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Palghar on high alert for locusts, state govt to use drones to spray pesticides

While Vidarbha is fighting against swarm of desert locusts, the Maharashtra government has alerted Palghar district about the possibility of an attack of these migratory pests. The state government is planning to use drones to spray pesticides on the locusts.

“These locusts travel as per the air flow. They may enter in Palghar district through North Maharashtra and Gujarat. Therefore we have alerted villages especially in Talasari, Dahanu tehsils on Gujarat border. We have asked villagers to be more vigilant in the night. As these locusts mix themselves with the green vegetation, they are not easily noticed. They might land on crops in the evening and by morning, they can damage the whole crop,” Vikas Patil, Joint Director of Agriculture for Kokan region told FPJ.

“Officials of the Agriculture department are visiting the villages and educating the villagers about these locusts. They have been requested to alert the state government whenever they site such locust swarms,” he added.

“State agriculture department is supplying free pesticides to farmers to fight against this menace. The state government is planning to spray pesticides through drones. The government had used hose pipes of fire brigade for spraying pesticides in Vidarbha.

The state government has allowed District Collectors to use 25 per cent of National Disaster Relief fund for purchasing of pesticides, for public awareness against these pests,”Dada Bhuse, Agriculture minister said.

Swarms of crop eating locusts have spread across Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh and eastern part of Maharashtra. The swarm had invaded farmlands and fruit orchards across Amravati, Wardha, Nagpur and Bhandara.

“Due to timely intervention by the farmers and government, these locusts have not damaged much of the crop,” the Minister stated.

The insects have destroyed crops on thousands of hectares of farmland in the country’s worst locust crisis in three decades.


Bombay High Court refuses to stop online sale of liquor in Mumbai

In a setback for liquor shops, the Bombay High Court, on Friday, refused to quash or set aside the notifications issued by the BrihanMumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) and the Maharashtra government, which allowed online sale of liquor. The HC, while refusing to grant any relief to the liquor merchants, has asked the civic chief to look into their grievances.

A bench of Justices Nitin Jamdar and Nitin Borkar was hearing a petition filed by the Maharashtra Wine Merchants Association. The plea challenged the notifications issued on May 5, May 12 and, subsequently, on May 22, by the civic body.

The notifications allowed online sale of liquor and also laid down the procedure for ordering it.

The association, through their counsel Charanjeet Chanderpal, argued that the authorities have allowed offline or counter sale of liquor in Pune and Nashik cities, which are also a hotspot of COVID-19 just like Mumbai and its suburbs. "In cities like Pune and Nashik, the authorities have permitted normal sale of retail liquor despite these cities facing an identical situation. There is no reason why the same norms are not applied in Mumbai," Chanderpal argued.

The merchants' association further argued that the online sale of liquor can pose serious threats for the society. "The system of online/ home delivery of liquor is fraught with various difficulties and can have adverse social impact, and it is also not safe. Thus, the notifications deserve to be set aside," Chanderpal urged.

Having heard the contention, Justice Jamdar noted that the notifications are nothing but a policy decision of the BMC.

"The impugned notification, dated May 22, issued by BMC does not permit over the counter sale of liquor. It only permits e-commerce platforms to be utilised for delivery," the bench noted.

"This decision is in the nature of policy and such a decision entails evaluation of various competing factors. Situation may differ from place to place. The relevant factors can also undergo a change by the passage of time," the bench observed.

The judges, accordingly, deemed it appropriate to forward the petition to BMC chief Iqbal Chahal and ordered him to deal with the grievances of the association and pass an order at the earliest.


First Chief Minister of Chhattisgarh Ajit Jogi dies, breathed his last at the age of 74

Chhattisgarh (Chhattisgarh) former CM A Jeet Jogi (Ajit Jogi) was admitted to a private hospital in Raipur after a cardiac arrest.


Raipur. Former Chief Minister of Chhattisgarh (Ajit Jogi) of Chhattisgarh has passed away. At the age of 74, he breathed his last. Ajit Jogi was admitted to Astpal after Cardiac Arrest. He was hospitalized since 9 May. Ajit Jogi was being breathed with the help of a ventilator. Since then, his brain activity was very low. Ajit Jogi's condition was critical for a long time. Jogi was in a coma for almost 20 days. He had a cardiac arrest again late on Wednesday night. Then on Friday, his condition deteriorated again.

Actually, on the morning of 9 May, Ajit Jogi was admitted to Sri Narayana Hospital in Raipur after Cardiac Arrest. Doctors said that Ajit Jogi had almost stopped beating after cardiac arrest. After this, he went into a coma. Jogi's health was not improving.
Hospitalized from 09 May
On 9 May, between 10-11 am, Ajit Jogi was walking in his lawn in a wheelchair after getting ready. During that time, Ganga Tamarind was also eaten, after which he had cardiac arrest. He was admitted to Naraina Hospital in Devendra Nagar, capital Raipur in critical condition. Since then, the situation remains critical. They have been in coma for the past 15 days. So at the same time, Ajit Jogi is being treated by discussing with senior doctors of different hospitals through tele-conferencing. He is constantly being breathed through the ventilator, while music therapy is also being taken to activate his brain.

Jogi was being given audio therapy
Former Chhattisgarh CM Ajit Jogi was being given audio therapy. His favorite music was being heard to bring him to consciousness. After this audio therapy, there was a partial improvement in his health as well. With this, there was some movement in his mind. It was being told that there was some decrease in the spread of the pupils of Jogi's eyes.

New Delhi implicitly brands Trump a liar, claims POTUS hasn't talked to PM Modi since April 4

Just hours after US President Donald Trump said he spoke to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, government sources said there has been no recent contact between the two leaders.

Sources told news agency ANI, "There has been no recent contact between PM Modi and US President Donald Trump. Last conversation between them was on 4 April, 2020 on subject of Hydroxychloroquine. Yesterday, MEA had also made it clear that we're directly in touch with China through established mechanisms and diplomatic contacts."

Reiterating his offer to mediate on the border dispute between India and China, US President Donald Trump had said that he spoke to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who is not in a "good mood" over the "big conflict" between the two countries. Interacting with journalists in the Oval Office of the White House on Thursday, Trump said a "big conflict" was going on between India and China.

"They like me in India. I think they like me in India more than the media likes me in this country. And, I like Modi. I like your prime minister a lot. He is a great gentleman," he said.

"They have a big conflict .India and China. Two countries with 1.4 billion people (each). Two countries with very powerful militaries. India is not happy and probably China is not happy," the president said when asked if he was worried about the border situation between India and China. "I can tell you; I did speak to Prime Minister Modi. He is not in a good mood about what is going on with China," Trump said.

Meanwhile, in New Delhi, the Ministry of External Affairs said on Thursday that India was engaged with China to resolve the border issue, in a carefully crafted reaction seen as virtual rejection of President Trump's offer. "We are engaged with the Chinese side to peacefully resolve it," External Affairs Ministry Spokesperson Anurag Srivastava said, replying to a volley of questions at an online media briefing.

Earlier, Trump had offered to mediate between India and Pakistan on the Kashmir issue, a proposal rejected by the Narendra Modi government which maintains that there is no role for any third party in bilateral issues.

West Bengal Minister Sujit Bose tests positive for coronavirus

West Bengal Fire Services Minister Sujit Bose has tested positive for coronavirus, making it the first such case in the Mamata Banerjee-led state cabinet. Sujit Bose has been advised to undergo home quarantine after his test results came out positive.

According to a report by PTI, a domestic help at the minister's residence was diagnosed with the disease, following which samples of Bose and his family members were sent for examination. The reports, which arrived on Thursday night, showed Bose and one of his family members have contracted the virus.

The senior Trinamool Congress has been working on the ground with migrant workers returning to the state, reported Times Now

West Bengal recorded the biggest single-day spike of 344 COVID-19 cases on Thursday which took the total tally to 4,536, while the death toll rose to 223 with six more fatalities in the last 24 hours, a state health department bulletin stated.

Of the six fatalities, three were reported in Kolkata, two in Hooghly and one in North 24 Parganas districts. The number of active cases in the state stood at 2,573, it said.

The highest number of new cases were reported in Kolkata (87), followed by Howrah (55) and North 24 Parganas (49) districts, the bulletin stated.


Amid stand-off between India and China, satellite images pick up Chinese armour, artillery near LAC: Report

A detailed analysis of satellite images has shown extensive deployment of towed artillery and mechanised elements on the Chinese side, bringing Indian deployments within striking distance, the Indian Express reported on Friday

According to the report, satellite images show the presence of 16 tanks with a mix of infantry combat vehicles, though camouflaged. Flatbed trucks, excavator machines, dumper trucks too have been identified in the imagery, sources said, adding that these suggest permanent defences are being prepared by the Chinese in the area.

The recent skirmishes between Indian and Chinese troops at the Sino-Indian border may not be as innocuous as some observers would like to make them out. In all likelihood, these are a reflection of the newly-hewn aggressive Chinese economic and military diplomacy which seeks to intimidate other nations into submission. The way China reacts angrily even to a mild hint that the coronavirus pandemic was China-born, which it really was, indicates an aggressive, nay offensive attitude. There are more compelling examples to endorse the view that China is power-drunk and beginning to behave like an international bully, a bad boy of global diplomacy. It seems China has given up all pretence to conduct diplomatic discourse in a civilised and well-mannered way.

The clashes between India and China stem not from the usual misunderstanding over the poorly drawn boundary, but may indicate something more sinister. Coupled with the almost synchronised noises emanating from Nepal Prime Minister K P Sharma Oli, who has invented a border dispute with India by publishing a brand new map, it is clear that China is out to keep India distracted from its real objective of growing its economy and to provide a decent welfare to its 1.3 billion people while remaining committed to a vibrant democracy. Oli, who owes his job to the Chinese Ambassador in Kathmandu, is a mere puppet, warning India of trouble if it built a road on its own side of the border. Till very recently, the area now claimed as its own through a new cartographic invention by Nepal was a duly recognised part of the Indian territory.

Major shake-up in Maharashtra Congress on cards; Prithviraj Chavan likely to be appointed as speaker

Mumbai: A major shake-up in the Congress party is on the cards. The Congress may appoint former Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan as the Speaker of the Maharashtra Legislative Assembly, thereby replacing the present incumbent Nana Patole who will take over as the President of the state Congress unit. Patole will succeed Balasaheb Thorat who is the Revenue Minister. Chavan has been quite vocal against the BJP government at the Centre and also its state unit on a number of issues. Chavan, who was eager to get himself inducted in the Maha Vikas Aghadi ministry, could not make it due to the limited berths that fell in the Congress party’s kitty.

However, the party high command will give its formal consent to these moves only after getting a go-ahead from the ruling ally, the Nationalist Congress Party. During the government formation last year, Chavan’s name was considered by the Congress for the Speaker’s post but because of NCP’s opposition it was dropped. Thereafter, Patole was chosen as a consensus candidate.

By appointing Patole, who had lost the Lok Sabha election to Union minister Nitin Gadkari, the party proposes to play the OBC card to revive its fortunes across the state. Patole, who was unanimously elected as the Speaker of the lower house in December last year, is perceived as a dynamic mass leader; he also enjoys a good rapport with the party high command. Incidentally, Patole has been in Delhi for the last two days and is believed to have met a couple of party leaders. Patole tried to meet party leader Rahul Gandhi but could not.


Coronavirus in Mumbai: Forget 10,000 beds, BMC yet to meet target of 1,500 at SevenHills Hospital

Given the rapidly rising number of coronavirus cases in the city, the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) has resolved to increase the total bed capacity in Covid care facilities to 10,000. But almost two months have passed and the BMC is yet to achieve its earlier target of converting the SevenHills Hospital in Marol to the country's 'biggest Covid facility',with 1,500 beds. Civic officials have attributed this delay to shortage of staff.

The surge in cases has caused the civic body to abandon its idea of makeshift hospitals, but neither have the number of beds in the city been increased in hospitals that are fully equipped, which has resulted in patients being turned away.

In April, The Free Press Journal had reported that the BMC and the state government had planned to convert SevenHills into the biggest isolation facility in India. “After 57 days, only 1,000 beds have been set up at SevenHills. Given that 150 beds were ready until April 1, this effectively means only 850 beds have been added in 57 days,” said an official.

The reason for this, according to senior doctors, is the huge shortage of medical and para-medical staff at the hospital since its reopening. “Currently there are only 176 doctors and we need more than 600 to handle patients. Given this severe staff shortage, it was pointless to claim that SevenHills Hospital would be India’s biggest isolation facility,” he said.

Additional Municipal Commissioner Suresh Kakani said, the bed capacity at SevenHills was supposed to be increased in a phased manner. "By next week, 500 more will be set up. We have decided to increase beds phasewise. We started with 300 beds and now, there are 1,004. Had we set up 1,500 beds at a time, it would have been difficult to manage, as we needed trained staff to handle it,” he said.

Dr Balakrishna Adsul, in-charge of SevenHills Hospital, said “A large number of health workers are also needed, if the number of beds are increased. As more health workers become available, we are increasing the number of beds. The process of hiring the necessary health workers is underway. Chances are, by June 6-7, the number of beds in SevenHills Hospital will reach the 1,500 mark.”

The hospital wants to equip at least 300 beds with ICU facilities, but the shortage of intensivists is the stumbling block. It is currently able to operate only 68 ICU beds, of which 13 are managed by Reliance which has set up 250 beds there as part of its corporate social responsibility.

At Nair Hospital, a dedicated Covid facility, it is the same story. There are 1,500 beds, but only 1,024 beds are currently being used for corona patients in the hospital. “We cannot increase the bed capacity any further, as it can only accommodate 1,000 patients,” said doctor.


Global coronavirus cases near 5.7 million mark, death toll rises to 355,000: Johns Hopkins University

Washington: The overall number of global coronavirus cases was nearing the 5.7 million mark, while the deaths have increased to more than 355,000, according to the Johns Hopkins University.

As of Thursday morning, the total number of cases stood at 5,690,951, while the death toll increased to 355,615, the University's Center for Systems Science and Engineering (CSSE) revealed in its latest update. The US has also reached a grim milestone of over 100,000 COVID-19 deaths.


Currently, the country has 1,699,126 confirmed cases and 100,418 deaths, both tallies account for the highest in the world, according to the CSSE. Meanwhile in terms of cases, Brazil comes in the second place with 411,821 infections.

This was followed by Russia (370,680), the UK (268,619), Spain (236,259), Italy (231,139), France (183,038), Germany (181,524), Turkey (159,797), India (158,086), Iran (141,591), and Peru (135,905), the CSSE figures showed.

Regarding fatalities, the UK continues in the second position after the US with 37,542 COVID-19 deaths, the highest fatalities in Europe. The other countries with over 10,000 deaths are Italy (33,072), France (28,599), Spain (27,117), and Brazil (25,598).


Swarms of locust still active in 15 districts of Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh

In the times when India is grappling due to the COVID-19 situation, swarms of locust attacking various parts of the country is another formidable challege the country has to tackle. According to the Agriculture Ministry, nearly 15 districts in Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh have experienced locust attacks which are still active.

The Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare on Wednesday informed that locust control operations have been stepped up in affected states to combat the menace.

"Amidst a wave of locust swarms sweeping across western & northwestern India, Department of Agriculture & Farmers' Welfare has stepped up locust control operations in affected states of Rajasthan, Punjab, Gujarat & Madhya Pradesh," said the Agriculture Ministry in a press release.

The ministry further added: "As of today, there are active swarms of immature locust in Barmer, Jodhpur, Nagaur, Bikaner, Ganganagar, Hanumangarh, Sikar, Jaipur Districts in Rajasthan and Satna, Gwalior, Seedhi, Rajgarh, Baitul, Devas, Agar Malwa district of Madhya Pradesh."

The ministry further informed that till 26 May, control operations against locusts done in 47,308-hectare area at 303 places in Rajasthan, Punjab, Gujarat, and Madhya Pradesh by Locust Circle Offices (LCO) in coordination with District Administration and State Agriculture Department.


In Rajasthan, 21 districts, in Madhya Pradesh 18 districts, in Punjab one district and in Gujarat 2 districts have undertaken Locust control till now. For effective control of locusts beyond scheduled desert areas, temporary control camps have been established in Ajmer, Chittorgarh and Dausa in Rajasthan; Mandsaur, Ujjain and Shivpuri in Madhya Pradesh and Jhansi in Uttar Pradesh.

The Ministry further informed: "89 fire brigades for pesticide spray; 120 survey vehicles; 47 control vehicles with spray equipment and 810 tractor-mounted sprayers have been deployed for effective locust control, as per requirement during different days."

For effective control of locusts beyond scheduled desert areas, temporary control camps have been established in Ajmer, Chittorgarh, Dausa in Rajasthan; Mandsaur, Ujjain, Shivpuri in Madhya Pradesh and Jhansi in Uttar Pradesh, the ministry added.

The ministry said it has received permission from Civil Aviation Ministry for use of drones for locust control.

"Two firms have been finalized through tender for use of drones for spray of pesticides for locust control," it added.

Currently, the Locust Control Offices have 21 Micronair and 26 Ulvamast spray machines which are being utilized for locust control.


Meanwhile, supply order for procurement of additional 55 vehicles has been placed to strengthen the control potential. Adequate stock pesticide Malathion has been maintained at Locust Control Organizations.

Advisories have been issued to Rajasthan, Gujarat, Haryana and Punjab regarding the locust attack and necessary measures to be taken for effective control and pesticides that are to be used for effective locust control in cropped areas.

Swarms of locusts that had entered Katol and Parseoni in Nagpur district of Maharashtra over the last four days, have now moved to the neighbouring Bhandara district, an agriculture department official said.


These crop-eating pests moved to Mohadi tehsil in Bhandara district during the day on Wednesday, before being spotted in Temani village in Tumsar taluka by late night, Divisional Joint Director of Agriculture Department, Ravi Bhosle told PTI.

"The swarms of locusts on Wednesday moved to Mohadi in Bhandara district and were spotted in two villages in that tehsil. By around 10 pm, the locusts were spotted in Temani village in the district," he said.

The swarms stretching up to 17 kms in length had first entered farms in Fetri, Khangaon in Katol in Nagpur district and in Ashti taluka in Wardha district on Saturday night and Sunday where they damaged orange crop and vegetable plantations in some areas, before moving towards Parseoni tehsil on Monday night.

Besides tracking the movement of locusts, officials are now trying to displace the pest from agricultural fields, the official said.

"We have started 'Operation Locust Control' by spraying pesticides through fire tenders and flood lights," he said.