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UP mantri: Can’t check dumping of bodies in river | India News – Times of India

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LUCKNOW: While the horror of spotting corpses floating in the Ganga has triggered panic among people and sparked off a slugfest between Uttar Pradesh and Bihar governments over dumping of bodies of suspected Covid victims in rivers, UP cabinet minister for jal shakti and water resources Mahendra Singh said on Thursday his department has little option to check the menace.
“People know and understand they should not dump bodies in rivers, but what can be done if people clandestinely do it in the dead of night,” Singh told TOI. He, however, maintained that the administration of districts where corpses were found afloat were taking requisite steps.



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From September to April, PM in 6 meets with CMs warned them of 2nd wave: BJP | India News – Times of India

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NEW DELHI: Rebutting the opposition’s allegation that the government ignored the risk of a second surge of infections, BJP on Thursday circulated details of the times when the Modi government alerted states about the imminence of a second wave, when it issued advisories and took other measures.
The party said PM Narendra Modi, in his interactions with chief ministers, repeatedly raised the issue of rising infections in certain parts and asked them to take measures to handle the surge.
The party also circulated a video of Modi’s meetings with CMs on March 17 where he had sounded an alert about a fresh spike in infections after they had plateaued and asked them to take urgent steps before it was too late.
“We are confident about our Covid management but our confidence should not become overconfidence,” Modi had said and urged states to become proactive in order to contain the spread of the virus and insisted on micro containment zones.
In fact, from September 2020 to April this year, the PM held six interactions with chief ministers, starting from September 23 last year to the latest one on April 23.
BJP said even in September last year, the PM had asked chief ministers to focus on 60 districts with a high burden of cases and increase testing substantially. During the same meeting, the PM had informed chief ministers that the limit of using the state disaster response fund for Covid-specific infrastructure had been increased from 35% to 50%.
“Moreover, the PM’s interaction with CMs on March 17 took place when India had only 30,000 new cases per day,” the party said and circulated a ‘Narrative vs Truth’ chart, which was shared by its senior leaders and supporters.
The party alleged that opposition CMs like Mamata Banerjee (West Bengal) and Bhupesh Baghel (Chhattisgarh) skipped these interactions as they were busy with assembly polls. Baghel had a long stay in Assam as a key campaigner for Congress.
It also said the Centre had dispatched teams to various parts as soon as states like Maharashtra and Kerala started showing a steady increase in people testing positive.
BJP took on Congress for the latter’s criticism of the vaccination policy, saying the opposition party’s functionaries like Lok Sabha MP Manish Tewari, spokesperson Randeep Surjewala and health ministers of Congress-ruled states, such as T S Singh Deo (Chhattisgarh) and Bana Gupta (Jharkhand), sought to promote vaccine resistance by raising questions about the efficacy of “made-in India” Covaxin.
“India is in the midst of a pandemic. Its scientists raced against time to produce a vaccine. They were reviewed at different levels before being given emergency use approval so that lives could be saved. But the opposition, Congress in particular, mocked it. Result: people died,” BJP IT cell head Amit Malviya tweeted, sharing videos of Congress leaders’ reservations about use of Covaxin.
Referring to claims that India had the highest number of cases in the word, the party said, “India has more people than Europe and North America put together. So, in absolute numbers, India will obviously be higher. But in terms of cases and deaths per million population, India stands at 110th in the world so far.”

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Government refutes bench ‘avoidance’ charge in border road case | India News – Times of India

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The Supreme Court on Thursday deferred a hearing on widening of roads in border areas amidst a verbal duel with Citizen for Green Doon, an NGO, alleging that the Centre is resorting to bench “avoidance” by insisting the case be adjudicated by a vacation bench instead of the regular bench and the Centre rubbishing the allegations as delaying tactics.
At the outset of the proceedings, senior advocate Colin Gonsalves, appearing for the NGO, told a bench of Justices Vineet Saran and Dinesh Maheshwari that he had filed a written submission and pleaded the bench to go through it.
But Attorney General K K Venugopal, appearing for the Centre, immediately took strong objection and submitted that the petitioner not be allowed to raise baseless and motivated allegations.
In the written submission, the NGO said, “The application under consideration is for the modification of the order dated September 8, 2020, passed by a three-judge bench. It is humbly submitted that any modification of this order would be required to be done by a threejudge bench. It is further humbly submitted that the matter be placed before the regular bench for the reason that the Union of India is engaging in the most unfortunate activity of Bench avoidance.”
It further said there is no urgency to hear the matter during vacation when the Centre had requested for adjournments repeatedly before the regular bench which had heard the matter on 18 dates. Questioning the motive of the NGO, solicitor general Tushar Mehta said there is some other “source of inspiration” for the NGO to raise such objections when the country urgently needed to improve military infrastructure.

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Panel to pick CBI chief may meet soon | India News – Times of India

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NEW DELHI: search committee to finalise the new CBI director is likely to meet on May 24. The members of the panel, which comprises the prime minister, the Chief Justice of India and the leader of Congress in Lok Sabha, have been notified of the meeting.
The CBI top post fell vacant on February 3 and the agency’s additional director was named as the officiating director. As the Centre could not convene the meeting of the panel in the next few weeks, Congress leader in the committee Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury left for West Bengal elections, which concluded on May 2. The Supreme Court too has been hearing the issue. The members have been briefed about a long list of names, it is learnt.

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In May, private hospitals bought 80 lakh jabs, states 1.23 crore | India News – Times of India

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NEW DELHI: Private hospitals have procured 80 lakh doses of anti-Covid vaccines, whereas states and UTs have bought 1.23 crore doses so far directly from vaccine manufacturers since the new vaccination policy came into effect from May 1 allowing states and the private sector to directly procure 50% of vaccines made in India.
An additional 1.27 crore doses directly procured by states and UTs is in the pipeline and will be available soon, the Centre said on Tuesday.
While lack of vaccination slots – particularly in the private sector and for those in 18-44 age group – has raised concerns during the last two weeks amid a surge in infections, the government said the supply situation will improve going forward and there will be adequate doses available for all adults.
So far, 32% or one-third of the eligible population above 45 has been inoculated with the first dose of Covid-19 vaccine, whereas 50% due for the second dose is yet to receive the shots. The Centre urged people to seek the second dose and asked states to ensure more people complete their vaccination course on time.
In response to a question whether the government dropped the ball on the second wave, as has been suggested by some experts including US top immunologist Antony Fauci, Niti Aayog member Dr V K Paul told the media on Thursday that the health ministry and top experts have regularly emphasised that there is no room for laxity. They have said the sero- surveys show a large number of vulnerable population and that the virus cannot be seen as having gone away.
States and UTs like Uttarakhand, J&K, Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh, Himachal Pradesh, Sikkim, Ladakh and Tripura have over 50% coverage of the first dose of the vaccines among 45-plus population.
With around 88% of fatalities reported in people in this group, higher immunisation can be instrumental in reducing mortality. Dr Paul also said India had reached the 18-crore vaccination mark in less time than the US.
While many states are still lagging in administering the second dose of the vaccine to eligible beneficiaries, the Centre has advised states and UTs to earmark at least 70% doses of each tranche for administration of the second dose.

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Government vows vaccine push, says will get 217 crore shots from August to December | India News – Times of India

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Representative image

NEW DELHI: Setting out its roadmap to vaccinate the around 95 crore 18-plus population, the Centre on Thursday said India should be able to access an estimated 217 crore anti-Covid shots between August and December.
In the meantime, 51.6 crore doses have been ordered to cater to the demand till July. This includes 35.6 crore doses (including 1 crore from GAVI’s Covax facility) procured by the Centre, and 16 crore directly contracted by states and private hospitals. Responding to concerns over the slump in vaccinations due to lack of supplies for the 18-44 age group and plateauing in the 45-plus category, the government said the pace would pick up and access to vaccines made in India would be ramped up even as foreign vaccines may also become available over the next few months.
Apart from the estimated production of Covishield and Covaxin which are currently in use, Russian Sputnik V — approved for emergency use and expected to be available in the market next week — the estimate of 216 crore doses is based on anticipated production indicated by companies of promising vaccine candidates currently under advanced stages of clinical trials.
“You may say it is optimistic. Yes, this is optimistic. Is there a risk that it may not happen. Possible, but preparations are there. These are very promising vaccines,” said Dr V K Paul, Niti Aayog member and head of the National Expert Group for Vaccine Administration for Covid-19 (NEGVAC). The total number of doses available would further rise to around 300 crore by the end of the first quarter of 2022, Dr Paul said. He said the estimates were based on lab and trial results. Of the total order of 35.6 crore doses placed by the Centre so far, 7.6 crore have been received and utilised, whereas 86% of the 12 crore doses procured in phase-2 have been received and the rest will be in by the end of this month. Between May and July, another 16 crore doses will be supplied as part of the Centre’s phase 3 procurement. In May alone, around 7.3 crore doses have been available through the Centre, states and private hospitals.
The big push is expected between August and December, when Serum Institute of India is expected to manufacture around 75 crore doses, and 55 crore doses of Covaxin — now also being made in three public sector units apart from Bharat Biotech — are estimated to be available. Local manufacturing for Russia’s Sputnik V, currently being imported, will begin from July and 15.6 crore doses are expected to be available for local consumption in the indicated time period.
Apart from these, the government is looking at Biological E’s recombinant vaccine, being partnered with Baylor Medical College in the US, to provide 30 crore doses, besides vaccines from Cadila Healthcare, Gennova Pharma and Bharat Biotech’s nasal vaccine candidate. The projections also include Novavax, which SII will manufacture in India. The projections are “responsible” and have been indicated by the companies, Dr Paul said.
“We are proud to say that over 2 billion doses in a matter of five months will be made in India for people of India. So there should be no two ways about it that vaccines will be available for all as we move forward,” he added.
Emphasising the asymmetry in demand and supply of vaccines, Dr Paul said the new policy allowing states and private sector a role in procurement was a response to popular demand and insistence of states for a say. The distribution was thus divided between the Centre that kept 50% production for the priority 45-plus group and divvied up the rest between states and private hospitals. In a pandemic situation across the globe, prioritisation of vaccine recipients was necessary, he said.
The government is also in regular talks with foreign vaccine manufacturers like Pfizer, Moderna and J&J asking them to make their vaccines available in India, Dr Paul said. “We would like these companies to bring their vaccines to India, partner with Indian firms, do technology transfer and also manufacture them here. Under the new policy, the channel is open and we will support them,” he added.
The government has of late also relaxed the regulatory norms for granting approval to such foreign developed and manufactured vaccines which have already been approved by credible global regulators like USFDA and UK’s MHRA etc.

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As India eyes Sputnik rollout, experts question efficacy data | India News – Times of India

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A medical specialist holds a vial of Sputnik V vaccine against the coronavirus in a department store in Moscow. Picture credit: ( Reuters )

HYDERABAD: Even as India is gearing up to roll out Russian Covid-19 vaccine Sputnik V next week, a group of international experts has raised serious questions about the data discrepancies and substandard reporting of interim data of the vaccine’s phase 3 trials. Raising the red flag on discrepancies in the trials data, changes in the trial protocols, quality and accuracy of data as well as a lack of transparency, they said: “Restricted access to data hampers trust in research. Access to data underpinning study findings is imperative to check and confirm the findings claimed.”
These questions come at a time when Dr Reddy’s Laboratories, Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF)’s Indian partner, is preparing to receive the shipment of the second dose from Russia after the first lot of 1.5 lakh first doses arrived in Hyderabad on May 1.
“It is even more serious if there are apparent errors and numerical inconsistencies in the statistics and results presented. Regrettably, this seems to be what is happening in the case of the Sputnik V phase 3 trial,” the experts said in a correspondence published in The Lancet’s Online First edition on Wednesday.
The experts expressed concern regarding the availability of the data from which the Sputnik investigators drew their conclusions as they had refused to share it. “Data sharing is one of the cornerstones of research integrity; it should not be conditional and should follow the FAIR principles,” they said in the letter.
Scientists also rued the fact that the full trial protocol and the reasons for making changes in the interim analyses as well as the primary outcome were not made public. “Initially the primary outcome was to be assessed after the first dose, but the evaluation was postponed to after the second dose. The presented primary result (efficacy of 91.6% is dependent on this change but the reasons for the change have not been made public,” they pointed out.
They also said the definition of the primary outcome is unclear and several crucial information is lacking such as the clinical parameters determining suspected Covid-19, diagnostic protocols used, when the PCR testing was done, what specific method was used, or how many amplification cycles were used.
“The way cases of suspected Covid-19 were defined could have led to bias in PCR testing used to assess the number of confirmed Covid-19 cases, which is crucial for the efficacy determination,” they pointed out. While raising concerns about the enrolment and randomisation of patients and a discrepancy in the numbers shared, they also pointed to several inconsistencies in the data and numerical results reported. “…data for the vaccinated group of day 20 refer to more individuals than at day 10…the number of participants reported for the different vaccinated age cohorts do not add up to the reported total. With such inconsistencies we question the accuracy of the reported data,” they said.
Sputnik scientists respond: In a response published in the same Lancet issue, Sputnik V scientists said the reporting of the interim analysis in the phase 3 trials was fully compliant with the “clear and transparent regulatory standards” for provision of clinical trials data. “It is on this basis that Sputnik V has received registration in 51 countries, which confirms our full transparency and compliance with regulatory requirements,” they said, adding that all the amendments made to the protocol were submitted to the Lancet along with the rest of the documents for review.
They also attributed the numerical inconsistencies to simple typing errors that were formally corrected and said the “safety and immunogenicity of the Sputnik V vaccine has been confirmed in multiple studies”.

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High court rejects live-in couple’s plea seeking protection | India News – Times of India

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CHANDIGARH: The Punjab and Haryana high court has rejected a plea for protection filed by a live-in couple allegedly facing threats from the girl’s family since their elopement, saying any such step could potentially “disturb the social fabric”.
“Petitioner No 1 (the girl) is barely 18 years old whereas petitioner No 2 (the boy) is 21 years old. They claim to be residing together in a live-in relationship and claim protection of their life and liberty from the girl’s relatives. In the considered view of this bench, if such protection is granted, the entire social fabric of society would get disturbed,” the single-judge bench of Justice Anil Kshetarpal said.
Co-petitioner Ujjawal, a native of Patti Dhamtan Sahib in Haryana’s Jind, had said she feared her influential family might implicate her partner Manpreet, who is from Rasidan village in the same district, in false criminal cases.
While seeking protection for the couple, their counsel argued that the nature of their relationship made it even more important for the authorities to save them from any harm or harassment.
“Such type of relationship will certainly put an end to the demand for dowry,” the lawyer said.

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CBSE Class XII exams may be scrapped amid Covid surge | India News – Times of India

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NEW DELHI: There has been a growing demand for cancellation of CBSE’s Class 12 Board exams this year in view of the surging Covid-19 infections across the country. Though the Board is expected to review the situation in two weeks, sources in the ministry of education (MoE) say there is likelihood of the exams being scrapped.
A senior ministry official said, “Given the current situation, there is possibility of scrapping the exams altogether. CBSE will review the situation and probably would have to work out an alternative assessment scheme for the Class 12 students”
“The pandemic situation at present is at least four times worse than last year and schools are likely to stay closed for the rest of the session. Although a final decision is to be taken after a review in June, in the current scenario it is unlikely that exams are going to be conducted anytime soon,” said a senior CBSE official.
However, opinion is divided whether Class XII Boards should be cancelled altogether. Ashok Pandey, director, Ahlcon Group of Schools, New Delhi, believes that if the situation continues to be grim, there will be no other alternative but to cancel the exams. He said the trauma that children are experiencing should not be added to by dithering about the board exams. “It is obvious now that exams cannot take place in June and to wait wishfully for a later date conducive for examination is entirely untenable.”
In Pune, Nirmal Waddan, principal of The Kalyani School, agrees. “Unfortunately, CBSE or any education board for that matter does not have any choice left, but to immediately declare the cancellation of exams.”
However, others feel that board exams should be conducted, even if that means waiting for another six months. Former CBSE chairperson Ashok Ganguly said, “It is expected that the situation will definitely improve and we can conduct the Class XII exam sometime in the month of July.”
Some educationists felt online exams can be considered as an option, rather than cancellation. Caught in the uncertainty, students remain an anxious lot. Parents too think the priority is safety of children and teachers and cited foreign universities which are admitting students based on internal scores.



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Review ruling, let states spot, declare SEBCs: Centre in Supreme Court | India News – Times of India

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File picture of Supreme Court

NEW DELHI: To assuage the hurt of state governments and maintain federal harmony, the Union government moved the Supreme Court on Thursday for a review of its recent decision conferring exclusive power on the Centre to identify and declare socially and educationally backward classes (SEBCs), saying states were equal partners in this endeavour.
On May 5, a five-judge bench by a 3:2 majority had ruled that only the President (read the Centre) could identify and notify SEBCs for the purpose of eligibility for reservations in jobs and admissions to government educational institutions even as it upheld the validity of the 102nd constitutional amendment.
The Centre has sought an open court hearing on its review petition and requested the SC to stay operation of its judgment denuding states of the power to identify and declare inclusion of a community in the SEBC category until it has decided the review petition.
The Centre said, “The constitution bench of the SC, by a majority of three judges out of the five, upheld the validity of Article 342A of the Constitution. However, in so doing, the majority interpreted Article 342A read with Article 366(26C) to the effect that the amended provision excludes and denudes the states in the country from exercising the powers which they undoubtedly possess of identifying and declaring socially and educationally backward classes in the respective states.
“It is submitted that the minority of two judges, including the presiding judge (Justice Ashok Bhushan), has expressly held that Article 342A does not in any manner deprive states of their power and jurisdiction and competence to identify and declare socially and educationally backward classes, which is the correct interpretation of Article 342A of the Constitution.”
The majority decision denuding the states’ powers in this regard was rendered by Justices L N Rao, Hemant Gupta and S R Bhat.
“Pass an appropriate order staying the findings and observations by the majority of three judges to the extent that the majority has held that Article 342 and the other provisions inserted by the 102nd amendment to the Constitution would denude the states of their power to identify and declare backward classes in each state so that the powers of the states to identify socially and educationally backward classes which always existed is not taken away in the absence of any express provision to that effect in the Constitution,” the Centre said.
It said the majority judgment failed to appreciate that Article 15 of the Constitution bestowed the power on states to identify backward classes and that the power had not been changed by the 102nd constitutional amendment.

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