Today Picture



Rafale deal report: Cong, BJP in ugly sparring match


Chief Congress spokesperson Randeep Surjewala told a press conference here that the French news portal’s report has proved that Rahul Gandhi’s oft-repeated allegations of corruption in the deal were correct.

The Congress on Monday sought a thorough probe in the Rafale defence deal and demanded answers from Prime Minister Narendra Modi, after a French media report claimed that 1.1 million euros was paid to a “middleman” by the aircraft manufacturer.

Chief Congress spokesperson Randeep Surjewala told a press conference here that the French news portal’s report has proved that Rahul Gandhi’s oft-repeated allegations of corruption in the deal were correct.

While there was no immediate response from the BJP.

The government on the charges, they have in the past denied any irregularities in the country’s biggest defence deal. Surjewala said as per the French portal’s report, an investigation conducted by the French Anti-Corruption Agency (AFA) has revealed that after signing of the deal in 2016, Rafale’s manufacturer Dassault allegedly paid 1.1 million to a middleman~ Defsys Solutions ~ which is an Indian company.

“Does it now not require a full and independent investigation into India’s biggest defence deal to find out as to how much bribery and commission in reality, if any, was paid and to whom in the Indian government,” he asked at a press conference. “Will Prime Minister Modi answer to the nation now?” he asked.

Surjewala said this amount was shown as expenditure by Dassault as “gifts to clients”.

Surjewala said that as per the Defence Procurement Procedure (DPP), any evidence of middleman or commission or bribery has serious penal consequences including the banning of the supplier, cancellation of contract, registration of an FIR and imposition of heavy financial penalties on the company.

“Has it not vitiated the Rafale deal entailing imposition of heavy financial penalties on Dassault, banning of the company, registration of an FIR and other penal consequences,” he asked.

He asked whether the payment of 1.1 million shown by Dassault as ‘Gifts to Clients’ in reality a commission paid to the middleman for the Rafale deal.

BJP rubbishes charges: The BJP on Monday dismissed as “completely baseless” the allegations of corruption in the Rafale deal, stressing that the Supreme Court had rejected a demand for a probe in the purchase of the fighter aircraft and the CAG also found nothing wrong.

He said the allegations were “baseless” and suggested that a report in the French media about the alleged financial irregularity in the deal may be due to “corporate rivalry” in that country.

~With inputs from PTI~




Delhi COVID-19 situation: Is the national capital preparing for night curfew?


The city had reported 3,567 new cases on April 3, and 3,594 cases on April 2.

The national capital is witnessing a sharp spike in COVID-19 cases for the past three weeks.

The national capital on Monday reported 3,548 new Covid-19 cases, taking its overall tally to 6,79,962, while its test positivity rate stood at 5.54 percent, according to the health bulletin released by the Delhi government.

This is the fourth consecutive day that Delhi reported more than 3,500 new cases.

On Sunday, the national capital had reported 4,033 new cases, the highest single-day tally in 2021.

The city had reported 3,567 new cases on April 3, and 3,594 cases on April 2.

Is Delhi gearing up for a night curfew?

The Delhi government sources said the agenda of the discussion included the time period of the curfew which could be from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. like in some other states which have also reported a spike in Covid-19 like Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra.

Although the sources said the proposal was forwarded to Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, his office has said that “no such decision has been taken”.

Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal seeks permission from PM Modi for mass vaccination in Delhi

Arvind Kejriwal on Monday wrote to Prime Minister Narendra Modi urging him to allow a mass vaccination drive in the national capital, officials related to the development said.

Kejriwal in his letter has requested Modi to allow the state government to open new vaccination centres in Delhi as well as allow relaxation in the age for the inoculation and making it available to all.

With the continued rise in Covid-19 cases in the national capital in the past few weeks, the AAP-led Delhi government has been pushing for a mass vaccination drive across the city to cover all the residents of the city.

Kejriwal had earlier stated that the Delhi government can set up over 1,000 vaccination centres across the city.

“The increase in the rate of transition of Covid-19 across the country is a major concern and a challenge too. The vaccination campaign needs to be moved more rapidly in this context,” the CM said.

He claimed that if the Centre allows mass vaccination, then the Delhi government can vaccinate all the residents within three months.

(With agency inputs)




Arvind Kejriwal writes to PM seeking nod for mass vaccination in Delhi


Kejriwal had earlier stated that the Delhi government can set up over 1,000 vaccination centres across the city.

Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal on Monday wrote to Prime Minister Narendra Modi urging him to allow a mass vaccination drive in the national capital, officials related to the development said.

Kejriwal in his letter has requested Modi to allow the state government to open new vaccination centres in Delhi as well as allow relaxation in the age for the inoculation and making it available to all.

With the continued rise in Covid-19 cases in the national capital in the past few weeks, the AAP-led Delhi government has been pushing for a mass vaccination drive across the city to cover all the residents of the city.

Kejriwal had earlier stated that the Delhi government can set up over 1,000 vaccination centres across the city.

“The increase in the rate of transition of Covid-19 across the country is a major concern and a challenge too. The vaccination campaign needs to be moved more rapidly in this context,” the CM said.

He claimed that if the Centre allows mass vaccination, then the Delhi government can vaccinate all the residents within three months.

“I hope the support that the Centre had extended to Delhi would continue and you would respond positively to my request,” Kejriwal added.




India reports over one lakh new COVID-19 cases, highest incline since pandemic started


India is experiencing a sharp incline in COVID-19 cases for the past few weeks. On Monday, it reported 1,03,558 new COVID-19 cases and 469 COVID-19 related deaths, according to the Union Health Ministry official website. The country reported the highest number of COVID-19 cases since the pandemic began.

The death toll in India has climbed to 1,65,101 with 478 additional deaths, and there are 7,41,830 active cases in India right now.

The total number of COVID-19 cases in the country has risen to 1,25,89,067

In the case of recoveries, 52,847 people have been discharged after recovery in the last 24 hours, taking the nationwide tally to 1,15,25,039.

Maharashtra and Delhi continued to report a surge in COVID-19 cases on Sunday.With 57,074 new coronavirus infections, Maharashtra on Sunday evening has reported the highest single-day spike so far since the pandemic started.

As many as 4,033 new COVID-19 cases were reported in Delhi on Sunday, which is the highest single-day spike in the national capital since December 4 last year.Punjab reported 3,019 new COVID-19 cases in the last 24 hours, informed the state health department on Sunday.With the fresh COVID-19 cases, the total number of cases in the state now stands at 2,51,460. Rajasthan on Sunday reported 1,729 fresh coronavirus cases which pushed the infection tally to 3,39,325, while two fatalities took the toll in the state to 2,829, according to an official report.

As per the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), 8,93,749 samples were tested on Sunday. A total of 24,90,19,657 samples have been tested so far.

Meanwhile, according to the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, a total of 7,91,05,163 people have been vaccinated across the country till now.

From April 2, the government started vaccinating all people above 45 years. India started its vaccination drive on January 16 with priority given to all healthcare and frontline workers in the first phase. The second phase started on March 1 where doses were administered to people above the age of 60 and those between 45 and 59 years with specific comorbidities.

(With agency inputs)




China pitches for final settlement of border dispute through dialogue


Referring to the deadly clash between Indian and Chinese troops at the Galwan Valley on 15 June last year, Chinese Ambassador to India Sun Weidong admitted that every time such an incident occurred, the bilateral relationship was pushed back by years.

China has strongly pitched for a final settlement of the boundary dispute with India through dialogue, saying the time has come to ensure that there were no more military stand-offs between the two countries along the Line of Actual Control (LAC).

Referring to the deadly clash between Indian and Chinese troops at the Galwan Valley on 15 June last year, Chinese Ambassador to India Sun Weidong admitted that every time such an incident occurred, the bilateral relationship was pushed back by years. These remarks were made by the Chinese envoy in a virtual dialogue Sun had with Sudheendra Kulkarni, media commentator and a close aide to former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, on Friday. The Chinese Embassy today released the text of the dialogue.

Sun said the recent disengagement between Indian and Chinese troops at the Pangong Tso Lake was conducive to building trust and further easing the situation on the ground.

“Against this backdrop, we should implement the consensus reached by the two leaders (of the two countries) and strictly abide by the existing agreements, step up dialogue and communication, and improve the border management and control mechanisms to further ease, stabilise and control the border situation, avoid relapse and jointly safeguard peace and tranquility in the border areas,’’ he added.

The lesson of last year’s border dispute (Galwan clash) was profound and such incident should not be repeated.

“We should jointly run in the marathon of development for good results. We should encourage each other and give a helping hand when we encounter obstacles and challenges. The least we want to see China and India are in a boxing ring to fight with each other and undercut each other. That is not in the interests of either side,” he added.




TN: High-octane campaign ends


As many as 3,998 candidates, CM, his deputy, Stalin, Dhinakaran, Haasan, Seeman& Murugan are in fray

The high octane campaign for the April 6 Tamil Nadu Assembly elections ended on Sunday at 7 pm, with the stage now set for the polling on April 6 which will decide whether it will a hat-trick of terms for the AIADMK or the return of DMK after a decade in opposition.

As many as 3,998 candidates, including chief minister K Palaniswami, his deputy O Panneerselvam, DMK President MK Stalin, AMMK founder TTV Dhinakaran, actor and Makkal Needhi Maiam founder Kamal Haasan, Naam Tamizhar Katchi leader Seeman and BJP state unit chief L Murugan are in the fray. National leaders–Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Union Minister Amit Shah, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh, Congress president Rahul Gandhi were among those who campaigned for the respective ruling and opposition alliances.

The Election Commission said items and cash totally worth over Rs 428 crore have been seized in the run-up to the polls.Patrolling has been strengthened during night and early morning along with expenditure teams and this has resulted in significant seizure in the last 24 hours.Meanwhile, the last minute campaign turns out to be an attack via communication apps, sharing screenshots from alleged correspondence between parties and their election consultancy agencies.

The ruling AIADMK, steered by chief minister K Palaniswami, is keen to ensure continuation of ‘Amma aatchi’ (Amma’s rule) for an unprecedented third time while DMK president M K Stalin has invested all his resources to upset his rival’s hopes and reverse the wheel of fortune.

He also stoutly denied the existence of any anti-incumbency wave against his government, saying it delivered on its promises by implementing historic schemes and developmental projects.

Having faced the 2016 elections by its own, under the late Jayalalithaa, AIADMK has aligned with the BJP and PMK and some other local outfits. The party then won 135 seats.

The alliance is being described as a combination of Leaves, Flower and Fruit,alluding to their respective symbols.

The DMK, ousted in 2011 following a dismal show due to a number of factors including the severe power cuts, put up a more spirited performance five years later, getting elevated as the principal opposition party.

DMK chief MK Stalin, on the other hand, said the party will capture the power from AIADMK this time with a thumping majority as pre poll surveys predicted.

The Anna Arivalayam, head quarter of DMK even put out a live clock in front of it showing the count down of Stalin becoming chief minister of state showing shear confidence.

MNM leader, actor Kamal Haasan is making his electoral debut in 2021, seeking his fortunes from Coimbatore South, part of the western region often hailed as AIADMK’s fortress. He said that, he is ready to quit cinema if it becomes hurdle for his political career, which was meant for serving the people, indicating his future role in Tamil Nadu politics and confidence of making big impact in this election.

However, the BJP has managed to push its own narrative, managing to bring to the fore the issue of faith and ‘Hindu renaissance,’ something the rationalist DMK could not ignore.

Faith, generally, has not been an election topic in Tamil Nadu but the controversy surrounding ‘Karuppar Koottam’, an atheist group with alleged DMK links accused of denigrating ‘kandasashti kavacham’, prompted the BJP to launch a Vel Yatra, combining the issue with Tamil pride.

The Election Commission has made it clear that no campaign activity shall be held from now on, including in social media and through other forms of electronic communication that includes SMS. Over 6.28 crore eligible voters will choose 234 members of the 3,998 contesting the elections.




Alarming spurt: Modi reviews Covid control


As India records this year’s biggest single-day jump of 93,249 cases

Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Sunday reviewed the Covid-19 situation and vaccination exercise in the country amidst an “alarming rate of growth” in infections and deaths, with 10 states contributing to more than 91 percent of them.

India on Sunday recorded 93,249 new coronavirus infections, the highest single- day rise so far this year, which took the total Covid- 19 cases to1,24,85,509, according to Union health ministry data. This is the biggest daily rise in cases since September 19, when 93,337 fresh infections were recorded. The death toll climbed to 1,64,623 on Sunday with 513 new fatalities, the ministry data updated at 8 a.m. showed.

Registering a steady increase for the 25th straight day, the number of active cases surged to 6,91,597, accounting for 5.54per cent of the total infections. The recovery rate further dropped to 93.14 per cent, the data stated.

Modi said the five-fold strategy of testing, tracing, treatment, Covid-appropriate behaviour and vaccination if implemented with utmost seriousness and commitment would be effective in curbing the pandemic’s spread, according to an official statement.

The reasons for the sharp rise in cases could be mainly attributed to the severe decline in compliance of Covid-appropriate behaviour, especially in the use of masks and social distancing, pandemic fatigue and lack of effective implementation of containment measures at the field level, it said. It was noted in the meeting that vaccine manufacturers are ramping up their production capacity and are also in discussion with other domestic and offshore companies to augment the same.

Noting that the situation in Maharashtra, Punjab and Chhattisgarh is of serious concern, a presentation in the meeting highlighted that the western state has contributed 57 percent of the total cases and 47 percent of deaths in the country in the last 14 days.

The 10 high burden states and UTs are contributing 91.4 percent of the total cases and 90.9 percent of the total deaths in the country. Modi directed that Central teams consisting of public health specialists and clinicians be sent to Maharashtra in view of its high caseload and deaths, and to Punjab and Chhattisgarh, the statement said. For sustainable Covid- 19 management, awareness of the community and its involvement is paramount, Modi said, adding that and there is a need to continue ‘Jan Bhagidari’ and ‘Jan Andolan’.

A special campaign for Covid-appropriate behaviour with emphasis on 100 percent mask usage, personal hygiene and sanitation at public places, workplaces and health facilities will be organised between 6-14 April.

India has carried out 7,59,79,651 Covid vaccinations till now. “It was highlighted that all efforts are underway to secure adequate quantities of vaccines to meet the rising domestic requirements as well as to meet the needs of other countries,” it said.

Delhi sees 4,033 cases, highest in 4 months: In another sharp Covid spike, Delhi today recorded 4,033 coronavirus cases, the highest daily count in four months, even as the positivity rate rose to 4.64 percent from 4.48 percent the previous day.

~With inputs from PTI~




Amidst Covid resurge, Maha opts for weekend lockdown, strict norms


The new rules and guidelines, which include a night curfew from 8 p.m. to 7 a.m. and prohibitory orders during the day, will take effect from 8 p.m. Monday night

With Maharashtra in the grip of the second wave of Covid-19, the Maha Vikas Aghadi Government on Sunday announced a “weekend lockdown” across the state besides stringent weekdays norms to combat the sweeping pandemic.

The decision was taken at an emergency Cabinet meeting chaired by chief minister Uddhav Thackeray, after he held detailed discussions with all stakeholders over this weekend. The weekend curfew would commence on Fridays at 8 p.m. and end at 7 a.m. on Mondays.

While public transport in Mumbai including local trains would continue to run as usual, emphasis will be given to Work From Home (WFH) to minimise crowds.

The new rules and guidelines, which include a night curfew from 8 p.m. to 7 a.m. and prohibitory orders during the day, will take effect from 8 p.m. on Monday night.

Detailed guidelines will be issued shortly, said Mumbai guardian minister Aslam Shaikh.

The situation would be reviewed again on 15 April after which the future course would be decided.

Over the last two days, Thackeray held wide ranging consultations with a cross-section of society to get their views before toughening the norms.

The total number of new cases per day in Maharashtra has touched 47,913 which is more than double its earlier peak and has has resulted in a huge strain on the state’s medical health resources.

~With inputs from Agencies~




Coronavirus: With 81,466 new COVID-19 cases, India records highest incline in 6 months


India is experiencing a sudden incline in COVID-19 cases for the past few weeks. On Friday, it reported 81,466 new COVID-19 cases and 469 COVID-19 related deaths in the last 24 hours, according to the Union Health Ministry official website.

On Friday, the country reported the highest number of COVID-19 cases in six months.

The death toll in India has climbed to 1,63,396 with 469 new additional deaths, and there are 6,14,696 active cases in India right now.

The total number of COVID-19 cases in the country has risen to 1,23,03,131.

In the case of recoveries, 50,356 people have been discharged after recovery on Thursday, taking the nationwide tally to 1,15,25,039.

Eight States, Maharashtra, Chhattisgarh, Karnataka, Punjab, Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Gujarat, and Madhya Pradesh continue to show a steep rise in the COVID daily new cases. 84.61 percent of the new cases are reported from these 8 states, Union Health Ministry had reported on Thursday.

Maharashtra reported 43,183 COVID cases, the highest number, with 32,641 recoveries, 249 deaths on Thursday.  It was followed by Chhattisgarh with 4,563 while Karnataka reported 4,225 new cases.

Meanwhile, Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal has called an urgent meeting scheduled to be held today. The national capital had on Wednesday reported 1,819 new COVID-19. The city reported 2,790 cases on Thursday.

According to the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, a total of 6,87, 89, 138 people have been vaccinated across the country. From Thursday, the government has started vaccinating all people above 45 years.

(With agency inputs)




Bengal phase 2: Temperatures run high


Overall voter turnout at 80.43 p.c till 5 p.m.; sporadic incidents of violence as TMC accuses BJP, Central forces of voter intimidation

The phase 2 polling of Assembly elections in West Bengal recorded an overall voter turnout of 80.43 per cent till 5 p.m. amidst sporadic violence with the ruling Trinamul Congress accusing the BJP and Central forces of stopping polling agents and voters from entering polling booths.

Trinamul traded allegations of booth capturing in Nandigram, where chief minister Mamata Banerjee slammed the Election Commission over inaction to complaints filed by her party and threatened to move court over it as well as raised the issue to Governor Jagdeep Dhankhar over phone.

Tension erupted in Nandigram, where Miss Banerjee is locked in a high- stakes electoral battle with her former lieutenant Suvendu Adhikari, who has switched to the BJP, with Trinamul Congress accusing the BJP and the Central forces of stopping voters from casting their votes.

Later in the afternoon, Miss Banerjee rode her wheelchair to the polling booth at Boyal primary school and seated herself outside the booth while the situation aggravated outside.

Mr Sudip Jain, deputy Election Commissioner incharge of Bengal inquired about the Nandigram incident from Chief Electoral Officer Ariz Aftab while special and micro observers spoke to Miss Banerjee at the booth. The Commission has also sought a detailed report from the district administration in connection to this incident.

“There was disturbance between two groups following which tension had ensued. But re-enforcement of forces brought the situation under control,” said Mr Aftab. Till 5 p.m., Bankura recorded the highest voter turnout of 82.92 per cent followed by East Midnapore with 81.23 per cent while South 24 Parganas recorded a voter turnout of 79.65 per cent and West Midnapore saw a turnout of 78.02 per cent. In Nandigram 80.79 per cent voters cast their votes.

“Polling was overall peaceful except a few stray incidents. Twenty eight people were arrested in connection to two incidents in Keshpur in West Midnapore,” said Mr Aftab adding that decision on re-poll would be taken after scrutiny tomorrow.

Earlier, Mr Adhikari’s car was attacked, and stones were pelted while he was visiting booths in the constituency. Two separate stone-pelting incidents took place in Takapura and Satengabari in Nandigram.

A BJP worker was found hanging at his home at Bhekutia in Nandigram, triggering tension in the constituency. The deceased has been identified as Uday Sankar Dubey, a worker of IIT-Kharagpur and his family members lodged a complaint with the police stating that he committed suicide as some unidentified Trinamul workers had threatened him after he attended Mithun Chakraborty’s rally in the area.

Soon after polling started it was reported that a TMC worker, identified as Uttam Dolui, was stabbed to death in the early hours today. SP of West Midnapore said that some unidentified miscreants killed a TMC worker with a sharp weapon last night in Dadpur. Eight have been arrested in connection with the murder.

A BJP polling agent at booth number 173 in Keshpur was beaten up allegedly by TMC workers and was rushed to a hospital. BJP leader Tanmay Ghosh’s car was also vandalised.

Bharti Ghosh, BJP candidate from Debra constituency, alleged that her polling agent was surrounded by TMC goons in Nowpara booth no 22 of Anchal-1 who were not letting him inside the booth.

There are a few sporadic incidents of violence in Chandipur, Nandigram, Keshpur, Ghatal and Chandrakona. Few media persons were attacked and their vehicles were damaged.

In the Gosaba area of South 24 Parganas, clashes were reported between Trinamul and BJP supporters while in the Mahisadal seat, the Trinamul alleged BJP workers had stopped voters from going to the polling stations.

An overall peaceful polling was witnessed in Bankura. In booth number 73 and 74 of Sonamukhi, trouble ensued after BJP polling agent was allegedly beaten up with sticks by Trinamul workers but police reached the spot bringing the situation under control.

Polling in a few booths were stalled for few hours due to technical problems. A total of 87 VVPATS were replaced while 12 EVMs reported malfunctioning in the district. CPI-M delegation led by senior leader Rabin Deb complained to the EC against BJP and Trinamul workers for blocking voters from entering polling booths in Keshpur, Chandrakona and Ghatal





Top