Maharashtra Travel News

Kingpin who stitched almost perfect passports arrested in Mumbai
Times of India | 2 days ago | |
Times of India
2 days ago | |

MUMBAI: The city crime branch investigating the fake passport and visa racket on Friday arrested a key accused of the gang from Chunabhatti. Fifty-nine-year-old Sanjay Dattaram Chavan is an expert in making alterations to the original passports and would add or remove pages from passports to help his customers avail European visas. Police have identified 10 people who got European visas and have flown abroad using passports and visas made by this gang. Sources said they will soon intimate the embassy concerned and issue Look Out Circulars (LOC) against them. Chavan is the third accused to be arrested in the case. He was earlier linked with the Delhi gang headed by mastermind Chandrakant Rahate, who died of Covid-19 in 2021. Chavan was produced before the 37th Metropolitan Magistrate on Friday and was remanded to police custody.Police said Chavan's arrest assumes significance as he is an expert in stitching passport pages, and it is nearly impossible for any immigration official to tell the difference between the fake and original. "The modus operandi of the gang is very unique. It would look for aspiring candidates whose portfolios for European visas are weak and whose visa application it suspects can get rejected. The accused would use their old passports to add/remove pages to show the customer's travel to countries that would help him acquire a European visa. They would also forge bank statements for the purpose," said Shyam Nair, senior inspector of crime branch unit 5. Police said the accused would charge anywhere between Rs one lakh to Rs 5 lakh depending on the customer's need and emergency.Police had last week arrested conmen Imtiaz Shaikh and Sudhir Sawant, and seized huge quantity of fake passports, visas, and rubber stamps of immigration of various countries such as the UAE, Mauritius, Thailand, Malaysia, South Africa, Singapore, Roissy, Maldives, Canada, Istanbul, France, Athens and Republic De Guatemala.Police on Tuesday raided a flat in D N Nagar in Andheri, and seized huge quantity of fake documents, including 28 fake passports, 16 colour pages of front page pictures of passports, 24 visas of various countries and rubber stamps of immigration of various countries and rubber stamps of deputy passport officer, fake rubber stamps of State Bank of India, Punjab National bank, HDFC Bank, Bank of Baroda, Axis Bank, Central Bank of India, and other materials used to make key documents.

Kingpin who stitched almost perfect passports arrested in Mumbai
PM Narendra Modi likely to flag off 2 Vande Bharat Express for Maharashtra on February 10
Times of India | 2 days ago | |
Times of India
2 days ago | |

MUMBAI: Prime Minister Narendra Modi is likely to flag off two Vande Bharat Express trains - CSMT-Solapur and CSMT-Shirdi - during his visit to Mumbai on February 10. As per a tentative schedule drawn by officials, Modi is expected to visit CSMT to flag off these trains that will provide easy connectivity to popular pilgrimage towns in Maharashtra. The inaugural run is tentatively scheduled at 3pm from CSMT to Shirdi and Solapur to CSMT.Maharashtra will be the first state to have two intra-state Vande Bharat Express. This will be the third Vande Bharat to operate from Mumbai, with the first running between Mumbai Central and Gandhinagar Capital. Sources said CSMT-Solapur train will run 6 days a week, the exceptions being Wednesdays from CSMT, and Thursdays from Solapur. The train is expected to depart from Solapur at 6.05am and arrive at CSMT at 12.35pm. From CSMT, the departure time will be 4.10pm; it will reach Solapur at 10.40pm. The train will take 6 hours and 30 minutes to cover this distance as against 7 hours, 55 minutes by Siddeshwar Express. Enroute, the train will have halts at Dadar, Thane, Lonavala and Kurduwadi.For regular runs, the CSMT-Shirdi will depart from CSMT at 6.15am and arrive at Sai Nagar Shirdi at 12.10pm. On its return journey, the train will leave from Sai Nagar Shirdi at 5.25pm and arrive CSMT at 11.18pm. This train will take 5 hours and 55 minutes to travel between these two destinations as against 6 hours by the existing CSMT-Sai Nagar Shirdi Express, and will halt at Dadar, Thane and Nashik road. It will run 6 days a week, except Tuesdays.Both Vande Bharat Expresses will have 16 coaches that can accommodate 1,128 passengers. Indigenously produced under Atmanirbhar Bharat, Vande Bharat has better ride comfort (Ride Index 3.2 against 3.8 earlier). It has faster acceleration with 160 kmph in 129 second as against 146 second earlier.

PM Narendra Modi likely to flag off 2 Vande Bharat Express for Maharashtra on February 10
No sponsor this year, but Indian Derby in Mumbai will be bigger and better, promises RWITC
Times of India | 2 days ago | |
Times of India
2 days ago | |

MUMBAI: The most-awaited event of the year in Indian racing, the Indian Derby, may be shorn of a sponsor for the first time in decades, but it will not fall short on the usual glamour and high-octane action, the Royal Western India Turf Club (RWITC) has promised. Jagatjit Industries Ltd, a leading liquor producer, which had agreed to sponsor the mega race, has backed out owing to the ban on liquor sponsorship in the country and the recent advisory against the surrogate advertisement.RWITC said both the race-loving and fun-seeking enthusiasts, who make their annual pilgrimage to the hallowed turf of Mahalakshmi racecourse, will not miss the glamour and glitz. "Sponsor or no sponsor, our Indian Derby day will be bigger and better than ever, and we will leave no stone unturned to make it an unforgettable experience for the people of Mumbai," said Surendra Sanas, chairman of the RWITC.Apart from the usual Derby day glamour and the glimpses of the best of Bollywood personalities that Mahalaxmi racecourse is known for on the first Sunday of every February, this year's action will unfold in the evening under the lights. Another added attraction in the evening on February 5 will be the presence of the Lil Flea, a curated festival of homegrown brands, music & food, who have promised to host the biggest racing party of the year.The Indian Derby will, as usual, showcase an impressive line-up of premium horses and skilled jockeys aiming to prove their mettle and enthrall the audience. With total guaranteed stakes of Rs 2 crore on offer, this year the Derby will see as many as five to six outstation horses challenging the local stars. The champion filly (female horse) from Bengaluru, La Reina, will not be coming. Her trainer S Padmanbhan, feels that the 400kg small-built star will not be able to take the rigorous travel to Mumbai within 10 days of her grand triumph in the Bangalore Derby held on Republic Day."It will be a celebration of fashion, style, horse racing and much more. This year's Indian Derby evening is unmissable, and everyone is invited," said Shiven Surendranath, marketing head of the RWITC.

No sponsor this year, but Indian Derby in Mumbai will be bigger and better, promises RWITC
300 km of Metro lines to be ready in 2 years, assures Maharashtra CM Eknath Shinde
Times of India | 2 days ago | |
Times of India
2 days ago | |

THANE: Nearly 300km of Metro network lines will be made operational in phases in the coming 1.5-2 years, and the state will start work on Line 3 soon, said chief minister Eknath Shinde in Thane.Shinde was addressing a crowd of visitors to a cultural festival in Thane organised by party colleague and MLA Pratap Sarnaik over the weekend."We are working towards mitigating road traffic-related issues in the Mumbai Metropolitan Region, and following the inauguration of two Metro lines last week by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, we are working towards completing work on nearly 300km of Metro network here which would be made operational in the next two years. The work on Line 3 will also start soon," said Shinde.The chief minister said he was confident that nearly 60 lakh private cars would go off the Mumbai roads as motorists would get a comfortable option to travel by switching over to the vast Metro network that will not just save their time and fuel, but also help reduce pollution levels. The tunnel road connecting Borivli and Thane is yet another project that will help boost connectivity, he said."We are already working towards improving the commute for Mumbai and Thane motorists. In addition to the Rs 7,000 crore road concretising work in Mumbai, the local corporation and MMRDA have been asked to mitigate congestion at vital crossroads," he said. On a lighter note, Shinde also disclosed how Sarnaik had managed to get approvals for all the developmental projects collectively worth over Rs 900 crore in his constituency during their Guwahati trip. "I simply signed on the dotted lines at that time. Even though the money will be made available over the next few years in phases, it is probably the highest that has been sanctioned for any MLA in the state at one go," Shinde said.

300 km of Metro lines to be ready in 2 years, assures Maharashtra CM Eknath Shinde
2, Including 62-Year-Old Man, Arrested For Making Fake Passports In Mumbai
Ndtv | 6 days ago | |
Ndtv
6 days ago | |

Fake immigration rubber stamps of many countries were found in the flat. (Representational)Mumbai: Two persons, including a 62-year-old man, were arrested by the Mumbai Crime Branch on Wednesday for allegedly making fake passports and visas and issuing bogus COVID test reports, an official said.The police are on the lookout for the third member of the gang, he said.The three operated from a flat in suburban Andheri. The Crime Branch raided the apartment and seized 28 duplicate passports, 24 bogus visas of different countries and several fake COVID-19 test certificates, said the official.Fake immigration rubber stamps of many countries were found in the flat, he said.The police have learnt that the three were charging lakhs to make fake passports and visas. They suspect the gang has already sent many people out of India with the help of the fake documents made by it.The three had made 414 fake rubber stamps carrying the names of government departments and officials, and bank staffers. There were fake rubber stamps in the name of officials from the state-run JJ hospital to issue COVID test certificates, which are required for travel to some countries, the official said.The Crime Branch also recovered stickers with images of the national emblem and the logo of the Income Tax department.Three colour printers, scanners and seven pen drives were seized from the flat, said the official.The three have been booked for cheating and forgery under the Indian Penal Code and provisions of the Passport Act.PromotedListen to the latest songs, only on JioSaavn.comA court has remanded the arrested persons in police custody till February 4, the official added.(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)Featured Video Of The DayNDTV Exclusive: Super 30 Founder Anand Kumar On Being Awarded The Padma Shri

2, Including 62-Year-Old Man, Arrested For Making Fake Passports In Mumbai
Maharashtra border row: Karnataka to spend Rs 60 lakh/day to fight border case in Supreme Court
Times of India | 6 days ago | |
Times of India
6 days ago | |

BENGALURU: The ongoing legal battle in Supreme Court with Maharashtra over the Belagavi border dispute is burning a huge hole in the exchequer's pocket with Karnataka government spending Rs 60 lakh a day on professional fees for advocates engaged to fight the case.As per a government order issued by the state law department on January 18, the legal team led by senior advocate Mukul Rohatgi will get Rs 60 lakh per appearance before Supreme Court in fees and other expenses. The team comprises advocates Shyam Divan, Uday Holla, Maruti B Zirali, VN Raghupathy, and the state's advocate general Prabhuling Navadagi.The fees exclude expenses of the advocates' accommodations in star hotels and travel by air in business and executive classes. The order says hotel and air travel arrangements will be made by government or reimbursed on an actual basis.Rohatgi will be paid Rs 22 lakh per day to represent Karnataka before the Supreme Court, as per the order. He will be paid Rs 5.5 lakh per day for preparation of the case, including conferences and other work. Diwan will get Rs 6 lakh per day as fees and Rs 1.5 lakh per day for preparation and other work. He will also be paid Rs 10 lakh per day for outstation visits, which includes travel. Navadagi will be paid Rs 3 lakh a day for appearing before the top court. Aside from that, he will be paid Rs 1.2 lakh for case preparation and Rs 2 lakh for outstation visits. The hearing is expected to be taken up next month.

Maharashtra border row: Karnataka to spend Rs 60 lakh/day to fight border case in Supreme Court
  • Maharashtra border row: Karnataka govt fixes around Rs 60 lakh as fee per day for legal team fighting case in SC
  • The Economic Times

    BENGALURU: The Karnataka government has fixed a professional fee of Rs 59.9 lakh a day for the team of senior lawyers, including Mukul Rohatgi to fight the case pertaining to border row with Maharashtra in Supreme Court. A Law department order said it has fixed the terms and conditions and professional fee to the legal team to represent Karnataka before the Supreme Court in an original suit (number 4/2004) filed by the government of Maharashtra against Karnataka on the border dispute. As per the January 18 order, senior advocate Mukul Rohatgi will be paid Rs 22 lakh per day for appearing before the apex court and Rs 5.5 lakh per day for conference and other works. Another lawyer Shyam Divan will be paid Rs six lakh a day for appearing before the court, Rs 1.5 lakh per day for preparation of the case and other works and Rs 10 lakh for outstation visits per day. The government will bear the expenses on hotel facilities and business class air travel. The Advocate General of Karnataka will be paid Rs three lakh a day for appearing in the SC, Rs 1.25 lakh per day for preparing cases and other works, Rs two lakh on outstation visits apart from bearing the ehotel and business class air travels. The state government has also hired senior lawyer Uday Holla, a former advocate general of Karnataka, who will be paid Rs two lakh per day for appearing in the apex court, Rs 75,000 per day for preparation of the case, Rs 1.5 lakh per day for settlement of pleadings and other works, and Rs 1.5 lakh per day for outstation visits apart from hotel and travel expenses. The boundary row had intensified late last year, with vehicles from either side being targeted, leaders from both the States weighing in, and pro-Kannada and Marathi activists being detained by police amid a tense atmosphere in Belagavi. The border issue dates back to 1957 after the reorganisation of States on linguistic lines. Maharashtra laid claim to Belagavi, which was part of the erstwhile Bombay Presidency, as it has a sizeable Marathi-speaking population. It also laid claim to over 800 Marathi-speaking villages which are currently part of Karnataka. Karnataka maintains the demarcation done on linguistic lines as per the States Reorganisation Act and the 1967 Mahajan Commission Report as final. And, as an assertion that Belagavi is an integral part of the State, Karnataka has built the 'Suvarna Vidhana Soudha', modelled on the 'Vidhana Soudha' here.

No coercive action against Jet Airways founder Naresh Goyal, wife till Januaray 31, says Bombay HC
Times of India | 1 week ago | |
Times of India
1 week ago | |

MUMBAI: In a reprieve to founder chairman of Jet Airways Naresh Goyal and his wife Anita Goyal, the Bombay high court last week restrained the Enforcement Directorate from taking any coercive steps against them till January 31, the next hearing date of their plea to quash money laundering case and stay investigation. The Goyals said the money laundering case registered by the ED has no basis as there is no prior offence against them as required since the MRA Marg police closed an alleged cheating case filed by a travel agent on February 18, 2020. Two days after the cheating FIR by Akbar Travels (India) Pvt Ltd, the ED had on February 20, 2020, registered its ECIR (Enforcement Case Information Report) under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) citing the scheduled offence, and also commenced investigation under Foreign Exchange Management Act (FEMA).The Goyals had petitioned the HC late last year, and the matter was heard for the first time on January 17. The ED counsel sought time.The HC bench of Justices Revati Mohite Dere and Prithviraj Chavan, in its interim order released on January 21, said, "By these petitions, the petitioners have sought quashing of the ECIR registered by the ED." As interim relief, the Goyals sought no further investigation in the FIR and no coercive steps be taken against them by the ED.Goyals' senior counsel Ravi Kadam and Aabad Ponda submitted that there is no predicate offence as required for the ED to investigate its case. A predicate or underlying criminal offence is a prerequisite to an offence of money laundering. They argued that the complaint lodged with the MRA Marg police station, Mumbai, has resulted in filing of a 'C' Summary Report (closure report as being neither true nor false) by the police. They submitted that even the protest petition filed by the ED was rejected by the magistrate and the rejection has been confirmed by the HC in December 2020, as well as the Supreme Court. Without a predicate offence, the ECIR will have to be quashed, they submitted. On the request of the ED counsel seeking time to respond to the two petitions, the HC adjourned the matter to January 31.The HC in an interim relief said, "In the meantime, till the next date, no coercive steps be taken against the petitioners in respect of the said ECIR."

No coercive action against Jet Airways founder Naresh Goyal, wife till Januaray 31, says Bombay HC
PM Modi To Inaugurate Various Projects In Karnataka And Maharashtra Today
Ndtv | 1 week ago | |
Ndtv
1 week ago | |

PM Modi will inaugurate two lines of the Mumbai MetroNew Delhi: As Prime Minister Narendra Modi is all set to visit Karnataka and Maharashtra to inaugurate and lay the foundation stone of various development projects, here, preparations are in full swing in both the states to welcome the PM.PM Modi will make a visit to the Yadgiri and Kalaburagi districts of Karnataka in the morning hours and lay the foundation stone and inaugurate various developmental projects related to irrigation, drinking water and a National Highway development project at Kodeka in the Yadgiri district.According to Prime Minister's Office (PMO), in an effort to provide safe and adequate drinking water through individual household tap connections to all households, the foundation stone of the Yadgir multi-village drinking water supply scheme under Jal Jeevan Mission would be laid at Kodekal, Yadgiri district. A Water Treatment Plant of 117 MLD will be built under the scheme.The project, which costs more than Rs 2,050 crore, will provide potable water to about 2.3 lakh households of more than 700 rural habitations and three towns in the Yadgiri district.During the programme, Prime Minister will also inaugurate Narayanpur Left Bank Canal - Extension Renovation and Modernisation Project (NLBC-ERM). The project, with canal carrying capacity of 10,000 cusecs, can irrigate 4.5 lakh hectares of command area. It will benefit more than three lakh farmers in 560 villages of Kalaburgi, Yadagir and Vijaypur districts. The total cost of the project is about Rs 4,700 crore, said the PMO statement.Ahead of the Prime Minister's programme in Karnataka, Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai termed the modernisation of the Narayanpur Left Bank Canal (NLBC) as a model for the entire country and also an important milestone in the field of the irrigation sector.In line with the Prime Minister's vision of 100 per cent saturation of government schemes, about 1,475 unrecorded habitations have been declared as New Revenue villages in five districts of Kalaburagi, Yadgiri, Raichur, Bidar and Vijayapura.In the afternoon, PM Modi will reach Malkhed village of Kalaburagi district, where he will distribute title deeds (hakku patra) to the eligible beneficiaries of these newly declared revenue villages.The issuance of title deeds to more than 50,000 beneficiaries, who are largely from the marginalised and vulnerable communities from the SC, ST and OBC, is a step to provide formal recognition from the government for their land and will make them eligible for receiving government services like drinking water, electricity, roads etc.During the programme, Prime Minister will also lay the foundation stone of the 71 km section of NH-150C. This six-lane Greenfield road project is also part of Surat- Chennai Expressway. It is being built at a cost of more than Rs 2,100 crore.Surat-Chennai Expressway will pass through six states- Gujarat, Maharashtra, Karnataka, Telangana, Andhra Pradesh, and Tamil Nadu. It will reduce the existing route from 1,600 km to 1,270 km.Later in the day, PM Modi will reach Mumbai by the evening to inaugurate and lay the foundation stone of projects worth around Rs 38,800 crores. He will inaugurate two lines of the Mumbai Metro and also enjoy a metro ride.To provide seamless urban mobility, he will also dedicate to the nation Mumbai Metro Rail Lines 2A and 7, worth around Rs 12,600 crore. The metro line 2A connecting Dahisar E and DN Nagar (yellow line) is around 18.6 km long, while metro line 7 connecting Andheri E - Dahisar E (red line) is around 16.5 km long. The Prime Minister had laid the foundation stone of these lines in 2015.During the visit, PM Modi will also launch MUMBAI 1 Mobile App and National Common Mobility Card (Mumbai 1). The app will facilitate ease of travel, can be shown at the entry gates of metro stations and supports digital payment to buy tickets through UPI. The National Common Mobility Card (Mumbai 1) will initially be used in metro corridors and can be extended to other modes of mass public transit including local trains and buses as well. Commuters will not need to carry multiple cards or cash; the NCMC card will enable quick, contactless, digital transactions, thereby easing the process with a seamless experience, according to the PMO statement.The Prime Minister will further lay the foundation stone of seven sewage treatment plants, which will be built at a cost of around Rs 17,200 crore. These sewage treatment plants will be set up in Malad, Bhandup, Versova, Ghatkopar, Bandra, Dharavi and Worli. They will have a combined capacity of around 2,460 MLD.In an effort to strengthen health care infrastructure in Mumbai, PM would also inaugurate 20 Hinduhridaysamrat Balasaheb Thackeray Aapla Dawakhana.This initiative provides essential medical services like health checkups, medicines, investigations and diagnostics completely free, to the people, said PMO statement.Prime Minister will also lay the foundation stone for the redevelopment of three hospitals in Mumbai viz 360-bedded Bhandup Multispeciality Municipal Hospital, 306-bedded Siddharth Nagar Hospital, Goregaon (West) and 152-bedded Oshiwara Maternity Home.Prime Minister will start the road concretisation project for around 400 km roads of in Mumbai.This project will be developed at the cost of about Rs 6,100 crore. Of the total roads extending to around 2050 km in Mumbai, more than 1,200 Km of roads are either concretized or are in the process of being concretized. However, the remaining roads of about 850 km length face challenges of potholes which severely impact transportation.The Prime Minister's Office said the road concretisation project is aimed to overcome this challenge. These concrete roads will ensure fast travel along with enhanced security, while also providing better drainage facilities and utility ducts will ensure regular digging of roads is avoided.PM will also lay the foundation stone for the redevelopment of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Terminus. The redevelopment is planned with a view to decongesting the southern heritage node of the terminus, augmentation of facilities, better multi-modal integration and conserving and restoring the world-famous iconic structure to its past glory.The project will be done at a cost of over Rs 1,800 crore. Further, Prime Minister will also start the transfer of approved loans of over 1 lakh beneficiaries under PM SVANidhi Yojana.Notably, the Mumbai Police have banned drone, paragliders, remote control microlight aircraft flying activities in the jurisdiction of Bandra Kurla Complex (BKC) PS, Andheri PS, Meghwadi PS, Jogeshwari Police Station today and added that the said order shall remain in force from 12:01 am to 11 pm today.PromotedListen to the latest songs, only on JioSaavn.comThe police have also deployed 4,500 of its personnel in the western suburbs as a part of security arrangement.The Mumbai Police has further announced the deployment of four State Reserve Police Force (SRPF), and one unit each of the Anti-Riot Squad and Rapid Action Force, ahead of the Prime Minister's visit to the state. 

PM Modi To Inaugurate Various Projects In Karnataka And Maharashtra Today
Most parties oppose remote voting plan, EC puts off demo
The Indian Express | 2 weeks ago | |
The Indian Express
2 weeks ago | |

NEARLY ALL political parties that attended a meeting called by the Election Commission Monday to discuss remote voting were opposed to the EC’s proposal to allow migrants to cast their votes from outside their home constituencies, sources told The Indian Express.With parties demanding more in-depth discussion on the matter, the EC put off the demonstration of a prototype Remote Voting Machine (RVM), which was scheduled after remarks by Chief Election Commissioner Rajiv Kumar and a presentation on remote voting.According to an EC official, 16 representatives from the eight national parties — BJP, Congress, NCP, TMC, BSP, CPI(M), CPI and NPP, which is heading the ruling alliance in Meghalaya — were in attendance. A total of 67 participants representing 40 state parties also attended the discussion held at the Constitution Club in New Delhi.The official said the political leaders agreed with the broad objective of increasing voter turnout, while some asked for the demonstration of the RVM to be done in states. Others wanted the concept of domestic migrants to be defined before going ahead with the proposal.As a result, the EC decided to extend the date of submission of written views on the matter by the parties to February 28 from January 31. The EC had on December 28, 2022, written to all recognised national and state parties about its proposal to increase turnout among migrants.Except the BJP and to an extent the BJD, all other parties opposed the proposal, sources said. Even the BJP, which was represented by Union Environment Minister Bhupender Yadav, said it would give its views in writing. Yadav said the BJP agreed in principle that turnout should be increased and “missing voters” should get a chance to vote but the procedure to be adopted was a matter for discussion, and the Election Commission would decide after that.The leaders raised several issues — from electoral bonds to hate speeches and working of EVMs. They argued that electoral bonds lack transparency and kill the level playing field.Congress leader Digvijaya Singh, who represented his party along with Praveen Chakravarty, told reporters after the meeting that the concept note prepared by the EC and the presentation given to the leaders showed the Commission was “confused”.“When there is no survey of migrant labour, they are providing facilities to migrant labour,” he said, raising concerns on how a remote voter would be identified.RJD’s Manoj Kumar Jha raised the issue of hate speeches. Without taking names, he said people have become Chief Ministers after delivering hate speeches while the EC has remained a mute spectator.AAP MP Sanjay Singh told The Indian Express that he raised questions on how the Model Code of Conduct would be followed for remote voters outside an election-bound state — and how parties, particularly smaller ones, would be able to appoint polling agents for multiple locations.“It is not practical. I suggested that the EC should give people four days of leave instead of one day to travel to their hometowns to vote. They can make travel on buses and trains free (for them),” he said.Among those who attended were Ramgopal Yadav of the Samajwadi Party, and TMC’s Kalyan Banerjee and Mahua Moitra.In its concept note sent to parties in December, the EC had said that the RVM had been developed by Electronics Corporation of India, a company under the Department of Atomic Energy, as a modified version of the existing Electronic Voting Machine.The RVM would be a stand-alone device, not connected to the internet. At one time, it would be able to handle 72 constituencies, and voters would be able to see the candidates for their home constituency using a code. Special remote voting polling stations would be set up in locations outside the constituency after the eligible voters register with the Returning Officer.Explaining the reason behind its proposal, the EC said that voter turnout had stagnated over the past few election cycles — 67.40 per cent in 2019 and 66.44 per cent in 2014. It said it was concerned that about 30 crore registered electors were choosing to skip the polls.

Most parties oppose remote voting plan, EC puts off demo
In ‘VVIP’ Haryana village, health infra creaks under staff, equipment shortageSign In to read
The Indian Express | 2 weeks ago | |
The Indian Express
2 weeks ago | |

“They come to the village only during elections,” says Panna Devi. “Iss gaon se CM ban liye, aur kayi MLA, par gaon mein gareebon ke liye koi swaasthya ki suvidha nahi… (This village has given chief ministers, MLAs… but it does not have basic health facilities for the poor).”Panna Devi is a resident of the “VVIP village” of Chautala in Haryana’s Sirsa district, dubbed the nursery of Indian politics and home to the ancestors of Devi Lal, the former deputy PM and Haryana ex-chief minister, and his son Om Prakash Chautala, also a former CM.But it is also rapidly gaining a different, unwanted reputation — as a backwater of health facilities plagued by shortages in staff and equipment.Take the case of Panna Devi. On the night of November 12 last year, her granddaughter, Vidya Devi, 22, experienced labour pain and was taken to the civil hospital in Dabwali — over 30 km from her house — where she had a premature delivery. The family said that due to the lack of a nursery at Dabwali, she was referred to a higher centre at Sirsa civil hospital. Over the next two-three weeks, her family alleged, she was referred to government hospitals in Agroha and Rohtak and failed to get proper treatment due to a lack of specialist doctors and health infrastructure. Finally, the family took her to a government hospital in Jaipur, where her condition deteriorated and she died during treatment. Her infant child had also died at Rohtak, a few days after the delivery.“Maybe if she had received specialist care and treatment on time and we did not have to travel to far off places, she and her child could have survived,” says Panna Devi.Vidya’s case figures in an inquiry initiated by the state department after three cases of “intrauterine foetal demise (IUFD)/infant deaths/stillbirth” and one maternal death were reported in the area under one community health centre (CHC) in Chautala.A team of Directorate General of Health Services (DGHS) and National Health Mission (NHM) from Panchkula visited the CHC-cum-civil hospital in Chautala early in January for an inspection and recorded statements of some families of the victims, officials said.Five politicians from the village, representing different political parties and constituencies, made it to the state Assembly in the 2019 elections.They are INLD’s Abhay Chautala, who was elected from Ellenabad; his estranged nephew and Deputy Chief Minister Dushyant Chautala of JJP, who won from Uchana Kalan in Jind district; Dushyant’s mother Naina Singh Chautala, who was elected from Badhra; Ranjit Chautala, brother of INLD patriarch Om Prakash Chautala, who won as an Independent from Rania; and Congress’s Amit Sihag, the son of KV Singh, a former officer on special duty to Haryana ex-CM Bhupinder Singh Hooda.The issue of poor health infrastructure at the ‘VVIP’ village was recently mentioned during the Zero Hour of the Haryana Assembly’s winter session. Sihag, the Congress MLA from Dabwali, had said: “There are five MLAs from this VVIP village in this House. Many people use this village’s name along with their names. It is extremely shameful that in this village’s community health centre, three pregnant women lost their children in their womb a few days ago. This CHC has no radiographer, no paediatrician, no X-ray machine, and has become only a referral place.”The residents of Chautala say that despite the village being in the headlines for concentration of political power and heft, successive governments have failed to deliver in terms of governance, particularly in ensuring access to basic health care for the people.With a lack of specialist doctors and adequate medical facilities in the village, families said they had to travel to Sangaria in Rajasthan’s Hanumangarh district or Bathinda in neighbouring Punjab for birth.Outside the village, the nearest government hospital is 30 km away in Dabwali. In many cases, patients are referred to Sirsa civil hospital — over 75 km away.“Out of ten cases of child births in Chautala, at least six occur in Sangaria in Rajasthan. The other option is private hospitals in Sirsa or other states, but the inhabitants of the village, who mostly rely on agriculture or small shops, cannot afford treatment there,” said Om Prakash, Vidya’s father. Five children in his family were born in Sangaria, he added.The CHC in Chautala is a 50-bed facility, which includes five primary health centres — Jottanwali, Kaluana, Ganga, Chautala and Goriwala — catering to a population of more than 1.4 lakh people.As of January 2, out of 58 regular sanctioned positions at the Chautala CHC, over half (31) were vacant. Out of two sanctioned posts for the position of senior medical officer, one is vacant while out of 11 sanctioned posts for medical officer, three remain vacant, but only four officers are currently working. Of the remaining four positions, one is absent from duty, one has resigned, one has gone for a postgraduate course and another is not on duty due to a pay claim issue.In contractual positions from NHM, one lab technician, three staff nurses, a pharmacist and and one Asha coordinator are working at the CHC. Several other sanctioned posts — three pharmacists, two nursing sisters, four lab technicians, two radiographers, two operations theatre assistants and one post each of ECG technician, public health nurse, multi-purpose health supervisor, ophthalmic assistant — were vacant as of the same date. The Chautala CHC has no gynaecologist and across Sirsa district, three gynaecologists are deputed — two in Sirsa civil hospital and one in Dabwali.After the matter was discussed in the Assembly, the Haryana government, on January 4, sanctioned five posts of specialists — gynaecologist, paediatrician, anaesthetist, general surgeon and a physician — under the NHM at the centre.Health department officials said that out of over 14,000 deliveries between April and November 2022 in Sirsa district, 400 deaths have been reported. The figure includes deaths from abortion, still birth, infant deaths and intrauterine deaths, officials added.Dr Budhram, deputy civil surgeon, NHM Sirsa, said: “Out of the total deliveries across the district, the percentage of deaths from all these factors is low. In recent cases of three infant deaths, an inquiry has been initiated by the state department.”According to the National Family Health Survey-5, for 2019-2021, over 67 per cent of institutional births took place at a public facility in Sirsa district.A doctor at the CHC, requesting anonymity, said that while lack of specialist staff and infrastructure was an issue, the matter had been politicised due to the hype around the “VVIP” tag of the village. “The main issue is shortage of medical officers, specialist staff and infrastructure. The posts are vacant. Opportunities in the private sector are more lucrative. Senior doctors often are unwilling to take a posting in a rural place due to personal reasons. Some specialist positions have been recently sanctioned as part of plans to establish the first referral unit at the CHC,” the doctor said.When The Indian Express visited the area, a member of the DGHS team from Panchkula said that a team had visited the CHC for an inspection and for issues related to recent IUD/stillbirth deaths. “The services here are basic since it is a basic facility at block level,” the official said, refusing to comment on any specific case.Dr Kulwinder Kaur, senior medical officer, CHC Chautala, declined to comment.Upset by the recent cases of pregnant women losing their children in womb, a group of villagers sat on a protest in the hospital’s parking lot in Chautala for 20 days before embarking on a march from the village to the Chief Minister’s office in Chandigarh on December 21.Among the protesters is Krishan Kumar Sharma (37) from Chautala. Krishan, a tailor, said that he took his pregnant wife Kanchan to the CHC in Chautala after she experienced stomach pain on November 17. He said the doctors at the CHC gave her medicine and prescribed some tests including a coloured ultrasound, for which he had to travel to Hanumangarh to a private laboratory.“The next morning, the CHC staff said that they suspected that the foetus had died and told us to go to Sirsa civil hospital. From Sirsa, they referred us to the higher centre at the medical college in Agroha,” he said. Failing to get treatment there, he got his wife admitted to a private hospital in Sirsa, where after a surgery, the doctors told them that the foetus had died.“My wife was admitted to the private hospital in Sirsa for two weeks. The treatment and medicines cost us Rs 1.1 lakh. Where will a poor man go in case of an emergency? Main dharna de raha hun taaki jo hamare bache ke saath hua wo kisi aur ke saath na ho,” said Krishan.MLA Sihag, who had raised the issue in the Assembly, said: “Historically, this village has had a major role to play in Haryana politics and yet what we see now is an acute deficiency in facilities at the government hospital. The problem is not only in Chautala but across the Sirsa district. It is high time that accountability is fixed and remedial steps are taken so that such unfortunate incidents do not occur in future.”

In ‘VVIP’ Haryana village, health infra creaks under staff, equipment shortageSign In to read
India’s road deaths are not accidents -- they are a public health crisis
The Indian Express | 2 weeks ago | |
The Indian Express
2 weeks ago | |

It’s time to stop labelling the thousands of deadly incidents that happen on India’s roads as “accidents.” Across India, the National Crime Records Bureau reported over four lakh road “accident” cases in 2021, with 1.6 lakh fatalities — up by four per cent from 2017. Despite the fact that each of these casualties leaves a human tragedy in its wake, society remains numb and unresponsive. The fact that road deaths are routinely labelled “accidents” contributes to public inaction against this preventable killer. It carries with it the connotation that they are unavoidable and an accepted cost of travel, wherein “accidents just happen”. But they do not “just happen”.Fortunately, in December and September of 2022, the Maharashtra Highway Police and the Delhi Traffic Police both proved that change is possible and broke away from this practice. In its report, the Delhi Traffic Police noted that an “accident” is “an event that happens by chance or that is without apparent or deliberate cause,” and as such, they will retire the word going forward when discussing road crashes.This change reflects a commitment to treat crashes not as inevitable but as preventable — thanks to evidence-based public health interventions, such as road redesign with all users in mind.Evidence from places with sterling road safety records shows that road deaths can be prevented by strong government action. This includes a comprehensive approach to road safety, including prioritising accessibility over mobility, and walking, cycling, and smart urban planning (such as public transport, crosswalks, and bike lanes) over high-speed driving and car dependency. In other words, low-cost, low-tech interventions can be adopted in every city and state, as long as there’s political will.By framing road crashes as “accidents,” people perceive crashes with less urgency and support for crucial interventions that can prevent crashes. Rightly using the term “crash”, is a commendable step by the Delhi Traffic Police, and it is hoped that others — spanning government agencies, media outlets, and the general public — will similarly follow suit.In fact, this shift has happened before. We hear of “car accidents,” but when was the last time one heard of a “plane accident”? The term “plane accident” in the aviation industry is a misnomer but it wasn’t always so. The term was discarded in the first half of the 20th century as governments pressured the industry to improve safety. Investigators now work to determine the root causes of any aircraft crash, or even a near miss, and put in place more stringent safeguards to ensure that future events are prevented. Preventative actions such as safe infrastructure, professional management by highly trained and skilled staff, maintenance of all equipment, and strictly followed standard operating procedures all contribute toward making air travel the world’s safest form of transport per kilometre.We need to adopt a similar approach to road travel. For example, thoughtful urban planning and safe road designs that encourage low speeds can reduce crashes. Communities that are walkable and bikeable, and less car-dependent have fewer deaths on the road. These are low-cost and straightforward interventions, and they can save lives today.Every road crash is preventable. Evidence-based interventions can radically decrease crash fatalities, and the language used to describe crashes is critical in building public demand and political will for these changes.Lakhtakia is a retired Indian Police Service officer and currently Senior Road Safety Advisor-India, Vital Strategies. Ennis is Regional Deputy Director-Asia, Vital Strategies

India’s road deaths are not accidents -- they are a public health crisis
I am not gonna travel 6.5 hrs to bat for 3 hrs. I am going to bat 5 hours to get 100: What Rahul Dravid said to Hemang Badani while playing in Chennai league
The Indian Express | 2 weeks ago | |
The Indian Express
2 weeks ago | |

Current Team India coach Rahul Dravid was known for his patience and resilience when he played for India and opposition bowlers would struggle to get his wicket once he was set in the crease, earning him the apt nickname of The Wall.On Dravid’s birthday, former India cricketer Hemang Badani talked about his attitude when he would come over to Chennai from Bangalore to play the Chennai League.“He lived in Bangalore and this cricket was happening in Chennai. And he used to come over to Chennai to play the Chennai league, which is one of the most prolific leagues in India. He would come in and churn 100s after 100s. Every game. And I was somebody who was skilled but I would loft the ball and everything. Go out there and get out. Lofting and getting out long off and stuff,” He said in a video shared by IPL franchise Sunrisers Hyderabad.A 🤏 story overheard in our dressing room that will make you 🧡 birthday boy #RahulDravid a bit more! 🎂#OrangeArmy pic.twitter.com/5IBM8BIPeo— SunRisers Hyderabad (@SunRisers) January 11, 2023“Rahul would only keep the ball on the floor. At one point I said, Rahul you have got one 100, you got two, you got four, you’ve got 5. What the hell is happening Rahul? Aren’t you bored? Don’t you like to try something else here?,” Badani narrated the incident of a funny conversation with Dravid.“He said Hemang, it’s quite simple for me. I take a night train. In those days there were no aircrafts and they were very expensive. I take the night train. I travel for 6-6.5 hours. I am not gonna travel that much and go back 6.5 hours to bat for 3 hours. I am going to bat 5 hours to get a hundred. And it’s as simple as that for me. If I am travelling so much and playing the game, I better make sure that I am in there for 5 hours,” Badani shared.“He said one more thing, which was that in the nets, you bat for 20 odd minutes. What do you do after that as a batter? I’ll bat another minute, I’ll bat for another 5 balls. You got another 10 balls. Coach, can I bat for another 5 balls, mate can you bowl another 10 balls to me. He said if I get 100, I ma batting 150 balls or 170 balls. Why should I not play. Other wise I am begging to bowlers in the nets. He would never get out,” he concluded.

I am not gonna travel 6.5 hrs to bat for 3 hrs. I am going to bat 5 hours to get 100: What Rahul Dravid said to Hemang Badani while playing in Chennai league
2 held for raping former partner in Ahmedabad with card game bait
Times of India | 3 weeks ago | |
Times of India
3 weeks ago | |

MUMBAI: Taking advantage of their 49-year-old former business partner's craze for card games, two men allegedly lured her into accompanying them to Ahmedabad on the pretext of meeting a man who had "promised to invest Rs 25 lakh" in a game they would play in a card club. She was then raped in a hotel room by the Ahmedabad man and one of her former partners while the other attempted sexual assault. The woman managed to escape after three hours of confinement. Vile Parle police arrested the two on January 7 after the woman lodged a complaint against the duo and the man from Ahmedabad.DCP (Zone VIII) Gedam Dikshit said Vile Parle police immediately acted on the complaint and arrested the two and have launched a hunt for the third accused. A case has been filed under Indian Penal Code sections 34 (common intention), 354 (outraging modesty), 376 (rape), 376E (liability of a person in-charge of the workplace and others to give information about an offence) and 506 (criminal intimidation) against the three.Before the pandemic, the woman ran two beauty parlours in a western suburb. She later invested in a card club run by one of the accused in Thane. However, she took back her 20% share after learning of some alleged fraudulent activity in it. She was a partner in a similar business that he operated in Navi Mumbai as well. She discontinued that too. During the probe, police learnt the duo planned the offence as they knew of her "craze" for card games. "The woman, now a housewife, agreed to travel with them in their car on January 4 after she was lured into thinking she would make money in a card game in which the Ahmedabad man was to invest Rs 25 lakh," said a police officer.On January 5, the duo and the woman reached Ahmedabad and checked into a hotel room. In her complaint, the woman said, "When I inquired about the halt, they said they would like to rest for four hours before heading out to play the game. They also informed me that they wanted to introduce me to the investor. I was asked to wait in another room when he entered and threatened me with dire consequences and raped me twice. Later, one of my former partners too assaulted me. The second one made an attempt when I began to scream. This made the trio flee." The survivor reached Mumbai on January 6 and after informing her husband filed a police complaint. (The victim's identity has not been revealed to protect her privacy as per Supreme court directives on cases related to sexual assault)

2 held for raping former partner in Ahmedabad with card game bait
'Multiple mistakes': Go First gets notice after flight takes off without 55 flyers
The Indian Express | 3 weeks ago | |
The Indian Express
3 weeks ago | |

The Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) Tuesday issued a showcause notice to Go First after its flight G8-116 from Bangalore to Delhi left behind 55 passengers in a coach at Bangalore airport.The aviation watchdog also found that “multiple mistakes” led to the incident.“… in the instant case, multiple mistakes such as lack of proper communication, co-ordination, reconciliation and confirmation have resulted in a highly avoidable situation,” DGCA said in a statement.As part of the notice, the regulator has given two weeks time to the Accountable Manager/ Chief Operation Officer of Go First to submit their reasons as to why actions should not be taken against them for showing a lackadaisical attitude towards their obligations.“However, to follow the principles of natural justice, they have been given two weeks time to submit their reply to DGCA and based on that further action will be taken,” the statement said.Go First apologised to passengers who were left behind in the coach and said an inadvertent oversight in the reconciliation of the flight to Delhi led to the incident.In a statement, the airline said, “We sincerely apologise for the inconvenience caused to the passengers due to an inadvertent oversight in the reconciliation of flight G8 116, from Bengaluru to Delhi.”It also said that passengers were accommodated on alternate airlines to Delhi and onward to other destinations. “The airline has decided to offer all affected passengers one free ticket for travel on any domestic sector in the next 12 months,” Go First said, adding it has also initiated an inquiry into the incident.Further, Go First said that all staff concerned have been taken off the roster till the inquiry is going on.(With inputs from PTI)

'Multiple mistakes': Go First gets notice after flight takes off without 55 flyers
  • 'Multiple mistakes': DGCA notice to Go First after flight takes off without 55 flyers
  • The Indian Express

    The Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) Tuesday issued a showcause notice to Go First after its flight G8-116 from Bangalore to Delhi left behind 55 passengers in a coach at Bangalore airport.The aviation watchdog also found that “multiple mistakes” led to the incident.“… in the instant case, multiple mistakes such as lack of proper communication, co-ordination, reconciliation and confirmation have resulted in a highly avoidable situation,” DGCA said in a statement.As part of the notice, the regulator has given two weeks time to the Accountable Manager/ Chief Operation Officer of Go First to submit their reasons as to why actions should not be taken against them for showing a lackadaisical attitude towards their obligations.“However, to follow the principles of natural justice, they have been given two weeks time to submit their reply to DGCA and based on that further action will be taken,” the statement said.Go First apologised to passengers who were left behind in the coach and said an inadvertent oversight in the reconciliation of the flight to Delhi led to the incident.In a statement, the airline said, “We sincerely apologise for the inconvenience caused to the passengers due to an inadvertent oversight in the reconciliation of flight G8 116, from Bengaluru to Delhi.”It also said that passengers were accommodated on alternate airlines to Delhi and onward to other destinations. “The airline has decided to offer all affected passengers one free ticket for travel on any domestic sector in the next 12 months,” Go First said, adding it has also initiated an inquiry into the incident.Further, Go First said that all staff concerned have been taken off the roster till the inquiry is going on.(With inputs from PTI)

Famed Danish restaurant Noma to start new ‘flavor search’
The Indian Express | 3 weeks ago | |
The Indian Express
3 weeks ago | |

The famed Danish restaurant Noma which has claimed the title of world’s top restaurant several times said Monday it will shut down to transform itself into “a pioneering test kitchen” dedicated to “food innovation and the development of new flavors.”Chef Rene Redzepi’s house of Nordic gastronomy will close by the winter of 2024 and re-emerge as Noma 3.0, the Copenhagen eatery said on its webpage.“In 2025, our restaurant is transforming into a giant lab – a pioneering test kitchen dedicated to the work of food innovation and the development of new flavors, one that will share the fruits of our efforts more widely than ever before,” it said.Redzepi, who is Noma’s chef and co-owner, said they will travel to “search for new ways to share our work” and said there could be “a Noma pop-up” but didn’t specify where. After the sojourn, “we will do a season in Copenhagen.”“But I don’t want to commit to anything now,” Redzepi told Berlingske, one of Denmark’s largest daily newspapers.  A post shared by noma (@nomacph)Another major publication, Politiken said the eatery’s facility in Copenhagen will be transformed to develop products to the Noma Projects line – fermented sauces, cooking classes and an online platform.“Serving guests will still be a part of who we are but being a restaurant will no longer define us. Instead, much of our time will be spent on exploring new projects and developing many more ideas and products.”Noma has gone through an earlier transformation. In 2015, the restaurant announced it was closing at the end of 2016 and reopened near its waterfront premises with its own vegetable farm in the vicinity of the hippie enclave of Christiania in Copenhagen.Noma — a contraction of the Danish words for Nordisk and Mad, meaning Nordic and food, opened in 2003. The restaurant grabbed two Michelin stars and was three times voted the world’s number one restaurant by Britain’s Restaurant Magazine in 2010, 2011 and 2012.📣 For more lifestyle news, follow us on Instagram | Twitter | Facebook and don’t miss out on the latest updates!

Famed Danish restaurant Noma to start new ‘flavor search’
What China's period of New Year travel can mean for Covid cases
The Indian Express | 3 weeks ago | |
The Indian Express
3 weeks ago | |

One of the biggest mass movements of humans globally will be witnessed over the next few days in China. This will be on account of celebrations for the Lunar New Year and the resultant travelling – termed Chunyun – as most offices are closed around this time. It is celebrated in others parts of Asia as well, and according to Google Arts and Culture, those observing it account for around one-fifth of the world’s population.Chunyun began on Saturday (January 7). China expected more than 2 billion passenger trips over the next 40 days, an increase of 99.5 per cent year-on-year and reaching 70 per cent of trip numbers in 2019, Reuters reported. However, this has also sparked worry in countries like South Korea, where Chinese tourists arrive. In retaliation to Korea’s requirement for mandatory Covid tests, the AP reported that China suspended visas for Korean tourists on January 10.Two years of Covid-related restrictions and a strict Zero Covid policy later, 2023 will see the movement allowed on a sizeable scale for the first time since the pandemic began. Daily cases are rising as of January 10, a few weeks after scenes of chaos in the country’s hospitals were witnessed at the end of 2022 after the Covid policy was relaxed. And so, there is both concern and cautious optimism over what the period could lead to.Chunyun is simply the period around the Chinese New Year, based on the Lunar Calendar. Chinese news agency Xinhua once translated it as “spring transportation”. It adds:“For people that work away from their hometown, it refers to the happiness of reuniting with loved ones and the bitterness of battling for a train ticket; for railway staff it represents 40 days of arduous work; for scalpers it suggests a busy season of business… for the government it is a test of administrative ability.”There is no fixed date for the New Year, with the date being arrived at based on the moon’s position. This year, it falls on January 21. Other names for the Lunar New Year are Tet in Vietnam, Solnal in Korea and Losar for Tibetans. It begins with the first new moon of the lunar calendar and ends on the first full moon of the lunar calendar, 15 days later.New Year celebrations across many countries are accompanied by feasts, fireworks, lanterns and cultural events like lion dances, where many people get under a giant cloth-and-embellishments-studded lion for synchronised movement. As in many cultures, this is to symbolise warding off evil spirits in the new year and fresh beginnings.Nancy Yao Maasbach, President of the Museum of Chinese in America, told Huffington Post that money is also gifted in red envelopes in China, with the colour associated with good luck. In Korea, this is done in silk pouches.Over the years, China has regularly reported increased travel during this period, with railway lines, in particular, seeing a rush as those living in cities travel to the smaller towns and villages.In 2023, mainland China opened sea and land crossings with Hong Kong after three years and ended a requirement for incoming travellers to quarantine, termed by Reuters as “dismantling a final pillar of the zero-COVID policy that had shielded China’s 1.4 billion people from the virus but also cut them off from the rest of the world.”This is where the worry comes in, because while many other countries are also seeing travel and crowds, none have had China’s lockdown-first strategy for virus containment, which had meant little exposure to the virus or immunity built up against it. Since around Christmas, daily cases have been rising on a steep curve, with nearly 7,666 new cases being reported daily as of January 8, according to Our World in Data.Vaccinations manufactured in China are further believed to be not as effective as other vaccines made elsewhere in terms of preventing the spread, even though there is efficacy in terms of preventing serious illness. Still, many are yet to take boosters, particularly the at-risk population of elderly people. The government has said it is stocking up on adequate health facilities. It has also claimed that the infections have peaked already.Unleashing the potential of pent-up demand because of the pandemic is crucial for China. Notably, even before 2020, there was some economic slowdown noticed overall.The World Bank and private sector forecasters cut estimates of China’s economic growth last year to 2.2%. The International Monetary Fund expects a recovery of 4.4% this year, but that still would be among the lowest levels of the past three decades.But other countries are still cautious of these plans. The US has said it will require a mandatory Covid test for those travelling from China. Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said pre-boarding negative coronavirus test results will be needed for passengers on direct flights from the country. Japan will also continue to ask airlines to limit additional flights from China. In turn, China has termed these plans discriminatory and said it will retaliate with its own measures.Some East Asian countries, which are travel favourites for people in China, have also announced similar measures.

What China's period of New Year travel can mean for Covid cases
Air India incident: Why for a woman, travelling is terrifying and why we don’t push back more
The Indian Express | 3 weeks ago | |
The Indian Express
3 weeks ago | |

The year was 2016. It was my first trans-Atlantic flight from London to Los Angeles via British Airways. And I was ready to throw up. What’s worse is that I was in the middle seat in the economy section between two white men. And while I suffered through the flight — the two of them kept chugging beers. “Beer, mate?”, they would ask each other in turn, unfazed by the turbulence or my retching noises. And if you think some sort of horror unfolded because I — a tiny 4-foot-11-inch woman — was sitting between two drunk men, you’re wrong. Those two made me feel utterly comfortable, there was no harassment. They were courteous, not trying to take up my armrest, and there was no unexplained touching.The reason I’m recounting this as a woman is that the experience of that British Airways flight is the exception, rather than the norm when it comes to drunk men on flights. I have travelled alone on several long-distance flights, across several countries. Many of these have been 16-hour flights where I’ve travelled alone in the economy class, strangers all around me. Inevitably, whenever I’m sitting next to a man, I’m terrified and on alert — age, nationality, no bar. So when the Air India incident came to light, I could only shake my head in empathy. It was also a reminder that as women, we always need to be on alert when we travel. One would think that “business class” would mean some sort of false safety, but I know it is not true.Men will stare at you, sometimes pointedly at your breasts, irrespective of which section of the plane you are seated in. And as a single woman traveller, I’ve also come up with strategies to protect myself. I’ve learnt that I must wear loose-fitting clothes on planes with a coat or jacket on top — even if it is 45 degrees Celsius outside. Yes, I know we must not blame women, but let’s be honest. In the real world, if you are harassed, you will be blamed. So I do what I can to “protect” myself or at least tell myself that I wasn’t to blame.I’ve also learnt to fight for my space on many of these flights. I’ve had men quickly stretch the seat right back — even before the flight has taken off. When I tried to register my disapproval, it was clear I’d struck a nerve. I could see it in the man’s face — who is this tiny woman shouting back and resisting my right to stretch out the seat, her comfort be damned. There have been middle-aged uncles who have told me to sit in the middle seat in an entitled tone — when I had the aisle. When I refused, they spent the entire flight making me uncomfortable by constantly usurping the armrest.I’ve also had men try to grab me from the back of the seat and when I’ve glared they pretended as though nothing happened. And then, of course, there was the one suave-looking fellow who decided to molest me on the bus back to the airport. Unfortunately for him, my boyfriend and I decided to drag him to the police station, where he, of course, begged that we should not file the FIR, because “oh I will lose my job”.The truth is that as women who travel — be it for work or pleasure, we are constantly reminded that there is truly no safe space. I constantly try to “avoid” bad incidents. I sit right at the edge of my seat when seated next to a larger man. I book an aisle seat most of the time because it offers a quick exit. I use noise-cancelling headphones, so I don’t have to listen to any unwarranted comments. I heave a sigh of relief when the two seats next to mine are empty. Not because I need the extra space. But because I know at least no one can molest me.I very often don’t fall asleep on longer flights, because I’m never sure about my safety. This is not to say that every male passenger seated next to me has misbehaved. No, most are well-behaved, but a few bad experiences are enough to ruin one’s sense of safety. And as women, we’ve had a fair share of these across our lifetimes.The truth is that when you are stuck on a 16-hour flight headed to a foreign country and something terrible takes place, you know you will often not get support from others, especially fellow passengers. In the Air India case, even the airline staff let the victim down. Finally, there’s another reason we don’t really lash out or fight when there is a “bad incident”. Because for many women — irrespective of our class status — travelling is a privilege, not a right, unlike the men around us. Often, we are worried: Will I lose that privilege if I complain too much? So we do what we can and adjust and strategise till the next flight.shruti.dhapola@expressindia.com

Air India incident: Why for a woman, travelling is terrifying and why we don’t push back more
Tiny English seaside resort counts down to western Europe’s first satellite launch
The Indian Express | 3 weeks ago | |
The Indian Express
3 weeks ago | |

Final preparations were being made on Monday for the first launch of orbital satellites into space from western Europe, when Virgin Orbit’s mission will transform the English surfing hotspot of Newquay into the country’s first spaceport.A modified Boeing 747 with a rocket under its wing will take off from Newquay airport on Monday evening, watched by crowds across the runway, before soaring out over the Atlantic where after an hour it will release a rocket at about 35,000 feet.The flight will catapult the small seaside resort of Newquay, in Cornwall in southwest England, population 20,000 and best known to surfers for its reliable waves rolling off the Atlantic, into the limelight as western Europe’s go-to destination for small satellites.Virgin Orbit, part-owned by billionaire Richard Branson, said that the mission would launch nine satellites from its LauncherOne rocket, in what will be the first time the company has done so outside of its United States base.The new spaceport in Newquay gives Europe options for launching smaller satellites at a critical time, after the Ukraine war cut access to its use of Russian Soyuz vehicles. The European Space Agency’s (ESA) Ariane 6 rocket, designed to carry large satellites, has also had delays.The Ukraine war has highlighted the importance for tactical military purposes of smaller satellites, like those being launched from Newquay, which can get into low orbit at much shorter notice than bigger ones.The plane is expected to take off at some point between 2140 GMT and 2300 GMT, but it is dependent on the weather and “health of the system” and Virgin Orbit has said there are back-up dates available for later in January.“Assuming that everything continues to look good we’re currently tracking well for launch,” a Virgin Orbit spokeswoman said on Sunday.Space enthusiasts with tickets for the event will watch from a viewing area across the runway before attention shifts to a live stream from a big screen.Virgin Orbit’s focus on small satellites is at the other end of the scale from the large satellites served by companies like Elon Musk’s SpaceX, but the market is growing.They are used for climate change, observation, urban development and security purposes, and Britain hopes the new spaceport will boost its space economy.The country has a large space industry employing 47,000 people, who build more satellites than anywhere outside the United States, but those have had to travel to spaceports in the United States, French Guiana or Kazakhstan before they can make it into orbit.Getting the mission off the ground has taken time. It was delayed from late last year due to the myriad regulatory clearances needed for the inaugural flight.

Tiny English seaside resort counts down to western Europe’s first satellite launch
2 men held for suspected ISIS links raised funds to send to Syria: STF
The Indian Express | 3 weeks ago | |
The Indian Express
3 weeks ago | |

The two men from Howrah arrested on Saturday over their alleged links with the terror outfit ISIS were raising money to send it to Syria, the Kolkata Police’s Special Task Force (STF) has said.The duo, identified as Mohammad Saddam (28), a mechanical engineering graduate who works with a Noida-based private firm, and his accomplice Sayeed Ahmed (30), had raised about Rs 30,000 for the purpose before being arrested, a senior officer claimed.The two accused were sent to 12-day police custody. Saddam was working from home for nearly two years, it is learnt. Officials said Saddam was first influenced by ISIS ideology through radical literature and videos and he then radicalised Sayeed, his childhood friend.“They used to communicate secretly through messaging platforms using coded language. Our investigation so far has revealed that they were raising money to send it to Syria,” STF Joint Commissioner of Police V Solomon Nesakumar said.“We suspect more people are involved in these activities and have got some leads in this regard.  We will get to the bottom of this as our investigation progresses,” another official said .Their laptops and mobiles have been recovered and will be examined thoroughly. The police are also trying to  find out if they have any Bangladesh links. They are also probing their alleged communication with their Pakistan-based handlers besides the possibility of their involvement in the procurement of explosives, recruitment of youths for radical activities.TMC, Opposition trade chargesMeanwhile, the arrest of the two suspected ISIS operatives has triggered a political blame game in the state.  CPIM leader Sujan Chakraborty said, “It is a cause of concern that Bengal is turning into a haven for such elements. The activities of terror outfits in have increased in the state.”BJP leader Rahul Sinha claimed that appeasement politics of the Mamata Banerjee-led government has led to such incidents in Bengal. “Every terror attack or bomb explosion have some Bengal connection. Such elements feel safe in the state.TMC spokesperson Kunal Ghosh said, “It is not new that Bengal is used as a passage by some terror operatives to travel to other places.”

2 men held for suspected ISIS links raised funds to send to Syria: STF
Israel revokes Palestinian FM’s travel permit over UN move
The Indian Express | 3 weeks ago | |
The Indian Express
3 weeks ago | |

Israel on Sunday revoked the Palestinian foreign minister’s travel permit, part of a series of punitive steps against the Palestinians that Israel’s new hard-line government announced days ago.Riad Malki said in a statement that he was returning from the Brazilian president’s inauguration when he was informed that Israel rescinded his travel permit, which allows top Palestinian officials to travel easily in and out of the occupied West Bank, unlike ordinary Palestinians. It was not clear whether the permits of other officials had been revoked as well.Israel’s government on Friday approved the steps to penalize the Palestinians in retaliation for them pushing the U.N.’s highest judicial body to give its opinion on the Israeli occupation. Rulings by the International Court of Justice are not binding, but they can be influential on world opinion.The decision highlights the tough line the current government is already taking toward the Palestinians just days into its tenure. It comes at a time of spiking violence in the occupied West Bank and as peace talks are a distant memory.In east Jerusalem, a flashpoint of Israeli-Palestinian tensions, Israeli police said they broke up a meeting by Palestinian parents about their children’s education, claiming it was unlawfully funded by the Palestinian Authority. Police said the operation came at the behest of National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir, an ultranationalist with a long record of anti-Arab rhetoric and stunts who now oversees the police.The Palestinians condemned the revoking of Malki’s permit, saying Israel should be the one being “punished for its violations against international law.”Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told a meeting of his Cabinet on Sunday the measures against the Palestinians were aimed at what he called “an extreme anti-Israel” step at the U.N. Israel’s Defense Ministry confirmed that Malki’s permit had been revoked. On Friday, the government’s Security Cabinet decided Israel would withhold $39 million from the Palestinian Authority and transfer the funds instead to a compensation program for the families of Israeli victims of Palestinian militant attacks.It also said Israel would further deduct revenue it typically transfers to the cash-strapped PA — a sum equal to the amount the authority paid last year to families of Palestinian prisoners and those killed in the conflict, including militants implicated in attacks against Israelis. The Palestinian leadership describes the payments as necessary social welfare, while Israel says the so-called Martyrs’ Fund incentivizes violence. Israel’s withheld funds threaten to exacerbate the PA’s fiscal woes.The Security Cabinet also targeted Palestinian officials directly, saying it would deny benefits to “VIPs who are leading the political and legal war against Israel.”Meanwhile, Israel’s new defense minister, Yoav Gallant, said he was stripping three senior Palestinian officials of VIP privileges allowing them to enter Israel. The move came after they visited an Arab citizen of Israel who was released from prison last week after serving 40 years for the murder of an Israeli soldier.The police operation Saturday came days after Ben-Gvir took office. Police alleged the parents’ meeting was funded by the Palestinian Authority and attended by PA activists, which it said was in violation of Israeli law. Police said they prevented the meeting from taking place and that they were operating under an order by Ben-Gvir to shut it down. Police declined to provide evidence backing up their claim and a spokesman for Ben-Gvir referred questions to the police.Ziad Shamali, head of the Students’ Parents’ Committees Union in Jerusalem, which was holding the meeting, denied there was any PA involvement, saying it was being held to discuss a shortage of teachers in east Jerusalem schools. He said he viewed the claim of PA ties as “a political pretext to ban” the meeting.The Palestinian Authority was created to administer Gaza and parts of the occupied West Bank. Israel opposes any official business being carried out by the PA in east Jerusalem, and police have in the past broken up events they alleged were linked to the PA.Israel captured east Jerusalem in the 1967 Mideast war and later annexed it, a move unrecognized by most of the international community. Israel considers the city its undivided, eternal capital.The Palestinians seek the city’s eastern sector as the capital of their hoped-for state. About a third of the city’s population is Palestinian and they have long faced neglect and discrimination at the hands of Israeli authorities, including in education, housing and public services.

Israel revokes Palestinian FM’s travel permit over UN move