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Railway pointsman risks life to save 6-year-old boy on tracks | India News – Times of India

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MUMBAI: It could have been anybody’s worst nightmare. Or a scene from a superhero movie. A child falls on a railway track, an express train thunders towards him, the boy’s blind mother hollers for help fearing the worst… and then, in one fell swoop, a saviour appears from nowhere and plucks the kid out of harm’s way.
This heart-rending scene of valour played out at Vangani railway station, about 100km from CSMT, on Saturday evening. It has been captured on CCTV cameras at the station. The Udyan Express was speeding when railway employee Mayur Shelke (30) was alerted by the cries of a woman standing on the platform, screaming helplessly. Shelke, whose job is to check railway signals, noticed that her son, a 6-year-old, had slipped onto the railway track below.
Even as the boy tried unsuccessfully to vault over to get onto the platform, his mother was weeping out aloud, still staring blankly. Shelke figured that the mother was blind. All along, the train kept hurtling down.
Without a second thought, Shelke raced towards the boy, bundled him onto the platform, and then swiftly clambered onto it himself. Within seconds, the Udyan Express had crossed Vangani station, and was on its way towards Bengaluru.
This act of the Central Railway pointsman—a field employee whose job is to check if train signals are functioning right—has won him the gratitude of the visually impaired woman who was hugging her boy and expressing her gratitude to Shelke, said Central Railway’s chief PRO Shivaji Sutar.
The act earned him plaudits from railway minister Piyush Goyal who called up Shelke to praise him for his altruistic act. TOI has learned that Goyal told Shelke that no reward can ever compensate him for his humane act. Goyal tweeted: ‘Very proud of Mayur Shelke, Railwayman… who has done an exceptionally courageous act, risked his own life & saved a child’s life.’
Asian Institute of Transport Development has announced an award of Rs 50,000 for the alertness and courage that Shelke displayed.The boy’s mother Sangeeta Shirsat was, of course, extremely thankful to Shelke. “Can’t thank him enough… He took a huge risk to save my son’s life…”
Shelke, who joined the railways six months ago, played down his act. “I was on duty when I saw the boy. For a second, I hesitated… but then made my mind and rush towards him before the train could get there.”



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Covid-19: Vaccine availability will improve by July, says Niti Aayog’s Vinod Paul | India News – Times of India

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PUNE: Vaccine availability in India will significantly improve by July, with the ramping up of domestic production and arrival of foreign vaccines, a top official has said.
Dr Vinod Paul, member of the NITI Aayog and chairman of the government’s empowered group on Covid management, said relaxation of norms will let the country fast-track greenlighting of foreign-made vaccines that have been granted emergency-use approvals in other countries.
He added that production of both Covaxin and Covishield is also being scaled up.
“We are expecting current production levels of Covaxin and Covishield to be scaled up, as has been committed by their manufacturers (Bharat Biotech and Serum Institute). We also expect Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson to seek Indian licence as soon as possible,” Dr Paul said.

The Russian-made Sputnik-V vaccine is also likely to be available in India after May.
Some of these foreign-made vaccines need very low storage temperatures – from -25°C to -70°C. Dr Paul said, depending on approvals, some of these shots can be deployed in urban centres.
The National Expert Group on Vaccine Administration has recommended that vaccines for Covid-19, that have been developed and manufactured in foreign countries (and added to the WHO’s emergency-use listing), may be granted approvals in India. These approvals will be accompanied by relevant checks.

“The first 100 beneficiaries of these foreign vaccines will be assessed for a week for safety outcomes, before they are rolled out as part of the larger immunization programme in the country,” Dr Paul said.
The addition of more vaccines to India’s basket will let the government cover more age groups. “Better the availability, the more age groups we can cover. The government is looking to first cover the 45-plus group and then, depending on availability, expand the drive to cover others, which has been the demand of many states,” he said.
He added that while more Covishield doses are expected, the supply of Covaxin will see considerable improvement in the future following production approvals to public sector units.



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India’s active cases cross 2 million, double in last 10 days | India News – Times of India

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NEW DELHI: India now has more than 2 million (20 lakh) officially recorded active cases of Covid-19, currently the second-highest number in the world after the US. The count crossed the grim milestone on Monday, having nearly doubled in just the last 10 days.
Active cases have seen nearly a 3.5-fold increase in April, rising from around 5.8 lakh on March 31 to 20.3 lakh on Monday (April 19). High growth in active cases is directly linked to a sharp rise in new cases. A large pool of active patients puts the healthcare system under stress and increases the probability of a higher number of fatalities.
India recorded 1,693 deaths from the virus on Monday, the highest single-day toll so far. On Sunday, 1,624 fatalities were reported, as per TOI’s data. There were 2,56,990 fresh Covid-19 cases, a slight drop from the record tally of over 2.75 lakh on Sunday. Cases dip every Monday due to lower testing and staff shortages over the weekend. However, this Monday, the drop wasn’t very sharp and the positivity rate rose in many states, indicating that the rise in cases is likely to continue at least over the next few days.

As per worldometers.info, only the US has a higher number of active cases than India at 6.8 million. Brazil has the third-largest number at a little less than 1.2 million. Unlike India, active cases in the US and Brazil are on the decline.
Despite the slight decline in fresh cases from the previous day’s count, seven states reported their highest ever surge in cases on Monday. These included Madhya Pradesh, where 12,897 new infections were detected, Rajasthan (11,967), Gujarat (11,403), Bengal (8,426), Odisha (4,445), Jharkhand (4,290) and Himachal (1,695).
In deaths, Delhi recorded its highest single-day toll from the pandemic at 240. Maharashtra continued to report the highest toll in the country, with 351 deaths in the last 24 hours. Among other states recording a high number of fatalities were Chhattisgarh, where 175 deaths were reported, Uttar Pradesh (167 deaths), Gujarat (117), Punjab (84), Karnataka (81) and Madhya Pradesh (79).

Meanwhile, states, where cases had been low till recently, registered the maximum rise in infections last week (April 12-18). Bihar logged the highest growth among the bigger states, with fresh cases rising 175% (2.75 times) over the previous week. The state logged 40,888 last week as opposed to 14,852 in the preceding seven days. Similarly, the growth in cases in Odisha was 172% and Assam posted a 145% spike.
With cases exploding in the north, Delhi saw infections rise by 163% and UP by 157%. Elsewhere, weekly cases more than doubled in Kerala (126%), MP (123%), Haryana (113%), Bengal (112%), Rajasthan (108%) and Andhra (107%). Nationally, weekly cases rose by 63%.
In absolute numbers, Maharashtra logged 4,32,093 during the week, followed by UP (1,59,528), Delhi (1,28,263) and Chhattisgarh (1,01,543).



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Covid-19: Jabs opened for 18+; states, companies, private hospitals to get 50% of supplies | India News – Times of India

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NEW DELHI: In a big step to accelerate the pace of vaccination, the Centre on Monday permitted anyone above 18 to receive anti-Covid shots from May 1, opening options for states, hospital chains as well as corporate houses to procure and vaccinate all eligible recipients.
The decision was taken at a meeting chaired by PM Narendra Modi, which noted that satisfactory coverage of vulnerable groups currently eligible for vaccination was expected by April 30, setting the stage for a more liberalised approach to inoculation against Covid-19 in terms of pricing as well as age-determined eligibility.

Pharma companies manufacturing in India will be free to sell 50% of their production to states and hospital chains at a pre-fixed price for vaccination of people above 18 outside the central programme.

States will be free to decide the age bar for any category of people above 18 (for example a particular state may adopt the 18-plus norm or set an age bar of its choosing). Meanwhile, the central programme of vaccinating all above 45 will continue with the shots given for free in government hospitals.

States and hospital chains will be allowed to procure vaccines directly from manufacturers and even contract them from abroad from candidates that are approved for use by the Centre under its recently announced policy where shots approved by well-known regulators like FDA and MHRA or those listed with the WHO can be given emergency approval in India.

The three streams of vaccinations will mean that shots being delivered by private hospital chains will be costlier than the current Rs 250 rate. Vaccines procured and delivered by states will be priced by the respective administrations. The effort, keeping in mind a plateauing and a dip in daily vaccination, is to boost the pace of inoculation by liberalising procurement and widening eligibility.
India has administered 12.69 crore doses since the rollout of the vaccination drive on January 16 with prioritisation of health and frontline workers in the first phase, followed by those above 60 and then 45-plus in subsequent phases.

The revised norms create a role for private hospitals or vaccination providers as they are seen as being critical to the success of the effort to inoculate the population as quickly as possible. Vaccine manufacturers will be asked to pre-set a price for the shots which will then be applicable for all buyers in the private sector.
Vaccine makers will have to transparently make an advance declaration of the price for 50% supply that would be available to state governments and in the open market before May 1, the government said. Based on this price, state governments, private hospitals and even industrial or corporate establishments will be able to procure vaccine doses.

From its share, the Centre will allocate vaccines to states and UTs based on criteria of extent of infection (number of active Covid cases) and performance (speed of vaccination). A state’s record of wastage of vaccines will also be a criterion and will affect supplies negatively. Based on such criteria, state-wise quota will be decided.
India’s vaccine production is expected to increase substantially over the next few months with Serum Institute of India expected to increase production to nearly 100 million next month against a monthly capacity to produce 60-70 million doses at present. SII is likely to ramp up its capacity further by August.

The production capacity of locally developed vaccine Covaxin will be doubled by May-June and then increased nearly 6-7 fold by July-August. It is expected to reach nearly 10 crore doses per month by September from 1 crore in April. The government has drawn up an augmentation plan which will be implemented through expansion of capacity at Bharat Biotech as well as public sector manufacturing units.
Besides, imported vaccines are likely to be available in the open market soon.



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PM Modi speaks to UP CM, takes stock of measures to control pandemic | India News – Times of India

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LUCKNOW: Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Monday spoke to Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath and took stock of the measures being taken to control the coronavirus pandemic.
“The CM told the PM that the state was working with full devotion to check the spread (of the virus). In addition to ensuring availability of ICU beds and oxygen, the state is working on maximum testing,” according to an official statement issued here.
The prime minister also sought information regarding RT-PCR tests done by private laboratories.
All district magistrates have been instructed to ask private labs to increase their RTPCR test capacity.
Adityanath also told Modi that some elements are spreading rumours that private labs are not doing COVID-19 tests, whereas the fact is so far over 17 lakh tests have been done by private labs only.
The chief minister said that action will also be taken against those who are spreading rumours.



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Covid-19: Maharashtra govt issues SOP on micro containment zone | India News – Times of India

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MUMBAI: Any cooperative housing society (CHS) having more than five Covid-19 cases, who are present in the society/building, will be declared as a micro containment zone (MCZ), the Maharashtra government has said.
The state government declared the standard operating procedure (SOP) for MCZs in an order issued on Sunday under the break the chain initiative, launched to stem the rise of Covid-19 cases, which have seen a spurt in the recent weeks.
The government said a MCZ means any delineated area so declared by local disaster management authority (DMA).
The government said if the DMA is of the view that there is a willful default on part of residents leading to their housing society being declared a MCZ, it may levy a fine on them that may collectively go up to Rs 10,000.
If residents continue to display non-compliance towards Covid-19-appropriate behaviour, the DMA may impose further exemplary fines as it deems fit, the order said.
In cases where the DMA is of the opinion that spread of Covid-19 has arisen due to fault of MCZ residents, it may order recovery of all the expenditure borne by it in enforcing these constraints from the residents or societies (of MCZ), the government said.
Any cooperative housing society having more than 5 Covid-19 positive cases (who are present in the housing society/building) will be declared as a micro containment zone.
In case there are multiple number of buildings in the CHS, local DMA has to decide whether all the cases are in such a limited area that can be practically isolated (no porous boundary) so that this SOP is strictly implementable and if so they may declare that as MCZ. The local authority may take appropriate decisions on case-to-case basis,” it said.
However, all the common utilities must be closed down even if one building out of multiple buildings in the society is declared MCZ, the government said.
The government said the local DMA shall establish clear entry and exit points for MCZ.
There will be strict perimeter control in place to ensure that there is no outward or inward unchecked movement from and to MCZ except for medical or other emergencies, it said.
Garbage of the house having positive cases to be collected and disposed separately as per the guidelines of the local authority, the government said.
Milk, medicines and other essential products bought through e-commerce must be delivered at a common place like the lobby or main entrance of the housing society, it said.
Outside maids, domestic helps, drivers and others may be disallowed by DMA, even if they are permitted in general in their respective jurisdiction, the order said.
These may be allowed, however, if they are residents within the same MCZ and do not commute outside the zone, the government said.
Private security personnel may be allowed to commute in and out, but they should be given PPE by the society while being on the campus, the order said.
“Swimming pools, gyms and common areas shall be strictly closed within the MCZ. Services related to medical requirements of the pet animals in the housing society are essential services.
“DMA may declare specific regulations of the same, the government said.
It said details of persons moving out of the micro containment zone will be recorded.
A locality can be de-notified as a micro containment by the local DMA after 10 days of it being notified, subject to no new cases being found positive in the CHS in the last five days, the government order said.



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UK PM Boris Johnson’s India visit stands cancelled due to Covid surge – Times of India

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LONDON: UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson cancelled on Monday his trip to India on April 25 owing to the grim Covid situation in the country and said he would hold a virtual call with Indian PM Narendra Modi instead.
The announcement came just ahead of UK health secretary Matt Hancock announcing in the House of Commons that India would from 4 am UK time (8.30 am IST) on Friday 23 April be added to the red list, meaning anyone who is not a UK or Irish citizen or resident cannot enter the UK if they have been in India in the previous 10 days.
Downing Street and the ministry of external affairs said the decision to cancel the Johnson’s trip was a joint decision. “I do think it is only sensible to postpone given the shape of the pandemic in India,” Johnson said. “Everyone has a massive amount of sympathy with India and what they are going through. I will be talking to Narendra Modi next Monday and we will do as much as we can virtually, and I look forward to doing it in person as and when the circumstances allow.”

The trip was meant to see the announcement of a post-Brexit enhanced trade partnership, together with various announcements on climate change and deepening defence and security ties in the Indo-Pacific region. Ficci had planned a maiden India-UK health summit with the presence of both PMs. Government officials told TOI all the planned announcements were now “in limbo”.
A business delegation was meant to accompany Johnson but this was never finalised owing to the deteriorating situation.
Lord Karan Bilimoria, Confederation of British industry (CBI) president, said: “Businesses are still hopeful that an enhanced trade deal with India is on the horizon — an ambitious agreement that is forecasted to quadruple bilateral trade to £100 billion by 2030.”
Jim Bligh, chair, CII UK India Business Forum, said: “Business knows that the hard work of negotiating an enhanced trade partnership is going on regardless, and we look forward to that important document being signed.”
Others said it would have been bad optics to go ahead with the trip. “Narendra Modi should be focused on getting oxygen tanks and PPE to hospitals rather than photo-ops with a foreign dignitary,” one business leader said. “Coming at the tail end of an election campaign was not a great idea even before the surge in Covid cases. The entire government apparatus has been focused on state elections,” he said. “Modi will visit Europe before the G7 and that would be a better time for them to meet. It has been clear to businesses for two weeks the trip could not go ahead. I think it shows how important No. 10 views the trip that it did not cancel it until it became untenable.”
“If the situation improves in India, Boris may go to India before the G7 summit. There may be some announcements after the virtual meeting and there are some announcements he may like to keep for an in person meeting,” one Indian diplomat said.
A ministry of external affairs spokesperson said: “In view of the prevailing Covid situation, it has been decided by mutual agreement that the Prime Minister of the UK will not visit India next week. Both leaders attach the highest importance to taking the UK-India partnership to its fullest potential and look forward to an in-person meeting later this year.”



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UK PM Boris Johnson’s India visit stands cancelled due to Covid surge | India News – Times of India

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LONDON: UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson cancelled on Monday his trip to India on April 25 owing to the grim Covid situation in the country and said he would hold a virtual call with Indian PM Narendra Modi instead.
The announcement came just ahead of UK health secretary Matt Hancock announcing in the House of Commons that India would from 4 am UK time (8.30 am IST) on Friday 23 April be added to the red list, meaning anyone who is not a UK or Irish citizen or resident cannot enter the UK if they have been in India in the previous 10 days.
Downing Street and the ministry of external affairs said the decision to cancel the Johnson’s trip was a joint decision. “I do think it is only sensible to postpone given the shape of the pandemic in India,” Johnson said. “Everyone has a massive amount of sympathy with India and what they are going through. I will be talking to Narendra Modi next Monday and we will do as much as we can virtually, and I look forward to doing it in person as and when the circumstances allow.”

The trip was meant to see the announcement of a post-Brexit enhanced trade partnership, together with various announcements on climate change and deepening defence and security ties in the Indo-Pacific region. Ficci had planned a maiden India-UK health summit with the presence of both PMs. Government officials told TOI all the planned announcements were now “in limbo”.
A business delegation was meant to accompany Johnson but this was never finalised owing to the deteriorating situation.
Lord Karan Bilimoria, Confederation of British industry (CBI) president, said: “Businesses are still hopeful that an enhanced trade deal with India is on the horizon — an ambitious agreement that is forecasted to quadruple bilateral trade to £100 billion by 2030.”
Jim Bligh, chair, CII UK India Business Forum, said: “Business knows that the hard work of negotiating an enhanced trade partnership is going on regardless, and we look forward to that important document being signed.”
Others said it would have been bad optics to go ahead with the trip. “Narendra Modi should be focused on getting oxygen tanks and PPE to hospitals rather than photo-ops with a foreign dignitary,” one business leader said. “Coming at the tail end of an election campaign was not a great idea even before the surge in Covid cases. The entire government apparatus has been focused on state elections,” he said. “Modi will visit Europe before the G7 and that would be a better time for them to meet. It has been clear to businesses for two weeks the trip could not go ahead. I think it shows how important No. 10 views the trip that it did not cancel it until it became untenable.”
“If the situation improves in India, Boris may go to India before the G7 summit. There may be some announcements after the virtual meeting and there are some announcements he may like to keep for an in person meeting,” one Indian diplomat said.
A ministry of external affairs spokesperson said: “In view of the prevailing Covid situation, it has been decided by mutual agreement that the Prime Minister of the UK will not visit India next week. Both leaders attach the highest importance to taking the UK-India partnership to its fullest potential and look forward to an in-person meeting later this year.”



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Pakistan: TLP protesters release 11 abducted police officers | India News – Times of India

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ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s far-right Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) group has released 11 police officers, including a district superintendent of police (DSP), who were taken hostage during violent clashes in the eastern city of Lahore on Sunday, Pakistan interior minister Sheikh Rasheed said on Monday.
In a video message, the minister said “a lot of progress” had been made in the first round of negotiations with the TLP members.
“They have released the 11 policemen they had abducted and the people of the TLP have gone into the Rehmat ul Alimeen mosque and police have also moved back,” Rasheed said, hoping that the rest of the matter would be resolved with the proscribed group in the second round of talks. “These negotiations were held successfully by the (Pakistan) Punjab government,” he said.
According to sources privy to the matter, Pakistan Punjab governor Chaudhry Sarwar and the provincial police chief, Inam Ghani, were part of the government team that met the TLP.
The TLP workers, sources revealed, had made four demands: the expulsion of the French ambassador, the release of party chief Saad Hussain Rizvi, the removal of the ban on the party, and the release of activists arrested as well as the FIRs against them revoked.
Regarding the first demand, the government said it would take the matter to parliament. However, the government asked for time on TLP’s demands to release Rizvi, take back the FIRs and lift the ban on the party.
The government’s representatives said they would convey the TLP’s demands to higher-ups, sources said.
Meanwhile, several religious parties, including the Maulana Fazlur Rehman-led Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam and Jamaat-i-Islami, called a strike on Monday in solidarity with TLP. The authorities, meanwhile, raised security levels in the capital, Islamabad, and elsewhere.
On Monday, PM Imran Khan appeared to address the issue during an event in Islamabad. “In our country it is a great misfortune that many times our political parties and religious parties use Islam wrongly and use it such that they cause damage to their own country,” he said. Khan said he had started a campaign with the heads of other Muslim countries to present the case of Prophet Muhammad’s honour at international forums.
Last week, the Pakistani government had designated the TLP a “terrorist” organisation under its anti-terrorism law, with the authorities saying they would move to have the Election Commission delist the group as a political party. That move came after days of violent TLP protests in Lahore, Karachi, Rawalpindi, Islamabad, Multan, Peshawar and elsewhere as the group demanded the release of its chief, Saad Rizvi, from police custody.



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Facebook unveils big audio push, adding podcasts – Times of India

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SAN FRANCISCO: Facebook on Monday said it is adding podcasts and “live audio rooms” in a push to get people talking and take on the fast-growing audio-based app Clubhouse.
“We think a lot of magic happens at the intersection of audio formats, as well as at the confluence of text, audio and video,” Facebook app chief Fidji Simo said in a blog post.
Facebook’s plan to weave audio offerings into the social network comes as it works to prevent losing users to audio-only startup Clubhouse.



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