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BrahMos scientist held on spying charge, 2 others raided in UP

The UP Police statement said the UP-ATS had monitored fake Facebook accounts originating from Pakistan in the name of women to “honey-trap” key officials working in sensitive defence-related set-ups in India.

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BrahMos scientist

Nagpur/Lucknow, Oct 8 (IANS) In a shocking development, a young scientist working with the BrahMos Aerospace Pvt Ltd (BAPL)’s missile research centre in Nagpur was arrested on Monday on alleged charges of spying for Pakistan’s intelligence agency ISI and other countries, informed sources said.

Scientist Nishant Pradeep Agrawal has been working for the last four years in the BAPL, an Indo-Russian Joint Venture, and was nabbed in a joint operation of Uttar Pradesh Police and Maharashtra Police.

The UP-Anti Terrorist Squad (UP-ATS) has also raided two other unidentified persons in Agra and Kanpur in the north India state and seized their laptops, an official statement of the Uttar Pradesh Police said on Monday.

Following a tip-off, he was placed under surveillance for the past few days by the Military Intelligence as well as Uttar Pradesh Police and Maharashtra Police.

The BAPL officer has been booked under the Official Secrets Act (OSA), the sources said.

The UP Police statement said the UP-ATS had monitored fake Facebook accounts originating from Pakistan in the name of women to “honey-trap” key officials working in sensitive defence-related set-ups in India.

The information came to light after the Border Security Force (BSF) recently nabbed a person in Noida, Uttar Pradesh, and two fake Facebook IDs of women created in Pakistan were put under observation after they were found to be chatting with Agrawal.

Accordingly, the UP-ATS acquired a search warrant from a court and along with Maharashtra ATS, swooped on Agrawal’s residence at Ujjwal Nagar in Nagpur.

“We have found certain secret and ultra-sensitive information on his personal computer. It should not been there on his personal laptop. It violates the provisions of the OSA, and hence he has been arrested,” the statement added.

The joint ATS teams of the two states also searched his BMAL office and from another location recovered an old laptop which is being examined to see if it contains anything objectionable.

The UP-ATS has moved a local court in Nagpur seeking a transit remand to take Agrawal to Lucknow for further investigations.

They said that after the investigations, they would be able to know what kind of chats he was having with the fake women’s accounts on Facebook.

Depending on the outcome, the accused may be slapped with additional charges, the UP-ATS said.

As per preliminary information, Agrawal was reportedly passing on certain highly classified information, including “technological and other details”, to the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) of Pakistan as well as the USA.

However, official circles are not aware of what kind of access to sensitive information or the security clearance levels Agrawal enjoyed in the company.

Hailing from Roorkee in Uttarakhand, Agarwal had been recently awarded the “Young Scientist Award” for the year 2017-18.

He had got married earlier this year and had been living in a rented house in Nagpur’s Ujjwala Nagar.

Among other things, the BrahMos centre is involved in manufacturing certain critical components for the BrahMos missile, considered the world’s fastest cruise missile that can be launched from land, ships, aircraft or submarines.

The Indo-Russian joint venture’s recent development of the latest version of the BrahMos Supersonic Cruise Missile has elicited keen interest in global defence circles and several major political powers in the world.

The missile — successfully test-fired on July 16 from the Integrated Test Range at Balasore in Odisha — is an outcome of a joint venture of India’s Defence Research & Development Organisation (DRDO) and Russia’s NPO Mashinostroyenia Corp (NPOM), since 2011.

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Coronavirus: Karnataka’s Covid tally crosses 5 lakh

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Coronavirus in India

Bengaluru, Sep 19 : With 8,626 fresh cases across the state on Friday, Karnataka’s Covid-19 tally crossed the 5 lakh mark, while 10,949 people were discharged after treatment in the last 24 hours.

“The number of positive cases across the state is 5,02,982, including 1,01,129 active cases, while 3,94,026 cases were discharged since March 8,” said the health bulletin.

With 179 patients succumbing to the infection during the day, the state’s toll has gone up to 7,808.

Bengaluru, which is the epicentre of the disease in the state, registered 3,623 cases during the day, taking its tally to 1,87,705, including 41,914 active cases, while 1,43,198 patients were discharged till date, with 2,725 in the last 24 hours.

With 37 deaths during the day, the city’s toll has increased to 2,592.

“The number of patients in the intensive care units (ICU) across the state is 814, including 271 in Bengaluru Urban district, Dharwad 74, Ballari 67 and Hassan 62,” the bulletin said.

Mysuru saw 600 new cases, Udupi 493, Dakshina Kannada 456, Ballari 296, Shivamogga 257 and Belagavi 221.

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One dead, 22 fall sick after consuming ‘local alcohol’ in Andhra

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Local Alcohal

Visakhapatnam, Sep 18 : One person died and 22 others fell sick after consuming suspected ‘local alcohol’ in three villages of Andhra Pradesh’s Vizianagaram district.

“There were 22 cases reported. The complaint basically is swelling in the leg, pain in the stomach, and reddishness in the eyes. There was no other symptom. By the time this came to us, one person died,” Visakhapatnam District Collector V. Vinay Chand told IANS.

Chinaraba, Kotaparthy and Kakaravalasa are the three villages where the sickness afflicted the unsuspecting tribals.

Chinaraba has a population of 248, Koaparthy 95 and Kakaravalasa 125. Most of the ailing tribals are in their 30s and 40s.

Kakaravalasa is 52 km north west of Vishakhapatnam.

All the 22 who fell sick, were shifted to the King George Hospital (KGH) in Visakhapatnam for treatment.

Though the health department conducted a medical camp in the tribal village, they did not improve, necessitating them to be shifted to KGH.

“The condition of all of them is stable and they are being continuously monitored. They have all been tested for Covid, they have all turned negative,” said Chand.

The health department has collected more blood samples from the tribals for further testing, those results are expected in a day.

Chand said the tribals were also diagnosed with malnourishment.

Though the reason for the tribals’ ailment hasn’t been established, officials are suspecting the consumption of local alcohol.

“It is suspected that there was some consumption of liquor. The tribals normally consume locally available liquor. However, this is yet to be confirmed,” the Collector clarified.

According to Chand, tribals were known to be consuming various types of locally available alcohol, however, he said if that liquor was contaminated or illicit is not clear.

“There are a lot of stories going around, I’m not really sure until we get more information and I cannot confirm or negate anything. Probable reason was any consumption of locally available toddy, but that is also subject to confirmation,” the officer observed.

The medical camp will continue for the next 7 – 10 days in the tribal villages. Medical staff are educating the tribals on personal hygiene, washing hands and drinking warm water.

They were also advised on coronavirus, told to refrain from consuming stored meat and also explained the adverse effects of alcohol.

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Liquor mafia operating in Punjab, Centre should probe: Congress MP

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liquor sales

New Delhi, Sep 18 : Charging that a liquor mafia was operating in Punjab under political patronage, a Congress MP from the state on Friday demanded the Centre”s intervention and probe into the matter through the CBI or independent agencies.

Congress MP Shamsher Singh Dullo raised the matter during the Zero Hour in the Upper House of Parliament, saying “no action” has been taken in the matter despite 136 people losing their life in the state recently after consuming spurious liquor.

Dullo said, in the recent hooch tragedy in the state, 150 people were hospitalised in addition to 136 deaths.

While several people have turned blind after drinking spurious liquor, kidneys of many have been impacted but no action has been taken against the perpetrators of the crime, he said, demanding compensation for the family of those killed and impacted.

He charged that the “liquor mafia in the state was operating under political patronage” and there was a police nexus.

Nine illegal distilleries were being run and supplying liquor to neighbouring Haryana, Rajasthan and Himachal Pradesh among other states, the MP said.

He said neighbouring countries were involved in it and demanded the Centre”s intervention to probe the issue through the CBI a retired high court judge or any independent agency so that culprits could be booked.

Dullo said he met the governor of the state but no action has been taken and that the matter pertains to inter-state illegal racket and theft of taxes.

Raising another issue during the Zero Hour, Tiruchi Siva (DMK) demanded 90 per cent representation in jobs to residents of the state in local enterprises, saying at present there is an unequal representation of states in Central government jobs.

In the recently conducted exams in the state for various central government undertakings including Chennai Petrol, the percentage of locals was minimum, he said.

In Tamil Nadu alone, 84 lakh people have registered themselves with employment exchanges and the percentage of unemployment was 7.6 per cent despite the youth there being qualified and securing top ranks in the UPSC, he said.

He also noted that highly qualified people had applied for the post of sanitary workers due to high unemployment in the state.

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