WEDNESDAY www.thestatesman.com 24 FEBRUARY 2021 FIND US ONLINE Scan this with your smartphone twitter.com/TheStatesmanLtd facebook.com/thestatesman1875 Pages 12 |`5|LC KOLKATA | NEW DELHI | SILIGURI | BHUBANESWAR JAISHANKAR CALLS FOR REFORMS TO DEAL WITH TERROR WIFE OF DRUG KINGPIN ‘EL CHAPO’ ARRESTED P9 P5 WEATHER Mainly clear sky. Mist/shallow fog in the morning. The maximum and minimum temperatures would be around 31 and 12 degrees Celsius respectively. Max: 100% Min: 36% TEMPERATURE Max: 31.5°C (+7) SUN RISES 06:50 hrs MOON RISES 15:14 hrs Min: 10.7°C (0) SUN SETS 18:18 hrs MOON SETS 05:32 hrs THUMBNAILS Indian Secular Front activists protest against farm laws and fuel price hike, in Kolkata on ANAGHA BANIK Tuesday. Six killed in Karnataka blast: Six people were killed when the gelatin sticks they were trying to dispose of clandestinely exploded accidentally at a stone quarry site in a village in Chikkaballapur in Karnataka on Tuesday, police said. The government has ordered a CID probe into the blast. Police said preliminary investigation indicated use of petroleum gel and Ammonium Nitrate in the quarry that was operating clandestinely and was closed a few P4 days ago following raids. Lakha Sidhana attends public meeting: Lakha Sidhana, who is wanted in connection with the violence in Delhi on Republic Day, on Tuesday attended a public meeting in Punjab's Bathinda in support of the ongoing farmers' agitation against the Centre's agri laws. A video clip showed him seated on the dais. He had given a call for the public meeting in Bathinda's Mehraj village last week. There was speculation whether Sidhana would take part in the public meeting as he is wanted by the Delhi Police. AGENCIES A meeting was held at the Prime Minister's Office today to review the coronavirus situation in the country amid a surge in cases over the past few days, and amid concerns mutated strains, those that originated abroad and in India, are more infectious, may be circulating in the country. Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushan was among those who attended the meeting. The spike in Covid numbers in some states comes as 240 new strains of the virus have emerged across the country. Apart from Maharashtra, four other states ~ Kerala, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Punjab ~ have been witnessing a sudden increase in numbers. Health Ministry sources said this morning that between 800 and 900 samples, from Maharashtra and Kerala, had been sent for genome sequencing in the past month. Samples for genome sequencing, to understand the complete genetics of the virus, have also been sought from Punjab and Bengaluru, where, in the past few days alone, two apartment complexes have been declared "containment zones" and sealed. So far genome sequencing of nearly 6,000 samples have been completed. Last week the Centre had sent an advisory to affected states that they must continue to practice Covid-appropriate behaviour, including the use of face masks and social distancing in public. Meanwhile, Prime Minister Narendra Modi asserted that the time has come to take accessibility and affordability in healthcare to the next level, while addressing a webinar on effective implementation of the Union Budget's provisions in the health sector. He said the budget allocated to health this year is unprecedented and shows the government's commitment to providing better healthcare. Modi said his government is taking a holistic approach to healthcare and is not just focused on treatment but also wellness. To keep India healthy, the government is working on four fronts simultaneously ~ prevention of illness and promotion of wellness, pro- viding cheap and effective treatment to the poorest of the poor, increasing quality and quantity of health infrastructure and healthcare professionals, and working on mission mode to overcome obstacles ~ Modi said. The prime minister said it is time to take accessibility and affordability in healthcare to the next level for which the use of modern technology is being increased, he said. “Last year was in a way like ‘agnipareeksha’ (trial by fire) for the country and particularly for the health sector. I am happy that the country's health sector was successful in this ‘agnipareeksha’. We managed to save so many lives,” he said while crediting the achievement to combined efforts of the government and private sector. SNS & PTI NEW DELHI, 23 FEBRUARY India reported 78 new Covid-19 fatalities on Tuesday, the health ministry said, as it underlined that a steady decline is being observed in the number of daily new deaths. The country’s tally of active cases fell below the 1.5-lakh mark on Tuesday and was pegged at 1,47,306, comprising1.34 per cent of the total caseload, the Union Health Ministry said, highlighting 21 states and UTs have not reported fresh fatalities in a 24hour-period. A total of10,584 new NEW DELHI, 23 FEBRUARY infections and 13,255 recoveries were recorded in a span of 24 hours, leading to a net decline of 2,749 cases in the total active caseload, it said. India's daily positivity rate remains below three per cent, the ministry noted. It added that 21 states and union territories have not reported any fresh Covid-19 deaths in a span of 24 hours. Till 8 a.m. on Tuesday, the vaccination coverage stood at 1,17,45,552 through 2,44,877 sessions, as per the ministry's provisional report. The second dose of Covid vaccination start- The Delhi Police have contended that the Google document tweeted by Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg to back the farmers’ protest and then deleted, was created by Ravi and two other activists ~ Nikita Jacob and Shantanu Muluk. During the three-hourlong bail hearing on February 20, the police said that the ‘Toolkit’ was a sinister design to defame India and cause violence. “Poetic Justice Foundation and Sikhs For Justice in order to hide their involvement, used Disha Ravi as a front to ed on February 13 for those beneficiaries who have completed 28 days after the receipt of the first dose. Inoculation of frontline workers started on February 2. 1,10,16,434 1,47,306 10,584 13,255 1,56,463 UNION HEALTH MINISTRY FIGURES AS OF 8.00 A.M. TUESDAY 23 FEB 2021 Delhi adds 145 cases, 2 d e a t h s : Delhi today recorded 145 fresh Covid cases and 2 new fatalities, while the positivity rate stood at 0.25 per cent, according to the Delhi government’s latest health bulletin. The city’s Covid toll rose to 10,903, the health bulletin said. Its coronavirus caseload mounted to 6,38,173, the health bulletin stat(SEE P 2) ed. UNWAVERING carry out nefarious activity,” Additional Solicitor General S V Raju told the court, adding that these organisations are connected to the Khalistani movement. Ravi’s counsel Advocate Siddharth Agarwal, however, claimed there is no evidence linking the toolkit to the violence during the farmers' march on January 26. Shantanu moves court for anticipatory bail: Shantanu Muluk, who is accused along withDisha Ravi in connection with allegedly being involved in sharing a “toolkit” on social media related to the farmers' protest, Tuesday moved a Delhi court seeking anticipatory bail. The application moved by Muluk is likely to come up for hearing Wednesday before Additional Sessions Judge Dharmender Rana. Protesting farmers observe ‘Pagdi Sambhal Jatta day’ in memory of Sardar Ajit Singh on his birth anniversary, at Ghazipur border, in the Capital on Tuesday. SNS Abhishek’s wife in coal pilferage case STATESMAN NEWS SERVICE KOLKATA, 23 FEBRUARY The CBI today interrogated Rujira Banerjee Narula, wife of Trinamul Congress MP and West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee’s nephew, Abhishek Banerjee, for over an hour in connection with the coal smuggling scam. An eight-member team led by an officer in the rank of superintendent of police, today interrogated Rujira at her residence at Harish Chatterjee Street in connection with the alleged beneficiaries of the money trail in the coal mining scam that the agency suspected was stashed in many overseas accounts. Sources in the CBI said the interrogation which lasted for one and half hours, mainly revolved around her accounts in Thailand. Rujira was found to be not “forthcoming” in her reply and skirted many queries on the pretext of “beyond her knowledge”, sources said. It was learnt that the CBI was in constant touch with the higher officials at Kolkata's Nizam Palace and briefed the entire interrogation details to the office over the telephone from Abhishek’s Banerjee's residence. The CBI was learnt to have been armed with an eightpage questionnaire and quizzed Rujira regarding her several passports and on whether she holds any post in any company based in Thailand and the alleged dubious transactions that had taken place in her account based in that country. The alleged channelisation of a large chunk of money into her Bangkok account was learnt to have raised eye- Habitat loss is leading to inbreeding of Indian tigers, study finds NEW DELHI, 23 FEBRUARY While Indian tigers have the highest genetic variation compared to other subspecies of the feline across the world, their populations continue to be fragmented by loss of habitat, leading to inbreeding and potential loss of this diversity, says a new study that may inform conservation strategies. “As human population started expanding, so also their signatures on the land. We know that some of these signatures would result in disrupting the ability of tigers to move,” Uma Ramakrishnan, co-author of the research, published in the journal Molecular Biology The prime minister recalled how, within a few months, the country could set up a network of 2,500 labs and how it could reach a milestone of 21 crore tests from a mere dozen tests. Modi said the pandemic has taught a lesson which is not just to fight the virus but prepare the country for any such future situation. “From medical equipment to medicines, from ventilators to vaccines, from scientific research to surveillance infrastructure, from doctors to epidemiologists, we have to pay attention to all so that the country is better prepared for any health disaster in future,” he said. This is the inspiration behind the PM Aatmanirbhar Swasth Bharat Scheme under which it has been decided that a mod- India sees steady decline in daily deaths CBI examines SNS & AGENCIES PRESS TRUST OF INDIA P12 P10 Addressing a webinar, Modi asserted that the time has come to take accessibility & affordability in healthcare to the next level ‘Scanty, sketchy evidence’: Disha gets bail in toolkit case A Delhi court on Tuesday granted bail to climate activist Disha Ravi in the toolkit case, considering the “scanty and sketchy evidence on record”. “Considering the scanty and sketchy evidence on record, I do not find any palpable reason to breach the rule of bail for a 22-year-old girl who has absolutely no criminal antecedents,” Additional Sessions Judge Dharmender Rana noted. Ravi has been directed to not leave the country, and cooperate with the ongoing investigation as a condition for grant of bail. She faces charges of conspiracy and sedition in the ‘Toolkit’ conspiracy case related to the farmers’ agitation and was arrested from Bengaluru on February 13. ROOT TO MATES: BEWARE OF INDIAN SPIN Uptick in Covid cases: PMO steps in NEW DELHI, 23 FEBRUARY RAINFALL: Nil RELATIVE HUMIDITY IRAN IMPOSES CURBS ON UN NUKE INSPECTIONS and Evolution, said. According to Ramakrishnan, molecular ecologist and assistant professor at the National Centre for Biological Sciences, Bangalore, this habitat loss from human activities leads to tigers being “hemmed into their own protected area.” “Now, they can only mate with the other tigers in their own population. Over time, this will result in inbreeding, they will end up mating with their relatives,” she explained. “Whether this inbreeding compromises their fitness, their ability to survive, we do not yet know,” the molecular ecologist added. While genetic diversity across a population improves their chances of survival in the future, the study said population fragmentation of tigers can decrease this variation, and endanger them further. Although tigers have received significant conservation attention, the scientists said very little is known about their evolutionary history and genomic variation, especial- ly for Indian tigers. With 70 per cent of the world's tigers living in India, the researchers said understanding the genetic diversity of tigers in the country is critical to the feline's conservation worldwide. The results of their threeyear long study offer insights into genomic variation in tigers and the processes that have sculpted it. Based on the results, the scientists believe there have been relatively recent divergences between subspecies, and intense population bottlenecks that may have contributed to inbred individuals. According to the NCBS scientist, maintaining structural connectivity, enabling tigers to move between protected areas can help overcome these bottlenecks. “This would require the right types of habitat between protected areas, for example having densely populated human settlements would not work. Further, there also needs to be functional con- nectivity, that tigers do actually move,” Ramakrishnan added. In the study, the scientists sequenced whole genomes from 65 individual tigers from four subspecies of the feline, and conducted a variety of population genomic analyses that quantify genetic variability. They investigated the partitioning of genetic variation, possible impacts of inbreeding, and demographic history, and possible signatures of local adaptation. While the total genomic variation in Indian tigers was higher than in other subspecies, the study found that several individual tigers in the country had low variation, suggesting possible inbreeding. Mamata Banerjee returning from Abhishek Banerjee's house in Kolkata on TuesSNS day. brows of the CBI sleuths, who following the interrogation of suspects in the coal and cattle smuggling scams have come across certain leads of an existence of a businessman based in UAE, who had helped the alleged masterminds in coal mining scam to stash their ill-gotten money through a web of overseas accounts in foreign countries. The statement given by Rujira Banerjee was recorded and would now be tallied with that of Menoka Gambhir, her sister, who was quizzed yesterday. Following in-depth analysis and evaluation of the statement recorded, the next course of action would be decided. Earlier today a high drama preceded the CBI team’s examination of Rujira as chief minister Mamata Banerjee went to her nephew Abhishek Banerjee’s ‘Shantiniketan’ residence and spent about nine minutes there before leaving for Nabanna. The CBI team came just three minutes after the chief minister had left the premises. BJP spokesperson Shamik Bhattacharya called Miss Banerjee’s presence at the residence of her nephew Abhishek Banerjee ‘unwarranted’ and said that being a chief of state she should not indulge in such acts. ern ecosystem would be developed from research to testing and treatment in the country itself, he said. The prime minister said as per the recommendations of the 15th Finance Commission, local bodies will get more than Rs 70,000 crore keeping health services in mind. “The government's emphasis is not only on investment in health care but also to expand the access to health care in far-flung areas of the country,” he said. Modi said the demand for Indian doctors, nurses, paramedical staff, medicines and vaccines will increase across the world, and the country should be prepared for it. He said a new trust has been established for Indian medicines and vaccines in the Covid period. Delhi court sends Deep Sidhu to 14-day JC NEW DELHI, 23 FEBRUARY A Delhi court on Tuesday sent actor-activist Deep Sidhu to judicial custody for 14 days in connection with the Red Fort violence on Republic Day during farmers' tractor parade against the Centre's three new agri laws. Sidhu was produced before Metropolitan Magistrate Samarjeet Kaur on expiry of his 7-day police custody. He was produced before the magistrate in Tihar Jail, where he his currently lodged. The court had first sent Sidhu to police custody on February 9 for seven days, after the police alleged he was one of the main instigators of the violent incidents at the Red Fort. His custody was further extended by seven days on February 16. The police had said there are videos where Sidhu can be allegedly seen to be present at the site of the incident. “He was instigating the crowd. He was also one of the main rioters. Several social media accounts need to be searched to identify the coconspirators. Also his permanent address is given as Nagpur but several places need to be visited in Punjab and Haryana to unearth further details”. “He can be seen coming out with the person who hoisted the flag and congratulating him,” the police had alleged. Sidhu's counsel, however, had claimed he had nothing to do with the violence and was at the wrong place at the wrong time. Sidhu has been arrested for several offences under the sections of Indian Penal PTI Code and other Acts. U’khand: 136 missing ‘presumed dead’ SNS & PTI DEHRADUN, 23 FEBRUARY The Indo-Tibetan Border Police, SDRF and other sister organisations on Tuesday launched an operation at the artificial lake, which was formed after the recent flash flood-triggered landslide blocked flow of the Rishiganga river, in Chamoli. To increase the volume of water at the Rishiganga near Muranda, the team removed tree trunks that were blocking the flow. The artificial lake continues to be a hot topic of debate among scientists and administrators and an object of fear among locals. A team of ITBP , SDRF and other agencies are presently camping at the lake site. The administration is on alert after the Indian Meteorological Department forecast for light rainfall on 24, 25 and 26 February and moderate rainfall at Tapovan area on 27 February. Meanwhile, the Uttarakhand government has issued a notification authorising officials to declare “presumed dead” 136 people still missing after the flash flood in Chamoli district over two weeks ago. Sixty-eight bodies have so far been recovered after the February 7 disaster possibly triggered by an avalanche.
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