Tag Archives: india

COVID-19: India Relaxes On-Set Rules.

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Bollywood megastar Amitabh Bachchan is back at work filming India’s version of “Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?” following a bout of COVID-19, while authorities eased coronavirus curbs on movie and TV shoots.

A blanket ban on studio activity in March dealt a huge blow to India’s cinema and TV industries, hitting not just Bollywood — the world’s most prolific film factory — but also regional movie-making hubs and productions for television and streaming platforms.

In June shooting was allowed again but with strict rules, including a ban on actors and crew aged over 65 — including Bachchan, 77 — until a court overturned that earlier this month.

Late Sunday the government eased the regulations but still insisted that common facilities be regularly sanitised, masks worn and social distancing “followed as far as possible”.

But the relaxation depends on individual Indian states, and Maharashtra, home to Mumbai and Bollywood and responsible for more than a fifth of India’s virus cases, is sticking to the old rules for now.

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“We are careful and will review these decisions based on how the pandemic is evolving in the state,” a spokesman for the state government told AFP.

Shows such as “Kaun Banega Crorepati?” for instance, which Bachchan has hosted as quizmaster since 2000, will not be shot before a studio audience.

The veteran star, who spent much of July in a Mumbai hospital, shared a photo with his 22 million Instagram followers of crew members “in a sea of blue PPE”, wearing full-body overalls and face masks.

Maharashtra authorities have sought to combat the spread of infections by banning producers from filming elaborate dance numbers and fight sequences — a staple of popular Hindi cinema.

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Social-distancing norms also put a stop to kissing or embracing, meaning a return of styles from the more conservative 1980s, when Bollywood songs often cut to images of flowers brushing against each other — then a shorthand for romance.

In addition to providing crew members with medical and life insurance, producers in Mumbai are required to have a doctor, nurse and an ambulance on set.

Members of the Bachchan dynasty have been among the country’s highest-profile coronavirus patients.

The superstar, his actor son Abhishek, actress daughter-in-law Aishwarya Rai, and granddaughter Aaradhya were all admitted to hospital last month. All four have since been released.


#Newsworthy…

COVID-19: Cases in India surpasses three million benchmark.

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India’s confirmed coronavirus cases crossed the three million mark Sunday with nearly 70,000 new infections, as the disease continues to surge in the world’s second-most-populous nation.

The health ministry said 69,239 cases were detected on Sunday, with 912 deaths taking the total number of fatalities to 56,706.

Many experts say, however, that the real scale of the infection is much higher.

Authorities in New Delhi said last week that an antibody study in the megacity suggested more than a quarter of the capital’s population had contracted the infection.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government imposed one of the world’s strictest lockdowns in late March that has been mostly eased in recent weeks.

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But the epidemic has left Asia’s third-largest economy reeling, and tens of millions of people have lost their jobs and livelihoods.

Individual states and cities have imposed localised lockdowns — including Haryana and Punjab, where cases have spiked in recent weeks.

Previously the main hotspots have been the teeming megacities of New Delhi and Mumbai, home to some of the world’s biggest slums.

“At the moment we are seeing a fairly sharp rise in cases overall for India,” said K Srinath Reddy, of the non-governmental Public Health Foundation of India.


#Newsworthy…

Indian hero, Gandhi’s iconic glass sold for £340,000 in Britain.

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A pair of gold-plated glasses worn by Indian independence hero Mahatma Gandhi has sold in Britain for £260,000 (about 288,000 euros, $340,000), the auction house said.

“We found them just four weeks ago in our letterbox, left there by a gentleman whose uncle had been given them by Gandhi himself,” East Bristol Auctions wrote on Instagram after the sale late Friday.

“An incredible result for an incredible item! Thanks to all those who bid.”

Gandhi was known for giving out old or unwanted pairs to those in need or those who had helped him.

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The non-violent protestor gave the glasses to the vendor’s uncle while he was working for British Petroleum in South Africa during the 1920s or 30s, said the auction house.

A handout picture released by East Bristol Auctions on August 19, 2020 shows a pair of glasses that once belonged to Indian independence icon Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi photographed at the action house in Bristol head of their sale. EAST BRISTOL AUCTIONS / AFP

The sale price smashed the original estimate of around £15,000.

Auctioneer Andrew Stowe said earlier this month that the vendor had told him: “If they’re no good, just throw them away.”

When he suggested they might be worth £15,000, “I think he nearly fell off his chair.”


#Newsworthy…

COVID-19: India reports over 50,000 deaths.

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India’s official coronavirus death toll soared past 50,000 on Monday as the pandemic rages through smaller cities and rural areas where health care is feeble and stigmatisation rife.

Many experts say the real numbers may be far higher due to low testing rates and because deaths are often not properly recorded in the vast and impoverished nation of 1.3 billion people.

India last week overtook Britain with the world’s fourth-highest number of fatalities, behind the United States, Brazil and Mexico, and as of Monday had recorded 50,921 deaths, according to the health ministry.

With some of the world’s biggest megacities and slums, India is already the third-most infected nation behind the US and Brazil with 2.65 million infections.

Despite the rising death toll, the health ministry said on Sunday that India’s virus mortality rate of 1.92 percent was “one of the lowest globally”.

“Successful implementation of testing aggressively, tracking comprehensively and treating efficiently through a plethora of measures have contributed to the existing high level of recoveries,” the ministry said.

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According to tracking website Worldometer, the United States, with 170,000 deaths, has a death rate of 3.11 percent while Brazil, with almost 110,000 fatalities, sees 3.22 percent of those who test positive die.

According to the Indian health ministry, the US “crossed 50,000 deaths in 23 days, Brazil in 95 days and Mexico in 141 days. India took 156 days to reach this national figure.”

Possible reasons that have been suggested include India’s relatively young population, its climate and greater exposure to pathogens that cause tuberculosis than elsewhere.

But experts say India’s testing rates per million inhabitants are far lower than other countries, and that too few deaths are properly recorded — even in normal times.

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“(A) couple of studies have indicated that… only one in four deaths is certified and a cause of death is established,” Lalit Kant, former head of epidemiology and communicable diseases at the Indian Council of Medical Research, told AFP.

In addition, many of the tests being done — up to 30 percent nationally — are the less reliable rapid antigen tests where “false negatives” can be reported in up to half of cases, according to media reports.

Lockdown misery
Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government imposed in March one of the world’s strictest lockdowns.

It dealt a heavy blow to Asia’s third-biggest economy and caused misery for the country’s poor, with tens of millions of migrant workers left jobless almost overnight.

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Vast numbers trudged back penniless to their home villages from cities including New Delhi, Mumbai and Ahmedabad, many of them on foot. Some died on the way.

The lockdown has since been steadily eased but many sectors complain that they are severely short of workers.

State and local governments across the country have meanwhile reimposed lockdown measures as the virus has spread to smaller cities and rural areas, where around 70 percent of Indians live.

In many rural regions however, anecdotal evidence suggests that measures to stop the spread such as masks and distancing are widely ignored.

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In addition, a lack of public awareness has contributed to those with the virus being ostracised, making people more reluctant to get tested.

Health care facilities outside the major cities are also severely stretched.

“In smaller cities and towns and rural areas tests of COVID-19 may not be available,” Lalit said.

“Patients with COVID-like symptoms are often turned away from heath care facilities, some may die without a test being done.”


#Newsworthy…

Just in: Nigeria signs MoU with India.

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Nigeria and the Indian Government have signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on the usage and exploration of the outer space.

The signing of the MoU took place on Thursday during a virtual meeting at the headquarters of the Federal Ministry of Science and Technology in Abuja.

A statement by the India Ministry of External Affairs indicated that the signing of the MoU was witnessed by Nigeria’s Minister of Science and Technology, Ogbonnaya Onu and the Indian Minister of State for External Affairs Shri. V. Muraleedharan.

It further said the Chairman of the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO), Dr K. Sivan signed the agreement on behalf of the Indian government while the Director-General of National Space Research & Development Agency (NASRDA), Dr Francis Chizea signed for Nigeria.

“The MoU envisages India-Nigeria collaboration in space science, planetary exploration, ground stations, development of micro and mini satellites and joint Space R&D,” the statement added.

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“It provides for capacity building assistance by ISRO, exchange of scientific know-how, exchanges between academic institutes and joint symposiums/conferences.”

The cooperation, in remote sensing, communications and navigations, the ministry explained, “will benefit Nigeria in the fields of forestry, environment, agriculture, mining, watershed development and connectivity.”

While restating the long-time relationship between the India and Nigeria, the statement noted that in the past twelve years, “49 Nigerian nationals have attended various short-term ITEC courses in India in the fields of Remote Sensing, GIS and Geoinformatics,” adding that the MoU will deepen the Asian nation’s capacity-building assistance to the West African country.

During the event, both countries also agreed to seal a subsidiary MoU between New Space India Limited (NSIL) and Nigeria Erosion and Watershed Management Project (NEWMAP) on the use of Geospatial Technologies.


#Newsworthy…

Indian jet wheels off runway; 14 loses to death; 15 injured severely

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At least 14 people were killed and 15 others were seriously injured Friday when an Indian passenger jet skidded off the runway after landing in heavy rain, officials said.

Air India Express said more than 190 passengers and crew were on board the plane, which left from Dubai and landed at Kozhikode airport in the southern state of Kerala.

Television pictures showed part of the fuselage of the jet ripped apart, although there was no sign of any fire.

“I can confirm at least 14 deaths overall. Another 15 passengers have critical injuries. It is still a developing situation,” senior local policeman Abdul Karim told AFP.

“We have at least 89 people, many of them with serious injuries, admitted at different Kozhikode hospitals. The ambulances are still coming in,” said Sujith Das, another senior police official.

“We have been told that all those who have survived the crash also have some form of injuries.”

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One of those killed was one of the two pilots, a Kerala state deputy said.

Aviation regulator DGCA said the plane skidded off the end of the runway and “fell down in the valley and broke down in two pieces”.

An Air India Express spokesperson said the aircraft appeared to have overshot the runway.

One television channel reported there had been a problem with the jet’s landing gear.

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Air India Express said in a statement that there was “no fire reported at the time of landing.”

It said there were 174 passengers, 10 infants, two pilots and five cabin crew on board the aircraft.

In this file photo taken on March 2, 2020 Air India planes are seen parked at the Indira Gandhi International airport, in New Delhi. Money SHARMA / AFP

“As per the initial reports, rescue operations are on and passengers are being taken to hospital for medical care,” it said.

An emergency services official, speaking on condition of anonymity, told AFP: “Rescue operations are on but the rains are making it difficult.”

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Television pictures showed emergency services personnel working in the dark and spraying the wreckage with water.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi tweeted his condolences.

“My thoughts are with those who lost their loved ones. May the injured recover at the earliest… Authorities are at the spot, providing all assistance to the affected,” Modi said.

The last major plane crash in India was in 2010 when an Air India Express Boeing 737-800 from Dubai to Mangalore overshot the runway and burst into flames.

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The crash killed 158 people and left eight survivors.

Kerala has been battered by heavy rains in recent days.

At least 15 people were killed on Friday after a landslide triggered by heavy rains flattened a row of huts elsewhere in the state.

Around 50 other people were feared trapped in the debris. The dead included two children.


#Newsworthy…

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COVID-19: Cases in India hits 2.03 million

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India has now recorded 2.03 million infections and 41,585 deaths, according to the ministry’s website.

Many experts doubt the official figures, however, and say the true numbers may be much higher.

…more to come


#Newsworthy…

Pakistani PM, Imran Khan slams India on Kashmir anniversary

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Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan branded India an “oppressor and aggressor” on Wednesday, a year after New Delhi imposed direct rule on Indian-administered Kashmir.

Solidarity marches were held in all major Pakistani cities to mark the anniversary of New Delhi stripping Muslim-majority Indian Kashmir of its semi-autonomous status, a move that outraged Islamabad.

Kashmir, a disputed Himalayan territory, has been split since 1947 between India and Pakistan, both of which claim it in full and have fought wars over it.

“India stands exposed before the world, yet again, as an oppressor and aggressor,” Khan said in a statement.

“Its so-called secular and democratic credentials stand fully discredited,” he added, calling India’s action last year a “crime against humanity”.

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Khan led a march through Muzaffarabad, the capital of Pakistan-administered-Kashmir, before addressing the region’s legislative assembly.

Across the city, more than 2,000 people turned out at a series of anti-India protests.

“We ask the world to give Kashmiris their right of self-determination, otherwise we will cross the Line of Control and help our brothers on the other side with arms,”, Arslan Ahmad, a refugee who fled Indian-administered Kashmir, told AFP.

“Half of my family is under siege in Indian-occupied Kashmir, my mother is dying to meet her sister, this dispute has left our generations torn apart,” 31-year old Usman Mir added.

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Police were enforcing tight restrictions in Indian-administered Kashmir on Wednesday, where religious and political groups had called on residents to observe a “black day”.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Hindu nationalist government had promised the move would bring peace and prosperity to Indian Kashmir after three decades of violence sparked by an anti-India uprising.

Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan addresses the legislative assembly in Muzaffarabad, the capital of Pakistan-controlled Kashmir on August 5, 2020, to mark the one-year anniversary after New Delhi imposed direct rule on Indian-administered Kashmir. – Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan on August 5 branded India an “oppressor and aggressor” a year after New Delhi imposed direct rule on Indian-administered Kashmir. (Photo by – / AFP)

Pakistan, however, has alleged it is a violation of the rights of Kashmiri people.

Khan accused India of trying to turn Kashmir’s Muslim majority into a minority by ending restrictions on outsiders buying up property “in blatant violation of… UN Security Council Resolutions and international laws”.

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The change in rules has sparked fears that the Modi government is pursuing an Israel-style “settler” project.

A referendum in Kashmir mandated by a UN resolution in 1948 has never taken place.

“India has learned from Israel how to change the demography (of Kashmir),” President Arif Alvi told a rally in the Pakistani capital Islamabad, which observed a one-minute silence.

Hundreds of billboards and banners displayed graphic images purportedly of human rights violations by Indian authorities in Kashmir.

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On Tuesday, Pakistan released a new official map showing all of Kashmir as its territory.

The Pakistan military, meanwhile, said Indian troops had fired a shell across the de-facto border, killing a young woman and wounding six other people.

Such exchanges are common along the Kashmir demarcation line, with shells blasted in both directions.

Pakistan has repeatedly likened Modi to Adolf Hitler and called for international intervention.


#Newsworthy…

‘Black Day’ Anniversary: India imposes curfew on Kashmir

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Thousands of Indian troops imposed a curfew in Kashmir on Tuesday, with razor wire and steel barricades blocking main roads a day ahead of the one-year anniversary of the restive region being stripped of its autonomy.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi imposed direct rule last August 5, promising peace and prosperity after three decades of violence that have seen tens of thousands of people killed in an anti-India uprising.

Officials announced a two-day “full curfew” on Monday citing intelligence reports of looming protests in the Muslim-majority region of seven million people, where locals have called for the anniversary to be marked as a “black day”.

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Police vehicles patrolled the main city Srinagar after dark on Monday and again on Tuesday morning, with officers using megaphones to order residents to remain indoors.

A “full curfew” means people can only move around with an official pass, usually reserved for essential services such as police and ambulances.

The Himalayan region is already subject to restrictions to reduce the spread of the coronavirus, with most economic activities limited and public movement curtailed.

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On Monday morning, new razor-wire and steel barricades were placed on main roads on Srinagar, and on Tuesday thousands of government troops fanned across the city and surrounding villages.

“Police in vehicles moved through our locality and from loudspeakers ordered us to stay indoors for two days — as if we were not already caged,” said Imriyaz Ali, who lives in the Srinagar old town.

“I saw mobile phones of two of my neighbours taken away by soldiers when they got out to buy bread from a local baker early in the morning,” said one villager by phone from Nazneenpora village.

– Painful memories –
For locals, the new curfew brought back memories of the weeks-long clampdown a year ago.

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Then, a total communications blackout was imposed, with phone and internet access cut and tens of thousands of fresh troops moved into the valley — already one of the world’s most militarised regions.

Around 7,000 people were taken into custody — including three former chief ministers. Hundreds remain under house arrest or behind bars to this day, mostly without charge.

Soldiers evacuate an injured comrade after a grenade blast at a market in Srinagar on November 4, 2019.
Tauseef MUSTAFA / AFP

Kashmir has been split since 1947 between India and Pakistan, both of which claim it in full. it has been the spark for two wars between the arch-rivals.

For Modi’s Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party, Kashmir’s special status had produced “nothing but terrorism, separatism, nepotism and big corruption,” he said last year.

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The move, which has been accompanied by an upsurge in violence that is set to make 2020 the bloodiest year in a decade, has triggered major economic hardship exacerbated by the coronavirus pandemic.

Many locals are also angry that for the first time, people from outside Kashmir are being granted rights to buy land, fearing that India wants to change the region’s demographic makeup.

“Indian government claims that it was determined to improve Kashmiri lives ring hollow one year after the revocation of Jammu and Kashmir’s constitutional status,” Meenakshi Ganguly from Human Rights Watch said in a statement.

“The authorities instead have maintained stifling restraints on Kashmiris in violation of their basic rights.”


#Newsworthy…

Indian restaurant serve panicking customers ‘COVID Curry’ and ‘Mask Naans’

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An Indian restaurant is hoping to win back customers afraid of eating out during the pandemic with a special “COVID Curry” and “Mask Naans”.

“This has been a really tough time for us and for our entire sector,” Yash Solanki, owner of the vegetarian Vedic eatery in the western city of Jodphur, told Media (known to Noble Reporters Media).

The fried vegetable balls have been shaped to look like the “crowned” coronavirus, while the accompanying breads look like surgical masks.

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Solanki said that they had also added, and advertised, that their COVID curry had extra Indian herbs and spices that are good for people’s health.

People walk at the sea front after the government eased a lockdown imposed as a preventive measure against the COVID-19 coronavirus, in Mumbai on June 8, 2020. (Photo by Olamide Noble/ Noble Reporters Media)

“Even with recently relaxed curbs, the fear still dominates. People are still very reluctant to eat out,” Solanki said.

Almost 800 people are dying daily from coronavirus in the world’s second-most populous nation, with around 50,000 new infections reported every 24 hours.

The country has had 1.8 million cases, the third-highest in the world behind the United States and Brazil, and more than 38,000 deaths.


#Newsworthy…

India bootleg alcohol scandal: Death toll rise to 98

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The death toll from a toxic bootleg alcohol Iiain in the north Indian state of Punjab rose to 98 Sunday, officials and reports said.

Police have arrested 25 people so far over the worsening tragedy, which starting coming to light late last week, the Press Trust of India news agency said.

Hundreds of people die every year in India from illegal alcohol made in backstreet distilleries which sells for as little as 10 rupees (13 US cents) a litre, affordable for even the poorest.

The death toll from the illicit booze had risen to 75 in Punjab’s Tarn Taran district after further investigation, the local administration’s deputy commissioner Kulwant Singh said.

“Several families refused to divulge details of deaths and a few even cremated them. We have come to this number after information gathering,” Singh told Media (known to Noble Reporters Media).

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A further 11 people had died in Gurdaspur district, a local official told Media (known to Noble Reporters Media). PTI reported Saturday that toxic moonshine had also killed 12 in Amritsar.

Relatives sit near patient Jugraj Singh (on the bed) who is treated at a civil hospital after allegedly drinking spurious alcohol, in Tarn Taran some 25 kms from Amritsar on August 2, 2020. Narinder NANU / AFP

Relatives of the victims mourned on Sunday as the state opposition party called on the Punjab government to “curb liquor mafia in the state” in a series of tweets.

Punjab state chief minister Amarinder Singh said Friday he had ordered a special inquiry into the deaths and “anyone found guilty will not be spared”.

In a separate incident, authorities in the southern state of Andhra Pradesh said on Friday that nine people had died after drinking alcohol-based sanitiser.

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Of the estimated five billion litres of alcohol drunk every year in India, around 40 percent is illegally produced, according to the International Spirits and Wine Association of India.

Deaths are frequently reported, with bootleggers often found adding methanol — a highly toxic form of alcohol sometimes used as an anti-freeze — in their brews to increase its strength.

If ingested, methanol can cause blindness, liver damage and death in larger concentrations.

In 2015, more than 100 people died in a Mumbai slum died after drinking illegal moonshine.


#Newsworthy…

COVID-19: Bollywood’s Amitabh Bachchan test Negative

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Bollywood star Amitabh Bachchan said Sunday he had been discharged from hospital, three weeks after being admitted with “mild” coronavirus symptoms after testing positive for the disease.

The news came as powerful Indian Home Minister Amit Shah revealed he had tested positive for coronavirus, which is infecting tens of thousands of people a day — and killing hundreds — in the world’s second-most-populous country.

More than 1.7 million people have now been infected in India and more than 37,000 have died, giving it the world’s highest toll behind the United States and Brazil.

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Bachchan’s actor-son Abishek, who was admitted at the same time, will remain in hospital, while his daughter-in-law Aishwarya Rai and granddaughter Aaradhya were discharged last week.

They were the highest-profile family in India to contract the virus in a country that worships movie stars.

“I am back home. I will have to be in solitary quarantine in my room,” Bachchan wrote on Instagram, saying he had tested negative.

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He thanked his family, fans “and the excellent care and nursing” at the hospital, saying they “made it possible for me to see this day”.

At the time he said he had “mild” symptoms.

Bachchan’s discharge came as Home Minister Amit Shah — Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s right-hand man — said he had tested positive for the virus.

“On getting initial symptoms of coronavirus, I got myself tested and my report is positive,” Shah tweeted.

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“My health is fine, but on the advice of doctors I’m getting myself admitted to a hospital.”

The 55-year-old called on everyone in contact with him over the past two days to get tested and isolate.

(FILES) In this file photo taken on August 27, 2019, Indian Bollywood actor Amitabh Bachchan takes part in a launch event for the water conservation effort “Mission Paani” in Mumbai. Sujit Jaiswal / AFP

It was not clear if Shah had met Modi or other senior cabinet ministers in recent days. He was admitted to a hospital in Gurgaon, just outside the capital New Delhi, local media reported.

Bachchan, 77, idolised in India and affectionately known as “Big B”, has worked for more than half a century in the film industry.

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His release from hospital was cheered by his legion of fervent fans.

Hundreds of them gathered at the Amitabh Bachchan Temple — built by his fans in the city in 2001 and which has a life-size statue of the revered celebrity — in Kolkata on Sunday.

“Amitabh is our ‘guru’. He is more than god to us,” Amitabh Bachchan Fan Association secretary Sanjoy Patodiya told Media (known to Noble Reporters Media) on Sunday ahead of the actor’s announcement.

“His fans are spending sleepless nights praying that their god gets well soon.”


#Newsworthy…

Storyline: Over sixty ‘killed’ in India

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More than 60 people have died after drinking toxic bootleg alcohol in the Indian state of Punjab, officials and reports said.

The victims died in three districts of the northern state and police have arrested 10 people, the officials said.

Hundreds of people die every year in India from poisoned alcohol made in backstreet distilleries which sells for as little as 10 rupees (13 US cents) a litre.

An official told Media (known to Noble Reporters Media) that 11 people had died in Gurdaspur district. Press Trust of India news agency and other media said Saturday the illicit booze had claimed 53 lives in neighbouring Amritsar and Tarn Taran districts.

Other deaths were suspected in recent days but could not be proved as the bodies had been cremated without a post-mortem examination.

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Punjab state chief minister Amarinder Singh said Friday he had ordered a special inquiry into the deaths and “anyone found guilty will not be spared”.

The Indian Express newspaper said one of the suspects had died in Amritsar district after consuming the illegal liquor and that his wife had been arrested for selling the alcohol.

The case came after authorities in the southern state of Andhra Pradesh said on Friday that nine people had died after drinking alcohol-based sanitiser.

The victims drank the sanitiser as a substitute for alcohol which has been restricted during a coronavirus lockdown in India.


#Newsworthy…

COVID-19: Nine dies after ‘drinking hand sanitizer’ in India

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Nine people have died in India from drinking alcohol-based hand sanitiser after liquor shops in their town were closed due to virus restrictions, police said Friday.

The group lost consciousness after consuming a “high quantity” of hand sanitiser mixed with water or soda, Siddharth Kaushal, police superintendent for Kurichedu town in Andhra Pradesh state told Media (known to Noble Reporters Media).

They were rushed to hospital but declared dead on arrival, he said.

The group turned to hand sanitiser “as a substitute” for liquor after supplies were cut off when authorities ordered a lockdown of the town to combat the coronavirus, he added.

An investigation into the nine deaths has been launched, he said.
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Hundreds of poor people die every year in India due to alcohol poisoning, mostly from consuming cheap hooch.

An Indian official uses a hand sanitiser on July 27, 2020. Dibyangshu SARKAR / AFP

Bootleggers often add methanol — a highly toxic form of alcohol sometimes used as an anti-freeze or fuel — to their home-brew liquor to increase the alcoholic content.

The deaths in Kurichedu occurred shortly before India’s coronavirus death toll passed 35,000 on Friday, overtaking that of Italy.

Total infections in the world’s second-most populous country are now 1.63 million, surpassed only by the US and Brazil, both of which have much smaller populations.


#Newsworthy…

COVID-19: Cases in India cross 1.5 million

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India will reopen gyms and end a nighttime curfew from August, but cinemas, bars and schools will remain closed in the vast South Asian nation as the number of coronavirus cases passed 1.5 million and deaths neared 35,000 on Wednesday.

The country of 1.3 billion people — the world’s third-most infected nation — has gradually eased its virus restrictions imposed since late March to boost the flagging economy.

But the latest reopenings from August 5 are limited to gyms and yoga teaching facilities, as well as an end to the curfew, currently from 10 pm to 5 am.

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Case numbers in India are soaring and more states are reimposing shutdowns to stem the spread of the virus.

Independence Day celebrations on August 15 will go ahead, but with “social distancing and by following other health protocols” such as mask-wearing, the home affairs ministry said.

Metro train services, cinemas, swimming pools, entertainment parks, theatres, bars, auditoriums and assembly halls will remain closed for now, it added.

Schools and other educational institutions will also remain shut through the end of August, at least.

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Prime Minister Narendra Modi said this week that India was in a “better position that other countries”, and winning international praise.

The health ministry website — which no longer includes total infections as the government puts more emphasis on recoveries — on Wednesday reported almost 50,000 new infections and 768 more deaths.

India, home to some of the world’s most crowded cities and where health-care spending per capita is among the world’s lowest, passed one million cases only 12 days ago.

But many experts have said the country is not testing enough people, and that many coronavirus-linked deaths are not being recorded as such.

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A study released Tuesday that tested for coronavirus antibodies reported some 57 percent of people in Mumbai’s teeming slums have had the infection — far more than official figures suggest.

The Tata Institute of Fundamental Research’s Ullas S. Kolthur, who was involved in carrying out the survey, said he was surprised by the results.

“At least in the slums, we think it is largely because social distancing wouldn’t work simply because of the population density,” Kolthur told Media (known to Noble Reporters Media).

Last week, a similar study indicated that almost a quarter of people in the capital New Delhi have contracted the virus — almost 40 times the official total.

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There are, however, doubts about the accuracy of such tests, since other coronaviruses — not just this one — may also produce antibodies that could give a false positive result.

The Mumbai survey also covered a relatively small sample of around 7,000 people.

India now has the third-highest number of cases in the world behind the United States and Brazil, although the official number of deaths in the South Asian nation is far lower.

As a proportion of its population, India also lags behind, with only 1,110 cases per million people, compared to 13,148 for the United States, according to an AFP tally.


#Newsworthy…

COVID-19: India give Nigeria 7 tonnes of Hydroxychloroquine – PTF

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India has donated seven tonnes of hydroxychloroquine to Nigeria as part of efforts to help West African combat the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Boss Mustapha who also doubles as the Chairman of the Presidential Task Force (PTF) on COVID-19, said this on Thursday during a briefing by members of the task force.

According to him, the Nigerian government is grateful for the help from the India Government as well as other nations and organisations in the country’s fight against COVID-19.

“The PTF wishes to thank friendly nations and corporate organisations for their continuing support through the donation of medicines and equipment,” the SGF said.

“In this regard, we thank India for the donation of 7-tons of hydroxychloroquine for treatment of patients,” assuring that “the resources will be judiciously utilized.”

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Mr Mustapha also expressed hope that as the search for a vaccine for the pandemic continues, there will be equitable distribution, adding that there is ongoing research for a local cure to the virus.

“The message of hope is that the world continues to close its ranks in the search for a vaccine in a manner designed to guarantee rapid, fair, and equitable access worldwide,” the SGF explained.

“Back home, there has been a lot of debate on finding a local cure. While this is a plausible expectation, the PTF, other relevant institutions of government and the private sector working with our partners shall pursue the path of research relentlessly.

“As we have often said, only a well-developed partnership will save humanity.”

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Rising Infections
Despite the measures put in place to curb the spread of COVID-19, Nigeria has continued to report an increasing number of infections.

On Wednesday, Nigeria recorded 543 new COVID-19 cases with the total infections rising to 38,344.

The Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) disclosed this on Wednesday night via Twitter.

In its latest update, the agency revealed that the new cases were reported across 14 states and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT).

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22 states, however, did not record a new case of COVID-19 in the last 24 hours.

As usual, Lagos remains the epicentre of the virus with 180 new cases, followed closely by the Federal Capital Territory with 86 new infections.

Other states with new cases include Kaduna – 56, Edo – 47, Ondo – 37, Kwara – 35, Ogun and Rivers each reporting 19 cases, Kano – 17, Ebonyi and Enugu each having 16 cases.

States with fewer cases include Delta – 7, Bayelsa – 4, Bauchi – 3, and Abia – 1.


#Newsworthy…

COVID-19: Veteran Indian Actor test positive

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Indian veteran actor Amitabh Bachchan and son Abhishek Bachchan on Saturday said they have tested positive for coronavirus and have been taken to a hospital.

“I have tested CoviD positive .. shifted to Hospital .. hospital informing authorities .. family and staff undergone tests , results awaited .. All that have been in close proximity to me in the last 10 days are requested to please get themselves tested !t,” Amitabh Bachchan tweeted

Amitabh Bachchan

His son actor-producer Abhishek Bachchan tweeted:

Earlier today both my father and I tested positive for COVID 19. Both of us having mild symptoms have been admitted to hospital. We have informed all the required authorities and our family and staff are all being tested. I request all to stay calm and not panic. Thank you. 


#Newsworthy…

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China-India Border War: Modi visit troubled border area

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Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has said the “age of expansionism” is over, as he paid tribute to soldiers killed in last month’s border skirmish with China on a surprise visit to the northern Himalayan region of Ladakh amid escalating tension between the Asian giants.

“Age of expansionism is over, this is the age of development. History is witness that expansionist forces have either lost or were forced to turn back,” Modi said without naming China during his first trip to the disputed region since June 15 deadly border clash, in which at least 20 Indian soldiers were killed.

Modi, who has been under pressure to respond to what India deems Chinese incursions, met troops at a base in Ladakh’s Nimu area, pictures from Reuters partner ANI showed.

“Your courage is higher than the heights where you are posted today,” he said in his address to soldiers in Ladakh.

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“The bravery that you and your compatriots showed, a message has gone to the world about India’s strength.”

Modi was accompanied by the chief of defence staff, General Bipin Rawat, and the chief of the army, General Manoj Mukund Naravane.

India and China have traded blame for triggering the high-altitude brawl in the Galwan Valley on June 15, in which 20 Indian soldiers were killed and at least 76 were injured.

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The border clash saw soldiers engaged in brutal hand-to-hand fighting with clubs and staves about 4,270 metres (14,000 feet) above sea level amid sub-zero temperatures. It was the worst border skirmish in nearly 50 years.

China has not disclosed how many casualties its troops suffered.

On Friday, it warned India against making a “strategic miscalculation”, with Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian calling on New Delhi to “work with China to safeguard the overall situation of bilateral relations”.

He also criticised Indian officials for making what he called irresponsible remarks.

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“India should not make a strategic miscalculation on China,” Zhao told reporters at a daily briefing.

The nuclear-armed neighbours have amassed troops along the 3,500km (2,200 mile) long border, most of which is not demarcated, and military and diplomatic talks are going on to de-escalate the confrontation.

India claims 38,000sq km (15,000sq miles) of land currently under Chinese control while Beijing stakes claim to 90,000sq km (34,700sq miles) area within Indian territory.

Analysts say the current standoff at the Line of Actual Control (LAC) is a result of Chinese pushback against India’s building of military infrastructure at the de facto border in recent years.

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Another reason, according to some experts, is linked to India’s unilateral move last year to repeal Article 370 of the Indian constitution, which had guaranteed a measure of autonomy to Indian-administered Kashmir, which also included the disputed areas of Ladakh region.

China, which, like Pakistan, saw India’s move as unilaterally affecting its territory, strongly denounced the move at the United Nations Security Council last year.

Officials said Modi was accompanied by the chief of defence staff, General Bipin Rawat, and the chief of the army, General Manoj Mukund Naravane [Reuters]

India buys fighter jets
Meanwhile, India’s Ministry of Defence on Thursday approved the purchase of 21 Russian MiG-29 and 12 Sukhoi Su-30MKI fighter aircraft costing $2.43bn to augment its air force in the wake of the border standoff with China.

India is also awaiting the arrival of the first batch of 36 Rafale fighter jets ordered as part of a $8.78bn deal signed with France in 2016.

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Last week, India banned 59, mostly Chinese, mobile phone applications in retaliation to the killing of its soldiers that has caused an anti-Chinese backlash.

China said on Friday that artificial blocks to bilateral cooperation would harm India’s interests and that the two countries should work together to uphold peace in their border region.

Beijing will take necessary measures to uphold the rights of Chinese businesses in India, Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman Zhao Lijian told a news briefing.

PM Modi met troops at a base in Ladakh’s Nimu area [Reuters]

India-China annual bilateral trade stands at $92bn.


#Newsworthy…

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Just in: India opens railway network to private investments

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India has opened up its vast railway sector to private companies, allowing firms to operate trains on certain routes, in a bid to boost its stuttering, virus-hit economy.

The 167-year-old train network carries 20 million passengers daily but is plagued by deadly accidents, rickety infrastructure, lack of modern amenities and poor investment.

In an announcement late Wednesday, the railway ministry said it would now permit businesses to run trains along 109 routes, inviting bids from firms weeks after New Delhi opened up coal mining to the private sector.

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“This is the first initiative of private investment for running passenger trains over Indian Railways network,” the ministry said in a statement.

“The objective of this initiative is to introduce modern technology rolling stock with reduced maintenance, reduced transit time, boost job creation, provide enhanced safety, provide world class travel experience to passengers,” it added.

The project will require an investment of $4 billion and private players will have to pay the government fixed haul charges and a percentage of profits determined during the bidding process.

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Prime Minister Narendra Modi has sought to privatise a range of industries that have been under state control for decades, sparking criticism from the opposition Congress party.

“Now the government is in a desperate mood to sell a great chunk of one of our largest national asset #IndianRailways,” Congress politician Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury tweeted.

“Privatization cannot be construed as a panacea of railways malady”, he added.

The tottering network is notorious for accidents, with 15,000 passengers killed every year according to a 2012 government report that described the deaths as a “massacre”.

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Asia’s third-largest economy has been clobbered by the pandemic and a months-long lockdown, growing at its slowest pace in at least two decades last quarter.

The shutdown, which put millions out of work overnight, is widely expected to plunge the country into recession.

Fears for the economy prompted the government to allow many businesses to resume operations starting last month despite an ongoing increase in infections, which have now crossed 600,000.

Even before Modi announced the lockdown in late March, the economy was struggling to gain traction with sluggish growth, record unemployment and a flurry of bad loans making banks reluctant to lend.


#Newsworthy…

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Unknown deaths hit Indian city.

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A spike in non-coronavirus related deaths in the Indian city of Ahmedabad highlighted the impact of the pandemic on general healthcare, doctors warn.

The rise in the number of fatalities in the most populous city in western Gujarat state, is due to patients with serious illnesses either not able to go to hospitals or being afraid to visit them because of the virus, doctors said.

Data collected from twenty-four Hindu crematoriums and four of the largest Muslim graveyards in the city shows that there have been 3,558 deaths in April and 7,150 in May. During the same months the previous year, the number of reported fatalities were, respectively, 2,784 and 2,706.

A man lights an oil lamp inside the tomb of Ahmad Shah during a special prayer meeting for the victims of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), amid the spread of the disease in Ahmedabad, India [Amit Dave/Reuters]

The numbers contain “ominous signals” for the rest of the country, doctor Rajib Dasgupta, a professor of community health at New Delhi’s Jawaharlal Nehru University, told Reuters.


#Newsworthy…

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News+: India behind Karachi terror – Imran Khan says

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Prime Minister Imran Khan while paying glowing tribute to martyred four security guards and policemen who defended Karachi Stock Exchange during Monday’s terrorist attack, has said that Pakistan has no doubt that this attack was planned and orchestrated by India.

Speaking in National Assembly on Tuesday, Imran Khan said “I pay tribute to all the four martyrs including Inspector Shahid and three security guards.” He said no powerful country of the world would have foiled this kind of terror attack like these four Pakistani heroes thwarted it.

In a treasury benches-clad parliament the members of the Opposition parties walked out amid verbal clashes between the rival speakers.

“India planned to destabilize Pakistan,” Imran Khan said, adding “We were all-prepared against such terrorist attacks. We had already foiled four such attacks. But no one can always stop such terror attacks.”

“The government knew that all our intelligence agencies were on high alert. They pre-empted at least four major attempts of terrorism and two of them were around Islamabad.”

The primer said the attackers of Karachi Stock Exchange wanted to make people inside the market as hostage. “The martyrs laid down their lives and saved the country from enemy’s big terror plan,” he said.

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He said the defenders of the country, security guards and policemen and law enforcement agencies (LAEs) foiled the terrorist attack that was being orchestrated in the style of Mumbai-attacks.

“What happened in Mumbai, they wanted to do the same; they wanted to create an uncertain (environment). We have no doubt this was done by India,” Imran Khan.

He said Pakistan’s intelligence agencies were on high alert. “I want to pay tribute to the intelligence agencies of the country.”

Imran Khan responding to the opposition criticism of ill-handling of COVID-19 and other issues pertaining to sugar, wheat and oil scandals that hit the country recently said “Get ready for institutional reforms or get ready for tough times.” He said there is mafia sitting in every institution.

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The Prime Minister said there are mafias in Pakistan International Airlines and now reforms are inevitable in institutions. “They {opposition} asked not to publish PIA report.”

Imran termed Opposition ‘liberally corrupt’. “My mission is to take on the mafia under the rule of law,” Imran vowed.

Criticising the main rival party Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), Imran Khan said that they had no principles as on the one hand they seek money from Taliban and on the other they become liberal in the US.

Earlier, Imran Khan thanked his team for their efforts which led to the passing of the budget although with some amendments. “There was a lot of speculation that a lot could happen, if you had watched TV you would have thought it was our last day,” he said, referring to fears the budget would be unable to sail through the National Assembly.


#Newsworthy…

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China-India Border War: China’s deployed army at borders

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India acknowledges for the first time it has matched China in massing troops at their contested Himalayan border.


China has deployed large numbers of troops and weapons along a disputed Himalayan border in violation of bilateral agreements, India’s foreign ministry has said, accusing Beijing of escalating tensions and triggering a deadly clash last week.

“At the heart of the matter is that since early May, the Chinese side had been amassing a large contingent of troops and armaments along the LAC,” foreign ministry spokesman Anurag Srivastava said in a briefing in New Delhi on Thursday, referring to the Line of Actual Control (LAC), the de facto border between the Asian nuclear powers.

Srivastava said "this is not in accordance with the provisions of our various bilateral agreements," referring to treaties that include a 1993 one that dictates that both sides will maintain limited border deployments.

India had “to undertake counter deployments” because of the Chinese buildup, he said as New Delhi acknowledged for the first time it has matched Beijing in massing troops at their contested Himalayan border.

China has blamed India for the clash – the deadliest between the two nuclear-armed neighbours for at least five decades – and said Indian troops attacked Chinese officers and soldiers.

Responding to the heightened Chinese presence last month, India also deployed a large number of troops along the LAC, Srivastava said, leading to face-offs in the Ladakh region of the western Himalayas.

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On June 15, Indian and Chinese troops brawled for several hours in the Galwan Valley, using stones and sticks with nails embedded in them to beat each other, killing 20 Indian soldiers and injuring at least 76 more. China has not disclosed how many casualties its troops suffered.

The neighbours have blamed each other for the high-altitude battle. After senior military commanders held parleys this week, both sides have since agreed to disengage their troops on the disputed border.

But in satellite images reviewed by Reuters news agency, China appears to have added new structures near the site of the Galwan Valley clash that India says is on its side of the LAC. These include camouflaged tents or covered structures and a potential new camp under construction with walls or barricades.

“Peace and tranquility in the border areas is the basis of our bilateral relationship,” said Srivastava, demanding that China follow up on its pledge to cool tensions. “A continuation of the current situation would only vitiate the atmosphere.”


#Newsworthy…

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107 killed in India Monsoon lightening

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At least 107 people died from lightning strikes in northern and eastern India Thursday, officials said, during the early stages of the annual monsoon season.

Some 83 people were killed in the impoverished eastern state of Bihar after being struck by lightning, and another 24 died in northern Uttar Pradesh state. Dozens more were injured, officials said.

Lightning strikes during the June-September annual monsoon are fairly common in India. But Bihar’s Disaster Management Minister Lakshmeshwar Rai told AFP this was one of the highest daily tolls from lightning the state had recorded in recent years.

More than half of the deaths were from the flood-prone northern and eastern districts of Bihar, he added. Rai warned the death toll could rise further as his government was still waiting on casualty reports from the interior parts of the state.

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Heavy rain is forecast to hit Bihar on Friday and Saturday, according to the local India Meteorological Department office. In neighbouring Uttar Pradesh, most of the deaths were reported in Deoria district close to the Nepal border, and the holy city of Prayagraj, authorities said.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi late Thursday tweeted his condolences to the victims’ families, adding that both state governments were carrying out urgent relief work. More than 2,300 people were killed by lightning in India in 2018 according to the National Crime Records Bureau, the most recent figures available.

The monsoon is crucial to replenishing water supplies in South Asia, but also causes widespread death and destruction across the region each year.


#Newsworthy…

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