in-charge of Kalaburagi district, dismissed the allegation saying that those who died had COVID infection at an advanced stage.

These incidents came close on the heels of deaths of 24 COVID patients in the last two days in Chamarajanagar district hospital allegedly due to oxygen shortage.

However, leader of opposition and former Chief Minister Siddaramaiah, who visited Chamarajanagar district hospital on Tuesday, claimed that 28 and not 23 people had died in the hospital from Sunday morning to Monday morning.

He alleged the incident reflected badly on the governance and demanded the resignation of health minister Dr K Sudhakar for the poor handling of the COVID-19 situation.

Taking a serious view of the oxygen shortage, Chief Minister BS Yediyurappa on Tuesday assigned the Large and Medium Scale Industries Minister Jagadish Shettar to arrange oxygen supply and coordinate with the Centre to get the state's quota of oxygen.

Meanwhile, in Bengaluru a few hospitals raised an alarm against the oxygen shortage to treat the critically ill COVID patients.

An executive of the Chaitanya Medical Centre in Yelahanka said there was an oxygen crisis on Monday due to which they had to shift all their COVID patients to other hospitals.

"Now we have got the stock of oxygen, which would last for two to three days, but yesterday we shifted all our patients to other hospitals as the stock had exhausted," the executive said.

Medax Hospitals in RT Nagar here had also flagged the shortage of oxygen.

In his letter to the relatives of the COVID patients, the medical director of the hospital Dr Srihari R Shapur wrote that the facility was running out of oxygen and asked them to make necessary arrangements in other hospitals.

"This is to inform you that we are running out of oxygen supply. We are unable to provide oxygen care for the patient.We have been informed since May 1 6 pm. We will shortly run out of oxygen by 5 pm on May 3. Kindly arrange for beds in different hospitals. We regret this situation," Dr Srihari stated in the letter.

Rajmahal hospital too wrote to the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (city corporation) stating that the vendor company was not supplying oxygen despite repeated requests.

"In this scenario, managing 30 plus COVID patients is becoming a challenge.We need your immediate intervention and assistance to tide over the situation," the manager of the hospital said in the letter.

The Bengaluru Rural MP D K Suresh too expressed concern over the paucity of the life-saving gas in Rajarajeshwari Medical College in the city.

In his video message on Monday, he asked Chief Minister BS Yediyurappa to arrange oxygen for the COVID patients.

Karnataka on Tuesday reported 44,631 new COVID-19 cases and 292 deaths, taking the caseload and fatalities to 16,90,934 and 16,538 respectively, the health department said.

The state has 4,64,363 active cases.

24 Patients Die In Karnataka Hospital Allegedly Due To Oxygen Shortage

BENGALURU, May 3: The Karnataka government has ordered an inquiry after 24 patients died at a government hospital on Sunday night. The deaths were reported at the hospital in Chamarajanagar allegedly after the oxygen supply dropped. At least 144 patients are being treated at the hospital.

"My boy had recovered 75%. If there had been an oxygen cylinder he could have been saved," said Lokesh.

Another such relative, Rajanna, said he received a distress call from his nephew at midnight. "He called me around 12 o'clock saying there was no oxygen. Please see what you can do. When we came here immediately, they didn't allow any of us in. When we called again, there was no reply. That meant he was gone. He died because of lack of oxygen".

23 out of the 24 patients were being treated for Covid.

Chief Minister BS Yediyurappa has appointed IAS officer Shivayogi Kalasad to investigate the deaths of the 23 patients. The report into the deaths has to be submitted to the government within three days.

Mysuru MP, Pratap Simha, said, "Last night, when media people drew my attention to the situation of oxygen shortage in Chamarajnagar district, I myself contacted Deputy Commissioner (DC) Dr MR Ravi and took a conference call with ADC who is in charge of oxygen. At night itself I contacted Southern Gas and they provided 15 cylinders. Before that also we had given from the quota. Despite all this, this sad incident occurred. Chamarajnagar is not some far away place. We feel it is part of us. We are part of their sorrow."

Dr. Ashwathnarayan C N, the Deputy Chief Minister of Karnataka, tweeted:

The district has recorded a total of 11,928 cases of COVID-19 infection since the beginning of the pandemic in January 2020. At least 167 people have died since then due to the virus.

The All India Congress Committee general secretary and Karnataka in-charge, Randeep Singh Surjewala demanded the arrest of the Health Minister. "This is murder by designed negligence of Yediyurappa Govt ! The Health Minister must resign. Will CM Yediyurappa ji own moral responsibility for the deaths?" Surjewala tweeted.

Congress Karnataka chief DK Shivakumar said the government is only interested in publicity and does not take any responsibility.

Several hospitals across the country have been reporting a shortage of oxygen, with many patients losing lives due to this.

Karnataka reported 37,733 fresh COVID-19 cases, 21,149 recoveries, and 217 deaths in the past 24 hours. The number of active cases in the state stands at 4,21,436 with 11,64,398 recoveries.

Mamata loses in Nandigram, but TMC ahead in 215 seats; DMK takes TN; BJP keeps Assam; LDF retains Kerala

NEW DELHI, May 2: In the keenly-watched Nandigram seat, BJP’s Suvendu Adhikari defeated Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee by a mere 1,622 votes. However, the TMC was ahead in 215 seats (212 wins) and the BJP in 75 (73 wins), with the TMC comfortably crossing the halfway mark in the state with 294 assembly seats.

In Assam, the BJP crossed the halfway mark in early leads, ahead of its nearest rival Congress, which campaigned hard to reclaim its one-time bastion.

At least 15 rounds of sanitisation will be carried out at each polling centre, besides social distancing and other precautions, including a ban on gatherings, will be strictly followed, officials said. They said counting of votes will begin at 8 am and continue late into the night.

As many as 1,100 counting observers will watch the process and candidates and agents will have to produce a negative COVID test report or double dose of vaccination certificate to get an entry.

There will be 2,364 counting halls as compared to 1,002 halls in 2016 in 822 assemble constituencies, a more than 200 per cent increase, in view of the COVID guidelines, according to the Election Commission which had drawn flak from the courts over the conduct of polls during the pandemic.

Polling was held in eight phases in West Bengal between March 27 and April 29, in Assam in three stages on March 27, April 1 and 6, while votes were cast in Tamil Nadu, Kerala and the Union Territory of Puducherry in a single phase on April 6, when the COVID surge had begun in many of the states.

Kerala, Tamil Nadu and West Bengal are among the 11 states that account for 78.22 per cent of the total active cases, according to the Health ministry.

A three-tier security arrangement is in place in West Bengal’s 108 counting centres and at least 292 observers have been appointed and 256 companies of central forces deployed across 23 districts of the state that voted in a gruelling election marred by violence and vicious personal attacks.

Election Commission Rejects Trinamool Request For Recount In Nandigram

New Delhi: The Election Commission has rejected the Trinamool Congress's appeal for a recount of votes at Nandigram, where Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee had faced her aide-turned- arch rival Suvendu Adhikari.

The Returning Officer has said that the result will be officially declared after the VVPAT slips are tallied with the votes on the Electronic Voting Machines. After a day of yo-yo competition. the results this evening indicated that the Chief Minister had lost to Adhikari by 1,736 votes in the contest that was the centre-piece of the assembly election in the state.

The Trinamool Congress had declared the counting process "fishy". Banerjee alleged "malpractices" and said she would approach the courts.

"Let the Nandigram people give whatever verdict they want, I accept that. Nandigram was a sacrifice that was needed in the larger victory. We have won the state," said the Chief Minister, whose party is heading for a stupendous 210-plus seat victory. "But I will go to the court because I have heard there were some malpractices," she had said earlier this evening.

The Chief Minister's announcement this evening came amid much confusion with the Election Commission website updations running excruciatingly slowly. Even around 10.30 pm, the site showed partial results from Nandigram, in which the Chief Minister appeared to be leading.

"Something is fishy about Nandigram, don't you think? A party wins nearly three-fourths of all the seats in the state and the Chief Minister loses her seat - something very fishy went on in Nandigram," said senior Trinamool leader Derek O'Brien.

Ms Banerjee had trailed Adhikari for half the day as counting progressed. But Trinamool said it was to be expected since the votes belonged to a majority-community block. The tables would be turned, they said, once the votes from minority dominated areas are counted. By the evening, the contest had become a cliffhanger, with Banerjee overcoming a 10,000-plus gap in votes and pulling forward. Thereafter, the results went yo-yo with every round.

For Trinamool, which is heading for a 210-plus seat victory against a massive challenge by the BJP's hugely powerful election machinery, the Chief Minister's defeat in Nadigram will be an acute embarrassment.

Nandigram was the place which had catapulted Ms Banerjee to power a decade ago. But the groundwork was said to be done by Suvendu Adhikari, who was one of Ms Banerjee's closest aides.

The Chief Minister – stung by his defection in December – had taken the battle to his home turf, declaring that she would contest from Nandigram, quitting her regular seat in Kolkata's Bhowanipur.

What followed was a deeply polarising campaign in which Adhikari had tagged the Chief Minister a "begum" and warned people that votes for her will lead to the creation of a "mini Pakistan".

Banerjee had retaliated saying that she was the daughter of a Brahmin who knows her scriptures. Her Chandi paath in Nandigram a day before the filing of nomination, the injury to her leg the very next day and her delivery of speeches from her wheelchair were the high points of the red-hot campaign.

Serum Institute chief says he’s left India, planning to start Covid vaccine production abroad

LONDON, May 1: Serum Institute of India chief Adar Poonawalla has said that he flew to London late last week before the United Kingdom banned travellers from India because he was being threatened. “I’m staying here for an extended time because I don’t want to go back to that situation,” he said in an interview with The Times that was published on Saturday.

Poonawalla is chief executive officer of the Serum Institute, which is the local maker of the coronavirus vaccine developed by Oxford University and pharmaceuticals company AstraZeneca.

“Everything falls on my shoulders but I can’t do it alone,” he said about the alleged threats. “I don’t want to be in a situation where you are just trying to do your job, and just because you can’t supply the needs of X, Y or Z you really don’t want to guess what they are going to do.”

“The level of expectation and aggression is really unprecedented,” Poonawalla said. “It’s overwhelming. Everyone feels they should get the vaccine. They can’t understand why anyone else should get it before them.”

The Serum Institute chief said phone calls for the Covishield vaccine was the “worst thing”. While the conversation begins cordially, Poonawalla said, it goes in a “very different direction” when he explains why he cannot possibly meet the vaccine demands, according to The Times.

“They are saying if you don’t give us the vaccine it’s not going to be good,” he added. “It’s not foul language. It’s the tone. It’s the implication of what they might do if I don’t comply. It’s taking control. It’s coming over and basically surrounding the place [Serum Institute campus in Pune] and not letting us do anything unless we give in to their demands.”

The Centre has said that Poonawalla will be given Y category security cover across India. The Ministry of Home Affairs had issued orders after conducting a detailed threat assessment.

Poonawalla also added, “There’s going to be an announcement in the next few days.” He said that the Serum Institute is hoping to increase production capacity of its Covishield vaccine from 2.5 billion to 3 billion doses a year within six months.

Poonawalla has said he was planning to start production in other countries amid struggles to meet supply commitments.

Several states in India have postponed the rollout of the third phase of inoculation for those between 18 to 45 years as they have run out of vaccines, exacerbating a second wave of the pandemic.

The 40-year-old told The Times that he cannot comment about the Narendra Modi government’s decision to allow Kumbh Mela in Uttarakhand’s Haridwar and conduct Assembly elections amid the surge in infections.

“If I give you the right answer, or any answer, my head would be chopped off,” Poonawalla said. “I can’t comment on the elections or Kumbh Mela. It’s too sensitive...I don’t think even God could have forecast it was going to get this bad.”

India has reported more than 3 lakh coronavirus cases for the last nine days. On Saturday, it set another global record by reporting more than 4 lakh new infections. The country now has 1,91,64,969 total cases since the pandemic first broke out in January 2020.

Queues for oxygen, hospital beds and outside crematorium too, thanks to Modi govt, says Rahul Gandhi on Covid situation

NEW DELHI, May 1: In a wide-ranging exclusive interview with PTI, Congress leader Rahul Gandhi on Saturday said the entire world is shaken by the severity of the Covid-19 pandemic in India and there are queues everywhere, whether for oxygen cylinders, for life-saving medicines, for hospital beds and even outside crematoriums.

He accused the government of misreading and mishandling the situation and alleged that all early warning signs were ignored, including from scientists.

Here is the transcript of the interview:

Q. The second wave of coronavirus has hit India hard. We see people gasping for medical aid, medicines, oxygen. They have no access to facilities in the national capital and across the country. How do you see the situation and the response of the government?

Ans. It breaks my heart every single day to wake up to the absolute devastation around us. This is not a wave; it is a tsunami that has destroyed everything in its wake. There are never-ending queues everywhere. There are queues to get an oxygen cylinder, queues to refill the cylinder, queues to get life-saving medicines, queues to get a hospital bed, and now there are queues outside crematoriums. There is a fatal shortage of every single item we need to tackle Covid-19. Our capital’s best hospitals are bursting at the seams. We are getting frantic SOS calls for oxygen from India’s top doctors. Hospitals are petitioning High Courts for oxygen. Our healthcare workers are seeing patients die in front of their eyes, they cannot save people. India is now the world’s coronavirus epicentre. The entire world is shaken by what they are seeing in India. None of this should have happened. There were multiple early warning signs. Forget the signs, scientists clearly warned the government this would happen – they ignored them. We could and should have been much better prepared. And now, where is the government in this crisis? It is completely missing in action. They are obsessed only with saving the Prime Minister’s image and blaming others. The new buzzword is that the ‘system’ has failed. Who is this ‘system’? Who runs the ‘system’? It’s just a ploy to avoid admitting responsibility.

Q. Did the government falter in assessing the Covid situation? Who is at fault?

Ans. Absolutely. The Prime Minister is at fault. He runs a highly centralised and personalised government machinery, is solely and substantially devoted to building his own brand, is utterly focused on imagery rather than substance. The fact is that this Government completely failed to understand or to tackle the Covid-19 pandemic -- right from the very beginning, despite repeated warnings. Since the very start of this pandemic back in 2020, I kept trying to warn the government about the disaster ahead if we did not urgently prepare but they attacked me and ridiculed me. It’s not just me – anyone who tried to sound the alarm, the state callously and thoughtlessly ignored. Modi government let this virus enter India through our airports in February and March of 2020. And then it panicked and without consultation or thought imposed the world’s harshest lockdown. Migrant workers were left to fend for themselves and an unprecedented exodus began from the cities. The poorest of the poor were forced to walk hundreds of kilometres home with no support, no aid, no assistance. In his sheer ignorance, the Prime Minister said he would defeat the virus in 21 days, akin to the battle of Mahabharata! Modi government is plainly arrogant and focuses on perception over reality- declaring victory against the virus is absolute insanity and demonstrates a complete misunderstanding of the nature of what this virus is. The only way to fight corona is with humility and by realizing that you are faced with a relentless opponent, who can adapt and is very resilient. The PM had an entire year to better prepare, protect India, and think through this crisis but what did they do? Did the PM & the Govt add sufficient oxygen capacity, ramp up testing, increase hospital beds, ventilators? Did the PM think long-term about the state of our health infrastructure and start building for the sort of subsequent Corona waves that almost every country in the world was experiencing? It was sheer luck that we emerged out of last year’s nightmare, to a point where we had less than 10,000 new cases in a day early in 2021. We were not testing enough then. We are not testing enough now. Where was the preparation for this massive second wave? Why were the jumbo facilities put up last year dismantled? Why did they raise oxygen exports over 700% - think of that number, 700% - in the months before this brutal second wave?

Q. What could the Government have done differently to address the second wave?

Ans. The Modi Government was both grossly negligent and blindly overconfident. The BJP announced the end of the pandemic and congratulated the Prime Minister for his “success” even as the second wave was just beginning. The Prime Minister himself is on record as having said that India had successfully fought the pandemic and won. In reality, there was no coherent strategy. One, the government should have built massive capacity over the last year –– testing, oxygen, hospital beds, ventilators. Two, they should not have declared victory prematurely. Three, the Prime Minister and his government did not even acknowledge there was a problem. How can you fix something you don’t even accept exists? Four, the government did not act on scientific advice or evidence. They continuously ignored rising cases and were busy instead with election campaigns. They encouraged super-spreader events. They even bragged about them. Our Prime Minister and Home Minister were not even wearing masks in public over the past few months. What sort of a message is that sending to citizens? Five, most importantly, the only solution we have is vaccination. We are supposed to be the largest manufacturer of vaccines in the world. And yet, India is desperately short of vaccines. We are making them, why weren’t our people first in line to be vaccinated? If that is not a failure to plan and execute, what is?

Q. With India seeing around 4 lakh cases a day, the highest in the world, is there a case for the national emergency considering the unprecedented crisis?

Ans. We are already in the midst of a national emergency. But just declaring something is not the answer. The biggest problem of this government is it announces and then absconds. Now that the situation is completely out of control, they have dropped the ball and thrown it to the states. They have made the states and citizens truly ‘Aatmanirbhar’. Rely on yourself is the motto. No one will come to help you. Definitely, not the Prime Minister. The need of the hour is to hold hands, work together and heal our people. India must be the only country in the world facing this massive pandemic without the guidance of an expert and empowered group that is charged with fighting the virus and protecting the people, with planning ahead, anticipating needs and taking the decisions that will result in swift action to save lives.

Q. GoI has said it repeatedly warned states about the second wave and asked them to map the need for essential supplies like oxygen, ICU beds, and continue with containment efforts. Would you say the current situation is a collective failure of the Centre and states?

Ans. The entire country has already been under the Epidemic Act for more than a year. The Centre has absolute power over states under the Act. This is a government that wants to control everything. When cases went down, they declared victory, and the Prime Minister took all the credit as he always does. Now that the situation is terrible, why are you blaming the states? Out of 162 oxygen plants sanctioned in October by the Centre, only 33 are functional. This was set up with the PM-CARES funds. The Modi Government took tens of thousands of crores of donations in his name, without any transparency, without any accountability. The states have rejected the sub-standard ventilators supplied by the Centre through these funds. States do not even get their GST dues on time. States are dependent on the Modi Government for quotas of oxygen, Remdesivir and Tocilizumab injections. The Modi Government has chained the hands of the states behind their backs, so they are completely powerless, and then asks them to sort out their own affairs. Obviously, the system will collapse.

Q. Adult vaccinations are starting on May 1 along the lines you demanded, but states say they cannot start as they do not have the vaccines. What is your view? Did you seek the expansion of vaccinations too early? The UK will start adult vaccines from June?

Ans. First, the government set a target of vaccinating 300 million by August. This is the above 45 age category. They managed to fully vaccinate not even 2 percent of the total population. With the mounting pressure of the government not vaccinating enough, they added another 600 million to the list, by starting vaccinations for the 18+ group from May 1. But where are the vaccines? Why did the Modi Government abandon the people between age groups of 18 to 44 years by refusing to take responsibility for their vaccination? Why is there a discriminatory policy on the pricing of vaccines? Why should there be five different prices for the same vaccine? What is the strategy beyond two companies? How can that suffice for almost 1 billion people? We need 2 billion doses. Now, they are scrambling for vaccines. The numbers just don’t add up.

Q. You have said the liberalised Vaccine policy is discriminatory. Vaccine makers have reduced prices for states. Your comments?

Ans. This is the story of ‘discount sale’, where you mark up the price, and then make a show of reducing it. It is a complete eyewash. Why should states pay more than the Centre to buy vaccines? Why should the states be left to fend for themselves? Why should there be a difference in price for vaccines for the Centre, the States and the private hospitals? Why should the price of the vaccine even for the two companies be different? Why the discrepancy? After all, even when States pay for the vaccination of those between the age groups of 18 to 44 years, it is taxpayer’s money.

Q. The government has not invoked compulsory licensing for vaccines despite repeated calls by Congress?

Ans. Dr Manmohan Singh asked for compulsory licensing in his letter to the Prime Minister. The Congress President has repeated it several times now. Other countries have done this. The USA ramped up its vaccine production using their Defense Production Act. We have to do whatever it takes, within our laws, to ramp up the domestic production of vaccines here. We have a domestic manufacturing base. We can manufacture for both India and the world. All the industry needs are licenses and raw materials. It should have been done months ago.

Q. The Congress party has said it is willing to work together with the Centre in the fight against Coronavirus. How will you make it accountable then?

Ans. Congress Party has said from day one that it is willing to work with the government in the fight against Coronavirus and for a year now, even in just the last few days, the Congress President has repeated this position very clearly. We have been consistently giving suggestions on all possible forums. Forget taking them seriously, the government has not even meaningfully acknowledged these suggestions. I see no contradiction in working together with the government in times of unprecedented crisis while at the same time holding it accountable for its decisions. The problem arises when the government doesn’t believe in consultation, in carrying everyone along, in tapping expertise it lacks. This government seems to think that acknowledging help is needed is a sign of weakness. The hubris and pettiness of this government are unbelievable.

Q. The Madras High Court has held the Election Commission responsible for the Covid situation. Your views?

Ans. The Court was echoing a widely held view. In the past 7 years, like so many other institutions, the Election Commission of India has also crumbled. The Court has said what it believes, I don’t want to make any further comment. Let your readers judge for themselves. Our Institutions are a warning system- they give us feedback and information on how to respond to crisis but our institutions have been completely destroyed and taken over. The press, judiciary, election commission, bureaucracy - none of them have played their role of guardian/watchdog. This means India today is like a ship in a storm, sailing without any information. Corona is just part of the problem - the real problem is that India now doesn’t have the capacity to respond to any major crisis because of what has been done to its systems over the last 6 years.

Q. There have been demands within for internal elections and a new Congress president? Are you ready to lead again in such times, especially when there are demands from various quarters within for you to lead?

Ans. I have always favoured internal organisational elections within the Congress and these will be conducted in time. It is for the party workers to decide as to who should lead the party. I will do whatever the party wants me to do. But right now the focus is on controlling the pandemic, saving lives, and alleviating India’s widespread suffering and pain. There will be time for everything else in due course.

Delhi lockdown extended by a week, says CM Arvind Kejriwal

NEW DELHI, May 1: As the national capital continues to grapple with rising Covid-19 cases and resultant oxygen shortage, Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal on Saturday announced that the prevailing lockdown in the city has been extended by another week.

The national capital on Saturday registered 412 fresh Covid deaths, highest in a day while it recorded over 25,000 new cases with positivity rate 31.61 per cent. Maharashtra, on the other hand, reported 63,282 new COVID-19 cases and 802 deaths, taking the infection tally to 46,65,472 and the toll to 69,615, the state health department said.

Kejriwal also confirmed that Delhi has received 4.5 lakh doses of Covid-19 vaccines and will hence start inoculating people between 18 to 44 years of age from Monday. However, walk-ins will not be allowed, he stated. Instead, only those who took prior appointment for vaccination will be able to take the dose.

After twelve people succumbed to Covid-19 due to delay in oxygen supply in Delhi’s Batra Hospital, Delhi High Court Saturday pulled up the Centre and directed it to ensure that “Delhi receives its allocated supply of 490 MTs today by whatever means”.

“Water has gone above the head. Enough is enough. Now you’ll arrange everything,” the court told the Centre. “You’ve made allocation, fulfil that,” the court said.

India on Saturday reported over 4,00,000 fresh Covid-19 cases for the first time as the tally crossed 19 million-mark, according to Union health ministry’s data. With 4,019, 93 fresh coronavirus cases, India”s Covid-19 tally has risen to 19,164,969. The country also recorded 3,523 deaths on Friday, including 870 in Maharashtra, 375 in Delhi, 332 in Uttar Pradesh, and 269 in Chhattisgarh.

Meanwhile, at least sixteen Covid-19 patients and two nurses were killed after fire broke out at the ICU of The Welfare Hospital in Bharuch district on Saturday. Locals broke the glass windows and rescued the other patients. Sources said there were around 27 patients in the ICU ward at the time of the fire. They were shifted to nearby private hospitals.



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