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Global cues, Q4 lifts equities, metal stocks shine

FILE PHOTO: People walk past the Bombay Stock Exchange (BSE) building in Mumbai, India

India’s benchmark equity indices closed higher for the fourth straight session on Monday on the back of strong buying support for metal, pharma and auto stocks.

The two indices had a gap up opening on the back of strong global cues and lower number of new domestic Covid cases.

Globally, Asian stock markets were mostly higher on Monday, following the positive signs from the US on Friday as rising commodity prices and weaker than expected US job growth in April calmed fears about higher inflation, interest rates and a cutback in stimulus.

In contrast, European indices gave up early gains even as investors weighed the prospect of lower interest rates for longer duration on the back of subsiding inflationary pressures.

On the domestic front, investors cheered drop in daily Covid cases which provided hope of tapering down of second wave.

Even healthy quarterly results so far provided support to the market.

Among sectors, healthcare, metals, capital goods, power, auto, oil and gas were the main gainers while IT was the sole loser.

The S&P BSE Sensex closed at 49,502.41, higher by 295.94 points, or 0.60 per cent, from its previous close.

The Nifty50 of the National Stock Exchange ended the day’s trade at 14,942.35, up 119.20 points, or 0.80 per cent, from its previous close.

“Nifty has made another upgap in succession but ended with a doji for the second consecutive session, indicating partial profit taking towards the close especially as it approached 15,000,” said Deepak Jasani, Head of Retail Research at HDFC Securities.

“Investors are mindful of the market fallout as state after state locks itself down in India to contain the spread of the coronavirus as infections and deaths surge and hence keep taking profits rotationally. 15,044-14,863 is the band for the Nifty in the near term.”

Siddhartha Khemka, Head, Retail Research, Motilal Oswal Financial Services, said: “Though many states have extended lockdown and some corporates have curbed production or commercial activities, market seems to be ignoring all.”

“Metals continued with a rally as iron ore futures and copper prices hit record highs amidst surge in demand. Even pharma rallied on the back of strong IPM growth for the month of April led by huge demand for Covid drugs and low base of last year.”

Vinod Nair, Head of Research at Geojit Financial Services, said: “Domestic bourses continued to ride on its optimistic wave mirroring strong across-the-board buying with metals, auto and pharma stocks leading the rally. US job growth significantly slipped its April forecast signalling sluggish momentum in the labour market while a cyber attack hiked the US oil prices.”

“Despite a decline in April auto sales numbers due to the impact of Covid lockdowns, the auto sector managed to stay afloat owing to its long-term positive outlook.”

How to go waterless with Sustainable personal care and grooming

Hygiene is an important aspect of today’s lives, especially with the ongoing pandemic. Inadequate sanitation and poor hygiene practices are the cause of death for lakhs of people every year, majority of them being children. Provision of clean water is one of the most effective methods of saving lives.

However, clean water is a novelty in the current world, as we are using tons of water every day to drink, bathe and cook, but it is not available around the world on an equitable basis. Hence, we all should make sure that water is conserved.

Benefits associated with waterless formulations include reduction in plastic waste, reduction in costs and aiding the creation of effective products. Along with reduce-reuse-recycle processes, a sustainable life can be achieved with the use of waterless personal care products wherein technological advancements play a key role.

Waterless technology can now be used in every aspect of personal hygiene in these ways:

Hand hygiene

Hand hygiene could be easily managed with waterless soaps which require no or less water to rinse off the foam. Such waterless products can come handy on a long trip, and in distant places with less water availability.

Bodily hygiene

A daily shower is necessary to maintain personal hygiene and healthy living. A well-showered body reduces the odour produced by perspiration, and get rid of most germs. In situations with no water availability or inability to take a shower, use a waterless body bath and shampoo to maintain a shower routine. Also, reduce your shower-time if you’ve been taking long ones all this while, it’s a huge source of wasting water.

Oral hygiene

The use of a toothbrush for cleaning after all meals is essential for the prevention of oral cavities and infections. Food and drinks leave residue in the teeth that grow.

Newer technology like waterless toothpastes could be a new addition to your personal care kit where you would require no water to rinse off the residue. A safe to swallow formulation makes it easy to use and effective for dental hygiene.

Intimate hygiene

Avoiding infections, fungus or itching is essential. Women should wash their genitals more than twice a day to avoid bacterial infections such as by E.coli. This can be done by using waterless intimate hygiene products as personal care. For men, it is advised to keep hygienic with waterless products.

Head hygiene

Hair should be washed two or three times a week. Waterless shampoo is another addition to personal care for maintaining hygiene with no water. It is an easy to use spray formulation rinsed off with a towel or a tissue.

Another feature of waterless products is that they are free from parabens and preservatives. That concludes to them being extremely safe for all skin types. A transition to waterless products is a road taken by lesser people but once the move has been made it would lead to a lesser carbon footprint.

The products are sold in more concentrated, compact packages, they can significantly decrease the number of materials needed to house them. And, shipping waterless formulas requires less space and therefore less fuel. It’s these seemingly small benefits that actually have the potential to make a real impact.

India becomes fastest country globally to administer 170 Million Vaccines

india-covid-vaccine

India has achieved the landmark of being the fastest country globally to administer 17 crore Covid-19 vaccines in the least number of days, defeating the US and China, the second the third runners-up respectively.

India achieved the goal in 114 days, while the US touched the figure in 115 days and China took 119 days for reaching the same landmark.

A total of 17,01,76,603 vaccine doses have been administered through 24,70,799 sessions, as per the provisional report till 7 a.m. on Monday. These include 95,47,102 Healthcare Workers (HCWs) who have taken the first dose and 64,71,385 HCWs who have taken the second dose. A total of 1,39,72,612 Frontline Workers (FLWs) have also received the first dose while 77,55,283 have got the second dose of the vaccine.

A total of 20,31,854 beneficiaries under 18-45 age group have so far recived the first dose of vaccine. The people aged between 45 and 60 years included 5,51,79,217 first dose beneficiaries and 65,61,851 who got their second dose. A total of 5,36,74,082 first dose beneficiaries are in the age group more than 60 years and 1,49,83,217 of them who have received the second dose.

A total of 2,46,269 beneficiaries of the age group 18-44 years received their first dose of Covid vaccine on Sunday and cumulatively 20,31,854 across 30 states and UTs during the last 24 hours.

As on Day-114 of the vaccination drive (9th May, 2021), 6,89,652 vaccine doses were given. Across 5,685 sessions, 4,05,325 beneficiaries were vaccinated for first dose and 2,84,327 beneficiaries received their second dose of vaccine.

The information comes at a time when the country registered 3,66,161 new cases in the last 24 hours.

Medvedev takes Nadal’s No.2 position in ATP rankings

Russia’s Daniil Medvedev has pushed Spain’s Rafael Nadal to No. 3 in ATP rankings, putting the tennis great in danger of not getting a top-2 seeding at the French Open, which is barely three weeks away.

If the Russian — who spent 10 days in bed recovering from Covid-19 before the Madrid Open — holds on to the No. 2 ranking until the seedings are made in two weeks’ time, Nadal would be the No. 3 seed in Paris and potentially on the same half of the draw as No. 1 Novak Djokovic, according to tennis.com.

However, Nadal has a good chance of wresting back the No. 2 position from Medvedev in the coming two weeks as another Masters 1000 tournament — the Italian Open — has kicked off in Rome, where the Spaniard is a nine-time champion and slated to play.

Besides, Nadal can even enter an ATP 250s tournament in either Geneva or Lyon next week.

It was a forgettable past week for both Medvedev and Nadal. They lost before the semi-final stage of the Madrid Open.

While the Russian lost in the third round to Cristian Garin, Nadal was beaten in the quarter-finals by the eventual winner, Germany’s Alexander Zverev.

Deadly fungal infection found among Covid-19 patients in India

Doctors at a leading healthcare facility in Hyderabad have come across Covid-19 positive patients who are suffering from mucormycosis, a deadly fungal infection, and a silent killer.

In the past 3-4 weeks, a total of five patients have been reported with this infection at Continental Hospitals, indicating rise in the condition among the Covid-hit, the hospital said on Monday.

According to doctors, prolonged hospitalisation and continuous use of corticosteroids, which has become standard for Covid-19 treatment, is resulting in lowering immune system. This could lead to susceptibility to infections like mucormycosis causing irreversible damage to organs and threatening life of infected patients.

“Swelling around the eyes, one-sided facial or eye pain, decreased sensation over cheeks, blood-stained nasal discharge, among others are symptoms of mucormycosis infection and such cases should be reported immediately for medical attention. Such patients will be administered with certain antifungal drugs or a surgical debridement will be performed depending on the condition to reduce the disease burden,” said Dr Dushyanth Ganesuni, Consultant, ENT, Head & Neck Surgeon and Laryngologist, Continental Hospitals.

“Unjustified and self-prescribed use of antibiotics and steroids to treat Covid-19 symptoms is dangerous. Such a practice will affect the immune system and could lead to secondary to infections like mucormycosis. Hence, even for conditions like fevers, cold, cough, it is suggested one seeks medical advice before resorting to any form of self-medication,” added Dr. Dushyanth Ganesuni.

Several studies from around the world have indicated that secondary fungal infections among critically ill Covid-19 positive patients are in the range of 5-23 per cent while mortality rate among these fungus infected patients increases to 53 per cent from 31 per cent in non-infected Covid-19 positive patients.

In India, at least 40 cases of mucormycosis, also known as black fungus, have been reported from Gujarat’s Surat among those who have recovered from Covid-19. Of the 40 patients identified, eight have lost their eyesight, and it is being attributed to this secondary infection.

The treating doctors and ICU specialists should be aware of this condition and a high degree of suspicion is needed particularly in patients with severe Covid-19 infection with other associated risk factors. This entity is particularly evident in the middle and later stages of the disease. Rational use of steroids, strict control of blood sugars, maintaining nasal hygiene by using saline isotonic nasal spray and to use 0.5 per cent Betadine nasal drops, two drops in both nostrils twice/thrice daily as a prophylactic treatment in these patients is recommended only under medical supervision.

Will there be a rise in ‘Wellness Tourism’ due to Covid-19 ill-health?

The roller coaster ride that was 2020 brought the biggest dip in modern history, forcing individuals to adapt to major lifestyle changes while the world shifts focus to taking preventive measures so that people will not get infected by Covid-19.

People have started to look for ways to help improve their physical health and pay attention to their mental health, leading to the rise of wellness tourism and health-centered vacations, says Homer Lim, Medical Director of The Farm at San Benito.

As more and more people turn towards nature-inspired and wellness-focussed stays away from urban buzz, especially as many countries begin to cautiously reopen borders, Lim foresees medical wellness resorts like The Farm contributing to the national tourism industry in terms of medical travel and wellness tourism — bringing in new stream of travellers such as wellness enthusiasts, health seekers and conscious consumers.

”Aside from being an eco-sustainable business and green destination, The Farm also offers various medically-supervised health promotion, disease prevention, immune support programs, and healthcare insurance accredited medical services. The Farm secured the necessary permits and managed to reopen its doors since May of last year to continue its services as a medical wellness facility,” says Lim.

The property, surrounded by a green forest, is part of CG Hospitality — the hospitality arm of Nepal-based conglomerate CG Corp Global. It has also become a favourite for celebrities and entrepreneurs who have adopted the concept of wellness workation, where they combine wellness, work, and holiday.

A certain population of people who developed Covid-19 infections may suffer from “Post-Covid Syndrome” that can last up to six months from infection. This is characterized by persistent symptoms that may include mental fog, cough, loss of taste and smell, fatigue, occasional difficulty breathing, muscle and joint pains as well as digestive issues, according to Lim.

To address this, the wellness resort’s team of medical experts came up with a post-Covid recovery program inclusive of daily nutrient-rich organic vegan meals and detox juice, holistic consultation, brain biofeedback, live blood analysis, colon cleansing, acupuncture, vitamin infusion, liver compress, energy healing, immuno cell renewal, steam therapy, ozone therapy, with daily complimentary mindful and functional fitness activities such as yoga, mandala flower meditation, sound healing, power walk, wellness talks and more, says Lim.

Requiring a swab test upon arrival to maintain its Covid-free status, The Farm in the Philippines is an example of how the booming wellness industry might change in coming years, with it offering programs for the immune system. Like other holistic programs, it includes psycho-emotional sessions that attend to the guests’ mental health and emotional state — two things that can be severely affected as people feel isolated while following quarantine protocols, says Lim.

It also has programs to manage work-related chronic pain issues, as well mental health for work-related depression, stress, and anxiety. Programs are planned and conducted by internationally trained integrative medical doctors and mental health experts.

“Now that vaccines are being distributed to the public, one must not forget the importance of the immune system for these to work, as well as other preventive measures like wearing masks in public, avoiding crowds, and handwashing. The pandemic still poses a threat at this point, and using all the tools available is the only way to ensure victory. Through proper planning and observing the right precautions, people can triumph without having to put their life at a standstill. In time, the world will be sure to overcome this global issue that is Covid-19,” concludes the medical expert.

Oxygen Status in India today – Procurement, Manufacture, Raids

Naval Ship Brings Oxygen To Mangalore Port From Kuwait

Indian Navy’s INS Kolkata sailed into the new Mangaluru port on Karnataka’s west coast with medical oxygen from Qatar and Kuwait, a defence official said on Monday.

“As part of operation ‘Samudra Setu II’ to support the nation’s fight against Covid, the naval ship brought in 400 bottles of oxygen and 2 containers of 30 tonnes liquid medical oxygen from Shuwaikh port in Kuwait,” said the official in a statement here.

Mangaluru port is about 375km west of Bengaluru in the southern state.

The ship sailed from Doha in Qatar and Shuwaikh in Kuwait on May 5.

“The shipment has been delivered to the state-run oil marketing firm Indian Oil Corporation for supplying the gas to the state,” said the statement.

Similarly, another naval ship INS Airavat reached Visakhapatnam on the east coast of Andhra Pradesh earlier in the day, with cryogenic oxygen tanks and cylinders from Singapore.

“The ship, which sailed from Singapore on May 5, brought 8 cryogenic oxygen tanks and 3,898 oxygen cylinders that were sourced from various agencies in coordination with the Indian High Commission in the island nation,” added the statement.

13 KL Oxygen plant set up at Kozhikode Medical College

As Covid-19 cases rise drastically, a 13 KL oxygen plant was set up at Kozhikode Medical College Hospital.

This is to accommodate the increase in the number of Covid patients who require oxygen support.

The 13KL plant from the PK Steel Complex was re-located to the Medical College compound. This was following the order of the District Collector under the Disaster Management Act.

The re-location was done by Uralungal Labour Contract Co-operative Society (ULCCS).

Kozhikode today has 52,116 Covid positive cases and the State run Medical College hospital has the highest number of patients and hence this new oxygen plant is expected to make breathing easy for numerous patients.

The decision to re-locate the oxygen plant was taken by the Sambasiva Rao, the Kozhikode district collector on May 1 and ULCCS team began the re-location work and it has completed its work and commissioned the plant, all done free of cost taking into consideration the gravity of the situation.

Defence Secretary Ajay Kumar took to Twitter to congratulate the ULCCS for reinstalling the oxygen plant.

The plant is located in front of the new Covid Block of Kozhikode Medical College which can accommodate 700 patients and has 120 ICU beds.

The 2013 Indian Cooperative Congress has acknowledged ULCCS as the best worker’s Cooperative society in India and the World Cooperative Monitor published by the International Cooperative Alliance has ranked ULCCS in second position after the world leader in Cooperatives, Modragon of Spain. This ranking is based on the ratio of turnover over gross domestic product (GDP) per capita.

Neyveli Lignite to set up Oxygen plants in Tamil Nadu

Public Sector Enterprise Neyveli Lignite Corporation (NLC) is to set up Oxygen plants in Tamil Nadu and in other states where it is in operation. The company is to set up 9 oxygen plants across the country.

Neyveli Lignite Corporation India Ltd (NLCIL) Chairman and Managing Director, Rakesh Kumar in a release said that the company is to set up two oxygen plants at Tuticorin and Neyveli within a month and has already floated tenders for this.

The company will install two plants at the cost of Rs 25 lakh and Rs 30 lakh at the NLCIL hospitals. The company will also install three plants at a cost of Rs 65 lakh to Rs 70 lakh in three government general hospitals which are identified by the Tamil Nadu state government.

The plants will be funded through the company’s Corporate Social Responsibility scheme for the fiscal year 2021-22.

NLCIL is also in the process of purchasing 500 oxygen concentrators of 10 litres per minute capacity and the tenders have already been floated according to the company officials.

Chief General Manager (Human Resources), Sathyamurthy is in charge of the hospital administration in the township. The company has also increased its bed strength in hospitals in the township of Neyveli from 90 to 500 for treatment of Covid patients. The company is also setting up a CT scan facility in its hospital and a 24 hour control room to meet emergencies.

‘One third of India’s oxygen production concentrated in eastern region’

One-third of oxygen production in the country is concentrated in its eastern region even as nearly 60 per cent of the demand for the live-saving gas is in the northern and southern parts and 30 per cent in the western sector.

There is a mismatch between oxygen producing and consuming states, but the Centre is trying to maintain equity among states.

As per government’s latest data, of the total production of 8,859 Metric Tonne (MT) oxygen, 1,174 MT (12 per cent) is produced in northern part of the country while the allocation in the region is 2,897 MT (33 per cent).

Despite producing maximum of 2,867 MT oxygen (32 per cent), the allocation in eastern region of the country is only 1,035 MT (12 per cent).

With the production of 2,838 MT oxygen (32 per cent), the western region is allocated 2,688 MT oxygen (30 per cent). In the south, the production is 1,980 MT (22 per cent) while the allocation is 2,239 MT (25 per cent).

The government data said the demand has resulted in “transportation challenges” but, in order to address the surge in demand for oxygen, the Central government established allocation process of the gas to equitably supply it to all states in line with the demand.

The data was issued by the Ministry of Commerce and Industry.

“Mapping of source and destination of oxygen has been completed to optimize transportation plan in consultation with states and the UTs, manufacturers and other stakeholders.”

The first oxygen allocation order issued on April 15 this year and it was restricted to a few states like Maharashtra, Gujarat, Delhi, Madhya Pradesh and Karnataka.

As the second wave of pandemic spread to other states, demand for Oxygen increased from other states and the formula of Ministry of Health and Family Welfare was used to estimate oxygen requirement for each state in line with the active cases in the state, and maximum efforts were made to align Oxygen Allocation to the estimated demand for each state, said the data.

Other factors such as availability of hospital infrastructure including ICU beds were also taken into account while finalising allocation, it said.

The Oxygen allocation process has continuously evolved to streamline the distribution of oxygen in the country. Oxygen allocation to states and the Union Territories (UTs) is dynamic in nature, based on requirement as per Health Ministry norms, and consultation with states and UTs, manufacturers and other stakeholders.

The data further mentioned that oxygen production has increased from 5,700 Metric Tonne (MT) per day in August last year to 9,446 MT per day in May this year, said the data, adding the production capacity has increased from 6,817 MT per day to 7,314 MT per day, and capacity utilisation has gone up from 84 per cent to 129 per cent during this period.

After beds and oxygen, Delhi staring at vaccine shortage

Stocks of Covaxin in the Capital could run out in the next 24 hours and stocks of Covishield are likely to get exhausted in the next three to four days, Delhi Health Minister Satyendar Jain said on Monday.

“Delhi has stocks for just one day for one and for three or four days for the other. Covaxin stock will last a day and Covishield three or four days,” said Jain during his visit to a 400-bed Covid facility at Gurudwara Rakab Ganj Sahib.

The Minister told mediapersons there were just 274,460 doses – both Covaxin and Covishield – meant for those between the ages of 18 and 44 years purchased by the state as on May 9. There were 467,190 doses allocated by the Centre meant for those above the ages of 45 years, health care workers, and frontline workers till May 9.

As per the Centre’s directives, states have to use 70 per cent of these doses to give the second shot to those who have already received one. Delhi has been giving nearly 95,000 shots a day during the last week, according to data shared by the government.

Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal had on Sunday written to Union Health Minister Dr Harsh Vardhan requesting that the government must come up with a uniform price for the vaccine doses as states and private hospitals were competing for the same supply.

After battling for hospital beds and oxygen for nearly a month amid the raging second wave of the Covid-19 pandemic, the national capital is now struggling to get adequate supply of vaccines.

The Aam Aadmi Part (AAP) led Delhi government said on Monday that the city is not getting adequate supply of vaccines and the stocks of Covaxin in Delhi would run out in the next 24 hours, while the stocks of Covishield are likely to get exhausted in the next three to four days.

“Delhi has stocks for just one day for one, and for three or four days for the other vaccine. Covaxin stock will last a day and Covishield for three or four days,” Delhi Health Minister Satyendar Jain said on Monday.

Meanwhile, Delhi Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia said that the Centre has replied that the national capital will get only 3.5 lakh doses of vaccine in May against its demand for around 3 crore vaccines in the next three months.

The Delhi government had on Sunday informed the Centre that it would need 60 lakh doses of vaccine per month to vaccinate around 93 lakh people in the 18-45 age group between May and July.

Sisodia also slammed the BJP for making a ‘false claim’ that Delhi government did not order for adequate doses of vaccine in advance.

“After the Centre had made it clear that the state governments could directly approach the companies for placing vaccine orders, the Delhi government had in April ordered 1.34 crore vaccines,” Sisodia said.

A large number of youth in the country have died during the second wave of the pandemic, Sisodia said, adding that their lives could have been saved had vaccines were administered to them instead of exporting the doses to other countries.

He said the Centre should ensure that the vaccines manufactured in the country are provided to the states that are facing shortage.

He also reiterated Delhi government’s stand that it can vaccinate everyone in the city within three months provided adequate doses are made available to it.

In a letter to the Union Health Ministry, Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal had on Sunday requested the Centre to direct the Serum Institute of India and Bharat Biotech to increase monthly supplies of Covid vaccines to Delhi to 60 lakh a month for the next three months.

226 oxygen cylinders seized from Bihar’s Katihar district

The district administration on Monday morning seized 226 oxygen cylinders in Bihar’s Katihar district.

Shankar Sharan Omi, the SDM Katihar said: “The raid was conducted on the tip-off of local informers.

“The cylinders are booked from Mumbai in the luggage compartment of the train bound to Katihar. We are trying to verify persons who booked cylinders from Mumbai and the receiver in Katihar,” the officer said.

“Prima facie, it appeared to be a case of black marketing as no one came forward to claim the cylinders so far. We have also cross-checked with the district civil surgeon of Katihar whether any government or private hospital purchased the cylinders but he has also denied the same. We have asked railway police to conduct a thorough inquiry into the matter and submit a report with district administration Katihar,” Omi said.

Meanwhile, a joint team of the Economic Offences Wing (EOW) of Bihar police and Delhi Police managed to arrest two persons on the charge of duping a person on the pretext of providing an oxygen cylinder.

The accused have been identified as Kishan Kumar and Samir Khan, residents of Takiyapar locality under Danapur sub-division in Patna district.

“The accused lured a person from Delhi to provide an oxygen cylinder at a cheap price. They asked the victim to deposit money online. During investigation, the mobile tower of the accused appeared in Danapur. Accordingly, a joint raid was conducted and arrested both the accused,” said V Dayal, ASP of EOW Patna.

“We are trying to identify the other accused who are involved in the crime,” Dayal said.

Juve could be excluded from Serie A: Italian football chief

Juventus could be kicked out of Serie A if they are still officially members of the Super League by the deadline to register for next season, Italian federation (FIGC) chief Gabriele Gravina said on Monday.

“The standards there are clear,” Gravina told a press conference in Naples.

The 67-year-old Gravina said he would be sorry for the fans, but rules are rules and would apply to all, reports DPA.

Gravina also spoke about Spanish giants Real Madrid and Barcelona who, along with Juventus, make up the three of 12 Super League clubs not to fully abandon the project.

“Three, Juventus among them, are resistant,” said Gravina, who also wished for “this tug of war” to end soon.

European governing body UEFA has also threatened to punish the three clubs who said in a statement at the weekend that they were being pressured in an “unacceptable way.”

TMC Ministers from Mamta cabinet facing prosecution sworn in

Two of the four former ministers of the Mamata Banerjee ministry took oath on Monday – hours after Governor Jagdeep Dhankhar accorded sanction for prosecution to the CBI in the alleged Narada sting tapes cases where several politicians and a high-ranked police officer accepting cash bribes in exchange for providing unofficial favours to a company.

The sanction attracted controversy after Dhankhar, on a request by the CBI, sanctioned the prosecution of Firhad Hakim, Subrata Mukherjee, Madan Mitra and Sovan Chatterjee, all of them ministers during the time of the alleged commission of a crime that came to light in the purported Narada sting tapes. Subrata Mukherjee and Firhad Hakim have been sworn in as cabinet ministers in the newly formed Mamata Banerjee government. Another accused Madan Mitra has won the election and Sovon Chatterjee has left the TMC to join the BJP and then left the BJP too following differences with the party leadership.

“I accorded sanction for prosecution because the CBI sought the same. I went through the documentation. There seems to be some confusion regarding some reports created by the media that the governor has accorded sanctions for the members of the assembly. I am not on that. Those people whose sanctions were accorded at the relevant time as per CBI for holding the positions of ministers,” Dhankhar told the media after the oath taking ceremony in Raj Bhawan on Monday.

“The governor of the state if they appoint you as the authority of a minister in terms of article 164 of the constitution and when exercises such power as competent authority in terms of law then in view of Article 163 of the constitution, he is not required to consult anyone. That lies in his own discretion without any aid or assistance. The issue is settled firmly and finally by the highest court of the state,” he added.

“I may indicate to the media that a plea for sanction was made a little before MCC came into being. I thought it as an act of propriety that at that point of time I should not be giving attention to the matter. The moment the poll process was over, the matter engaged my attention because such issues should not be delayed and so I acted and you know the results,” he said.

“As coming to issues on people taking oath in respect of whom sanctions for prosecution has been afforded is a matter of propriety to be taken not by those who make a request to the governor to appoint them. I leave the matter here,” he added.

Speaking on the post-poll violence in the state, Dhankhar said, “If you see my tweets from May 2, I have been in touch with the chief minister. I expressed my deep anguish and concern. The stance taken by the hon’ble chief minister that law and order was under the Election Commission of India. I conveyed to her that she could not have been more wrong. Model Code of Conduct came to an end on May 3rd. During the day and then on she had all the powers and obligation, authorities and duties that she had when she was elected a chief minister in 2016. This answer was not available to her”.

“I asked her several times to send toughest message to the police and administration that if there is violence in that area, rape in that area, loot and arson in that area they will be squarely held accountable,” he added.

Belarusian Sabalenka makes huge jump to number 4 in WTA rankings

Belarusian Aryna Sabalenka on Monday rose from her previous career-high of No. 7 to No. 4 in the WTA rankings after winning the fourth WTA 1000 title of her career in Madrid, adding to previous triumphs at Wuhan (2018 and 2019) and Doha (2020).

“That’s unbelievable. That’s crazy. I’m really happy with this improvement,” the Belarusian said when told of her new career-high ranking.

“There are still a lot of things to improve, too. Yeah, of course, I’m really happy, but I’m also not really focusing on the ranking. I’m more focusing on my game.

“No. 4, this is not No. 1. There are still a lot of things to work on and to improve,” Sabalenka said.

Sabalenka is now the second-highest ranked Belarusian player in WTA rankings history, passing Natasha Zvereva, who got to a career-high of No. 5. Victoria Azarenka is the highest, getting to No. 1.

And a bit further down on the WTA rankings, Paula Badosa made her Top- 50 debut, jumping from No. 62 to No. 42 after reaching her biggest semi-final to date in Madrid.

The wild card entrant was the first Spanish woman to make the final four at the WTA 1000 event since it debuted on the calendar in 2009.

1 Lakh MT food grains given to 20 Million people in 12 states/UTs in India

As much as 15.55 lakh metric tonnes of food grains has been lifted from Food Corporation of India depots by states/Union Territories for May, and over 1 lakh MT of this distributed to over 2 crore beneficiaries by 12 states/UTs, a senior official said on Monday.

Briefing media persons on the Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Anna Yojana III, Union Food & Public Distribution Secretary, Sudhanshu Pandey, said that almost all states/UTs have indicated their action plan to complete the distribution of food grains under the scheme for May and June by the end of June.

Distribution of food grains is going as per schedule for May, he said, adding that the Centre will bear all expenditure of over Rs 26,000 crore on account of food subsidy and Central assistance to states/UTs on account of intrastate transportation etc.

He also said that during Covid-19 pandemic, 928.77 LMT of foodgrains — 363.89 LMT wheat and 564.88 LMT rice — had been issued from central pool for distribution from April 1, 2020 to March 31, 2021

Emphasising the importance of ‘One Nation One Ration Card’, Pandey said that the ambitious plan of the department to introduce nation-wide portability of ration cards under the National Food Security Act, 2013, aims to empower all migrant beneficiaries to seamlessly access their NFSA foodgrains/benefits anywhere in the country.

Presently, this system is seamlessly enabled in 32 states/UTs, covering about 69 crore beneficiaries (86 per cent NFSA population) in these states/UTs.

The Secretary said that a total of more than 26.3 crore portability transactions (including intra-state transactions) have taken place since the inception of this scheme in August, 2019, out of which 18.3 crore portability transactions have been recorded during the Covid-19 period of April 2020-April 2021.

Given the scheme’s potential to ensure the access to NFSA foodgrains to migrants, the department has been continuously pursuing with states/UTs to implement the programme to its full potential, as well undertake publicity campaigns in various regional languages to raise awareness about it, especially about its national toll free number and mobile app, he added.

Pandey said that procurement in Rabi Marketing Season 2021-22 is going on smoothly, and as on Sunday, a total 337.95 LMT wheat has been procured, as compared to 248.021 LMT wheat on the same day last year, and 34.07 lakh farmers have been benefitted so far against 28.15 lakh last year.

He also said that Haryana and Punjab have switched from indirect payment of MSP to direct online transfers of benefit to farmers, so that the latter get their money without any delay, and of the total DBT payment of Rs 49,965 crore so far for wheat procurement, Rs 21,588 crore in Punjab and Rs 11,784 crore in Haryana has been transferred directly into farmers’ account.

In view of resurgence of Covid, with the objective to make wheat and rice stocks easily available in open market, the Centre has liberalised OMSS(D) policy for the year 2021-22, with sale of food grains under it starting in non-procuring states and 2,800 MT sold so far, he added.

About price rise of edible oils, Pandey said that it is being monitored closely by the government. Noting that some stocks were stuck at ports due to clearance tests by various agencies, he said that the problem is now addressed and soon stocks will be released in the market and this will show softening impact on oil prices.

To a question on the sugar subsidy, Pandey said that a detailed review with the sugar and ethanol industry has been going on.

England players to skip remainder of IPL: England Cricket Board

Even as the Indian cricket board hopes to complete remainder of the Indian Premier League (IPL), possibly at an overseas destination, the English board has put its foot down in favour of international cricket, ruling out the possibility of English cricketers playing in the league.

“We’re planning on the involvement of England players in England matches. We’ve got a full FTP schedule. So if those tours to Pakistan and Bangladesh [in September and October] are going ahead, I’d expect the players to be there,” England men’s director of cricket Ashley Giles told British media here.

While the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) is looking for a window in September — between the home series against India and the T20 World Cup – or after the T20 World Cup ends in November, the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) wishes to follow the tight schedule as laid out in the Future Tours Programme (FTP).

England play New Zealand in two Tests on June 2-14 in a series that was hastily arranged and Giles said the IPL players were allowed to skip the Test series as an exception since their IPL contracts were already formalised.

“The New Zealand scenario was very different. Those Test matches were formalised at the end of January, by which time all those contracts and NOCs [no objection certificates] were signed for full involvement in the IPL,” he said further.

“None of us knows what a rearranged IPL looks like at the moment; where it’s going to be or when. But from when we start this summer against New Zealand, our programme is incredibly busy. We’ve got a lot of important, high-profile cricket including the T20 World Cup and the Ashes. And we’re going to have to look after our players.”

England are expected to tour Bangladesh in September immediately after hosing India in a five-Test series and then they travel to Pakistan in mid-October.

They play the T20 World Cup, scheduled to be held in October-November, after that and then travel to Australia for Ashes that begins on December 8.

They then have a limited overs series in West Indies just after Ashes in January and they follow it up with a limited-overs series which means they are tied up till the next IPL.

“Financial aid given for Covaxin, Covishield trials, not R&D”, says Govt

india-covid-vaccine

The Centre has told the Supreme Court that no governmental aid, assistance or grant was made either for research or development of either Covaxin or Covishield vaccines but some financial assistance was given for conducting clinical trials.

In an affidavit, the Centre said that Covaxin has been developed under public private partnership (PPP) between the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) and Bharat Biotech International Ltd (BBIL). The PPP was executed under a formal MoU between the ICMR and the BBIL which includes a 5 per cent royalty clause for the ICMR on net sales and other clauses like prioritisation of in-country supplies, and the product intellectual property rights are shared.

“ICMR has not provided any funds to BBIL for Covaxin development. However, funds have been spent in various activities undertaken by ICMR-NIV, Pune for Covaxin development. Also, Phase 3 clinical trials of Covaxin have been funded by the ICMR. The trials have been conducted at 22 sites in 25,800 participants,” said the affidavit, which also provided details of activities undertaken by the ICMR-NIV, and that the total estimated expenditure of the ICMR in this was Rs 35 crore.

For Covishield, the Centre said the bridging studies of 1,600 participants in India were supported by the ICMR in partnership with the Serum Institute of India (SII). “No funds were provided to SII. Funds were transferred to 14 clinical trial sites. ICMR also supported laboratory studies on characterisation of immune response related to COVISHIELD at ICMR-National AIDS Research Institute (NARI), Pune,” added the affidavit. The total estimated expenditure of ICMR was Rs 11 crore.

The Centre said the Department of Biotechnology, under the DBT-BIRAC Covid-19 research consortium is supporting the research and development of 11 vaccine candidates by industry and public sector laboratories.

It added that “financial support to Bharat Biotech International Ltd (BBIL) and Serum Institute of India Pvt Ltd (SIIPL), for the production of Covaxin and Covishield, in the form or advance payment (not support or investment) of Rs 1,732.50 crore was released to Serum Institute of India (SII) for 11 crore doses of Covishield vaccine for the months of May, June and July and similarly, an advance payment of Rs 787.50 crore was released to Bharat Biotech India Ltd (BBIL) for 5 crore Covaxin doses for the months of May, June and July.”

The Centre said the current procurement price is based on the price negotiated by the National Expert Group on Vaccine Administration for Covid-19 (NEGVAC).

“The NEGVAC had interactions with vaccine manufacturers in the initial phases of Covid Vaccination programme to secure adequate vaccine doses. For the initial phases, 6.6 crore doses were secured. Herein, the NEGVAC, after comprehensive deliberation, recommended that vaccines for Covid-19, which have been developed & are being manufactured in foreign countries and which have been granted emergency approval for restricted use by the United States, the European Medical Agency (EU), the United Kingdom, Japan or which are listed in WHO (Emergency Use Listing) may be granted emergency use approval in India, mandating the requirement of post-approval parallel bridging clinical trial, in place of conduct of local clinical trial as per the provisions prescribed under the Second Schedule of the New Drugs & Clinical Trials Rules 2019,” added the affidavit.

A bench headed by Justice D.Y. Chandrachud will hearing the Centre’s response in the suo motu case for ensuring distribution of essential supplies and services during the Covid-19 pandemic on May 13.

Snapdeal launches initiative to connect patients, plasma donors

(IANS) E-commerce company Snapdeal on Monday launched a nationwide initiative to connect Covid-19 patients with potential plasma donors.

Snapdeal has created an easy to use platform called “Sanjeevani” that is accessible via its website and mobile app, the company said in a statement.

Patients and donors can register themselves with their mobile numbers/email ids and provide relevant information like blood group, location, age and donor recovery date. After registering, Snapdeal’s algorithm will look for relevant matches and connect patients with potential donors.

After a match is found, based on donors consent, their details will be sent to the potential recipient. Donors and recipients may also be provided information on the nearest plasma bank, the company said.

Sanjeevani was, initially, launched to help the employees of Snapdeal find possible donors. But now, Snapdeal has opened this platform for everyone. Sanjeevani will also help raise awareness on the importance of plasma donation and encourage recovered Covid-19 patients to donate.

To register on Sanjeevani, one can visit https://m.snapdeal.com/donate/Covidhelp

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