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Two Indian clerics traced in Pakistan

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Karachi, March 18 : Two Indian clerics who went missing in Pakistan have been found, Sindh Police officials told the local media on Saturday.

The two clerics of Delhi’s Hazrat Nizamuddin Dargah were found in a remote village of Sindh province with no mobile connectivity.

Two Senior Muslim clerics from Delhi’s Hazrat Nizamuddin who went missing in Pakistan are “in (the) custody of Pakistan’s intelligence agencies, over their alleged links with the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) ” reported PTI on Saturday, quoting unnamed official sources.

Syed Asif Nizami and his nephew Nazim Nizami had gone to Pakistan on March 8 to visit the famous Daata Darbar shrine in Lahore. They reportedly went missing from Lahore airport, from where they were to catch a flight to Karachi, a few days ago.

Sources told PTI on the condition of anonymity that “The personnel of an intelligence took both the clerics into custody after getting them offloaded and shifted them to an undisclosed location for investigation.”

“They are being interrogated for their alleged links with Altaf’s partymen in Karachi,” the sources said, adding they will be freed if nothing is established against them.

The news comes into highlight after External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj said Pakistan’s spy agency ISI likely abducted the two men. She said the Pakistani “hosts” of the khadims were “under pressure not to speak to the Indian High Commission.”

Read More: India raises concerns with Pakistan over missing clerics

 Wefornews Bureau

India

Varavara Rao To Stay At Private Hospital Till December 14: Bombay High Court

The 81-year-old activist was admitted to Nanavati hospital on November 18.

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Varavara Rao

The Bombay High Court on Thursday said the condition of poet-activist Varavara Rao, arrested in the Elgar Parishad-Maoist links case, had improved but he will continue to remain at a private hospital till December 14.

A division bench of Justices SS Shinde and MS Karnik perused a medical report submitted by the Nanavati hospital here where Rao was admitted on November 18.

“There is some slight improvement. He shall continue to remain admitted there till December 14,” the court said.

The HC will hear the petition filed by Rao seeking bail on medical grounds and another filed by his wife Hemalata seeking that he be shifted to Nanavati hospital from jail for medical treatment on December 14.

On November 18, the High Court had noted that Rao was 81 years old, suffered from neurological ailments and also needed post-Covid-19 care after recovering from the viral infection.

A person was on death bed and in such circumstances, the state government cannot say that he should be treated in the jail, the Court had said.

Following the court’s observations, the Maharashtra government had on November 18 agreed to shift Rao from Taloja prison in Navi Mumbai to the Nanavati hospital and also to bear the expenses of his treatment.

The HC on Thursday said that the lawyers of the petitioners as well as the National Investigation Agency (NIA) — which is probing the case — shall go through the medical report, and posted the matter for further hearing on December 14.

Rao had been in and out of the state-run JJ hospital in the city and the Taloja prison hospital since his arrest in June 2018.

On July 16 this year, he tested positive for coronavirus and was shifted to the Nanavati hospital. He was discharged on July 30 and sent back to the prison.

His and his wife’s petitions claimed that he was suffering from several ailments.

Rao and a few other left-leaning activists were arrested for alleged links with Naxals following the Elgar Parishad conclave in Pune on December 31, 2017.

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Health

AIIMS Director Pins Hopes On Five Covid-19 Vaccine Candidates

At least one locally-tested vaccine could get emergency use authorisation by the end of this month or early 2021, Dr Guleria says.

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COVID-19 Vaccine

AIIMS director Dr Randeep Guleria on Thursday pinned his hopes on the five Covid-19 vaccine candidates which are in advanced stages of clinical trial in India, stating they are logistically feasible for distribution in both urban and rural areas.

His assertion comes amid Pfizer-BioNTech’s anti-coronavirus vaccine getting emergency clearance in the UK, paving the way for mass vaccinations against the deadly novel coronavirus from as early as next week.

Dr Guleria expressed hope that by the end of this month or early next month, at least one of the five vaccines being locally-tested should get emergency use authorisation from the drug regulator to be administered to the public starting with priority groups.

According to sources, global pharma giant Pfizer had talks with the Indian government late August, but since then there has been no development.

During a briefing last month, NITI Aayog member (Health) Dr V K Paul, who also heads the National Expert Group on Vaccine Administration, said that sufficient doses of the Pfizer vaccine as required for the Indian population will not be available but the government is examining the possibilities and will work out a strategy (for its procurement and distribution) in case the vaccine gets regulatory approvals.

The requirement of extremely low temperature of -70 degree Celsius for storing the Covid-19 vaccine developed by Pfizer poses a big challenge for its delivery in a developing nation like India, especially in its smaller towns and rural areas where maintaining such cold chain facilities would be very difficult, Guleria said.

“Five vaccine candidates are in advanced stages of clinical trial in India and no significant serious adverse effects have been seen so far. Also, they are logistically feasible for distribution in a large country like India, both in its urban and rural parts.

“Hopefully, by the end of this month or early next month, at least one of them should get emergency authorisation from the Indian drug regulator for its distribution among Indian population,” he said.

The five vaccines are under different phases of clinical trials in India with the Serum Institute of India conducting phase-3 trial of the Oxford-Astrazeneca Covid-19 vaccine, while the indigenously developed vaccine by Bharat Biotech in collaboration with ICMR has already started the phase-3 clinical trial.

Another indigenously-developed vaccine by Zydus Cadila has also completed phase -2 clinical trial in the country.

Dr Reddy’s Laboratories and the Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF) on Tuesday announced the start of adaptive phase 2 and 3 clinical trials for Covid-19 vaccine Sputnik V in India.

Also, Biological E. Ltd has started early phase 1 and 2 human trials of its Covid-19 vaccine candidate.

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Farmers’ groups end discussions with Centre, next meeting on Dec 5

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Farmers and Students

Talks between three union ministers and a representative group of thousands of agitating farmers failed to yield any resolution on Thursday, as the union leaders stuck to their demand for the repeal of new farm laws and even refused the lunch, tea and water offered to them during almost eight-hour-long hectic parleys.

On its part, the government assured the group of nearly 40 farmer leaders that all their valid concerns would be addressed, but the other side flagged several loopholes and deficiencies in the laws, which they said were passed hastily in September.

The Agriculture Ministry tweeted that doubts of farmers were addressed by Agriculture and Farmers Welfare Minister Narendra Singh Tomar, who led the government side at the talks.

Tomar later told reporters that the next meeting will take place on Saturday at 2 pm.

A government source said the meeting would resume on Saturday as no final outcome could be reached due to paucity of time.

Union leaders, who came out of the meeting venue shouting slogans, said the talks remained deadlocked and some of them threatened to boycott any further meetings if no solution was found at Thursday’s meeting.

“Discussions are over from our side. Our leaders have said they will not attend further meetings if a solution is not given today by the government,” said Pratibha Shinde, AIKSCC (All India Kishan Sangharsh Coordination Committee) working group member and president of Lok Sangharsh Morcha, which represents farmers of Maharashtra and Gujarat.

Another farmer leader Kulwant Singh Sandhu said the government made many proposals including on MSP and procurement system, which would be discussed among the farmer organisations on Friday, before the next meeting with the government on Saturday.

Sources said the government gave a detailed presentation on the three new laws and asserted its intent towards the welfare of the farmers.

However, the union leaders rejected the government’s position at their fourth round of talks with three Union ministers at Vigyan Bhawan here. Besides Tomar, the government side included Railways and Commerce Minister Piyush Goyal and Minister of State for Commerce Som Parkash, who is also an MP from Punjab.

The 40 farmer leaders present at the meeting refused the lunch offered by the government and preferred to eat the food ferried in a van from the Singhu border, where thousands of their colleagues are sitting in protest against the new agri laws.

They also did not accept tea and water offered to them during the meeting, which began around mid-day.

The previous round of talks had taken place on December 1, but had ended in a stalemate even after three hours of discussion as farmers’ groups rejected the government’s suggestion of a new committee to look into issues raised by farmers protesting against the new laws.

The government had rejected the demand for repealing the laws and asked the farmers’ bodies to identify specific issues related to the newly enacted Acts and submit those by December 2 for consideration and discussion on Thursday.

Enacted in September, the laws have been presented by the government as major reforms in the agriculture sector by removing middlemen and allowing farmers to sell anywhere in the country.

However, the protesting farmers have been worried that the new laws will eliminate the safety cushion of a Minimum Support Price (MSP) and procurement system, while rendering ineffective the mandi system that ensures earnings for various stakeholders in the farm sector.

On Wednesday, agitating farmers demanded that the Centre convene a special session of Parliament and repeal the new farm laws as they threatened to block roads in Delhi and “take more steps” if it failed to do so.

During their marathon meeting on Thursday, farmers’ leaders told the government to focus on resolving the issues instead of trying to be a good host by offering lunch, Shinde said.

“How can we have lunch offered by the government when our fellow farmers are sitting on roads,” said Shinde, whose organisation is among the 40 farmers’ groups engaged in the talks.

Thousands of farmers have been camping at the Singhu and Tikri borders of the national capital for the last eight days as part of their protest against the laws.

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