CBI Court Acquits 3 Cops In Ishrat Encounter Case

A special Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) court on Wednesday acquitted three cops accused in the Ishrat Jahan encounter case.

The three police officials – IPS officer GL Singhal, retired police officer Tarun Barot, and Anaju Chaudhari – filed discharge applications on March 20. With the proceedings against the three officers dropped, the trial has practically come to an end unless the CBI appeals against the same.

The CBI court said the officers acted within the law and limits. According to intelligence input, the officers joined in to arrest Jahan and it cannot be accepted that Jahan was not a terrorist.

The court said that the Crime Branch had discharged their duty at the time of the incident and the three officers have been acquitted in the case.

Jahan, a 19-year-old girl of Mumbai, and three others – Javed Shaikh alias Pranesh Pillai, Amjadali Akbarali Rana and Zeeshan Johar were killed in an encounter with the police on the outskirts of Ahmedabad on June 15, 2004.

It was claimed by the Gujarat Police, that the four had terror links and had conspired to kill the then Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi. (ANI)

Chinese Liquor Firm To Set Up Plant In Islamic Pakistan

A Chinese liquor Company will be setting up a plant in Pakistan, the first such alcohol firm from China to establish a unit in the Islamic nation, according to local media reports.

The company making an entry into the Pakistani market, Hui Coastal Brewery and Distillery Limited, was registered with the country’s financial regulatory agency on April 30, 2020, Geo News reported.

“The company formally started its beer production last week, which product will be supplied to Chinese nationals working at various projects launched in different areas of Pakistan under the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor and mines and mineral projects in Balochistan,” Mohammad Zaman Khan, director-general, Excise and Taxation South, told Dawn.

“The application took over a year for approval and in 2018 the former Balochistan government agreed to issue a licence to the Chinese company,” the Zaman Khan said.

According to the local media reports, the licence was issued by the Balochistan Excise, Taxation and Anti-narcotics department.

The company, Hui Coastal Brewery has been launched as a joint venture with Balochistan at the Lasbela Industrial Estate Development Authority. The company’s plan is to introduce two famous brands in Pakistan for export.

Alcohol beverages are banned in Pakistan for consumption. However, there is some exception for its use for the non-Muslim population. (ANI)

Virus Isn’t Going Away, Prevention Is Our Best Bet

Coronavirus has turned our lives upside down in more ways than one and even after a year of the pandemic being officially announced, the world is not in the green. As a community medicine practitioner in Epidemiology, I have been studying the behaviour of the novel Coronavirus and its host, us, the humans. Yet, no matter how much I study things in detail, I always come to the same conclusion about the Coronavirus: This virus can change forms (mutate) and come up with new strains faster than we can figure out its cure or vaccine. So, our best bet right now is to avoid the virus! The prevention is easy; the cure may not be.

Our best preventive tools – masks, hand-wash and sanitisers are now easily available. What is not easily available is the will in most people to co-operate and use these tools both for individual safety as well as public health. Even as the number of infected cases and resultant fatalities rise, there is a certain nonchalance in public behaviour regarding the risks. On March 27, more than 62,000 new cases were registered across the country, with over 300 deaths. The first time that the number of people infected in a single day went above 50,000 was July 27, 2020. The last time that the number of new cases went above 50,000 was November 6, 2020.

Even though the number of new infected cases is going up, the ratio of the number of people losing their lives to the infection, is so far less in 2021, than it was in 2020. However, those suffering with manifestations are showing somewhat severe symptoms than before. Though panic is never a way forward, but we should not definitely let our guards down yet as well.

We are seeing a renewed, fresh wave of the virus because the virus has mutated (changed its basic genetic structure and developed newer, more dangerous strains) to survive in its human hosts. We have learnt some strategies to cope with them and the virus too has gained new skills to dodge the human immune system! The influenza virus mutates almost every year and develops new strains. We will have to see which way the wind blows for the novel coronavirus. It definitely has mutated within a year.

ALSO READ: A Vaccine Of Hope

With newer mutations coming up globally we are faced with the threat of the new strains, the UK strain, the South African strain, and the Brazilian strain. It is the antigens that are responsible for stimulating the production of antibodies by the immune system. Even minor mutations depending on the area of the virus they have occurred in, can play in a big way with our immune systems, and are known as ‘variants of concern’. These new variants are identified using a process known as genome sequencing, which reads and then interprets the genetic information found in the RNA- Ribonucleic acid (in this case) of the virus. We need to study the virus to be able to fight it better.

India, through genome sequencing has also detected what is known as a new “double mutant” COVID-19 variant. This means that two important changes are coming together in the same virus. The mutations are basically affecting key areas in the spike protein (the crown-like area which helps the virus to latch on to human cells) of the coronavirus and thus helping them skip or escape the resistance offered by our immune system. This is mostly affecting states like Maharashtra and Delhi the most. Other states closer to these two are also reporting increased number of cases. This is probably because these two states have the maximum international travel (both inward and outward) and thus the maximum exposure to the virus, both by way of the original strain (from Wuhan, China) and the 3 newer strains. At least 18 states and Union Territories in India now have different strains of coronavirus running amok: the UK strain, the South African strain and the Indian strain, so to speak. The threat of infection is high.

What all this means is we are taking one step forward and two steps back in terms of handling the pan-world health crisis. We were all thinking that with the vaccine we would now be saved, but the virus is changing in ways that render the vaccines weak. We cannot say that a person who has been infected once and has received the vaccine as well, won’t be re-infected, though it depends upon an individual’s immune strength as to how his/her body will react and to what level they would be affected.

However, the scientists suggest that the severity of the disease will be bit lesser among the vaccinated individuals – a ray of hope, but still the battle against spread of infection, is on. During the first wave of coronavirus in March 2020 what saved us was the lockdown; it helped in more ways than one to trace and isolate and further treat infected people. However, for all purposes, a second nationwide lockdown doesn’t look feasible, because it affects the people financially when they are not able to earn their livelihood.

What we need right now to handle the second wave is a really strong execution of the plan we already have in place. Public health awareness was already achieved during the first wave; almost the whole population is aware of the crisis as well as the solution, but what is missing is a respect for solutions and the motivation to enact those simple behaviours.

We need strong public health advocacy. Everyday we need to educate, organize and mobilise to change the reluctant and seemingly over-confident attitude among the mass as a whole.  We need people at the grassroots level to reinforce for good the safety measures. So many people have let their guards down after one year of the pandemic. The various state elections, the many political rallies, the many religious festivals (we have the upcoming Kumbh Mela) have all contributed to the pandemic still holding fort really strong. We need strong community level leadership at every possible level. Anyone with a voice that is heard and respected should advocate for the use of masks, regular handwashing and social distancing. I wish some religious leaders across faiths weren’t so dismissive of the severity of the pandemic; since many people listen to them.

ALSO READ: Ignore Fake News, Vaccines Are A Must

We need to reach out to these leaders so that they can influence their followers. Faith must meet science if we want to overcome the pandemic. Political leaders at centre and state levels need to reach out to every kind of leaders possible, to bring about behaviour changes among the people to eliminate the virus from amidst us. To use a sociological concept, we need to the diffuse ideas of public well-being and precautions so that they become culturally acceptable and thus practiced among large parts of the population. The media plays an important role here.

The onus this second time around is truly on the public. We will keep losing the race to the virus until we follow the basic measures stringently. Lockdowns can only stop inter-cluster exchange or two areas with infection from interacting with each other and thus ceasing a larger spillage, but it may not stop intra-location infections. Nowadays, we have a huge number of people living in societies and apartments. Even if they go out only to buy essential items, but don’t follow basic precautionary measures like masks etc. they can still infect or be infected.

All of us depend on each of us this time. It’s kind of “One for all, all for one” idea! As a Community Medicine expert, I once again want to emphasise that it is the community spirit which will keep us safe and alive. Each one for another! The virus alone is not the real enemy, but our relaxed approach to the virus certainly is! We can weaken it in some time if we strictly follow the rules. The so called herd immunity has not shown promising results in this case, so individual immunity is all we have to turn our communities healthy. If we don’t want another lockdown, let’s bring out masks, sanitisers and the will to keep fighting the contagion – by respecting the social distancing norms. Let us put all efforts to develop a “behavioural herd immunity” this time.

The writer is an epidemiologist at College of Medicine & Sagor Dutta Hospital in Kolkata)

Imran Responds To Modi’s Letter, Calls For Peaceful Ties

Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan on Tuesday responded to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s greetings for Pakistan Day saying that people of his country also “desire peaceful and cooperative relations.”

Prime Minister Modi had written to Khan on March 23 extending greetings on the occasion of Pakistan Day.
“As a neighbouring country, India desires cordial relations with people of Pakistan, for this environment of trust, devoid of terror and hostility is imperative,” PM Modi had written.

“Thank you for your letter conveying greetings on Pakistan Day. The people of Pakistan commemorate this Day by paying tribute to the wisdom and foresight of our founding fathers in envisioning an independent, sovereign state where they could live in freedom and realise their full potential,” Geo News reported quoting Khan’s letter.

Khan in his letter said: “The people of Pakistan also desire peaceful, cooperative relations with all neighbours, including India. We are convinced that durable peace and stability in South Asia is contingent upon resolving all outstanding issues between India and Pakistan, in particular, the Jammu and Kashmir dispute.”

The Pakistan Prime Minister also extended his best wishes for the people of India in the fight against the Covid-19 pandemic.

Pakistan Day is celebrated annually on March 23 to mark the Lahore Resolution.

The Lahore Resolution, which is also called Pakistan Resolution, passed on March 23, 1940, is considered a major milestone in the struggle for an independent Muslim state which was later called Pakistan.

Last week, Prime Minister Modi had wished Imran Khan a speedy recovery from COVID-19.

“Best wishes to Prime Minister @ImranKhanPTI for a speedy recovery from COVID-19,” Prime Minister Modi said in a tweet. (ANI)

Centre To States: Test, Track, Treat To Curb Covid-19

As the Covid-19 cases in the country continue to rise exponentially, Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushan has written to the states stating that the implementation of the ‘Test, Track and Treat’ effectively is the only mechanism to control the spread of the deadly virus.

Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushan in a letter addressed to the Chief Secretary of all the states and Union territories said, “…efficient implementation of “Test Track and Treat” remains the only proven strategy for control of the transmission. Each district, irrespective of whether it is seeing a surge right now, or is with a current low burden, should make a District Action Plan with clear timelines and responsibilities.”
Bhushan’s letter further elaborated that the said action plan shall include – Mapping of cases, reviewing sub-area wise indicators, reviewing the geographical spread of the infection on a day to day basis and setting up of Emergency Operations Centre.

Apart from the Action plan, the Health Secretary suggested that Individual actions such as the proper wearing of masks covering nose and mouth, maintaining a distance of 6 feet from others, and sanitizing one’s hands frequently shall be checked and enforced.

It added that Public Health measures to contain the virus by quarantining and testing individuals suspected to be positive including close contacts of positive persons (at least 25 to 30 such contacts per positive person) shall be done in every state.

In the letter, Bhushan said, “After having successfully brought down the number of new COVID-19 cases from mid-September 2020 to February 2021, India is now witnessing a rapid rise in cases. You have been leading the effort of COVID Pandemic management with your teams so far. The current rise in cases is of concern and has the potential of overwhelming health care systems, unless checked right now.”

He added that many districts in the country are seeing clusters of cases emerging because of specific events and/or places where crowding happens, or where a large number of people are in close physical contact coupled with a lack of COVID appropriate behaviour.

“Some districts that saw a high number of cases in August-November are again seeing a high growth rate of cases. In addition, a number of new districts that saw a limited prevalence earlier, are worrying, showing a surge in COVID cases,” the letter said.

“States, UTs and Districts that have current low levels of cases, however, cannot be complacent. Lack of COVID appropriate behaviours and laxity in public health effort can lead to sudden surges. If immediate, proactive and focused action is taken by your teams right now, it will be possible to ensure that the infection does not spread into currently low prevalence districts,” the Health Secretary’s letter said. (ANI)

Not An Inch Of Land Was Lost To China: Army Chief

By Ajit K Dubey

India did not lose even an inch of its territory during its months-long standoff with China in Eastern Ladakh, said Army chief General MM Naravane on Tuesday.

He added that since the disengagement process kicked off last month, there has been relative peace in the region.
“We have not lost out on any territory, we are where we were before this whole thing started…Not an inch of land has been lost,” General Naravane said while speaking to ANI on India-China disengagement in Ladakh.

On being asked about the situation along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) with China and the ninth round of the Core Commander level talks between India and China, he said: “After the ninth round of the Core Commander level talks, we had agreed upon a phased disengagement from these friction areas, and as per that from February 10 onwards, the disengagement started and it went according to the plan wherefrom the North and South Bank of Pangong Tso as well as from the Kailash Range, people have gone back to their nearest permanent locations. Thereby the face-to-face deployment that was there and because of which there could have been chances of miscalculation has now receded. So we have gone back and as a result of that now there is relative peace and tranquility in the LAC.”

“As a result of disengagement process, it has been reached upon the principle of mutual and equal security. So, I think that should be the way we look at the entire disengagement process, that it serves the interests of both the countries to have a very stable LAC and with lesser chances of any confrontation taking place,” he added.

General Naravane emphasised the importance of discussion and dialogue with China and said that through talks both sides will be able to “narrow down their differences and arrive at an acceptable solution based on mutual and equal security”.

The Army Chief further spoke about the situation at other friction points where China was aggressive like Gogra Hotsprings and said: “We are approaching the whole situation in a step-by-step manner. So, the initial step was that of disengagement that we just talked about. Future round of talks will continue and I am sure that through these talks we will be able to narrow down our differences and arrive at an acceptable solution based on mutual and equal security which is acceptable to both sides, only then it will succeed. We will keep working at it.” (ANI)

Dia Mirza Turns Icon Of Change For Forest Frontline Staff

From the Sunderbans to Gir to Wayanad and over 100’s of other forests across the country, India’s rich flora and fauna continues to stay protected thanks to the unsung frontline soldiers.

For the most part of their lives, they go unnoticed – as they operate with grave danger every step of the way. To shed light on their lives and protect their families, Dia Mirza an actor, producer, and climate changemaker, is looking at playing a more pronounced role in supporting these Guardians of the Wild. As part of the Icons For Change initiative by tring, and as Brand Ambassador of Wildlife Trust of India, she will garner support from the public, to come forward and help these heroes.

To illustrate the grave dangers that a frontline staff faces every day in the forest, Dia shares a few startling facts. A recent survey (WTI data from 200+ ex gratia cases) shows that there are close to 35 per cent annual deaths due to animal attacks, close to 30 per cent of deaths due to humans poaching, illegal trading, or even road accidents. Further – 82 per cent have no access to medical aid or equipment. The average distance to the nearest medical centre is 30 kilometres.

These are hair-raising statistics if you compare it to any job or even an industry. What’s even concerning is that many deaths still go unreported due to limited coverage in dense forest areas. Dia said “It saddens me even more that every day their family is uncertain if they will come back home. In most cases, they are the only breadwinners for their family.”

The forest staff and the rangers are the ones who protect and save the country’s wildlife by putting their own lives at risk, even facing death. They are the people who have made the conscious choice of selfless service and devotion to protect flora and fauna, of which we are proud and which we depend on. Then why is there no protection for them? How can people rally around to support them and their families?

Tring – India’s Largest Celebrity Engagement Platform’s has joined hands with Dia Mirza & Wildlife Trust of India, in the mission to jointly protect the frontline staff and their families. For 20 years Wildlife Trust of India has been running India’s pioneering supplementary accident assurance scheme for frontline forest staff who suffer permanent disability or death on duty.

Here is how you could help the families. Get on to Dia Mirza’s profile on
www.tring.co.in
& choose a medium to donate. As gratitude towards your generous contribution, you will receive a live video call, personally recorded video message, or mention of your name on an Instagram post put up by Dia herself.

“I urge all of you watching or reading this to act now and together we will protect the wild as we should,” said Dia Mirza.

The Icons For Change initiative by tring includes Taapsee Pannu, Tamannaah Bhatia and now Dia Mirza – pursuing their respective missions. The celebrities collaborate with tring, a tech-based engagement platform, to raise awareness & mobilize funds for a cause close to their heart.

Join Dia’s initiative today to help raise funds for the forest staff and their families, as there is no better time than now to protect the guardians of the wild.

This story is provided by NewsVoir. ANI will not be responsible in any way for the content of this article. (ANI/NewsVoir)

West Bengal: Key Seats That Go To Poll In 2nd Phase

As the second phase of polling for the West Bengal Legislative Assembly elections on April 1 is nearing, a high-stakes battle will be witnessed in Nandigram, where Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee will face off against her former ministerial colleague Suvendu Adhikari.

Voting would take place in 30 Assembly constituencies in the second phase from the districts of South 24 Parganas, Bankura and Purba Medinipur.
Out of the 171 candidates contesting in 30 seats in phase-II polls of West Bengal, 152 candidates are men while only 19 are women. It means only 11 per cent of the candidates are female.

Of all the constituencies in the second phase, Nandigram is of the highest importance, as it will not only witness a high-profile contest between Mamata Banerjee and Suvendu Adhikari, the constituency is a key player in the victory of the Trinamool Congress’ (TMC) in the 2011 Assembly elections.

Suvendu Adhikari played a key role in the TMC’s 2007 anti-land acquisition protest in Nandigram as the ground-level strategist, propelling Mamata Banerjee’s party to hand over a humiliating defeat to the Left government that ruled the state for 34 years.

However, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) inflicted a shock to the ruling government when it clinched victory in 18 Lok Sabha seats in 2019, with a vote share of over 40 per cent. This performance made BJP a serious contender for power in the state.

Between Suvendu Adhikari and Mamata Banerjee, Communist Party of India’s (Marxist) candidate Minakshi Mukherjee is also contesting for the Nandigram seat.

Meanwhile, another important district in the fray for the second phase is South 24 Parganas. The district contains 31 Assembly constituencies in total and is known as a TMC stronghold. TMC managed to win 29 of 31 seats in the South 24 Parganas.

While BJP managed to make a dent in the North 24 Parganas in the 2019 elections, it failed to taste victory in South 24 Parganas. Mamata Banerjee nephew Abhishek Banerjee won the seat from Diamond Harbour for the second time in 2016 by a margin of over 3 lakh votes.

One of the most important factors in the South 24 Parganas is the Muslim population, which both parties will seek to draw in their favour, who have majorly supported TMC so far. The district is also infamous for intense violence ahead of polls.

Once considered as the bastion of the Left Front, people in the tribal-dominated districts of Purba Medinipur and Paschim Medinipur voted for the TMC in the last two Assembly elections. However, the BJP clinched victories in these two districts in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections.

Apart from Purba Medinipur, their home turf, the Adhikari clan is reported to have organisational control over 20 to 30 seats of adjoining districts of Bankura and Paschim Medinipur, almost all of which will go into polls in the first two phases.

In Paschim Medinipur, Haldia, bordered by the Haldi river, is a key location for petrochemical businesses and is becoming an important industrial destination in Eastern India. In 2016, CPI(M) candidate Tapashi Mondal defeated TMC’s Madhurima Mondal.

In the Purba Medinipur, Tamluk is also one of the key constituencies to look out for, which has its own distinct ethnic mix, stemming from successive migrations and invasions from both the west, east and especially from northern India, according to its website.

BJP’s main candidate Suvendu Adhikari and his family holds considerable power in Tamluk, as his brother Dibyendu Adhikari, who also followed Suvendu Adhikari to BJP, had managed to hold on to the seat for TMC in the 2019 Lok Sabha polls.

Meanwhile, the Debra constituency will witness a head-to-head contest between two super cops on April 1. While BJP has fielded former IPS officer Bharati Ghosh, TMC has put forward Humayun Kabir, also an ex-IPS officer.

Many popular faces from the entertainment industry are emerging in the second phase of polls, with actors Soham Chakraborty and Sayantika Banerjee contesting from Chandipur and Bankura respectively from TMC and actor Hiranmoy Chattopadhyay from BJP contesting for the seat in Kharagpur Sadar in Paschim Medinipur.

Meanwhile, the first phase of the West Bengal Assembly elections concluded with an estimated 79.79 per cent voter turnout on Saturday, which covered 30 seats from Purulia, Jhargram, Bankura, Purba and Paschim Medinipur. (ANI)

Campaigning Ends For 2nd Phase Of Assam Elections

Campaigning for the second phase of Assam assembly polls will end on Tuesday evening.

The second phase poll is scheduled to take place on April 1. This phase will see polling on 39 seats.
As many as 345 candidates are in the fray in the second phase, including 26 women.

The total number of eligible voters in this phase is 73,44,631, of which 37,34,537 are male and 36,09,959 are female, while 135 are third gender voters.

Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) national president J P Nadda, Union Minister Smriti Irani, Assam Chief Minister Sonowal, and Hemanta Viswa Sarma will be doing hectic campaigning on Tuesday.

In 2016, the assembly polls were carried out in two phases in Assam. BJP and its allies had won 86 out of 126 seats and overthrown the Tarun Gogoi-led Congress government which ruled the state for 15 years.

Polling for the next two phases will be held on April 1 and April 6. The counting of votes will take place on May 2. (ANI)

Bengal Poll: Amit Shah Holds Roadshow In Nandigram

Union Home Minister Amit Shah on Tuesday held a roadshow in West Bengal’s Nandigram ahead of the second phase of polling in the state on April 1.

A huge number of party workers and supporters have gathered, hurling garlands and waving party flags.
Nandigram seat is experiencing a high-octane battle between turncoat Suvendu Adhikari and West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, which falls in the second phase of the state assembly elections to be held on April 1.

In phase-II, 30 seats will go to the polls to decide the fate of 171 candidates including 19 women.

The first phase of the West Bengal Assembly elections concluded with an estimated 79.79 per cent voter turnout on Saturday.

Now the remaining seven phases for the 294-member Assembly will be held on different dates with the final round of voting scheduled on April 29.

The counting of votes will take place on May 2. (ANI)