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Two militants killed in encounter in J&K’s Shopian

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Restrictions Jammu Kashmir Srinagar Army

Srinagar, Nov 3 : Two militants were killed in an encounter between security forces and militants on Saturday in Jammu and Kashmir’s Shopian district.

Security forces started a cordon and search operation in a village of Shopian following information about a group of militants hiding in the village.

“As the cordon around the hiding militants was tightened, they fired at the surrounding security forces triggering an encounter in which two militants were killed,” said a senior police official, adding the operation was going on.

In wee hours of Saturday, two terrorists were killed in an encounter that broke out between terrorists and security forces at Zagoo Arizal area in Budgam district of Jammu and Kashmir . A search and cordon operation was launched in the area after the forces received specific inputs of at least 2-3 terrorists hiding in the region.

One of the terrorists was identified as Mukhtar A Khan, a local resident of Brass Arizal, Budgam. He was involved in attacks on security establishments. In the encounter, one army jawan sustained injuries, his condition is stable.

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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India

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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India

Airlines allowed to deploy up to 80% capacity in domestic sector

Passenger air services were suspended on March 25 due to the nationwide lockdown to check the spread of Covid-19, and domestic flights resumed in a phased manner from May 25.

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Preparing for Landing

New Delhi: The Centre has allowed domestic airlines to deploy up to 80 per cent of their pre-Covid flight capacity from an earlier 70 per cent, Civil Aviation Minister Hardeep Singh Puri said on Thursday.

In a tweet, Puri said: “Domestic operations recommenced with 30K passengers on 25 May & have now touched a high of 2.52 lakhs on 30 Nov 2020.”

“@MoCA_GoIa is now allowing domestic carriers to increase their operations from existing 70 per cent to 80 per cent of pre-Covid approved capacity.”

Last month, the Centre had allowed domestic airlines to deploy up to 70 per cent of their flight capacity, up from 60 per cent capacity utilisation in the domestic sector allowed with effect from September 2.

In June, the capacity was raised to 45 per cent from an initial 33 per cent.

Passenger air services were suspended on March 25 due to the nationwide lockdown to check the spread of Covid-19, and domestic flights resumed in a phased manner from May 25.

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