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Pirate attack: Kin of kidnapped Indian sailor in distress, prays for safe return




Family members of the missing Indian sailor Pankaj Kumar believed to be kidnapped by sea pirates from the ship MV Tampen anchored in West African nation Gabon are distressed.

Pankaj Kumar, aged 30, hailing from the Gurdaspur district in Punjab was the Second Engineer of MV Tampen.

“Only last year he got married. We are all distressed a lot. There is no information about his whereabouts in Gabon. The shipping company officials are saying that my brother is missing and beyond that there is no information,” Sandeep Kumar, the younger brother of sailor Pankaj Kumar, told IANS over phone.

According to Sandeep Kumar, the family consists of younger sister, their parents and wife of Pankaj Kumar.

“We have sent an email to Prime Minister Narendra Modi. We are yet to hear anything from his office,” Sandeep Kumar added.

He said requests have been made to the shipping company the Mumbai based Proactive Shipping Management to do the needful to trace his elder brother.

According to him, aerial search operations were carried out by Gabon authorities on Monday and after that it was stopped.

The ship, with 17 Indian crew, was sailing from Cameroon to the UAE when it developed some propulsion problems and was anchored just two kilometres away from Gabon’s Owendo anchorage when pirates boarded the ship on Sunday morning.

While the pirates threw Pankaj Kumar overboard, they also shot and injured Cook Sunil Ghosh and Chief Officer Naurial Vikas who were later admitted to a local hospital.

“Ghosh (from West Bengal) is doing fine in the hospital. Family members-wife and others- had spoken to him. There is no information about his discharge from the hospital,” a relative told IANS.

“All the sailors on the ship are distressed and would want to come back home,” Nithin Suresh Kuttipravan, a friend of one of the sailors Deepak Udayaraj told IANS.

Kuttipravan is reaching out to various official agencies so that the Indian sailors are brought back at the earliest.

“An official of the Indian Embassy in Congo is trying to reach out to the sailors. The ship captain is under a lot of stress and is answering the officials from the Gabon government,” Kuttipravan said.

He said as per the information from the sailors on board of MV Tampen, the ship’s satellite phone was not working for the past one month.

“They were communicating using email. Now they are using Whatsapp using their Indian SIM cards. We have requested the Indian Embassy to provide the sailors local SIM cards so that they can stay in touch with their family members,” Kuttipravan added.

The Honorary Consulate of India in Gabon is John Rupchandani.

According to Kuttipravan, all the sailors are ready to sign off and reach India at the earliest.

“It seems the shipping company wants the sailors to sail to Dubai after setting right the ship,” he said.

“As per my information, the pirates wanted to kidnap about three/four sailors. While resisting the kidnap attempt, the pirates had shot two Indian sailors,” Kuttipravan said.

According to him, the ship was sailing at a speed of four knots powered by one propulsion and the ship dropped anchor just two kilometres away from Gabon’s Owendo anchorage.

The ship is owned by Prince Marine Transport Service Pvt Ltd, Mumbai and the sailors were provided by Proactive Ship Management.

The ship sailing from Cameroon to the UAE has been facing technical problems enroute. Both its propulsion systems had stopped several times.

The vessel was diverted to Owendo for repairs as it was the nearest port.

On Sunday, six pirates attacked the ship and kidnapped Pankaj Kumar and shot two sailors.

“The marine and local police in Gabon are questioning three persons who had boarded the ship two days before the attack. We hope to know some information about the attackers and the missing crew today (Wednesday),” Captain Sunil Kumar, Security Officer of Proactive Ship Management, told IANS on Wednesday.

“One garbage cleaner and two technicians had boarded the ship as per the information conveyed to us by our agent there,” he had said.

Officials of Prince Marine Transport and Proactive Ship Management were not available for an update when contacted by Mumbaipress.


Centre clarifies on 3rd wave possibility after Omicron detection




Omicron cases are increasingly being reported from countries outside of South Africa. India has also reported two cases of Omicron Covid variant and is likely to spread to more countries.

“Given the fast pace of vaccination in India and high exposure to Delta variant as evidenced by high seropositivity, the severity of the disease is anticipated to be low. However, scientific evidence is still evolving,” said the Health Ministry on Friday. It added further that the scale and magnitude of rise in cases and most importantly the severity of disease that will be caused is still not clear.

On the question of existing vaccine efficacy against this variant, the health ministry has said that there is no evidence to suggest that existing vaccines do not work on Omicron, some of the mutations reported on Spike gene may decrease the efficacy of existing vaccines. However, vaccine protection is also by antibodies as well as by cellular immunity, which is expected to be relatively better preserved.

“Hence vaccines are expected to still offer protection against severe disease, and vaccination with the available vaccines is crucial. If eligible, but not vaccinated, one should get vaccinated,” it added.

The response measures for all variants of concern, including Omicron, is the same as that for SARs CoV2. The ministry has said that the precautions and steps to be taken remain the same as before. “It is essential to mask yourself properly, take both doses of vaccines (if not yet vaccinated), maintain social distancing and maintain good ventilation to the maximum possible”, said the ministry in a statement.

The government is monitoring the situation closely and is issuing suitable guidelines, said the ministry, adding that the scientific and medical community is geared up for developing and deploying diagnostics, carrying out genomic surveillance, generating evidence about viral and epidemiologic characteristics, and development of therapeutics.

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Trouble looms for Balakrishnan as Mumbai HC to hear son’s DNA case





The Mumbai High Court has posted for January 4 the case of a DNA test result of Binoy Kodiyeri, the elder son of CPI-M politburo member Kodiyeri Balakrishnan who was all set to return as Kerala CPI-M state secretary.

A woman from Bihar has alleged that Binoy had a relationship with her while she was working at a dance bar in Dubai in 2008 and till 2015, he used to send her money every month. They also have an eight-year-old child.

The woman had first filed a petition in 2019 and in July 2019 Binoy approached the Mumbai High Court seeking dismissal of the rape case filed by the woman. The court asked all the three to go for a DNA test and Binoy appeared for it on July 30, 2019.

Following which the case went into a limbo. In December 2020 the DNA result was filed before the court in a sealed cover and on Thursday the woman approached the court wanting to know the result. The court has now posted this case for January 4.

Incidentally Balakrishnan who is a cancer patient, was given medical leave by the party soon after his younger son Bineesh Kodiyeri was arrested in October 2020 by the Enforcement Directorate under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act.

However Balakrishnan breathed easy when Bineesh got bail from the Karnataka High Court after being in a jail in Bengaluru in October this year. Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan strongly backed Balakrishnan to return to the post and the green signal was to have come from the state secretariat on Friday, when came the news about Binoy.

The news about Binoy has come at a time when the CPI-M, ahead of the party state conference scheduled for early next year, wanted Balakrishnan to take over. Sources in the know of things say Balakrishnan will be asked to take over after the national leadership of the party last month asked the state leadership to take a call on it.

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Five dead, one injured in road accident in Gurugram




 Five people were killed after a car crashed into a roadside wall and overturned on Sadhrana road near Gadhi village here on the intervening night of Thursday and Friday.

According to police, the deceased have been identified as Sagar, Jibech, Niaz Khan, Prince and Jagbir.

One person, identified as Hardik Tiwari, was injured in the incident.

The victims were returning to Gurugram city from Sadhrana village after attending a marriage.

“All of them were coming from a wedding ceremony in Sadhrana village. The mishap was a result of speeding and a damaged road. All the victims used to work in a city-based private hospital. Police are taking necessary action,” Gurugram police spokesperson Subhash Boken said.

“The injured man has been shifted to a hospital in critical condition. While the bodies have been sent for post-mortem. Further probe is on,” he added.

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