India to pump billions into COVID-19 fight as health system continues to struggle


NEW DELHI: India on Wednesday (May 5) pledged billions of dollars to boost its flagging vaccine programme as the country’s new COVID-19 cases rose by 382,315, the 14th straight day of more than 300,000 cases.

With vaccines among the main weapons in the fight against the pandemic, pharma giant Pfizer reported a huge jump in profits based on sales of its COVID-19 shot as a growing campaign called for patent waivers so poorer nations can get quicker access.

Among the leaders of that campaign is India, which reported nearly 3,800 more deaths on Wednesday – a national record – as it grapples with one of the world’s worst outbreaks.

“The devastating speed with which the virus affects different regions of the country has to be matched by swift and wide-ranging actions,” said Reserve Bank of India governor Shaktikanta Das, as he announced US$6.7 billion in cheap financing for vaccine makers, hospitals and other health firms.

Experts have warned that case numbers will keep rising until the end of May and could reach 500,000 new infections a day.

India’s underfunded health system has struggled to cope with this wave, with patients dying in hospital parking lots due to a lack of beds and medical oxygen.

The government expanded its massive vaccination programme to all adults last week, but many states are facing shortages.

READ: COVID-19 scare at G7 meeting after Indian delegates test positive

FILE PHOTO: Patient suffering from the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) receives treatment inside the

A patient suffering from COVID-19 receives treatment inside the casualty ward at a hospital in New Delhi, India, May 1, 2021. (Photo: Reuters/Danish Siddiqui)

While New Delhi and other major cities have imposed curfews and other restrictions, the government has resisted opposition calls for a nationwide lockdown as it tries to avoid the economic downturn that accompanied such restrictions last year.

“The poor have nothing left,” Vimala Devi, a 61-year-old homemaker in Delhi, told AFP on Tuesday.

“We are just left to die on the streets.”

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government has been widely criticised for not acting sooner to suppress the second wave of the virus. Religious festivals and political rallies have attracted tens of thousands of people in super spreader events.

“We need a government. Desperately. And we don’t have one. We are running out of air. We are dying,” wrote Indian author Arundhati Roy in an opinion piece published on Tuesday calling for Modi to step down.

“This is a crisis of your making. You cannot solve it. You can only make it worse … So please go. It is the most responsible thing for you to do. You have forfeited the moral right to be our prime minister.”

Two “oxygen express” trains reached the capital Delhi on Wednesday carrying desperately needed liquid oxygen, Minister of Railways Piyush Goyal said on Twitter. More than 25 trains have so far delivered oxygen to different parts of India.

READ: India accounts for 46% of world’s new COVID-19 cases, quarter of deaths

Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak in Ghaziabad

Mukesh Bhardwaj cries as he sits next to his wife, who receives oxygen support for free for people suffering from breathing problems, outside a Sikh temple in Ghaziabad, India, May 3, 2021. (Photo: Reuters/Adnan Abidi)

India’s government says there are enough oxygen supplies but distribution has been hindered by transport problems.

A two-judge bench of the Delhi High Court has been holding almost daily video conferences to hear petitions from hospitals seeking oxygen and invoking India’s constitutional right to protection of life.

India’s surge in infections has coincided with a dramatic drop in vaccinations due to supply and delivery problems.

At least three states, including Maharashtra, home to the commercial capital of Mumbai, have reported a scarcity of vaccines, shutting down some inoculation centres.

NON-CORONAVIRUS PATIENTS EVICTED

India’s opposition has called for a nationwide lockdown, but the government is reluctant to impose a shutdown for fear of the economic fallout, although several states have imposed social curbs.

India’s central bank asked banks on Wednesday to let certain borrowers have more time to repay loans as the surge in infections impacts a nascent economic revival.

READ: India COVID-19 infections top 20 million, top cricket league suspended

Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak in New Delhi

A healthcare worker gives a dose of COVISHIELD, a coronavirus vaccine manufactured by Serum Institute of India, to a woman inside a classroom of a school in New Delhi, India, May 4, 2021. (Photo: Reuters/Adnan Abidi)

In the remote state of Mizoram which borders Myanmar, beds are in such short supply in Zoram Medical College, the state’s biggest COVID-19 hospital, that all non-COVID patients have been asked to leave, said government official Dr ZR Thiamsanga.

Only three out of 14 ventilators are still available.

“In my opinion, a complete lockdown is required to control the situation,” he told Reuters from the state capital Aizawl.

Medical experts say the actual numbers of dead and infected in India could be five to 10 times the official tallies. The country added 10 million cases in just over four months, after taking more than 10 months to reach the first 10 million.

Daily testing in India has fallen sharply to 1.5 million, state-run Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) said on Wednesday. It hit a peak of 1.95 million on Saturday.

Public health experts believe India will not reach herd immunity any time soon but say hospitalisations and deaths will reduce significantly in six to nine months, according to a report in The Economic Times.

READ: IPL’s foreign cricket stars scramble to escape coronavirus-hit India

Herd immunity is when a high enough proportion of the population is vaccinated or been infected and developed antibodies so that one infected person could theoretically only infect less than one person, halting the spread of the virus.

Cricket officials suspended the hugely popular, money-spinning Indian Premier League (IPL) on Tuesday as players tested positive.

India’s cricket board will help to move Australia’s entire IPL cohort to the Maldives or Sri Lanka in coming days, Cricket Australia boss Nick Hockley said on Wednesday.

Australia has banned travellers from India who have been in the country within the prior 14 days but Hockley said the players would wait outside India for approval to head home.

Eight Asiatic lions at a zoo in the southern city of Hyderabad have contracted the coronavirus, the government said on Tuesday, adding that there was no evidence that animals could transmit the disease to humans.

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West Bengal CM Gets Strict With Covid-19 Protocol; All Local Trains Suspended, Rules Out Complete Lockdown


Concerned over rise in the number of Covid-19 cases in the country, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on Wednesday has announced suspension of all local trains from May 6 besides taking several restrictive measures to prevent the spread of coronavirus.

She, however, ruled out any possibility of complete lockdown in West Bengal.

Soon after sworn-in as the Chief Minister of West Bengal for the third straight term, Mamata Banerjee chaired a high-level meeting to handle the pandemic situation and decided to suspend local trains from May 6.

Not the least, she also announced that from May 7 onwards RT-PCR negative report (72 hours prior) is must for all passengers to enter Bengal through Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose International Airport and at Bagdogra Airport.

She also asked concerned officials to be extra vigilant amid reports of fake negative RT-PCR certificates found in possession of some passengers and urged people to maintain Covid-19 protocol strictly in the State.

The Chief Minister announced a vaccination drive for people working in the transport sector, hawkers and journalists will be initiated on a priority basis because they came in contact with a maximum number of people because of their job profile.

As per the latest order norms of physical distancing and health hygiene protocol must be strictly followed. Any violation in compliance of norms of physical distancing, health hygiene protocol and wearing of masks shall attract penal actions as per law.

“All government offices, local transport (private and government buses), private offices, metro railways will function on 50 per cent occupancy. The retail outlets will function daily from 7am to 10am and 5pm to 7pm. All jewellery shops will be allowed to function from 12 noon to 3pm. There will be no restriction on online and home delivery of food items,” she said, while adding that the banking sector will be functional from 10am to 2pm.

All the emergency and essential services will remain outside the purview of restriction.

All shopping complexes, malls, beauty parlours, cinema halls, restaurants and bars, sports complexes, gyms, spas, and swimming pools will remain closed.

All social, political gathering, cultural, academic, entertainment related gathering and congregations shall remain prohibited. However, essential services like medical shops, medical equipment shops, milk supply, will remain open.

“Sanitisation of market places, educational institutions, office premises are mandatory and we will once again revive the Covid-19 warrior clubs in all the districts to assist us in this pandemic situation,” the Chief Minister said.

Meanwhile, Mamata Banerjee has written a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi and urged him to ensure adequate availability of essential drugs such as Remdesivir and Tocilizumab amid rising demand due to surge in Covid-19 cases.

“Considering the severity of the matter, I would like to request you to kindly look into free vaccination as universal immunisation for all in a transparent and time bound manner. At present, vaccine availability is too inadequate to provide to eligible beneficiaries and the government of India direction to extend vaccination up to 18 years plus makes it unrealistic to achieve. So, supply of vaccines is the core issue to address now,” he letter to Prime Minister Modi reads.

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India posts record daily rise in COVID-19 deaths


NEW DELHI: India’s COVID-19 deaths rose by a record 3,780 during the last 24 hours, a day after it became the second country to cross the grim milestone of 20 million infections after the United states.

Daily infections rose by 382,315 on Wednesday (May 5), health ministry data showed. Government modelling had pointed to a peak by Wednesday, a few days earlier than thought, since the virus has spread faster than expected.

The surge of the highly infectious Indian variant of the coronavirus has seen hospitals run out of beds and oxygen and left morgues and crematoriums overflowing. Many people have died in ambulances and car parks waiting for a bed or oxygen.

Two “oxygen express” trains reached the capital Delhi on Wednesday carrying desperately needed liquid oxygen, Minister of Railways Piyush Goyal said on Twitter. Over 25 trains have so far delivered oxygen to different parts of India.

Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak in Ghaziabad

Mukesh Bhardwaj cries as he sits next to his wife, who receives oxygen support for free for people suffering from breathing problems, outside a Sikh temple, amid the spread of COVID-19 in Ghaziabad, India, on Monday, May 3, 2021. (Photo: Reuters/Adnan Abidi)

India’s government says there are enough oxygen supplies, but distribution has been hindered by transport problems.

A two-judge bench of the Delhi High Court has been holding almost daily video conferences to hear petitions from hospitals seeking oxygen and invoking India’s constitutional right to protection of life.

India’s surge in infections has coincided with a dramatic drop in vaccinations due to supply and delivery problems.

At least three states, including Maharashtra, home to the commercial capital of Mumbai, have reported a scarcity of vaccines, shutting down some inoculation centres.

READ: India COVID-19 infections top 20 million, top cricket league suspended

READ: Eight lions in Indian zoo test positive for COVID-19

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government has been widely criticised for not acting sooner to suppress the second wave of the virus. Religious festivals and political rallies have attracted tens of thousands of people in “super-spreader” events.

India’s opposition has called for a nationwide lockdown, but the government is reluctant to impose a shutdown for fear of the economic fallout, although several states have imposed social curbs.

“We need a government. Desperately. And we don’t have one. We are running out of air. We are dying,” wrote Indian author Arundhati Roy in an opinion piece published on Tuesday calling for Modi to step down.

“This is a crisis of your making. You cannot solve it. You can only make it worse … So please go. It is the most responsible thing for you to do. You have forfeited the moral right to be our prime minister.”

India has an estimated 3.45 million active COVID-19 cases, but medical experts say that the actual numbers of dead and infected could be five to 10 times higher. The country added 10 million cases in just over four months, after taking more than 10 months to reach the first 10 million.

Daily testing in India has fallen sharply to 1.5 million, the state-run Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) said on Wednesday. It hit a peak of 1.95 million on Saturday.

Cricket officials suspended the hugely popular, money-spinning Indian Premier League (IPL) on Tuesday as the pandemic spirals out of control.

Eight Asiatic lions at a zoo in the southern state of Hyderabad have contracted the coronavirus, the government said on Tuesday, adding that there was no evidence that animals could transmit the disease to humans.

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India to Take Back Illegal Migrants From UK in Return for Visas for 3,000 Young Workers


PM Narendra Modi and British counterpart Boris Johnson (Reuters)

PM Narendra Modi and British counterpart Boris Johnson (Reuters)

The pact will provide enhanced employment opportunities for 3,000 young Indian professionals annually.

  • Reuters New Delhi
  • Last Updated:May 04, 2021, 22:16 IST
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The United Kingdom and India on Tuesday signed an agreement on migration and mobility between the two countries, an Indian foreign ministry official said.

The pact will provide enhanced employment opportunities for 3,000 young Indian professionals annually, in return for India agreeing to take back any of its citizens who are living illegally in the UK, Sandeep Chakravorty told a news conference.

“It is our solemn duty that Indian nationals who are undocumented, or are in distress abroad and not being given nationality or residence permits, have to be taken back,” he said.

Migration has long been a source of friction between the two countries, with a similar proposal collapsing in 2018 due to disagreements.

At the time, London claimed there were as many as 100,000 Indians living illegally in the UK, though New Delhi disputes this figure.

Tens of thousands of Indians study in the UK each year, and New Delhi has complained about a lack of employment opportunities available to them when they finish their studies.

The migration pact comes after the two countries announced 1 billion pounds ($1.39 billion) of private-sector investment. Talks on a full trade deal are due to begin in the autumn.

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Covid-19 Vaccinations Fall Sharply; Officials Deny Shortage Of Doses, Cite Curbs In Many Places


India’s vaccination rate reached a record high of 2.48 crore doses in the April 3-9 week. This was just ahead of the second Covid-19 wave hitting the country hard. However, the vaccination numbers soon fell sharply instead of rising further in the wake of strict restrictions reintroduced by many states.

The Union government is concerned over the issue and it was raised by Prime Minister Narendra Modi during in a meeting with 11 chief ministers on April 23 wherein he said the vaccination programme “should not slow down in this situation”. However, the opposite seems to have happened.

Sample this: 2.07 crore vaccinations were carried out in the April 10-16 week, 1.7 crore in the April 17-23 week, and 1.48 crore in the April 24- 30 week. The last available full week’s figure (1.48 crore) reveals the number has dropped by 40 per cent from the April 3-9 week.

In the first three days of May, just about 35 lakh vaccinations have been carried out and a little over 15 lakh are expected on Tuesday, taking the number to over 50 lakh for the first four days of this week. This may mean the vaccination numbers could further fall across the first week of May (1-7).

Reasons Behind Fall

News18 spoke to two senior central government functionaries, who denied vaccine shortage and said the ongoing restrictions in many states was a big factor behind the falling numbers. “People are wary of stepping out of their homes for vaccination, given the rampaging second wave and the lockdowns. With queues seen at vaccination sites, people feel they might contract the coronavirus if they join the crowd at these centres. Many states have stipulated that people going for vaccination should not be stopped during the lockdown, but the message needs more clarity,” an official told News18.

Another official spoke about “improper resource mapping” by state governments, stating that urban centres were seeing more demand for vaccinations, even as some states had allocated much fewer numbers there. “From the Centre, ample supplies have gone to states and there is no shortage of vaccines,” the official said. He cited a government statement issued earlier in the day that said the Centre had provided 16.69 crore vaccine doses to states and Union territories, more than 75 lakh doses are still available with states and an additional 48 lakh doses will be received by them in the next three days. However, some opposition-ruled states have complained of vaccine shortage.

PM’s Advice & Way Ahead

The PM, while speaking to the CMs on April 23, had told them the vaccination programme should not be affected at a time when cases were spiraling in the second wave.

“We will need to work in a mission mode to get more and more people vaccinated,” the PM had said the CMs. He had also flagged that it was possible that hospital staff on vaccination duty could be diverted to the treatment of Covid patients in view of rising hospitalisation numbers, and had stressed the need for dedicated staff on vaccination duties, News18 has learnt.

The Centre was, in fact, hoping for vaccination numbers to improve from May with the 18-44 population being made eligible for inoculation, but limited stocks with states on that front from two private suppliers has meant modest coverage so far. Only 4.06 lakh people of the 18-44 age group have been vaccinated in the first three days of May, as only 12 states have the stocks from Serum Institute of India and Bharat Biotech that are supplying Covishield and Covaxin, respectively. This supply chain is expected to improve after May 20.

As reported by News18, the country is expected to have received over 45 crore doses of vaccines by July since the beginning of the drive, enough to vaccinate nearly a quarter of the adult population with both doses. So far, 15.8 crore doses have been administered. The central and state governments, along with the private sector, aim to get 30 crore more doses in the three months till July, given the projected availability of stocks of Covishield and Covaxin. However, that coverage of the population will happen only if the vaccination speed increases now.

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PM Modi, Boris Johnson Discuss Extradition of Vijay Mallya, Nirav Modi During Virtual Summit


Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday held a virtual summit with his British counterpart Boris Johnson wherein the leaders discussed the extradition of fugitive Indian businessmen Vijay Mallya and Nirav Modi. Modi sought an early extradition of the economic offenders, and the UK PM assured to do everything possible, said the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA).

The meeting also aimed at further bolstering bilateral ties between the two countries in a range of areas including healthcare and trade, as the UK Prime Minister announced GBP 1 billion worth of UK-India trade and investment. According to a statement from Johnson’s office, “more than 6,500 new jobs will be created around the UK thanks to the one billion pounds of new UK-India trade and investment announced by the Prime Minister today.”

The package contains over 533 million pounds of new Indian investment into the UK, which is expected to create more than 6,000 jobs in vital and growing sectors such as health and technology, Downing Street said. This includes a GBP 240 million investment by the Serum Institute of India (SII) in the UK into its vaccine business and a new sales office in the country, expected to generate new business worth over USD 1 billion, it added.

During the meeting, the two leaders had substantive discussions on the entire gamut of India-UK ties, and exchanged views on regional and global issues of mutual interest, said Sandeep Chakraborty, Joint Secretary, Europe West, MEA. They also discussed the Covid-19 pandemic situation and ongoing cooperation in the fight against it.

Modi thanked Johnson for a prompt medical assistance provided by the UK, in wake of a severe second wave of Covid-19 in India. UK was one of the first to respond to the medical crisis in India, and sent critical medical equipment, like oxygen concentrators, cylinders, ventilators, amongst others. The successful vaccine partnership through Oxford/AstraZeneca-SII collaboration was also discussed during the meet, said Chakraborty.

The two sides are also expected to unveil an ambitious 10-year roadmap to further broaden ties at the end of the summit. Ahead of the summit, the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) on Sunday said the meet will be an important opportunity to elevate the multi-faceted strategic ties and enhance cooperation on regional and global issues of mutual interest.

“A comprehensive roadmap 2030 will be launched during the summit, which will pave the way for further expanding and deepening India-UK cooperation over the next decade across five key areas,” the MEA had said. Johnson was scheduled to visit India late last month. But days before the visit, he called it off in view of the coronavirus pandemic.

In January too, Johnson’s planned trip to India to participate in the Republic Day parade as the chief guest was cancelled following a surge in COVID-19 infections in the UK. Earlier in the day, External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar and British Home Secretary Priti Paten signed a migration and mobility partnership agreement.

Jaishankar is currently on a four-day visit to the UK to attend a meeting of foreign ministers of G7 countries. “A fruitful meeting this morning with Home Secretary @pritipatel. Signed the Migration and Mobility Partnership Agreement that would facilitate legal travel and encourage talent flows. The living bridge between India andthe UK will get stronger as a result,” he tweeted.

(With inputs from PTI)

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India’s Covid-19 cases pass 20 million, opposition calls for full lockdown



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Indian opposition leader Rahul Gandhi called for a nationwide lockdown as the country’s tally of coronavirus infections surged past 20 million on Tuesday, becoming the second nation after the United States to pass the grim milestone.

India‘s deadly second wave of infections, the world’s biggest surge in coronavirus infections, has seen it take just over four months to add 10 million cases, versus more than 10 months for its first 10 million.

Currently, the country has 3.45 million active cases.

On Tuesday, India reported 357,229 new cases over the last 24 hours, while deaths rose 3,449 for a toll of 222,408, health ministry data showed.

Medical experts say actual numbers in India could be five to 10 times higher than those reported.

“The only way to stop the spread of Corona now is a full lockdown… GOI’s inaction is killing many innocent people,” Congress party MP Gandhi said on Twitter, referring to the Government of India.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government is reluctant to impose a national lockdown due to the economic fall out, yet several states have imposed various social restrictions.

The surge in cases of the highly infectious Indian variant of COVID-19 has swamped the health system, drained supplies of medical oxygen vital for survival for those infected, and seen patients dying in ambulances and carparks outside hospitals.

Rows of funeral pyres in parks and carparks cremate the overflow of corpses.

Modi has been criticized for not moving sooner to limit the latest wave of infections and for letting millions of largely unmasked people attend religious festivals and crowded political rallies during March and April.

“What the recent weeks reveal is that both Centre and states have been woefully unprepared for the second wave,” an editorial in the Times of India said on Tuesday.

Offering a glimmer of hope, coronavirus cases in some regions were plateauing, a federal health ministry official said on Monday. Government modelling shows cases could peak by Wednesday this week, a few days earlier than a previous estimate, since the virus has spread faster than expected.

Vaccine scarcity

The surge in COVID-19 in India has coincided with a dramatic drop in vaccinations, due to problems with supplies and delivery.

At least three Indian states, including the richest state of Maharashtra which includes Mumbai, continued to report vaccine scarcity, shutting down some of its vaccination centres.

The state on Monday administered 79,491 doses, compared to a record 534,372 a week ago.

In Modi’s home state of Gujarat, the three largest cities of Ahmedabad, Surat and Vadodara limited vaccines to the 18-44 age group, officials said.

The eastern state of Odisha also halted vaccination drives in 11 out of its 30 districts, local health officials told Reuters, citing paucity of resources.

“I am tired of standing in a queue. I will try one more time. If I don’t get it then, I will give up,” said Anil Rajapure, a 49-year-old farmer in Maharashtra’s Satara town, who

has failed to get his first vaccine shot after three attempts due to either stocks running out or not arriving.

Public forecasts by India’s two current vaccine producers show total monthly output of 70-80 million doses would increase only in two months or more, although the number of people eligible for vaccines has doubled to an estimated 800 million

since May 1. Just 9.5% of the population of 1.35 billion has received at least a single dose.

India has invited Pfizer, Johnson & Johnson and Moderna Inc to sell their vaccines to the country but none have applied to do so yet.

Pfizer has told the Indian government that there was no concern over the safety of its COVID-19 vaccine, as the country insists on small local trials for foreign shots despite a record surge in infections and shortage of doses.

International aid continued to arrive in India on Tuesday, with 545 oxygen concentrators from the United States landing, the fifth in a series of consignments carrying medical equipment.

(REUTERS)



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UP Panchayat Elections Take Ruling BJP by Surprise Ahead of 2022 State Assembly Polls


After the results of the state assembly elections in West Bengal, the Uttar Pradesh panchayat election results have again surprised the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) as it seems to be struggling in Ayodhya, Mathura and Varanasi, which is also the parliamentary constituency of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. However, the BJP has claimed that they have got the maximum number of seats in UP Panchayat Polls. The final results of the UP panchayat elections are yet to be announced as counting was yet to be finished in some districts.

Ayodhya has 40 zila panchayat seats. While Samajwadi Party sources have claimed to win 24 seats, the BJP has managed to win only six seats and 12 seats have been bagged by independent candidates. The BJP had refused tickets to some of its leaders in Ayodhya after which 13 of its leaders filed nominations as independent candidates. However, BJP sources have claimed that the party has the support of the independent candidates as well.

In PM Modi’s constituency Varanasi, the condition of BJP is also not very good. After losing the MLC elections, the BJP seems to be struggling in zila panchayat elections as well. Out of 40 seats of zila panchayat, the BJP seems to have bagged only eight seats as of now. The Samajwadi Party, on the other hand, has claimed that the party has won 14 seats and BSP has won five seats. Apna Dal(S) has also bagged three seats while Aam Aadmi Party and SBSP, led by Om Prakash Rajbhar, have bagged one seat each. Three independent candidates have also won the race. In 2015 also the BJP had lost the Zila Panchayat seat but the party took it back after the formation of Yogi Adityanath government in the state.

In Mathura, the Bahujan Samaj Party sources have claimed to win a maximum of 12 seats while Rashtriya Lok Dal has claimed to win eight seats while BJP seems to be winning just nine seats as of now. The Samajwadi Party has claimed to win one seat while three independent candidates have also won. The BJP sources have claimed that independent candidates are with them. The poor performance of the ruling party in Mathura is said to be because of the farmers’ protest.

All the three cities of Ayodhya, Mathura and Varanasi have been the top priority of BJP but the zila panchayat results and trends indicate that almost eight months before 2022 state assembly elections in the state, the position of the ruling party was not very good. Meanwhile, the BSP gaining lead in Mathura has also revealed that the political effect of Mayawati is far from over in this region. The UP panchayat elections were considered as a litmus test not just for the ruling BJP but also for SP, BSP and Congress ahead of crucial 2022 state assembly polls.

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Modi-Boris Virtual Summit Brings GBP 1Bn Worth of Deals, Enhanced Trade Partnership


The British government has finalised GBP 1 billion worth of trade and investment with India, creating over 6,500 jobs in Britain, ahead of the virtual summit between UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson and his Indian counterpart Narendra Modi on Tuesday. The investments confirmed by Downing Street on Monday evening form part of an Enhanced Trade Partnership (ETP), which the two leaders will formally sign off during their talks. The ETP will set the ambition to double the value of UK-India trade by 2030 and declare a shared intent to begin work towards a comprehensive Free Trade Agreement (FTA).

Like every aspect of the UK-India relationship, the economic links between our countries make our people stronger and safer, said Johnson. Each and every one of the more than 6,500 jobs we have announced today will help families and communities build back from coronavirus and boost the British and Indian economies. In the decade ahead, with the help of (the) new partnership signed today and a comprehensive Free Trade Agreement, we will double the value of our trading partnership with India and take the relationship between our two countries to new highs, he said.

The trade and investment package unveiled by the British government contains over GBP 533 million of new Indian investment into the UK, covering areas such as healthcare and technology. This includes a GBP 240 million investment by the Serum Institute of India (SII) in the UK into its vaccine business and a new sales office in the country, expected to generate new business worth over USD 1 billion. Serum Institute’s investment will support clinical trials, research and development and “possibly” manufacturing of vaccines, to help the UK and the world defeat the coronavirus pandemic and other deadly diseases, Downing Street said.

British businesses have also secured new export deals with India worth more than GBP 446 million, which is expected to create more than 400 British jobs. This includes CMR Surgical exporting its next-generation Versius surgical robotic system, which helps surgeons perform minimal access surgery being rolled out to hospitals in India. This export deal is worth GBP 200 million and will result in the creation of 100 new jobs in the UK.

With almost 1.4 billion people, India’s population is bigger than the EU and US combined and by far the largest market the UK has committed to negotiating a trade deal with to date, Downing Street said. The ETP agreed between India and the UK is said to create immediate opportunities for British businesses in India across industries including food and drink, life sciences and the service sector. Non-tariff barriers on fruit and medical devices will be lowered, allowing British businesses to export more of their products to India and boosting UK growth and jobs. It also commits both sides to addressing immediate market access barriers as well as continuing to seek further opportunities on the road to an FTA.

A future UK-India trade deal will support hundreds of thousands of jobs and boost the economies of both the UK and India by potentially lowering or removing current tariffs such as those of up to 150 per cent on whisky and up to 125 per cent on automotives as well as on other British products. It would also create huge benefits for British services — four out five of India’s fastest growing imports are for services like IP and telecommunications, Downing Street said.

The trade barriers addressed by the ETP include lifting restrictions to enable fruit producers across the UK to export British apples, pears and quince to India for the first time and improved access for medical devices through the acceptance of UK Certificates of Free Sale in India, removing the requirement for additional accreditation of UK medical devices when exporting to the Indian market before they can be sold.

There is also a commitment to deepening cooperation in educational services and concluding work on the recognition of UK higher education qualifications, which will encourage an increase in student flows, skills transfer and knowledge sharing between the UK and India. It has also been agreed for both sides to work on removing barriers in the Indian legal services sector preventing UK lawyers from practising international and foreign law in India, a step that Downing Street could significantly increase UK legal services exports and UK legal services imports from India. According to official statistics, trade between the UK and India is already worth around GBP 23 billion a year, supporting more than half a million jobs.

Last week, Johnson spoke to Indian business leaders from companies Infosys and HCL and the software majors are among the Indian firms listed as part of a series of investment deals, set to create 1,000 jobs each in the UK. Some of the others on the list include the likes of biotech firm Global Gene Corp, TVS Motors and Goila Butter Chicken. The UK companies clinching export deals with India include Morningside Pharmaceuticals with an R&D pact, Kloudpad with a data centres deal, BP in a partnership with Infosys and GoZero Mobility with an e-bicycles deal.

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Navy Chief to PM Modi


Navy Chief Admiral Karambir Singh briefed Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Monday about the initiatives his organisation has taken to help people in fighting COVID-19, and said it has reached out to all state administrations, offering help in terms of hospital beds, transportation and other such matters. Naval hospitals are being opened for use of civilians in various cities, he told Modi, according to a statement. He also said that medical personnel in the Navy have been redeployed at various locations in the country to manage COVID duties, and its personnel are also being provided battle field nursing assistant training for deployment in the pandemic duties. Singh said the Navy is also helping increase oxygen availability in Lakshadweep as well as Andaman and Nicobar Islands.

He also apprised Modi that the Navy is transporting oxygen containers as well as other supplies from Bahrain, Qatar, Kuwait and Singapore to India.

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