FRIDAY 12 MARCH, 2021 epaper.morningstandard.in facebook.com/TheMorningStandard twitter.com/TheMornStandard COVID EFFECT? CRIME DIPS IN MAHARASHTRA After over 37,000 cases in 2019, last year saw figures come down to 26,756 PAGE 8 A CAPITAL VIEW OF NEWS NEW DELHI J8.00 PAGES 12 Maharashtra orders return to shutdown in parts of state, Punjab & Haryana on alert Harsh lockdown measures back as Covid climbs EXPRESS NEWS SERVICE @ Mumbai/New Delhi Mamata Banerjee in her hospital bed in Kolkata on Thursday, with a cast around the injured left foot | PTI Mamata drops conspiracy angle, cops suspect accident P RA N A B M O N DA L @ Kolkata A day after alleging attack by political opponents in Nandig ram, West Beng al CM Mamata Banerjee on Thursday said her leg injury was caused by an accident. In a video message from SSKM Hospital, where she is under treatment, Mamata said she was waving supporters from the footboard of her car and got sandwiched between the door and the front seat due to pressure from the crowd. Urging Trinamool Congress workers to stay calm and not do anything that will inconvenience the public, Mamata said she would use a wheelchair and resume activities shortly . Mamata’s medical exami- I was doing ‘namaskar’ standing on the bonnet of my car. At that time pressure was exerted, because of which my leg was hit by the car Mamata Banerjee, West Bengal Chief Minister nation at the hospital revealed cracks on her feet and ankle and injuries on elbow and shoulder. She complained of chest pain and headache but ECG and MRI reports found no injury She also un. derwent CT scan. The doctors treating the CM have advised rest for 10 days. “It is a fact that I was badly hurt. I received injuries on my leg, elbow and shoulder. There were bone and liga- Time for single NEET again, proposal to go online shelved this year the Union education ministry @ New Delhi will release the examination schedule and brochure in the THE National Eligibility cum next two-three days after the Entrance Test (NEET) for en- date is finalised. The test is trance into medical and dental likely to be conducted either in colleges in the country will be late June or July . held only once this year and it NEET, usually conducted in will be a pen and paper affair. the first week of May every An earlier proposal to hold the year, had been pushed to Sepexamination twice, in tember last year amid online mode, will not For sake of strict precautions in be implemented this rural pupils view of Covid-19. year, officials said. Nearly 10 lakh stuSources said the de- There were talks dents from across the to hold the cision was taken folcountry take the test, lowing a meeting be- entrance exams though the number of online. But tween senior officials registered candidates in the Union health authorities felt it has been going down might put ministry and the Naover the last few years students from tional Testing Agency , despite considerable rural areas in a which will conduct increase in MBBS the entrance test, on disadvantageous seats in colleges. position. Also, Wednesday “It was de. After it was decided cided not to change there is a matter to hold the Joint Enthe examination pat- of stress caused trance Examination tern in any way this by the pandemic (Main) for entrance to year, because the stuengineering colleges dents have been under a lot of four times a year, NEET was stress since last year due to the also proposed to be conducted Covid-19 pandemic,” said a twice — for the first time — in government official. “A deci- order to ease off the pressure sion to conduct the tests online on students. This had been apmay be disadvantageous to stu- proved by the medical educadents, who are from the rural tion department of the health areas in particular.” ministry, but may now be imOfficials said the NTA under plemented starting next year. EXPRESS NEWS SERVICE ment injuries. I suffered chest pain. I was greeting people from the car and the crowd moved forward. The entire pressure was on me and I got sandwiched. I was given medicine that was with me and taken to Kolkata,” she said in her video message. Preliminary investigation by the police, too, revealed the incident was an accident. Senior police officials visited the spot and recorded statements of eyewitnesses. TMC sources said the CM’s initial reaction alleging conspiracy and attack might have been made in a fit of rage. The Election Commission reacted sharply to the TMC’s memorandum asking the poll body to take responsibility for the “attack”. P7 READY FOR T20S, INDIA START WC COUNTDOWN England series begins today, chance for Kohli & Co to get ready for October big show PAGE 11 WITH the fresh Covid-19 case count continuing to climb in Maharashtra, a worried Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray on Thursday announced total lockdown in some of the districts in north Maharashtra and Vidarbha, including Nagpur. Stricter measures will be taken if the situation does not improve, the CM said. Senior officials at the Centre shared his concern, as the state is witnessing the most intense second wave of infections. Also, Punjab, Haryana, Karnataka, Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh could be at the tipping point, Union health secretary Rajesh Bhushan warned. “We are very worried about Maharashtra,” said V K Paul, member, health, Niti Aayog, who also heads the national Covid-19 task force. “This is a serious matter. It has two lessons — don’t take the virus for granted; and if we have to remain Covid free, then, we need to follow Covid appropriate behaviour, containment strategy and vaccination,” Paul said. ICMR director general Balram Bhargava, while ruling out the role of mutant virus in the surge in the cases, put the blame on slackness on the part of the administration and the people. “Maharashtra has shown a worrisome trend. The COUPLES in Haryana and Punjab, who marry against the wishes of their families, will soon get shelter and legal aid at their doorstep following a high court directive on Wednesday that safe houses should be available in all districts of the two states and the Union Territory of Chandigarh for them. The court was hearing a writ petition that had sought issu- PEOPLE VACCINATED ACROSS INDIA AS ON THURSDAY MAHARASHTRA The state recorded 14,317 new cases on Thursday, the highest one-day spike this year. The active case tally stood at 1,06,070, thrice the number in Kerala, which came second with 33,785. As many as 57 deaths were reported, three more than Wednesday mutant strain has not been found incriminating in this surge in cases. It is just related to reduced testing, tracking and tracing and Covid inappropriate behaviour and large congregations,” he said. Bhushan pointed out that while active Covid-19 cases have almost halved in Kerala, they have more than doubled in Maharashtra. On Thursday , the western state recorded 14,317 cases, the highest oneday spike this year, which took its total caseload to 22,52,057. With 57 new fatalities, the state has so far reported 52,610 deaths due to the disease. Sounding a word of caution MADHYA PRADESH Four deaths and 530 new cases were reported on Thursday. The active case tally stood at 4,094. No fresh case was reported in nine of the total 52 districts in the state during the day GUJARAT The state added 710 cases to its active tally, taking the number to 4,788 while 451 recovered. No death was reported in 24 hours. Its recovery rate was down to 97.03% from 97.36% last week for Delhi and its neighbourhood, Paul said the national capital is seeing a rise in positivity rate, so is Gurgaon, Faridabad and to an extent Gautam Buddh Nagar and Ghaziabad. “Be careful, be watchful. We still have a huge population at risk of this virus. This pandemic is not yet over. Be vigilant,” he said. The health ministry has asserted that there is no shortage of Covid-19 vaccine doses in any state in the country so far. Among those who got vaccinated on Thursday was Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s 95-year-old mother Hiraba. Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray, who took his first jab at JJ Hospital in Mumbai, sought to dispel apprehenP4,8 sions over side-effects. 400-plus again, capital sees resurgence of cases E X P R E SS N E WS S E R V I C E @ New Delhi WHILE Maharashtra is the big g est wor ry cur rently, Covid-19 cases are rising in Delhi, too, with Thursday recording the highest single-day surge in nearly two months. According to the daily health bulletin issued by the Delhi government, the national capital on Thursday recorded 409 new cases, taking the total tally to 6,42,439. The last time Delhi saw cases in the range of 400 was in January — 494 on January 2, 424 on January 3, 476 on January 7 and 444 on January 8. The positivity rate also rose to 0.59 per cent while the cumulative positive rate of Delhi stands at 4.91 per cent. The number of active cases was recorded at 2020, of which half are under home isolation. With three more fatalities, the death count climbed to 10,934. The 400-plus cases came from 69,810 tests conducted the previous day, of which 42,187 were RT-PCR and the rest were rapid antigen tests. The Covid-19 cases have been on an upward trend in the past one week. The city had recorded 370 new cases on Wednesday and 320 on Tuesday On Sunday . and Monday 286 and 239 cases, , respectively, were recorded. The number of new cases on Saturday and Friday was 321 and 312, respectively with one , fatality reported on each day . Daily count in Delhi had dropped to 306 on January 11 and risen again to 386 on January 12, according to figures released officially The numbers . had started to come down in February On February 26, the . month’s highest daily count of 256 cases was recorded. However, relexation of rules might have caused another surge. D E L H I 409 new Covid-19 cases 3 deaths 29,441 beneficiaries received vaccine shots I N D I A 22,854 new infections 126 new fatalities 3,89,337 vaccine doses administered UP govt to buy wheat from farmers at hiked MSP till stocks last N A M I TA B A J PA I @ Lucknow IN THE NAME OF GOD Kinnar Akhada members take holy dips in the Ganga on Maha Shivratri during Kumbh 2021 at Har Ki Paudi in Haridwar | PTI Set up safe houses for runaway couples: HC to Haryana, Punjab ance of directions to the Punjab government to protect the life and liberty of the petitioners who married on March 4 against the wishes of their parents. In an interim order, Justice Avneesh Jhingan made it clear that the Legal Services Authorities (LSA) of both states and also of Chandigarh were required to set up 24x7 help desks for the couples 2,56,85,011 Maharashtra has shown a worrisome trend... It is related to reduced testing, tracking and tracing and Covid inappropriate behaviour and large congregations —Balram Bhargava, ICMR director general COURTSHIP ORDER H A R P R E E T B A J W A @ Chandigarh A health worker collects swab samples of a woman in Mumbai | PTI with telephone service and internet connectivity at tehsil level for filing such pleas by aggrieved persons. He also pointed out that a website or an online module should be provided for such couples to raise their grievances without being physically present. Noting that a number of petitions are being filed by couples who married against the wishes of their parents those in a live-in relationship, the judge said, “The entire endeavour is (so) that some sort of workable mechanism is put in motion to ensure protection of life and personal liberty as guaranteed under Article 21 of the Constitution. Only in exceptional cases, the couples have to take trouble to approach this court alleging infringement of the rights.” The court directed that an existing cell in the police department can be deputed or a new cell can be created which can deal with the representation for safety from aggrieved couple in a time-bound manner, not extending beyond 48 hours. “It can also be ensured that in case a request is made by the couples during the period of consideration of the representation, they should be provided shelter in a safe house,” it said. AMID the ongoing stir against the three new farm laws with minimum support price (MSP) being a key point of contention, the Uttar Pradesh government has announced that it will procure unlimited wheat from farmers on a hiked MSP till their stocks last. A government spokesperson said wheat procurement by government agencies would begin on April 1 and continue till June 15. The registration process for farmers interested in selling their crop to government agencies opened on March 1. Over 30,000 farmers were registered across the state, said the spokesperson. Announcing its new wheat procurement policy the govern, ment said it had hiked the MSP by `50 — from `1,925 per quintal last year to `1,975 per quintal now. Under the new policy, the state government has fixed no target for wheat procurement. It will continue to purchase on the increased MSP till farmers have the stocks. The spokesperson said about 6,000 procurement centres would be set up across 75 districts, based on the opinion and suggestions of the farmers. An app was also being developed to make the information about the procurement centres available to farmers, he added. Efforts would be made to keep the procurement process free from the middlemen, the spokesperson said. “For this purpose, the government has made registration mandatory for farmers on the portal of the food and civil supplies department. Those who are already registered need not apply again,” he added. The revenue department will verify farmers who are willing to sell more than 100 quintals of wheat to the government. For the first time, the entire purchasing will be done through e-POS machines after taking thumb impressions and providing receipts to farmers to keep middlemen out. The government has already begun a training session for employees being engaged in procurement to make them aware about the new policy and handling of e-POS machines, portal and tabulation works. The training will be completed by March 20.
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