TUESDAY WITH SERIES WIN OVER KIWIS, INDIA RECLAIM TOP RANKING 07 Virat Kohli & Co are No 1 ranked Test team after beating world champions New Zealand by 372 runs at Wankhede Stadium DECEMBER, 2021 DOMINATING SHOW CONTINUES AT HOME epaper.morningstandard.in facebook.com/TheMorningStandard twitter.com/TheMornStandard SC STAY 27% OBC QUOTA IN MAHA LOCAL POLLS Ordinance giving specific quota in civic body elections violates norms PAGE 8 CEO fires 900 Better.com staff via Zoom call S A M I K S H A G O E L @ New Delhi CALL it Worse.com if you will. The CEO of US-based firm Better.com, Vishal Garg, laid off 900 employees during a bizarre Zoom call, shocking the company’s staff ahead of the festive season. The sacked employees comprised about 9% of the digital mortgage lender. Reports said the lay-offs are mainly in India and the US, and that the Zoom call lasted just three minutes. “If you’re on this call, you are Vishal Garg part of the unlucky group being laid off. Your employment here is terminated effective immediately Garg said in the ,” one-way video call on December 1. An employee filmed the call and leaked it recently on social media. One of the laid-off workers told this newspaper that they felt cheated and devastated, as the call came out of the blue. Garg, an abrasive executive, had once called his employees “a bunch of DUMB DOLPHINS” in a staff email. TechCrunch speculated that the lay-offs may have been a condition for Better.com’s backers — which include SoftBank — greenlighting a sooner-than-expected cash infusion of $750 million. A CAPITAL VIEW OF NEWS We perceive India as a great power, a friendly nation and a time-tested friend - Vladimir Putin Prime Minister Narendra Modi greets visiting Russian President Vladimir Putin before their meeting at Hyderabad House in New Delhi on Monday | SHEKHAR YADAV Nine govt-to-govt pacts in basket of 28 Four agreements in defence sector signed In all, 28 agreements signed, including nine government-togovernment pacts. The G2G pacts include developing a roadmap for science, technology and innovation; IPR rights; military-technical ties from 2021 to 2031; earth sciences and geological study of subsoil; amendment to recognise seafarer’s identity documents; cultural exchange; peaceful use of outer space plus building and operating space launch vehicles and setting up ground-based space infrastructure India and Russia concluded four major defence equipment deals, including on procuring 6,01,427 AK-203 assault rifles through Indo-Russia Rifles Prt Ltd. The rifles will be manufactured at a cost of around `5,000 crore. The agreements were signed at the 20th meeting of the India-Russia Inter-Governmental Commission on Military and Military-Technical Cooperation. Another pact was on amending the agreement on cooperation in the field of manufacturing of the Kalashnikov series of small arms that was originally sealed in February 2019 EXPRESS NEWS SERVICE @ New Delhi A medic at a Chennai lab prepares equipment to diagnose Omicron variant | PTI WHILE rising Covid cases in 50 districts of nine states have set alarm bells ringing in the backdrop of Omicron scare, experts say fears of a third wave may be unfounded at this stage. So far, a total of 23 Omicron infections have been confirmed in the country with Maharashtra reporting two more cases on Monday “Two . more cases of Omicron, a 37-year-old South Africa returnee man and his 36-yearold US returnee friend, have been confirmed,” the state government said. Notably, neither of the two patients displayed any Covid symptom. And, both had taken Pfizer’s Covid-19 vaccine. Over the past 10 days, Rajasthan, Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Delhi, Karnataka, Jammu & Kashmir, Odisha and Mizoram have reported a notable uptick in active Covid cases, prompting the Union health and family welfare ministry to shoot off letters asking these states to step up surveillance and disease containment measures. According to public health specialists, the spike in cases is the result of increased testing involving those who are seen asymptomatic or mildly symptomatic. Health economist Rijo M John, who has been studying J8.00 PAGES 12 Nine Man-of-the-Series awards for R Ashwin in Tests put him on level with South African great Jacques Kallis. Only Muttiah Muralitharan (11 awards) is ahead of Ashwin now. Ashwin now has 300 Test wickets at home, the second Indian to achieve the feat. Anil Kumble has 350 wickets. Detailed discussion on Afghan situation and cross-border terror; enhanced cooperation in military, oil & gas, petrochem and space M AYA N K S I N G H @ New Delhi No lockdown, only graded action plan if cases rise: Jain @ New Delhi ASHWIN CHASES MURALI, KUMBLE RECORD Terror, trade dominate summit DON’T PANIC, NO THIRD WAVE OF COVID YET, SAY EXPERTS S U M I S U K A N YA D U T TA NEW DELHI India’s victory margin is their highest in Tests in terms of runs. The win against New Zealand is their 14th straight series win at home, with their last defeat dating back to 2012 against England. Since 2013, India have lost only two Test matches at home. New Zealand, meanwhile, are without a Test win in India since 1988 | P11 JAB-O-METER TAKE YOUR SHOT Dec 05 24,55,911 doses Dec 06 71,91,939 doses TOTAL DOSES 128,66,56,967 NATIONWIDE DEC 05 DEC 06 Fresh cases 8,895 8,306 Recoveries 6,918 8,834 Deaths 2,796 211 Covid numbers since the beginning of the pandemic, said: “There is absolutely no sign of cases going up at the national level at the moment… We would not see a third wave as bad as the second in India.” Epidemiologist and health systems expert Dr Chandrakant Lahariya said he is not worried about the spread of Omicron pushing the wave of infections in the country. “Based on available information on the variant so far-we do not panic yet as in our kind of setting, any big third wave is now highly unlikely ,” he opined. “We need to understand that the number of infections in some districts and even the test positivity rate to some extent are bound to rise due to targeted testing and testing of even the asymptomatic or mildly symptomatic people,” Lahariya added. REJECTING the possibility of lockdown because of the Omicron variant’s threat, Delhi Health Minister Satyendar Jain on Monday said the Delhi government will implement its ‘Graded Response Action Plan’ if the cases of Covid rise. Under GRAP when the pos, itivity rate reaches 0.5%, i.e out of 1,000 people tested 5 are positive, then the first level of the system will be implemented, Jain said. The second level will be implemented if the positivity rate reaches 1%, meaning 10 people test positive out of 1,000, while the third level will be implemented on reaching a positivity rate of 2%, when 20 people test positive out of a testing sample of 1,000 people. The last stage or red level will be initiated when a positivity rate of 5% is reached, meaning 50 people are positive out of the 1,000 people tested. “Last time, the red level was implemented when we had reached a positivity rate of about 14-15%. However, at present, the cases of corona in Delhi are much below 0.5%. So no lockdown will be imposed. Everyone needs to be alert, as this variant is a very fast-spreading one. It spreads even faster than the delta variant. So we need to be more careful,” Jain said. So far, 27 people have been admitted to LNJP Hospital, out of which 17 are positive and only one person has been confirmed to have Omicron variant. “Face masks are the only shield to prevent every variant of the virus,” the minister added. CROSS-border terrorism, the unfolding situation in Afghanistan and military cooperation apart from trade figured in the summit talks between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Russian President Vladimir here on Monday . India and Russia inked as many as 28 agreements during Putin’s visit. “President Putin’s visit was short but highly productive and substantive. There were excellent discussions between the two leaders. Twentyeight agreements/MoUs were concluded during this visit. These agreements include those between government-togovernment and business-tobusiness,” said foreign secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla. Briefing media after the summit talks, Shringla said bilateral trade and investment figured prominently in the talks. “This year, we’ve noticed an encouraging trend of growth in our trades compared to last year. Both sides are looking forward to continued increase in trade and investment trajectory he added. ,” During the talks, Modi and Putin decided to continue close consultation and coordination on Afghanistan. According to the joint statement released late in the evening, Modi and Putin emphasised that Afghanistan’s territory should not be used for sheltering, training, planning or financing terrorist groups such as the LeT, ISIS and Al-Qaeda. The part condemning cross-border movement of terrorists is seen as a clear reference to Pakistan. Indo-Russian cooperation in the strategic area of energy was discussed in detail. “We have expressed our interest in further investments in the oil & gas sector, and in petrochemicals,” Shringla said. Putin said Russia’s cooperation with India in the military and technical spheres is unique. “By that I mean we develop technologies together as well as produce in India.” he said. On terrorism and Afghanistan, Putin said, “We continue to cooperate jointly on global agenda… our positions are similar. Naturally, we are concerned about everything that has got to do with terrorism. I mean fight against terrorism, drug trafficking, organised crime etc. We are concerned about the developments and situation in Afghanistan.” Putin laid stress on boosting economic cooperation while giving his opening remarks during the meeting between the two leaders. This was Putin’s second visit abroad since P7 the pandemic began. EXPRESS READ PM to inaugurate AIIMS, ICMR regional unit in UP Lucknow: Prime Minister Narendra Modi will on Tuesday inaugurate three mega projects worth over `9,600 crore, including an AIIMS and a major fertiliser plant, in Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath’s home turf Gorakhpur. The three ambitious projects, set to give further impetus to the growth of underdeveloped eastern UP, also include ICMR’s regional unit Regional Medical Research Centre and the newly built fertilizer plant of Hindustan Urvarak Rasayan Limited. The UP CM reached Gorakhpur on Monday evening and took stock of the preparations for the prime minister’s visit. People attend a mass funeral of civilians killed by the Army in a case of mistaken identity, in Mon district of Nagaland on Monday | PTI Army tried to hide bodies: Naga govt P R A S A N TA M A Z U M D A R @ Guwahati ‘Mistaken identity’ Home Minister Amit Shah on Monday admitted in Parliament that the Nagaland firing was a case of mistaken identity and expressed regret over the civilian killings Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act gives unbridled powers to security forces. They can visit your house, frisk and arrest people without a warrant. While doing this, if they kill someone, there will be no case. This has to go Neiphiu Rio, Nagaland CM SPECIAL forces of the Army not only shot dead civilians in a case of mistaken identity in Nagaland’s Mon on Saturday they also tried to hide the , bodies under tarpaulin, a report by the state’s Director General of Police T John Longkumer and Commissioner Rovilatuo Mor revealed. A parallel first information report filed on the incident by the police was equally damning. Claiming that the Army did not inform them of the operation against insurgents, it alleged that “it is obvious that the intention of (the) security forces is to murder and injure civilians.” The report of the DGP and the Commissioner said the unarmed civilians were “ambushed and killed by security forces (reportedly 21 Para based in Assam) at random, apparently without any attempt for identification.” Six civilians were killed on the spot and two critically injured. What followed was a cover up attempt by hiding the bodies and possibly taking them to the Army camp. “On hearing the gunshots, the villagers went to the spot being apprehensive that the individuals did not return home from work… They found the pickup truck and the special forces personnel trying to hide the dead bodies...by wrapping and loading them in another pickup truck, apparently with the intention of taking the dead bodies to their base camp.” Violence broke out when the villagers found the bodies hidden under a tarpaulin sheet, the report said. A mass funeral for the victims was slated for Sunday but put off by a day without any clear announcement, which angered the locals and resulted in an attack on an Assam Rifles camp in Mon. Army men firing blanks further enraged the mob. “After almost an hour into the melee, the second round of continuous firing by the Assam Rifles resulted in the mob running for safety and protection. After the firing ceased, one protestor…was confirmed dead on the spot and six others, including one IR personnel, sustained bullet P7 injuries,” the report added. Scindia steps in as crowds at IGIA trigger worry E X P R E SS N E WS S E R V I C E @ New Delhi FOLLOWING reports of overcrowding and chaos at the Delhi airport during the last few days after the Omicron-related travel guidelines came into effect, Union Civil Aviation Minister Jyotiraditya Scindia on Monday intervened and asked the airport operator, the GMR group-led Delhi International Airport Limited (DIAL), to improve crowd management. The aviation ministry officials said tthe minister held a meeting with officials of the Airports Authority of India, Bureau of Immigration and DIAL. The officials of AWARD CM BHUPESH BAGHEL HONOURS FARMERS Outstanding achievements of farmers and organisations working in the field of agriculture were recognised and awarded at the ‘Kisan Summit & Awards’, organised by TNIE in collaboration with the Chhattisgarh government PAGE 7 Genestrings Diagnostics, the laboratory that carries out RTPCR testing at the Delhi airport, were also present. Amid concerns over Omi- cron, the Centre had issued a revised guideline for international travellers which came into effect on December 1. Meanwhile, Delhi airport said that it has updated testing capacity at international arrival with the deployment of 120 Rapid PCR machines, taking hourly capacity to 500-600 per hour. Further, there is a provision for approximately 500 RTPCR tests per/hour. This additional capacity will make the international arrival process smooth, it said. Passengers have posted images from the airport in the last few days giving an impression of a crowded railway station. All passengers from ‘at-risk’ countries have to take a mandatory RT-PCR test on arrival. Passegers are having to wait up to 8 hours for the test result. Lockdown pushes up malnourished kids’ tally in Bengal’s backward districts P R A N A B M O N D A L @ Kolkata THE number of children suffering from malnutrition in West Bengal has increased twofold owing to closure of Integrated Child Development Scheme (ICDS) centres amid Covid-19, revealed a survey by the state government. The survey conducted across , the state in September, found that 6.7 lakh children were malnourished. The figure was 3.5 lakh in August last year. There are two categories to measure children with malnutrition — severe and moderate. “According to the recent survey report, 18,162 children are suffering from severe malnutrition and 6.52 lakh children with moderate malnutrition. The total number of malnourished children has increased two times,” said an official quoting the survey of women and child development and social welfare department. Bengal has 1,17,120 ICDS centres which cater to 73.45 lakh children till the age of six and also take care of pregnant and lactating mothers. “Most of malnourished children are from poor families living in remote pockets. Significant number of malnourished children was reported from districts like Purulia, West Midnapore, Jhargram and Bankura, which are known as backward regions of the state,” said the official. The administration in many districts has initiated measures to deal with the situation. In Purulia, the administration is reaching out to the families of 2,658 severely malnourished children with fruit saplings and proposal for constructing small ponds in their land to breed fish for children. “Ready-to-eat nutritious food is also being offered to families having severely malnourished children,” said another official. Lack of jobs during lockdown also played a role in pushing malnourishment. “Boiled rice received from ration shops was the only source of food for jobless people who couldn’t afford two sqare meals for their families,” said the official.
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