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China’s coronavirus death toll rises to 2,345, more than 76,200 infected

Beijing: The overall death toll in mainland China due to the deadly coronavirus has increased to 2,345, while the number of confirmed cases reached 76,288, health authorities said on Saturday.

The country's National Health Commission said that it received reports of 397 new confirmed and 109 deaths on Friday from 31 provincial-level regions and the Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps, Xinhua news agency. Among the deaths, 106 were in Hubei province and one each in Hebei Province, Shanghai and the Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps.


Another 1,361 new suspected cases were reported Friday, said the Commission. Also on Friday, 2,393 people were discharged from hospital after recovery, while the number of severe cases decreased by 156 to 11,477. The commission added that 5,365 people were still suspected of being infected with the virus. A total of 20,659 people had been discharged from hospital after recovery.

As of Saturday morning, the number of confirmed cases outside China were reported in Japan (727), South Korea (346), Singapore (86), Hong Kong (69), Thailand (35), Taiwan (26), Malaysia (22), Iran (18), Italy (17), Australia (17), Germany (16), Vietnam (16), the US (16), France (12), Macau (10), the UK (nine), the UAE (nine), Canada (nine), India (three), the Philippines (three), Russia (two), Spain (two), Israel (one), Egypt (one), Lebanon (one), Cambodia (one), Finland (one), Nepal (one), Sri Lanka (one), Sweden (one) and Belgium (one), according to figures published by the South China Morning Post. The deaths outside China were recorded in Iran (four), Japan (three), South Korea (two), Hong Kong (two), Italy (one), France (one) and the Philippines (one).


Donald Trump to discuss CAA, NRC issues with Modi during India visit: Senior US official

Washington DC [USA]: United States President Donald Trump will discuss the issues concerning the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) and the proposed National Registrar of Citizens (NRC) with Prime Minister Narendra Modi during his upcoming visit to India, a senior US Administration official said on Friday.

Speaking to reporters here, the official said that the US has great respect for Indian Democratic traditions and institutions and "will continue to encourage India to uphold" them. "President Trump will talk about our shared tradition of democracy and religious freedom, both, in his public remarks and certainly in private. He will raise these issues, particularly the religious freedom issue that's very important for this (Trump) administration. We have our shared commitment of upholding our universal values, the rule of law," the senior official told the reporters here.

"We have great respect for Indian Democratic traditions and institutions and we will continue to encourage India to uphold those traditions. We are concerned about the issues that you (the reporter) have raised," the official said, referring to the reporter's questions on whether the CAA and NRC issues would be raised.


"The president will talk about these issues, in his meetings with Prime Minister Modi and note that the world is looking at India to continue to uphold its democratic tradition," the official added. CAA, which promises citizenship to Hindu, Sikh, Jain, Parsi, Buddhist, and Christian refugees from Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Bangladesh, is facing stiff opposition across the country with some states including Kerala, West Bengal, Rajasthan and Punjab refusing to implement it.

Accompanied by a 12-member delegation, President Trump will arrive in India on a two-day visit on February 24. The visiting dignitary is also expected to attend an event at the Motera Stadium in Ahmedabad, named 'Namaste Trump,' on the lines of the 'Howdy Modi' function that was addressed by the US President and Modi in Houston in September last year.

Trump and First Lady Melania Trump will have an extensive schedule for February 25 when they arrive in the national capital of India. According to sources, there will be multiple meetings and delegation-level talks apart from the exchange of agreements.


Young Turks from JNU running the UP Congress now, cadre clueless once again

Lucknow: On 13 of February, when Congress’ national spokesperson Randeep Surjewala held a press conference in Lucknow to oppose the Bhartiya Janta Party’s alleged attempt to “destroy constitution and reservation policy”, the Uttar Pradesh Congress announced that it would organise “Samvidhan Chaupal” across State 16 February onwards to make people aware of “BJP strategy”.

The move was viewed as the party’s attempt to woo Dalits, Tribals and OBCs ahead of the 2022 Assembly polls.

A week on, the program hasn’t taken off. Senior leaders FPJ spoke to cited cluelessness.

When FPJ asks Pradip Narwal, the UP in-charge of SC/ST department who was supposed to head the campaign, he admits “Samvidhan Chaupal is bit delayed. Meanwhile, we are starting “Arakshan Yatra” from Meerut to Gorakhpur 25 February onwards.”

This exposes the party’s way of functioning in the most politically significant State where it is struggling for survival since long. This is not the only gaffe though.

A month ago, the State unit abruptly removed the UP-media coordinator Rajiv Tyagi, although it was not entitled to do so. The decision was silently backed by the national leadership and Tyagi was shown the door which shocked the cadre and leaders both. A fresh team of nine Media panellists has been formed Friday which includes JNU alumnus Anup Patel and veteran leaders.

Sandeep Singh, a JNU alumnus believed to be Rahul Gandhi’s political advisor and speech writer since 2017, is calling the shots in Uttar Pradesh now, say senior leaders who have been sidelined under the new set-up.

Singh, who hails from Pratapgarh in UP and has been associated with India Students Association (AISA), the student wing of the far-Left CPIM. After leaving JNU, Singh became part of Arvind Kejriwal-led movement for Lokpal. Later, he switched to Congress.

Narwal was the joint secretary of JNU’s ABVP unit in 2016 when Kanhaiya Kumar controversy broke out and switched sides later.

Other JNU alumni who have bagged the crucial posts in UP recently are- former JNSU president Mohit Pandey as Social Media head and Anup Patel (OBC Cell head).

The minority department head Shahnawaz Alam also a former AISA member and Anil Yadav who heads the monitoring Cell have reportedly spent less than two years in the party.

Young Turks trying to sail the ship

Congress which has started showing sign of revival off late following frequent trips and outreach campaigns of General Secretary Priyanka Gandhi, seems to be headed no way once again, say insiders.

“Instead of experienced leaders, “Young Turks” with leftist ideology are running most departments in the Congress. The party has high hopes from them while they aren’t well versed with the party themselves,” a senior leader says. As new members have taken over, most senior leaders have started distancing themselves from day to day affairs.

Party leaders claim that it’s the leftist brigade which was behind showing door to veteran leaders for “indiscipline” a couple of months back. “Expelling former MPs and ministers didn’t serve any purpose. Rather it gave a wrong message that the Congress is anti-Brahmin.”

Many of those expelled leaders have now formed “Real Congress” and working on to revive the party in many districts.

Virendra Madan, party spokesperson merely says, “The party currently has a mix of fresh and senior leaders which is good as the future belongs to the young.”


Congress workers distribute beef curry in front of police station in Kerala's Kozhikode

Kozhikode: Amid reports of beef being dropped from the menu for state police trainees in Kerala, the Congress workers distributed beef curry and bread in front of the Mukkam police station in Kozhikode on Tuesday.

The distribution of beef curry and bread was initiated by Kerala Pradesh Congress Committee (KPCC) general secretary Advocate K Praveen Kumar.

"This is a clear sign of Kerala CM Pinarayi Vijayan's Sangh leanings. He met Modi immediately after taking oath as CM and by understanding with BJP he appointed Loknath Behra as Director General of Police.

Behra had given a clean chit to Modi and Amit Shah earlier in Gujarat riot case. Now Behra is implementing Sangh agendas by the admittance of Pinarayi. Congress will expose Pinarayi's double stand all over the state," Kumar told reporters here.

However, earlier this week the Kerala police department said that reports of beef being omitted from the menu prescribed for the newly trained police batch are baseless.


The clarification came after a section of media carried reports that beef is omitted from the menu.

"As per the decision of the Mess Committee which consists of trainees' representatives and police officers, they were instructed to prepare healthy meals with food available in their respective areas.

The aim is to ensure that the trainees get the energy they need through diet, " the statement issued by the police department read.


'Aadhaar has nothing to do with citizenship issue': UIDAI clarifies on notices sent to residents in Hyderabad

The Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) clarified that reports of some residents being served notices by the RO Hyderabad, over their Aadhaar being allegedly obtained on false pretences, were not being presented in the "correct perspective" in some media reports.

"There are news items in certain section of media regarding UIDAI issuing notices of inquiry to some residents for obtaining Aadhaar on false pretence on the complaints from the State Police which suspect them of being illegal immigrants. UIDAI clarifies that these reports are not presented in correct perspective and Aadhaar has got nothing to do with the citizenship issue as such," a press release by the UIDAI on Tuesday read.

The agency further said that RO Hyderabad had received reports from the state police of 127 people having obtained "Aadhaar on false pretences as in their preliminary enquiry they were found illegal immigrants", hence disqualifying them from obtaining the Aadhaar number.

"As per the Aadhaar Act, such Aadhaar numbers are liable to be cancelled. Therefore, the RO Hyderabad has sent notices to them to appear in person and to substantiate their claims for getting an Aadhaar number," the release added.

It further said that after the completion of the process, "if it is found and proved that if any of them has obtained Aadhaar by submitting false documents or through false pretences, then their Aadhaar is liable to be cancelled or suspended depending on the severity of the transgression. Severe errors like forged documents, etc, will lead to appropriate actions, including suspending or cancelling the Aadhaar." However, the agency clarified that this is a routine quality improvement process that is regularly taken up by it.

The release went on to add that "UIDAI has postponed the personal hearing to May 2020" from February 20, as it may take the 127 residents "some more time to collect their original documents that they had submitted for obtaining Aadhaar." Through the release, the agency also said that the Supreme Court of India in its landmark decision has directed UIDAI not to issue Aadhaar to illegal immigrants.

Three persons, all Muslims and residents of the old city of Hyderabad, have been asked to appear before the inquiry officer on February 20 along with necessary documents in original to prove their citizenship.

Auto-rickshaw driver Mohammed Sattar Khan is among those issued notices by the UIDAI. As they have been asked to appear at a function hall, it triggered speculations that a significant number of people may have received the notices.

Khan received a letter from UIDAI's regional office here, stating that it received a complaint/allegation that "you are not an Indian national and you have obtained Aadhaar through false pretences, making false claims and submitting false documents. An enquiry has been ordered by the regional office, UIDAI, Hyderabad to ascertain the veracity of the complaint/allegation".

He has been directed to appear before Amita Bindroo, deputy director/inquiry officer, with all necessary documents in original to prove "all your claims of citizenship and if you are not an Indian national, to prove that you have entered the territory of India legally and your stay is valid".

According to the notice, failure to appear in person and produce the documents in original will be construed that he had no defence against the complaint and the matter would be decided suo moto.


China's coronavirus death toll surges past 2,000, at least 74,185 infected

Beijing: The death toll from the coronavirus epidemic in China crossed the 2,000-mark on Wednesday with the death of 136 more people, while the overall confirmed cases climbed to 74,185, authorities said.

The National Health Commission said in its daily report that 2,004 people had died of the disease known as COVID-19. NHC said 1,749 new cases of novel coronavirus infection have been confirmed.

Of the new deaths, 132 were reported from the worst-hit Hubei Province and one each from Heilongjiang, Shandong, Guangdong and Guizhou.


Another 1,185 new suspected cases have been reported. On Tuesday, 236 patients became seriously ill, while 1,824 people were discharged from hospital after recovery.

The commission added that 11,977 patients remained in severe condition, and 5,248 people were suspected of being infected with the virus, the state-run Xinhua news agency reported.

By Tuesday, 62 confirmed cases including one death had been reported in Hong Kong, 10 confirmed cases in Macao and 22 in Taiwan including one death.

China's daily number of newly recovered novel coronavirus patients has surpassed that of new confirmed infections for the first time, according to NHC.

So far, 14,376 patients infected with the novel coronavirus had been discharged from hospital after recovery, NHC said.

On Tuesday, Dr Liu Zhiming, president of Wuhan Wuchang Hospital in Hubei, died of the novel coronavirus pneumonia highlighting the risks posed by virus to the medical staff.

Liu was a leading neurosurgeon in Wuhan. Last Friday, the NHC said a total of 1,716 medical workers had been confirmed contracting the infection. As of February 11, six medical workers were killed while treating patients.

This included the whistle-blower ophthalmologist, Dr Li Wenliang who was reprimanded by police for alerting about the virus over the social media in December.


'Saving big deal for later': Trump hints trade deal unlikely during India trip

New York: US President Donald Trump has indicated that a full-fledged trade agreement with India was unlikely during his visit there next week -- or even this year -- but a "very big one" was in the offing.

"I don't know if it'll be done before the election, but we'all have a very big deal with India," he told reporters at Joint Base Andrews in Maryland on Tuesday when he was asked about the likelihood of it during the visit to India.

But he left room open for a symbolic preliminary agreement.

He said, "I'm really saving the big deal for later on. We're doing a very big trade deal with India. We'll have it."


Trump's assertion that a trade deal may not be done "before the election" in November could be meant to goad India into making concessions to complete it soon.

Complaining about the progress of the trade deal negotiations, he said, "We are not treated very well by India." He quickly added, "But I happen to like Prime Minister (Narendra) Modi a lot."

Trump, who is into show and pomp, sounded eager about the trip encouraging reporters to come along telling them, "It's going to be very exciting; I hope you all enjoy it."

Referring to the main programme in Ahmedabad of inaugurating the Sardar Vallabhai Patel Stadium, he said that Modi "told me we'll have seven million people between the airport and the event."

"And the stadium, I understand, is sort of semi under construction, but it's going to be the largest stadium in the world. So it's going to be very exciting."

All agog, he repeated the number of the welcoming crowd: "But he says between the stadium and the airport, we'll have about seven million people."

The stadium will have a capacity of 110,000 people.

US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer is not going on the trip to India with Trump, which was already an indication that a full-fledged trade pact more than a year in negotiations was not going to be signed.

One of the final sticking points is India's proposed law modelled on European legislation to require financial companies like credit card issuers to store data in India.

With the proposed law before Parliament, it would be difficult for Modi to agree to the US demand that there should be no such provision.

Another is with the Indian restriction on importing dairy products from animals fed with offal -- the leftover products from the butchery of animals.


Mumbai: Civic schools give Rs 5,000 fixed deposit to all girl students

Mumbai: In an attempt to encourage education among female students studying in Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) schools, they are being provided with Rs 5,000 as fixed deposit (FD) in their bank accounts. Parents claim they will use this money for the higher education of their children as most of them are from the economically weak sections of the society with low income.

This money is deposited in the bank accounts of female students while they are studying in civic-run schools. Anjali Naik, chairperson of BMC education committee, said, “Students receive the money once they complete their education in BMC schools. We want to create awareness so that parents do not deprive their daughters from educational opportunities. Financial assistance is a major help as most of our students belong to families with low monetary income.”

Parents revealed that though this money is a small amount, it helps them to fund their education for next two years till they reach Class 10. Kailash More, a parent, said, “Our children study for free in BMC schools till Class 8 but then we have to enrol them in other state-run schools for Class 9 and 10. This amount helps us to buy basic necessities like books and uniforms.” While, Latika Mistry, another parent, said, “Though the amount is minimal, we shall use it to buy new stationery for our children.” A budget of Rs 7.86 crore has been allotted for this project for this year.

The amount is generally given to students if they complete basic elementary education (Class 1 to Class 8) in civic schools, said Saeeda Khan, BMC education committee member. Khan said, “Students receive the amount if they study from Class 1 till Class 8 in BMC schools. The education department has helped to open accounts in nationalised banks for these students based on their Aadhaar card.” While Aarti Pugaonkar, another committee member, said, “Students are given a FD certificate which they can encash as per the maturity date mentioned on it.”

Teachers claim this provision should be implemented in Zilla Parishad (ZP) schools in rural districts of Maharashtra. Hansraj Desai, a teacher, said, “More than Mumbai, girls in ZP schools in remote districts of Maharashtra are deprived of educational facilities. Low financial income, orthodox traditions and rudimentary cultural practices affect girls in rural areas. It would be helpful if this provision is extended to ZP schools where there is a dire need of financial help.”


Poll strategist Prashant Kishor to get 'Z' category security in West Bengal

Poll strategist Prashant Kishor is likely to be accorded 'Z' category security in West Bengal. The development comes amid hearsay that the architect of several successful political campaigns might join Mamata Banerjee's Trinamool Congress ahead of the 2021 assembly polls.

The sources at the state secretariat told CNN-News18 that that official formalities on providing Kishor enhanced security have already been completed.

Hitting out, CPI(M) Legislative Party leader Sujan Chakraborty asked why was Kishor being provided 'Z' category security at the expense of the state government despite having no relation with public life in West Bengal.

"Is @PrashantKishor being provided Z Category security? At the #GoWB expenses? Why? No relation with public life in #Bengal. Is it planted by @AmitShah ? Seems the closeness with @MamataOfficial is causing one insecure! Highly deplorable & conspicuous!" he tweeted.

Dr.Sujan Chakraborty

Is @PrashantKishor being provided Z Category security? At the #GoWB expenses? Why? No relation with public life in #Bengal. Is it planted by @AmitShah? Seems the closeness with @MamataOfficial is causing one insecure! Highly deplorable & conspicuous!

7:52 AM - Feb 17, 2020
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The JD(U) last month expelled Kishor, who was its vice-president, saying his conduct in the recent past had made it clear that he did not want to abide by the party's discipline. Kishor, like the West Bengal chief minister, has been a strong critic of the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) and the National Population Register (NPR).

After its dismal performance in the 2019 Lok Sabha polls, the TMC hired Kishor to strategise and fix the lacunae before next year's assembly elections. Kishor's strategy worked for the party in the November bypolls as it won all three assembly seats.

There would be no dearth of buses in Delhi soon: CM Arvind Kejriwal

New Delhi: Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal on Tuesday assured Delhiites that soon there would be no dearth of buses in the national capital.

"It did take time. But finally we were able to overcome all obstacles. So, buses have started arriving," he said in a tweet. "I can assure all Delhiites, soon there won't be any dearth of buses," Kejriwal added.

Arvind Kejriwal

It did take time. But finally we were able to overcome all obstacles. So, buses have started arriving. I can assure all Delhiites, soon there won’t be any dearth of buses.

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7:09 PM - Feb 17, 2020
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At present, there are around 6,000 buses plying in the city.

In the "guarantee card" released in the run-up to the recent assembly elections, the Aam Aadmi Party had promised more than 11,000 buses and to increase the length of the Delhi Metro network to over 500 kilometres.