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Mumbai: Fire breaks out in office of Bank of Bahrain and Kuwait at Nariman Point; none hurt

Mumbai: A fire broke out at the office of the Bank of Bahrain and Kuwait at Nariman Point in South Mumbai early Thursday morning, a fire brigade official said.

There was no report of any casualty, he said. The blaze erupted around 5.15 am in the bank's office and server room located on the ground floor of the 15-storey Jolly Maker Chamber 2 building.

The flames spread across the electric wiring and installations, office furniture, records and important documents, computers, UPS battery and false ceiling in an area of 4,000 sq ft on the ground floor, he said. The fire brigade received a call about the blaze at 5.21 am and rushed to the spot, the official said.

"No one was reported to be trapped inside," he said. Nine fire engines, including water tankers, were at the spot and efforts were on to douse the blaze, he said. The cause of the fire was yet to be ascertained, he added.

Despite opposition from Cong-NCP ministers, Uddhav keeps Ajoy Mehta as Principal Adviser


The Maharashtra government on Wednesday appointed additional chief secretary Sanjay Kumar as the next chief secretary. Kumar, who belongs to the 1984 IAS batch, will succeed incumbent and batchmate Ajoy Mehta, who retires on June 30. Kumar will take over on the same day and his tenure will be until February 2021.

Further, Mehta, who had received two extensions in all (September 2019 to March 2020 and March to June 2020), has been appointed Principal Adviser to Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray. He will be tasked with advising the CM on the restoration of economic and administrative systems post-Covid-19.

Mehta’s appointment is almost similar to that of former Cabinet Secretary PK Sinha, who after three extensions, took over as the Principal Secretary in the Prime Minister’s Office. The Free Press Journal broke the story recently. Incidentally, the government release is silent on the duration of Mehta’s appointment.

Both Mehta and Kumar abstained from comment.

With Kumar’s appointment, the CM has prioritised seniority. Apart from Kumar, additional chief secretary (general administration) Sitaram Kunte and additional chief secretary Praveen Pardeshi (urban development), from the 1985 IAS batch, had also been frontrunners for the post of chief secretary. Both Kunte and Pardeshi retire in December 2021.

A section of bureaucrats feared there would be two power centres in Mantralaya. Even though as chief secretary, Kumar will chair nearly 300 committees with a statutory role, the bureaucracy will find itself in a Catch-22 situation, having to go by Mehta’s decision, in his capacity as the Principal Adviser to the CM.

It must be mentioned here that the NCP and Congress ministers had complained to Thackeray against Mehta’s style of functioning. They had also strongly opposed another extension for Mehta after June 30. Even though Thackeray has not extended Mehta’s term, he has used his power of veto to appoint him Principal Adviser.


COVID-19: Human trial of new vaccine begins in UK

London: Volunteers have begun being immunised with a new UK coronavirus vaccine. About 300 people will have the vaccine over the coming weeks, as part of a trial led by Robin Shattock and his colleagues, at Imperial College London.

Tests in animals
Tests in animals suggest the vaccine is safe and triggers an effective immune response.

Experts at Oxford University have already started human trials, the BBC reported on Wednesday.

The trials are among many across the world – there are around 120 vaccine programmes under way.

First volunteer
Kathy, 39, who works in finance, is one of the first volunteers taking part in the Imperial trial.

She said she volunteered because she wanted to play a part in fighting the virus.

“I think it came from not really knowing what I could do to help, and this turned out to be something that I could do.

“And understanding that it’s not likely that things will get back to normal until there is a vaccine, so wanting to be part of that progress as well.”

After this first phase, another trial is being planned for October, involving 6,000 people.
The Imperial team hopes the vaccine could be distributed in the UK and overseas from early 2021.

Meanwhile the Duke of Cambridge met volunteers taking part in Oxford University’s trial, at the city’s Churchill Hospital.

Prince William told the volunteers: “It’s the most incredibly exciting and very welcome project that you’re all doing which is why it’s fascinating.”

Imperial vaccine
Many traditional vaccines are based on a weakened or modified form of virus, or parts of it, but the Imperial vaccine is based on a new approach, using synthetic strands of genetic code, called RNA, which mimic the virus.

Once injected into muscle, the RNA self-amplifies – generating copies of itself – and instructs the body’s own cells to make copies of a spike protein found on the outside of the virus.

his should train the immune system to recognise and fight coronavirus without having to develop Covid-19.

Why Black Lives Matter protests in America didn’t lead to a spike in coronavirus cases

Well, we are aware of the killing of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer last month following which protests across US began taking place even during a pandemic. We are sure that yuo'd be wondering how COVID-19 cases have not surged during these protests? We have the details of what possibly could be the reason.

It has been over three weeks that scores of Americans went to the streets to protest the killing of George Floyd. Despite thousands of people thronging the streets every day, the protests havent really led to a surge in cases - leading to speculations that social distancing rules are not so important if people are wearing masks. Well, the protesters wore masks during the protests, reported BuzzFeed News.

However, jumping to conclusions is not really a good idea, experts believe. Speaking to BuzzFeed News, Kate Grabowski, an epidemiologist at Johns Hopkins University said that it is good news that there hasn't been surge in the cases during this time adding, "all that we have learned from the epodemiology of the virus tells us that people who are in close proximity with people who are infected are at risk."

Something that is worth noting is that in cities with large protests, huge chunk of the populations were at home during the protests, according to an analysis based on cell-phone tracking data. This suggests that if there was virus transmission at protests, it is likely to have been countered by social distancing among the other cities population.

Moving on to what could be the other aspects, as per the experts. As reported by BuzzFeed News, experts agreed that wearing masks during the protests may have possibly reduced the risk of trasmission virus. However, they pointed out other reasons that could have reduced the risk. Experts say that several protesters were young which means that new infections were less likely to occur or cause severe disease which could reflect the official case count. What's more, while thousands of people took part in the protest, the numbers are still small compared to the total population of the cities.

Andrew Noymer, an epidemiologist at the University of California, Irvine told Buzzfeed News that "we will just never know for sure."

Findings by Safegraph, which was researched by researchers at San Diego State University, the University of Colorado, Denver, and Bentley University in Waltham, Massachusetts, states that the data did not allow to follow individuals but they could relate the timing of the protests and the population of cities that stayed at home.

Andrew Friedson, a health economist at the University of Colorado, Denver, said that one needs to understand what is going on with different parts of the population. Several cities have population in millions, he told Buzzfeed News.

During their research, Friedson and his team found that people in larger cities such as Aurora, Colorado, etc did not have protest while other cities did. Moreover, after the unrest began in cities with protests, it was found that stay-at-home behaviour increased.

Also, cities have also setup "pop-up" COVID-19 testing stations that has helped in concluding that low transmission rates during the protests.

New York, New Jersey and Massachusetts are the only three states in the US that are on track to contain the COVID-19 pandemic, according to data by a multidisciplinary team of epidemiologists, health experts, and public policy leaders, reported PTI.

New York state had been the epicentre of the coronavirus pandemic in the US, recording over 388,500 cases and more than 31,200 deaths so far.

However, the state has turned the tide and is reporting record low daily deaths and hospitalisations while gradually re-opening its regions.

The US has reported 2,347,022 coronavirus cases and 121,228 fatalities so far. Covid Act Now, a multidisciplinary team of technologists, epidemiologists, health experts, and public policy leaders, said that New York, New Jersey and Massachusetts are the only three states in the US on track to contain coronavirus.

"New York State is one of only three states that are on track to contain the COVID-19 according to a study by COVID Act Now. We went from one of the highest infection rates to one of the lowest and we did it by making decisions based on the science, the data and the facts -- not on politics," Governor Andrew Cuomo said.

He said New York is finally coming back and "I can't stress enough how important it is that we don't blow this incredible progress now".

He reiterated his appeal to all New Yorkers to wear a mask, get tested, socially distance, wash hands and "be smart."

Vandals damage Indian restaurant in USA's New Mexico state; paint the walls with racist graffiti

An Indian restaurant has been vandalised with racist graffiti written amid the devastation left by the attack in New Mexico state, according to media reports.

Local leaders and the community are rallying behind the Sikh-owned restaurant, India Palace, in Santa Fe, which suffered $100,000 in damages during the attack discovered on Monday, the Santa Fe New Mexican newspaper reported.

Besides causing extensive damage to the restaurant, the vandals had written slogans in support of President Donald Trump and "White Power", and racist remarks like "Go Home," according to the Santa Fe Reporter.

It said that the kitchen was completely made unusable, tables were overturned, glassware was smashed, wine racks were emptied, the statue of a "goddess" was beheaded and computers were stolen.

The restaurant had reopened only recently after being closed due to the COVID-19 restrictions.

Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham tweeted on Tuesday, "We will not stand for such hatred in New Mexico." She added that she had spoken to restaurant-owner Bajit Singh to "let him know that our community is with him."

Mayor Alan Webber described the vandalism a "sickening and appalling" hate crime and vowed, "We will find whoever did it and punish them to the full extent of the law."

He said, "The Singhs are a long-standing Sikh family that has used its own resources to feed homeless Santa Feans through the goodness of their hearts. For them to be attacked this way breaks our hearts."

The Singh family distributes free packages of food and sanitary products for homeless people in the area and these items were stolen during the attack, according to the Reporter.

The Reporter said that five fundraising campaigns have been launched to help the restaurant.

A 'GoFundMe' campaign by another restaurant Paper Dosa had raised more than $35,000, the New Mexican said.

One of the pictures of the graffiti posted on the Reporter's website was against the terrorist organisation Islamic State.

Because of their turbans, Sikhs are sometimes mistaken for Islamists or Iranian clergy who are represented in the media with turbans and are attacked.

The Council on American-Islamic Relations National Communications Director Ibrahim Hooper said in a statement, "This disturbing hate attack once again demonstrates that growing white supremacy, xenophobia, Islamophobia, and racism target every minority community and must be challenged by people of all races, faiths, and backgrounds."

Female banker attacked by a constable in Surat, Nirmala Sitharaman demands strict action

In a shocking incident on Tuesday morning, a policeman slapped and manhandled a lady banker in Surat leaving the woman with a fracture. This incident took place at Canara Bank (e-Syndicate bank) Saroli Branch in the city.

The incident was caught on camera and created a wave of outrage on Social media.

Check out the CCTV footage here:


After the outrage over the incident, an FIR was filed by the police.

Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman also took note of the incident and demanded strict action against the constable. She also said that she will be closely following this matter.

"Spoke to Dr. Dhaval Patel, Collector, Surat, on the incident of a lady staff of a Bank being assaulted in the premises. Although currently on leave, he assured me that timely action will be taken on the FIR filed late night," She tweeted.

Check out her tweets here:


The Finance Minister also said, "My office spoke to the Commissioner of Police, Shri. Bhrambhatt (IPS). He has assured us that he himself will visit the branch & assure the staff of their safety. Also, he assured that the accused constable shall be suspended immediately."

Misadventures of a dynasty: JP Nadda blames Congress for 'losing thousands of sq km of land to Pakistan and China'

BJP President JP Nadda on Wednesday hit out at the Congress top-brass over its constant criticism of the current government’s handling of the China issue along Galwan Valley in Eastern Ladakh.

Citing a question answered in Rajya Sabha, Nadda tweeted, “Due to the misadventures of one dynasty: We lost thousands of square kilometers of our land. The Siachen glacier was almost gone. And much more. No wonder India has rejected them.”

Nadda highlighted a question raised by BJP member YS Chowdary in the Rajya Sabha in 2012.

Chowdary had asked the following questions:

(a) the details of land illegally occupied by Pakistan and China along the border;

(b) whether it is a fact that Pakistan and China are further encroaching the land of India;

(c) the population of the areas under unlawful possession of Pakistan and China;

(d) whether it is also a fact that China and Pakistan have changed the features of land occupied illegally by them; and

(e) the steps taken/being taken by Government in this regard?

To which the government answered

(a) Pakistan has been in illegal and forcible occupation of approximately 78,000 sq. kms. of Indian Territory in Jammu and Kashmir. China continues to be in illegal occupation of approximately 38,000 sq. kms. in the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir. In addition, under the so-called `Sino-Pakistan Boundary Agreement of 1963`, Pakistan illegally ceded 5180 sq. kms. of Indian territory in Pakistan Occupied Kashmir to China.

(b) to (e) Government remains continually vigilant and is firm in its resolve to take all necessary steps to effectively safeguard India’s security and territorial integrity.Government is aware that Pakistan and China are executing projects in Indian territories under illegal occupation of those countries. Government keeps a constant watch on all developments having a bearing on India’s national interest and takes all necessary measures to safeguard it.

Nadda’s Siachen allegation

India and Pakistan have had several encounters in Siachen valley, but have on three occasions almost come to an agreement. The last one was in 2006 where a deal was almost struck, but for the role of former national security advisor MK Narayanan. India and Pakistan had twice previously tried having talks about the glacier – once in 1989 and the other in 1992. All three discussions were conducted when the Congress government was in power (1989 – Rajiv Gandhi; 1992 – PV Narasimha Rao; 2006 – Manmohan Singh)

Reportedly, according to former foreign secretary Shyam Saran’s book, Manmohan Singh was keen on the deal with Pakistan, and had even got concerned stakeholders on board, including the army that was headed by General VK Singh, who is now a senior BJP leader.

However, Narayanan launched an offensive saying that Pakistan could not be trusted. He was then backed by the Army Chief, who had until that point been on board with the negotiations, Saran wrote in his book.

Six years later, according to this India Today report, the Indian Army under VK Singh’s leadership, held a discussion on the strategic disadvantages of demilitarising Siachen, in wake of Manmohan Singh’s latest initiative to hold peace talks with Pakistan.

J&K: In separate cases, security forces recover arms and ammunition, arrest 4 LeT terrorist associates

In two separate cases, security forces recovered arms and ammunition, and arrested 4 LeT terrorist associates in Jammu and Kasmir from Poonch and Sopore respectively.

Arms and ammunition were recovered from the Surankote area of Poonch district on June 23, after a joint operation was conducted by the security forces. Meanwhile, in a second search operation on Wednesday 4 Lashkar-e-Taiba terrorist associates were apprehended in Sopore, following a search operation in Pothka Muqam and Chanpora Athoora.

"Sopore Police along with 52 Rashtriya Rifles and Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) launched cordon and search operations (CASOs) simultaneously in Pothka Muqam and Chanpora Athoora and apprehended 4 Lashkar-e-Taiba terrorist associates," said Jammu and Kashmir Police. Further investigation is underway.

Whereas, in a joint search operation of the Indian Army and Special Operations Group (SOG) conducted in Poonch one Under Barrel Grenade Launcher (UBGL) gun and 212 rounds were recovered, said the officials.


NCP chief Sharad Pawar was willing to join hands with BJP, claims former Maharashtra CM Devendra Fadnavis

Maharashtra's Leader of Opposition and former Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis on Tuesday claimed that NCP chief Sharad Pawar considered an alliance with BJP and had initiated talks after it parted ways with the Shiv Sena in 2019 after the Maharashtra assembly elections.

“When we realised Shiv Sena is breaking alliance with us, we looked for options and then we got an offer from Sharad Pawar and not Ajit Pawar,” said the former CM, while talking to Marathi journalist Raju Parulekar in an interview. The former CM also claimed Sharad Pawar later changed his mind and cornered BJP in Maharashtra.

Fadnavis said that NCP chief considered the alliance with BJP as he was against the alliance of 3 parties considering its stability. He said, “After denial by Sharad Pawar, one day, Ajit Pawar came to us and said that government consisting of 3 parties (INC, Shiv Sena, NCP) will be unstable and thus for the benefit of Maharashtra he is ready to form the government with BJP.” "After that we formed our government," added the leader of opposition.

Fadnavis also justified the formation of the government with Ajit Pawar in November 2019. The former CM went on to say that if the Supreme Court’s decision had not gone against them (he and Ajit Pawar), they would have run the government successfully.

The former CM also spoke about Shiv Sena and reiterated that the BJP never promised Shiv Sena a two-and-a-half year term as chief minister. He also said that the issues between BJP and Sena could have been sorted out but Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray did not even speak with him during those days.

In a stunning turn of events, Fadnavis had on November 23 returned as chief minister propped up by Ajit Pawar, who was made his deputy. Both were sworn in a hush-hush early morning ceremony but the government lasted only 78 hours.

NEET, JEE Main exam: HRD Ministry may consider postponement

New Delhi: NEET UG exam is scheduled to be held on 26th July whereas, the scheduled dates for JEE Main exam are 18, 20, 21, 22, and 23 July. However, the HRD Ministry may postpone the exams amid coronavirus pandemic. The new dates may be decided after reviewing the prevailing situation.

Demand to postpone NEET, JEE main exam
Many students and parents are demanding the postponement of the examination. They also started social media campaigns with #HealthOverNEETJEE, #Studentslivesmatter, etc.

National Testing Agency (NTA) has also received requests from thousands of students for delaying the schedule of the examinations.

Netizens’ demand
One of the Twitterati wrote, “Please this situation will be too depressing to give exam. While giving such exam there is already anxiety nd than giving in such condition is not at all right”.

Manash Pratim Gohain
 · 9 Jun 2020
37% of the #AbhyasTestTakers having no access to private coaching, 45% are from semi-urban, rural & underserved areas. Are we witnessing a paradigm shift? A @timesofindia page 1 #exclusive report. #JEEMain #NEET #Exams2020 #NTA #policy #accessibility #equality #DigitalIndia

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Please this situation will be too depressing to give exam. While giving such exam there is already anxiety nd than giving in such condition is not at all right #postponeneet2020 #postponejee #HealthOverExams #StudentLivesMatter

19:44 - 10 Jun 2020
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Another twitter user wrote, “What’s the point of conducting national level exams, risking both students & their families’ life in danger, when colleges itself are closed!!”.


 · 20h
WHO warns World once again about the drastic increase of Covid Cases & India also faces the same, isn't the decision of conduction of exams completely in human and unsympathetic ! 
Who will be responsible if students get affected during examination? #NoExamsInCovid

Soumyajit Das
What's the point of conducting national level exams, risking both students & their families' life in danger, when colleges itself are closed!!
 #postponejeeneet #NoExamsInCovid

05:59 - 22 Jun 2020
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Riya Chaubey, a netizen wrote, ” U will be responsible for the life of 30 lakh+ students and their parents that totals as 60 lakh+ And then when they’ll go back to their home their remaining family members would be affected that totals to 1 lakh or more How can you do that wid us “.

Manash Pratim Gohain
 · 9 Jun 2020
37% of the #AbhyasTestTakers having no access to private coaching, 45% are from semi-urban, rural & underserved areas. Are we witnessing a paradigm shift? A @timesofindia page 1 #exclusive report. #JEEMain #NEET #Exams2020 #NTA #policy #accessibility #equality #DigitalIndia

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Riya Chaubey
U will be responsible for the life of 30 lakh+ students and their parents that totals as 60 lakh+ 
And then when they'll go back to their home their remaining family members would be affected that totals to 1 lakh or more 
How can you do that wid us

23:41 - 20 Jun 2020
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