Today Picture

Lockdown 2.0: Lockdown 2.0: Areas with fewer COVID-19 hotspots will have some leeway after April 20, but terms and conditions apply

Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday addressed the nation for the fourth time since the coronavirus pandemic broke out. Addressing the nation, he said that the lockdown will go until May 3, 2020.

Addressing the nation, PM Modi said that the nation has to ensure that more hotspots aren't formed. "Till 20th April, all districts, localities, states will be closely monitored, as to how strictly they are implementing norms. States which will not let hotspots increase, they could be allowed to let some important activities resume, but with certain conditions," the PM said.

While talking about the novel coronavirus, COVID-19, PM Modi said that India was one of the first contries to start screening at airports. "Before the global numbers touched 100, we began isolating people for 14 days. We had shut public places before India's numbers began rising. When the global numbers were 550, we put forth the 21-day lockdown," the PM said.

While talking about how India has tackled the virus, PM Modi said that nations that were on par with India, but the number of cases manifolded then. "We attribute it to the holistic approach put by the government, and if it was not for this, it's scary to think what would have happened in India," the PM said.

PM Modi said social distancing and lockdown has been advantage to India, albeit at a cost. "However, nothing can compromise the lives of the people of India," he added.

While speaking on the spread of the virus, PM Modi said that health experts and governments are still trying to figure out how to move ahead. "We need to figure how to beat the virus and move on with our lives," he said.

This speech comes after PM Modi had a discussion with Chief Ministers of the country on Saturday to discuss the course of action to tackle the coronavirus pandemic that has put India on hold. During that meeting, many CMs were for the idea of extending the lockdown to April 30, with some of them even going ahead and announcing the same.

Earlier, the first two speeches were live and the third one was a pre-recorded. While the first speech spoke of the Janta Curfew, the second speech addressed a 21-day lockdown period. The third speech was when he requested the people of India to stand united to dispel the darkness by lighting diyas and candles.


Ambedkar Jayanti 2020: Nehru got in 1955, so why didn’t BR Ambedkar get a Bharat Ratna till 1990?

It’s without a doubt that BR Ambedkar was one of the most remarkable Indians to ever live. So why wasn’t he given a Bharat Ratna till 1990?

After all, Nehru got it in 1955 (which makes it a tad suspicious since he was the PM), Indira Gandhi got in 1971 (while she was PM). BR Ambedkar got his in 1990, under the VP Singh government. This was 44 years after he passed away in in 1956.

Consider this, that the Rajiv – two generations younger than BR Ambedkar – got the award in the 1991, along with Sardar Patel, who also got it posthumously.

That would’ve something to do with his politics, his unflinching ideals and the fact that he cared about people more than plaudits.

Born on 14th April, 1891 BR Ambedkar, Ambedkar only got the Bharat Ratna in 1990, under a VP Singh government, that too posthumously.

In 2018, PM Modi had noted, albeit a tad misinformed: “There is no place for Dalits in the heart of the Congress. This has been continuing for last many decades. Even the Congress has no respect for Ambedkar. They did everything to defeat him in the 1952 general elections and the bypoll to Bhandara parliamentary constituency in 1953. He said the Congress humiliated Ambedkar till they were in power. "They did not even confer the Bharat Ratna on him. It was only when Atal Bihari Vajpayee Ji formed the government that Babasaheb was conferred the title", he said.

Ambedkar was a guy, in the language of millennials, who had no chill and was savage AF.

When the Bombay Legislative Council debated more powers for panchayats, he had famously said: “A population which is hidebound by caste; a population which is infected by ancient prejudices; a population which flouts equality of status and is dominated by notions of gradations in life; a population which thinks that some are high and some are low — can it be expected to have the right notions even to discharge bare justice? Sir, I deny that proposition, and I submit that it is not proper to expect us to submit our life, and our liberty, and our property to the hands of these panchayats.”

He didn’t shy away from calling a spade a spade and perhaps that had something to do with his unpopularity with the powers-that-be.

In fact, he resigned from the Cabinet in 1951 when the Parliament stalled the Hindu Code Bill, which sought to enshrine gender inequality in laws of inheritance and marriage. He also wanted a uniform civil code.

The Congress would subsequently humiliate him in the 1952 election. Ambedkar stood from Bombay Central where he lost to the Congress candidate Narayan Kajrolkar who rode on a Nehru wave to beat Ambedkar by over 15,000 votes!

He later became a member of Rajya Sabha but would continue to face electoral reversals, coming third in Bhadara bypoll in 1954, coming third. Ambedkar’s loss was a reminder that the populist choice wasn’t always the best.

Ambedkar famously made three prophetic warnings that would hurt Indian democracy

1) personality or bhakti cult

2) continuing to use unconstitutional means during freedom struggle against British rule

3) increasing social and economic inequality amid political equality.

All three are conspicuously present in Indian democracy today. In fact, most people who shout Jai Bhim would've baulked at his actual political views. He was a true visionary and paid the price of not tempering his views to keep in line with the realpolitik of his time.


Craving a drink in Mumbai? Alcohol body writes to Maha CM requesting ‘phased reopening’ of wine shops

The Confederation of Indian Alcoholic Beverage Companies (CIABC) has written to Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray, recommending that wine shops and distilleries be opened in a phased manner, CNBC-TV18 reported.

Raising concerns about the rise of spurious liquor sales in the state, CIABC said that taxes on alcoholic beverages is one of the most vital revenue sources for all state governments.

Notably, there have been WhatsApp groups forwarding numbers of people selling alcohol in cities like Mumbai at escalated rates – some even more than double the MRP.

On April 4, the Vashi Police raided a restaurant and bar in Navi Mumbai and seized liquor worth Rs 1.31 lakh which was being sold illegally.

Earlier, West Bengal's excise department had, on Wednesday, permitted home delivery of liquor during the coronavirus lockdown. The facility was to be available from 2:00 pm to 5:00 pm from stores, restaurants and bars with valid permits. However, this order was later revoked.

Meanwhile, with suicide cases being reported from various parts of the state after liquor sales were stopped here following the 21-day nationwide lockdown was enforced, CM Pinarayi Vijayan has directed the Excise Department to provide liquor to those with a prescription from doctors.

Moreover, Kerala government has also asked Excise Department to provide free treatment and admit people with withdrawal symptoms to de-addiction centers. However, this was rejected by the Kerala High Court

Additionally, CM had said that the government is also considering option of online sale of liquor as the sudden unavailability of alcohol may lead to social problems.

If the Maharashtra government approves the CIABC request, then it would not only put an end to the illegal sale of alcohol, but also there will be chances that the sale of spurious liquor will also come down.


Unlocking the lockdown: Areas may be divided into red, orange and green zones

New Delhi: Even as the nation remains in a state of limbo, the government at Centre has decided to come out of hibernation. Most Joint secretaries and others holding senior positions will be driving to their places of work on Monday (April 13). So will one third of the subordinate staff, who will work on a rotational basis.

However, those living in vulnerable hotspots or containment zones will remain cooped up indoors at their residence. Since public transport is not operational, those who have personal conveyance will take priority over others.

Whether they will be allowed to poll car rides is another matter as social distancing is the new normal in workplace. To enable the country to come out of quarantine, it has been decided to divide the country into red, orange and green zones, depending on the incidence of Covid-19 in these areas.

Red zone -- where sizeable number of cases have been detected or areas which were declared hotspots -- will stay in a stay of deep freeze; as against this, some restricted services will be allowed in the green zone -- where there have been no Covid-19 cases.

In the orange zones — where only a few cases were detected in the past with no increase in the number since then — minimal activity will be allowed.

Farm operations are another priority area and wheat procurement will be facilitated. Online education comes next, so that the students can be in control of their lives again. Depending on the success of the pilot scheme, small shop/vendors will be allowed to come out of the closet. Next in line could be small businesses.

Went from Khandala to Mahabaleshwar because we were concerned for family's well-being, claim Wadhawans

Mumbai: Four days after a political furore, scam-accused Kapil Wadhawan and his brother Dheeraj on Sunday gave their side of the story about their hill-station hopping trip in violation of lockdown norms.

In a detailed statement issued through their legal firm, the duo said they travelled from a rented accommodation in Khandala to their ancestral home in Mahabaleshwar as they were genuinely concerned for the health of their family owing to the coronavirus pandemic. They had heard that there were possible coronavirus cases in Khandala, the statement says.

The fact that their mother, aged 70 years who has a multitude of health problems, was with them, had heightened their concern for the well-being of their family, including spouses and children.

Besides, Kapil suffers from hypertension and was recently hospitalised while Dheeraj is also a heart patient who underwent emergency angioplasty in Switzerland in January 2018, and spent time in a hospital ICU in November 2019 for a severe lung infection, which the ED was aware of, the statement added.

Considering the circumstances, the Wadhawans thought it fit to travel further away from Khandala and Mumbai and thus decided to go to their ancestral residence in Mahabaleshwar.

The Wadhawans also refuted speculation that they are not cooperating with the ED and the CBI and are absconding or flouting lockdown rules. Attempting to set right the record, the Wadhawans said that within 24 hours, the CBI had issued three notices to them in March for appearance at short notice.

On March 15, in the last communication to the CBI, they referred to the advisories of the Centre and state governments asking citizens to avoid unnecessary travel in view of the rapid spread of coronavirus, making it inadvisable for them to return to Mumbai from Khandala.

Earthquake in Delhi: Tremors felt in Delhi-NCR amid lockdown

On Sunday, several Twitter users complained about tremors in Delhi.

News agency ANI also reported that tremors were felt in Delhi and the National Capital Region.

As per initial reports, tremors were felt at 5:45 PM and it was a magnitude of 3.4 on the Richter Scale. The epicentre of the earthquake in East Delhi.


Epicentre of the earthquake in East Delhi, 3.5 on richter scale: IMD …


Earthquake tremors felt in Delhi-NCR.

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5:28 AM - Apr 12, 2020
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Srishti Choudhary
Tremors felt in the National Capital region at 5:45 pm. Magnitude : 3.4 as per initial reports. #Earthquake

5:27 AM - Apr 12, 2020
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Felt earthquake reported in New Delhi #India 10 min ago. More info soon

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5:20 AM - Apr 12, 2020
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Earthquake in Delhi: Tremors felt in Delhi-NCR amid lockdown 

Earthquake in Delhi: Tremors felt in Delhi-NCR amid lockdown

Easter 2020: PM Modi extends Easter greetings prays that it gives added strength to fight COVID-19

On Sunday, Prime Minister Narendra Modi extended Easter greetings and prayed that the day gives added strength to successfully overcome COVID-19.

Taking to Twitter, PM Modi wrote: "Best wishes to everyone on the special occasion of Easter. We remember the noble thoughts of Lord Christ, especially his unwavering commitment to empowering the poor and needy. May this Easter give us added strength to successfully overcome COVID-19 and create a healthier planet."

Narendra Modi

Best wishes to everyone on the special occasion of Easter. We remember the noble thoughts of Lord Christ, especially his unwavering commitment to empowering the poor and needy. May this Easter give us added strength to successfully overcome COVID-19 and create a healthier planet.

7:43 PM - Apr 11, 2020
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Easter marks the resurrection of Jesus Christ following his crucifixion on Good Friday. It also marks the culmination of Lent, a 40-day period of fasting and penance.

As the mass gatherings have been suspended across the country in view of the coronavirus outbreak, churches India remain closed on Easter. On April 21 last year, devotees had gathered at churches across India at midnight on Easter. Churches were decked up with flowers as people attended the ceremonial midnight mass to offer prayers in devotional fervour.

However, this year, live-streaming of services is being done at several churches amid 21-day COVID-19 lockdown, which was announced by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on March 24. After Odisha, Punjab and Rajasthan, Maharashtra also on Saturday extended the lockdown in the state till April 30 to check the spread of the coronavirus crisis.

Coronavirus in Mumbai: Six Taj Hotel staff suspected to have contracted COVID-19 virus

Six staff members of the Taj Mahal Palace Hotel at Colaba have been admitted to a private hospital as they are suspected to have contracted the COVID-19 virus. While samples have been taken from these staff members, their tests reports are still awaited. Dr Gautam Bhansali, consultant surgeon at Bombay Hospital, said the patients admitted are employees of the Taj Mahal Palace Hotel, Colaba, and are currently undergoing treatment at the hospital.

“We have taken the samples of the staff, which have been sent to Kasturba Hospital for testing,” Bhansali said. Dr Daksha Shah, deputy executive health officer with the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) said that earlier, three employees of Taj Mahal Palace Hotel had tested positive, following which they were isolated at Bombay Hospital.

“Now, few patients have been hospitalized, but I don’t know whether they are from Taj Hotel or not,” Shah said. A statement released by a spokesperson for Indian Hotels Company Limited (ICHL), which owns the Taj chain of hotels, read, “IHCL has been supporting the Government with various humanitarian initiatives by offering its hotels to the medical fraternity, health workers, supporting certain states with quarantine facilities and also providing almost 4 lakh meals till date to Doctors, health workers and migrant workers.

The President, Taj Lands End, Taj Santacruz and Ginger Andheri are also hosting the medical fraternity in close cooperation with BMC. In keeping with our values of being a responsible company and as a matter of abundant precaution, we have been proactively ramping up testing criteria for our employees, especially those who are in the front lines at these times.”

“Approximately 500 of our employees who are at work in our Mumbai hotels have been tested to date. Those who have tested positive mostly were asymptomatic showing absolutely no signs of illness. However, staff testing positive and symptomatic were duly hospitalized and others who were in contact with them have immediately been put in quarantine in accordance with World Health Organization (WHO) norms and guidelines issued by the local Government authorities.

Taj Mahal Palace and Tower does not have any guests at the current time and only very minimal staff in areas like housekeeping, security, maintenance and staff dining are present to ensure the upkeep and maintenance of the hotel,”

“The safety of our associates and their families remain paramount during these unprecedented times. We remain committed to operating under all the guidelines of the WHO, Governmental agencies and other regulatory bodies,” the spokesperson added.


When fisherman can't venture into the sea in monsoon, they repair their nets: MMRDA commissioner

The MMRDA has the maximum number of infrastructure projects in its kitty but now, with the coronavirus outbreak, all these are stalled. How do you plan to catch up with deadlines?

I am foreseeing the extension of project deadlines, as all work has stopped and restarting is sure to take a long time. Factories supplying steel, cement and other construction material are also closed. But we are ready and are currently keeping ourselves busy with other project-related work.

Won't this delay increase project costs?

We should refer to this as 'excess cost in project expenditure'. All nations and governments have realised that the costs are going to rise -- on humanitarian grounds, you must feed your labour force, you have to pay your work team, which is currently sitting idle at home and we have to do that because at this critical juncture, we cannot shirk these responsibilities. Also, as the lockdown gets over, we aware that if the economy has to be revised, we are going to play a major role. Investment in infrastructure projects will bring happiness to those associated with them. For instance, several industries like steel and cement are involved, several engineers are working, as is a huge labour force. Annually, we generate employment to the tune of 60,000 man-days. Therefore, the economy will get a lot of support from organisations like the MMRDA and we are well aware of our role. We are ready to bounce back.

How much more time and excess expenditure will ongoing projects entail?

This is a matter of detail, which we will understand only after the lockdown is over. However, we are reviewing projects and doing our homework. There is a popular saying, which goes: When fishermen cannot venture into the sea during the monsoon, they sit and repair their nets. We are doing the same. We are working from home, preparing and publishing tender documents, answering bidders' queries, holding pre-bid meetings etc.

Tell us about pre-monsoon related works.

Shortly, the desilting of nullahs on the Western and Eastern Express Highways and all other pre-monsoon related work will begin.

The MMRDA has borrowed money from international agencies for various projects. Will funding be affected because of the coronavirus outbreak?

Meetings are underway and correspondence is going on. Since people are well aware of this situation worldwide, I don't think they will change their minds and cancel any line of credit. In fact, I strongly believe this will not happen. There might be a delay in the release of funds but no other problems should arise.

At various project sites, migrant labourers have been provided shelter by the MMRDA. What precautions are being taken in current pandemic situation?

We are taking care of all our workers, it is also our responsibility. Proper sanitisation is being undertaken, to ensure that no one gets infected. Besides ensuring proper healthcare, we are keeping our workforce amply fed.

The MMRDA had planned to launch Metro Lines 7 and 2A by 2020-end.

Once the lockdown is lifted and civil work can be resumed, our target will be to get going in full swing...

Any message for those worried about the future of infrastructure projects?

At this time, all I can say is, stay safe, these are difficult times and everybody should take care. Do not worry about the future of infrastructure projects in Mumbai and the Mumbai Metropolitan Region. We are aware of our responsibilities and everything will be handled with care.


4% of those with underlying respiratory condition tested positive for coronavirus: ICMR

According to a study published in the Indian Journal of Medical Research, nearly four per cent of people in Maharashtra who suffer from severe acute respiratory illness (SARI) have been diagnosed CoVID-positive.

The Indian Council for Medical Research (ICMR) had collected swab samples from 553 people suffering from SARI in Maharashtra, of whom 21 (3.8 per cent) tested CoVID-positive and did not have any international travel history.

Considering the rising number of such cases, health experts are saying the outbreak has now undeniably entered the community transmission phase. The ICMR has been conducting random sampling tests on patients, having tested 5,911 SARI samples from February 15 to April 2.

Of these, 104 people - 1.8 per cent of those who were tested - from 52 districts in 20 states and union territories tested positive for coronavirus. “In at least 40 cases (39.2 per cent of those who tested positive), there was no foreign travel history or any connection with a foreign traveller.

These cases were reported from 36 Indian districts in 15 states. In 15 Indian states, more than one per cent of SARI patients were CoVID-positive,” said an official.

The highest number of SARI samples were collected from Gujarat (792), followed by Tamil Nadu (577), Maharashtra (553) and Kerala (502). In Maharashtra, 21 of the 553 SARI samples in Maharashtra were confirmed COVID-positive, higher than other states.

Doctors from the Indian Medical Association have said that Maharashtra has entered Stage 3 but the government is not accepting it. “The ICMR study also shows community transmission has begun but to avoid creating panic among citizens, the government is not revealing it,” he said.

Dr Om Shrivastava, infectious diseases expert, said it was too early to comment on the study, as for now, they were focusing on the immune system of patients. “It has been learnt that many patients with good immunity have also tested positive for corona,” he said