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India logs 20,408 new Covid cases, 54 deaths



In the last 24 hours, India reported 20,408 new Covid cases and 54 deaths, the Union Health Ministry said on Saturday.

The new fatalities took the nationwide death toll to 5,26,312.

The active caseload marginally declined to 1,43,384, accounting for 0.33 per cent of the country’s total positive cases.

The recovery of 20,958 patients in the last 24 hours took the cumulative tally to 4,33,30,442. Consequently, India’s recovery rate stands at 98.48 per cent.

While the daily positivity rate marginally declined to 5.05 per cent, the weekly positivity rate stood at 4.92 per cent.

Also in the same period, a total of 4,04,399 tests were conducted across the country, increasing the overall tally to over 87.48 crore.

As of Saturday morning, India’s Covid-19 vaccination coverage exceeded 203.94 crore, achieved via 2,69,93,794 sessions

Over 3.89 crore adolescents have been administered with a first dose of Covid-19 jab since the beginning of vaccination drive for this age bracket.


Man hiding $90,000 between book pages held at Mumbai airport




The Customs officials at Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj International Airport, Mumbai on Tuesday said that they seized 90,000 US dollars worth Rs 81 lakh from a passenger who was hiding them between the pages of a book.

According to the information, the Customs officials intercepted the passenger during the intervening night of January 22 and 23.

The official said that the man was intercepted on the basis of intelligence inputs. When his luggage was checked, it was found that he was hiding dollars between the pages of a book which he was carrying.

On inquiry, the passenger could not produce valid documents to carry such a huge amount of foreign currency.

The recovered foreign currencies have been seized under section 110 of the Customs Act.

The passenger has been placed under arrest under section 104 of the Customs Act.

The accused was produced before a special court in Mumbai which remanded him to 14-day judicial custody.

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Thackeray-Ambedkar ‘unity’ rattles Maha politics; MVA lauds, BJP trashes




Ending two months’ political suspense, the Uddhav Thackeray’s Shiv Sena (UBT) and Prakash Ambedkar’s Vanchit Bahujan Aghadi (VBA) entered into a brand-new ‘Shiv Shakti-Bhim Shakti’ alliance here, coinciding with the 97th birth anniversary of the late Balasaheb Thackeray, on Monday.

Uddhav, 62, ex-Chief Minister and son of Balasaheb Thackeray, and Ambedkar, 68, the grandson of the Chief Architect of Indian Constitution Dr B. R. Ambedkar, jointly made the formal announcement of the new political tie-up intended to electrify the state political scenario, with plans to fight the upcoming BMC civic elections.

Addressing the media, Thackeray recalled how his grandfather, Keshav Sitaram, alias Prabodhankar Thackeray, and Ambedkar’s grandfather Dr B.R. Ambedkar were good friends and had followed the ideology of ‘Desh Pratham’ (Nation First).

“We are now coming together to safeguard the nation and raise the concerns of the masses. We will take decisions on the next political courses in due time,” said Thackeray.

Declaring that the BJP is trying to finish off political leadership with the help of central agencies like the ED, Ambedkar forecast that “Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s leadership will end soon”, and the ‘Shiv Shakti-Bhim Shakti’ tie-up will work to save the Constitution and Democracy.

Thackeray claimed that the new partnership has been discussed beforehand with the Maha Vikas Aghadi allies comprising Congress-Nationalist Congress Party-Sena (UBT), while Ambedkar expressed the hope that the MVA would soon accept the VBA.

The duo – Thackeray, flanked by senior leaders like MPs Sanjay Raut, Arvind Sawant and ex-minister Subhash Desai, and Ambedkar, accompanied by state president Rekha Thakur and Mumbai chief Abul Hassan Khan – expressed confidence that the new force would prove beneficial in dethroning the Bharatiya Janata Party and would work in tandem with other political parties.

Confirming that Thackeray had discussed the partnership with Ambedkar, Congress state President Nana Patole welcomed the new ‘Shiv Shakti-Bhim Shakti’ alliance saying it will help the Opposition parties’ ambitions of dislodging the BJP in the state and Centre.

NCP leader Anil Deshmukh also welcomed the Sena (UBT)-VBA tie-up saying all parties have a right to make their alliances.

Sena (UBT) Chief Spokesperson Raut pointed out that the ‘Shiv Shakti-Bhim Shakti’ experiment had been carried out in the past and “it was the desire of the late Balasaheb Thackeray that these two forces should unite in the state”.

Asked what will be the impact of the tie-up in the upcoming civic polls, Ambedkar said it will work with other MVA parties, “will succeed and emerge victorious”.

In his first reaction, Balasahebanchi Shiv Sena (BSS) leader and Chief Minister Eknath Shinde expressed his ‘good wishes’ to the new entity, while the ally and BJP’s leaders like Union Minister Narayan Rane and state President Chandrashekhar Bawankule trashed it saying it will make no difference to the party.

Criticising the tie-up, Rane asked ‘where is the Shiv Sena’ and ‘what has Ambedkar done for Dalits’, while Bawankule predicted that the alliance will not last long.

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Palestinian Prez urges US intervention to stop Israel’s ‘extremist measures’




Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has urged the US government to intervene to stop the Israeli new government’s measures against the Palestinians before it is too late.

Abbas made the remarks during a meeting held at his office in the West Bank city of Ramallah with US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan, the official Palestinian news agency WAFA reported on Thursday.

While calling on the US to intervene to stop what he termed as “the Israeli government’s extremist measures,” the Palestinian President accused Israel of destroying the remaining chances for peace and stability in the region, according to WAFA.

Abbas briefed Sullivan “about the destructive measures and crimes that the new Israeli government is taking with the aim of destroying the two-state solution and the signed peace agreements,” according to the report.

The Palestinian leader said the US should stop Israel’s unilateral measures and violations, including the expansion of settlements, killings, storming of Palestinian cities and towns, and deducting Palestinian tax dues, Xinhua news agency reported.

“The Palestinian leadership will not accept the continuation of these Israeli crimes and will confront them and defend the rights, land, and sanctities of the Palestinian people,” Abbas told Sullivan.

Abbas stressed the importance of the US fulfilling its commitments to preserve the two-state solution, stop settlement activity, and maintain the legal and historical status quo in Jerusalem.

He also called on Washington to reopen the US consulate office in Jerusalem and reopen the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) office in Washington, which was closed during former US President Donald Trump’s tenure.

Since early January, the tension between Israel and the Palestinians has been rising. Around 17 Palestinians have been killed, and dozens of others were injured by Israeli soldiers since the start of the year, according to the Palestinian Health Ministry.

Palestinian officials have warned against the Israeli escalation against the Palestinians, particularly after the formation of the new Israeli government headed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, which is the most rightist in Israel’s history.

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