30 April 2021
A) Exit polls project tight race in West Bengal, predict DMK-led alliance to win in Tamil Nadu.
Exit polls on Thursday forecast a tight contest between the incumbent Trinamool Congress and the BJP in the high-profile West Bengal assembly polls, while the ruling Left combine was projected to retain power in Kerala and so was the case for the saffron party in Assam. Exit polls also projected DMK-led opposition alliance as a winner in Tamil Nadu, while the Congress-led alliance was seen losing the neighbouring Puducherry by some pollsters. As the first exit polls began getting telecast soon after the eight-phase elections ended in West Bengal, the ruling TMC was seen in a tight contest with the BJP in assembly polls for the politically important state, while projections for the neighbouring Assam gave a clear edge to the BJP-led alliance over the Congress-led opposition. In West Bengal, the Republic-CNX polls gave the BJP a slight edge by projecting 138-148 seats for the party in the 294-seat assembly and 128-138 seats to the TMC. However, Times Now-C Voter predicted a clear majority for the TMC by projecting 162 seats for the party and 115 for the BJP. In Assam, India Today-Axis My India predicted 75-85 seats for the BJP in the 126-member assembly and 40-50 to the Congress-led opposition. Today’s Chanakya predicted 70 seats for the saffron alliance and 56 for the Congress-led opposition. In Kerala and Tamil Nadu, the ruling Left combine and the DMK-led opposition alliance respectively were projected ahead of their respective rivals. Jan Ki Baat exit polls, however, predicted a strong majority for the BJP in West Bengal, giving it 162-185 seats, against 104-121 to the ruling TMC.
B) Delhi and Madras High Courts pull up Centre on pandemic management.
The Madras High Court on Thursday wondered what the Centre had been doing for the last 14 months, instead of jostling now, when the second wave of Covid-19 is at its peak. The court said there cannot be ad-hocism in dealing with a pandemic and that the Centre should have acted in a planned and informed manner with expert advice. Chief Justice Sanjib Banerjee made the observations when Additional Solicitor General R. Sankaranarayanan listed out the measures being taken by the Centre now to control the pandemic and said that the second wave was unexpected. The submissions were made during the hearing of a suo motu public interest litigation petition. The Delhi High Court also posed some tough questions to the Centre, asking it to explain why Delhi has been allotted less oxygen that it needed whereas other states such as Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh have been given more than what they had asked for. Senior advocate Rahul Mehra, representing the Delhi government, had claimed that while Delhi’s requirement was 700 MT per day, it was allocated 480 and 490 MT (metric tones) , and the Centre has not increased it. The court was informed that Maharashtra, which had demanded 1,500 MT, was allocated 1,661 MT, and Madhya Pradesh, which had asked for 445 MT, had been allocated 543 MT. A bench of Justices Vipin Sanghi and Rekha Palli said that the Centre has to either show some justification for this or make amends. It gave the Centre a day to respond.
C) Facebook blocks hashtag calling for PM Modi to resign, unblocks it after outcry.
Social media giant Facebook on Wednesday temporarily blocked posts with a hashtag calling for the resignation of Prime Minister Narendra Modi over the government’s handling of the Covid-19 pandemic. The blocking comes a couple of days after the Indian government had asked social media platforms to take down around 100 posts which it alleged were done to create panic about the Covid-19 situation in India by using unrelated, communally sensitive posts and misinformation. Following this, microblogging website Twitter had removed over 50 posts from its platform. A majority of these tweets were critical of the Centre’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic. As per The Guardian, Facebook’s temporary block led to hiding of about 12,000 posts highlighting the plight of patients and families dealing with the pandemic amid shortage of beds and medicines. They temporarily blocked this hashtag by mistake, not because the Indian government asked us to, and have since restored it, a Facebook spokesperson said in an e-mailed statement. A lot of users on Twitter and other platforms had drawn attention to the blocking of the hashtag before Facebook moved to restore the blocked posts.
D) Centre, States failed to prepare for predictable second wave, says International Commission of Jurists.
The International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) on Thursday called on the Centre and the State governments to comply with court orders regarding oxygen supply, hospital beds and medicines for Covid-19, adding that the governments had failed to prepare for the second wave of the pandemic. The Indian government must urgently remedy failures that have aggravated the impact of the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic and led to people in the country suffering record-high rates of infection and death, the ICJ said in a statement. It urged the Centre and the State governments to follow judicial orders regarding medical care and vaccines. ICJ secretary-general Sam Zarifi said that the Indian federal and State governments failed to prepare for the predictable second wave of COVID-19 pandemic, aggravating the horrific impact of the pandemic and the avoidable tragedy of between 1,500 to over 3,000 deaths daily. The ICJ noted that India had reported over 2,00,000 cases every day since April 15 and 3,60,960 cases on April 27, the highest in the world. Many hospitals have reportedly turned away patients due to lack of space, and some hospitals have asked those they admit to sign forms accepting the risk in case of death caused by exhaustion of oxygen supply. The government’s failures have driven people to seek recourse in the courts, the ICJ said.
E) Bharat Biotech reduces Covaxin price for States.
Covaxin-maker Bharat Biotech on Thursday said it will supply the vaccine to State governments at ₹400 per dose. A reduction of ₹200 from the ₹600 it had set last week for State government supplies, the announcement comes a day after Serum Institute of India said it is lowering the price of Covishield for States to ₹300 per dose, from the earlier announced ₹400. Bharat Biotech said that recognising the enormous challenges to the public health care system, we have made Covaxin available to State governments at a price of ₹400 per dose. Stating it is deeply concerned with the critical pandemic circumstances that India is facing, the company said it wished to be transparent in our approach to pricing. The price, a statement said, was determined by internally funded product development, several operationally intensive BSL-3 manufacturing facilities, and clinical trials.
F) Umpires pull out of IPL amid Covid-19 concerns.
India’s top umpire Nitin Menon and his Australian counterpart Paul Reiffel have pulled out of the IPL due to personal reasons. It is learnt that Menon, a resident of Indore, left the IPL bio-bubble after his wife and mother tested positive for Covid-19. Menon is the only Indian in the ICC elite panel of umpires and was recently praised for his work during India’s home series against England. Yes, Nitin has left as his immediate family members have Covid-19 and he is currently not in a mental state to conduct games, a BCCI official told PTI. In Reiffel’s case, the Australian government imposing a travel ban from India in the wake of the rising Covid-19 cases led to his quick departure. Menon is the second Indian to pull out after Indian off spinner Ravichandran Ashwin, who withdrew from the tournament. Three Australians, Andrew Tye, Kane Richardson, and Adam Zampa, have have left home due to the unprecedented health crisis in India. However the BCCI is going ahead with the tournament and interim CEO Hemang Amin has assured all players and support staff that they remain safe in the bio-bubble.
A) The U.S. advises citizens to leave India as soon as possible as Covid-19 cases surge.
The United States has issued a Level 4 Travel Health Notice and asked its citizens to leave India as soon as it is safe to do so in view of the escalating Covid-19 pandemic and limited access to medical care. The highest level of advisory came in the backdrop of the announcement of oxygen-related support and medical assistance from the Joe Biden administration to India. New cases and deaths from COVID-19 have risen sharply throughout India to record levels. COVID-19 testing infrastructure is reportedly constrained in many locations. Hospitals are reporting shortages of supplies, oxygen, and beds for both COVID-19 and non-COVID-19 related patients, announced a ‘Health Alert’ from the U.S. State Department. The advisory said access to medical care had become severely limited in India due to the surge in COVID-19 cases and urged U.S. citizens to opt for direct flights between India and the U.S. that were currently operating daily. The Level 4 Travel Advisory has urged U.S citizens not to travel to India because of the pandemic.
B) China launches a key module for its permanent space station.
China on Thursday launched the main module of its first permanent space station that will host astronauts for the long term, in the latest success for a programme that has realised a number of its growing ambitions in recent years. The Tianhe, or the Heavenly Harmony module, blasted into space atop a Long March 5B rocket from the Wenchang Launch Center on the southern island province of Hainan. The launch kicks off the first of 11 missions necessary to complete, supply and crew the station by the end of next year. China’s space programme also recently brought back the first new lunar samples in more than 40 years and it also expects to land a probe and rover on the surface of Mars later next month. Minutes after the launch, the fairing opened to expose the Tianhe atop the core stage of the rocket, with the characters for China Manned Space emblazoned on its exterior. Soon after, it separated from the rocket, which will orbit for about a week before falling to Earth, and minutes after that, opened its solar arrays to provide a steady energy source. A message of congratulations from state leader and head of the ruling Communist Party Xi Jinping was also read to staff at the Wenchang Launch Center.