LIVE: India took various steps to offset Covid impact, FM tells World Bank

Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman with MOS Finance Anurag Thakur leaving for Rashtrapati Bhawan along with full Budget Team to present Union Budget 2020-21 in New Delhi on Saturday/PHOTO-DALIP KUMAR

The finance ministry on Friday kicked off the exercise to prepare the annual Budget for 2021-22 amid the urgency to push economic growth hit by the Covid-19 pandemic.

The upcoming Budget will be crucial for the country as it will have to deal with impact of pandemic which has affected all segments of the economy, including revenue collection, disinvestment, expenditure, exports and food prices.

The economy is projected to contract by a massive 10.3 per cent this year, according to an IMF forecast. Even the Reserve Bank of India expects the economy to shrink by 9.5 per cent in the current financial year.

Eighteen months after it was grounded, Jet Airways is all set for a comeback. Lenders to Jet have begun voting to choose its new owner. So far, two banks have voted on the resolution plans and the process is expected to continue till the end of the day.

Kerala Finance Minister Thomas Isaac said some states were likely to approach the Supreme Court against the Centre's two borrowing options for GST compensation, and Kerala would take a final decision on the matter today at a meeting chaired by Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan.

Sabarimala Lord Ayyappa temple will open for a 5-day puja from today.

Stay tuned for the latest news of the day.


Dow advances, S&P ekes out gain with vaccine timeline in focus

The S&P 500 posted a nominal gain on Friday as further clarity regarding the timeline for the development of a coronavirus vaccine and much better-than-expected retail sales data and brought buyers back to the market.
The Dow also joined the S&P in positive territory, both indexes snapping a three-day losing streak driven by halted vaccine trials and continued wrangling in Washington over a new pandemic relief package. But the Nasdaq ended the session lower.
Even so, they all posted gains on the week.
Pfizer Inc announced it could apply for US authorization for the Covid-19 vaccine it is developing with German partner BioNTech in November. Pfizer's stock gained 3.8 per cent.
"The two highest-level market movers are the vaccine timeline and stimulus optimism," said Ross Mayfield, investment strategist at Baird in Louisville, Kentucky. "Sometimes the market gets a reality check that even if we get a vaccine early next year that's an incredibly aggressive and optimistic timeline."

1,062 candidates file papers for 2nd phase of Bihar polling

A total of 1,062 candidates have filed their nomination papers till Friday, the last date for doing so in 94 assembly seats going to the polls in Bihar in the second phase on November 3, the EC sources said.
Additional Chief Electoral Officer (ACEO) Sanjay Kumar Singh said that scrutiny of the papers will be held on Saturday and the last date of withdrawal of nominations for the second phase is October 19.
Singh said that 63 papers have been filed so far for 78 seats where election will be held in the third and final phase on November 7.
The filing of nominations for the third phase began on October 13 and will end on October 20.

Saudi Arabia foreign minister sees path toward ending rift with Qatar

Saudi Arabia’s foreign minister signaled progress may be underway toward resolving the three-year-old rift with its neighbor Qatar, following a meeting in Washington with Secretary of State Michael Pompeo.
“We continue to be willing to engage with our Qatari brothers, and we hope that they are as committed to that engagement,” Prince Faisal bin Farhan said in a virtual discussion hosted by the Washington Institute for Near East Policy on Thursday. “But we do need to address the legitimate security concerns of the quartet, and I think there is a path toward that” with a solution “in the relatively near future.”
The rift in relations started in June 2017, when Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain and Egypt abruptly severed diplomatic, trade and transport ties with Qatar, saying its government supported militant groups and had meddled in their internal affairs for years. Qatar has vehemently denied those claims. In June, Kuwait, a mediator between Qatar and its quartet of Gulf Arab neighbors, said there was progress toward resolving the standoff. Yet the crisis continues.

Hulu sidelined in Disney’s global streaming ambitions; Star wins

Toward the end of 2019, Hulu delivered a proposal to Walt Disney, its controlling shareholder, outlining a strategy to expand the popular streaming service outside the US. After watching rivals Netflix and Amazon set up shop all over the globe, Hulu executives had spent the past couple of years drafting a plan to catch up.
At first, Disney Chief Executive Officer Bob Iger and Chief Financial Officer Christine McCarthy expressed support and pledged to present the plan at a board meeting in January 2020, according to people familiar with the matter. But, ultimately, that didn’t happen. Instead, Disney announced in August that it will create a new general entertainment service outside the US under the umbrella of Star, the company’s Indian media subsidiary.

US retail sales blow expectations in September as dark clouds loom

US retail sales accelerated in September, rounding out a strong quarter of economic activity, but the recovery from the COVID-19 recession is at a crossroads as government money runs out and companies continue to layoff workers.
New coronavirus cases are also surging across the country, which could lead to restrictions on businesses like restaurants, gyms and bars, and undercut consumer spending. The economy is already shifting into lower gear. Other data on Friday showed an unexpected drop in output at factories last month.
"Although sales growth is strong, it will slow through the rest of this year and into next year," said Gus Faucher, chief economist at PNC Financial in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. "The slowing will be even larger if Congress does not pass another stimulus bill. Unemployment remains pervasive throughout the US economy."
Retail sales jumped 1.9 per cent last month as consumers bought motor vehicles and clothing, dined out and splashed out on hobbies. That followed an unrevised 0.6 per cent increase in August.

Oil dips on coronavirus resurgence, fears of more supply

Oil prices edged lower on Friday, dragged down by concerns that a spike in Covid-19 cases in the United States and Europe will continue to drag on demand in two of the world's biggest fuel-consuming regions.
OPEC+, a grouping of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and ally producers including Russia, fear a prolonged second wave of the pandemic and a jump in Libyan output could push the oil market into surplus next year, according to a confidential document seen by Reuters, a much gloomier outlook than just a month ago.
Brent crude futures were down fell 24 cents to $42.92 a barrel by 1:31 p.m. EDT (1731 GMT), and US West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude futures fell 14 cents to $40.82 a barrel.
Brent was set to rise 0.2 per cent for the week, while WTI was on track to gain 0.6 per cent.

White House rejects Putin response to US arms control offer

The Trump administration on Friday rejected as a non-starter Russia's stance that a key nuclear arms control treaty be extended without imposing a broader, short-term freeze on US and Russian nuclear weapons.
In a written statement, Robert O'Brien, the national security adviser to President Donald Trump, said the United States had proposed an extension of the New START treaty for one year, in exchange for Russia and the United States capping all nuclear warheads during that period.

Kolkata Port Trust to get fresh logo to go with new name

The Kolkata Port Trust, now rechristened as the Syama Prasad Mookerjee Port, will on Saturday unveil a fresh logo which will go with the new name, officials said.
The new logo will be unveiled at the closing ceremony of the 150-year celebrations of the port.

Wall Street inches higher on Pfizer vaccine update, upbeat consumer data

Wall Street bounced back on Friday after three straight days of losses, following a positive update from Pfizer on development of its COVID-19 vaccine and on data that showed stronger-than-expected retail sales growth last month.
The drugmaker's shares firmed 2.6% as it expects to provide safety data and file for authorization of the vaccine it is developing with Germany's BioNTech SE, as soon as a safety milestone is achieved in the third week of November.
BioNTech's US-listed shares jumped 3.2 per cent.
Latest data showed U.S. retail sales increased more than expected in September, though recovery from the recession is at a crossroads as government money runs out and companies continue to layoff workers.

A millennials love affair: China's second-hand luxury goods market booms

China's love for luxury is spilling over into the once shunned second-hand goods sector, with online stores surfing a wave of pent-up demand from shoppers, led by millennials, who have been forced into belt-tightening by the coronavirus pandemic.
The rapid proliferation over recent years of second-hand luxury sales online platforms have helped fuel an expansion of the market, similar to those of US online luxury reseller The RealReal Inc or Europe's Vestiaire Collective.
"Our income recorded a surge this year during the pandemic as offline stores are mostly closed," said Xu Wei, founder of Plum, a second-hand luxury products company in Beijing which is especially popular with millennial women from China's lower tier cities.
Chinese consumers have traditionally shunned second-hand goods, though that has undergone a shift over the past decade or so led by younger, more environmentally conscious consumers looking for affordable high-end goods.

Thai police crack down on protesters; PM refuses to resign

Riot police in Thailand cracked down on thousands of student-led protesters who rallied Friday in the capital in defiance of a strict state of emergency, while the prime minister rejected calls for his resignation.
The protesters gathered in torrential monsoon rains to push their demands, including that Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha leave office, the constitution be amended and the nation's monarchy undergo reform.
It was the second day they defied an order not to gather, imposed after some demonstrators heckled a royal motorcade, an unprecedented development in Thailand, where the monarchy is normally held in reverence.
Police used water cannons and charged at the crowd, scattering protesters, onlookers and reporters. Journalists who were hit by the water said it caused a stinging sensation and was dyed blue, to mark protesters for possible later arrest.

With salaries pending, some doctors unable to repay loans, some struggle to fund children education

Maruti Sinha, a gynecologists at British-era Kasturba Hospital here says her son has qualified for a prestigious medical course, but she is not sure if she would be able to support his higher education under this strenuous circumstance.
Hit by unpaid salaries, doctors at North Corporation-run Hindu Rao Hospital, Kasturba Hospital and Rajen Babu Tuberculosis Hospital say they are now battling financial and mental stress.
Sinha is a senior doctor at 450-bed Kasturba Hospital, which started as Victoria Zenana Hospital, and participated briefly at a joint protest organised by resident doctors of the three facilities at Jantar Mantar on Friday.
"We doctors don't want to go on strike, she told PTI. It is always the last resort.
I am a permanent doctor and our association, the MCDA (Municipal Corporation Doctors' Association) had given a call for an indefinite strike from Monday if our demands are not met. At least the resident doctors got salary for July, we haven't got anything, and it is due for the last three months," she said.

Need to take a longer-term perspective on debt sustainability: says World Bank President

There is need to take a longer-term perspective on debt sustainability, World Bank President David Malpass said on Friday as he sought to consider debt stock reduction to address looming debt crisis.
I think we need to take a longer-term perspective on debt sustainability, Malpass said in the intervention of Development Committee meeting of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund.
At his request early this year, the G-20 has endorsed a temporary suspension of debt service, which has resulted in 43 of the world's poorest countries benefitting from an estimated $5 billion in debt service suspension from official bilateral creditors.

No plan to merge Puducherry with neighbouring states: BJP

BJP on Friday said the Centre has no intention to merge Puducherry with neighbouring states or dismantle the separate identity of the Union Territory.
Speaking to reporters here, the party's national general secretary C T Ravi said the plan to merge Puducherry with the neighbouring states was a rumour floated by the ruling Congress.
Ravi, who was here to address an executive committee of the local unit of the BJP, said there was also no truth in the comments made by the Congress that the office of Raj Nivas wasbeing used as an office of the BJP.

Hong Kong bars Air India, Vistara flights till Oct 30 after passengers test positive for COVID-19

Hong Kong has banned Air India and Vistara flights from October 17 to 30 after a few passengers on their flights tested positive for COVID-19 post arrival, a senior government official said on Friday.

This is the third time that Air India flights from India have been banned by the Hong Kong government for bringing passengers who tested positive for the infection after arrival. Previous bans were during September 20-October 3 and August 18-August 31.

Vistara's flights are being banned for the first time by the Hong Kong government during the coronavirus pandemic.

30% NEC funds for development of deprived, neglected sections in NE: Jitendra Singh

Union Minister Jitendra Singh on Friday said 30 per cent fund of the North Eastern Council (NEC) for new projects will be dedicated to focus development of deprived areas and neglected sections of the society and emerging sectors.

Singh, the Union Minister for Development of North Eastern Region (DoNER), also said that Prime Minister Narendra Modi is committed for development of the Northeastern region and bring them at par with more developed states of the country.

He said the central government is also working to ensure equitable development of different areas within the Northeastern region as well as different tribes and communities living there.

US industrial production fell a sharp 0.6% in Sept, weakest since lockdown

US industrial production fell 0.6 per cent in September, the weakest showing since industrial output tumbled in the spring when the economy was slowed by widespread lockdowns resulting from the coronavirus.

The Federal Reserve reported Friday that industrial production suffered its first decline since a 12.7 per cent drop in April during the spring lockdowns.

The key category that reflects manufacturing output fell 0.3%. At the same time, mining output, which includes oil and gas exploration, fell 5.6%. Production at the nation's utilities was up 1.7 per cent.

Former Manipur DGP appointed spl police observer for MP bypolls

The Election Commission on Friday appointed former IPS officer Mrinal Kanti Das as special police observer for the assembly bypolls in Madhya Pradesh.

Voting on 28 assembly seats in Madhya Pradesh bypolls will take place on November 3 and the results will be declared on November 10.

As special police observer,Das is assigned to observe the conduct of by-elections and poll preparedness, especially with regard to security-related issues, the commission said in a statement.

Govt has no strategy to deal with coronavirus pandemic, revive economy: Congress

The Congress Friday hit out at the Modi government alleging it has no strategy to fight the coronavirus pandemic or revive the economy and is instead busy in building narratives which run counter to the reality.

Addressing a press conference, Congress spokesperson Supriya Srinate said the government instead of building "false narratives" should get down to doing the right things that will increase consumption, investment and jobs.

Citing grim International Monetary Fund (IMF) projections, she alleged India will become the "fastest falling economy" from being the fastest growing economy.

She also cited the IMF projections of 10.3 per cent contraction in India's GDP, which is the highest in the world after the UK's 9.8 per cent.

Virus at 'turning point' in Europe, hitting at-risk groups

Doctors are warning that Europe is at a turning point as the coronavirus surges back across the continent, including among vulnerable people, and governments try to impose restrictions without locking whole economies down.

With newly confirmed cases reaching records, the Czech Republic has shut schools and is building a field hospital, Poland has limited restaurant hours and closed gyms and schools, and France is planning a 9 pm curfew in Paris and other big cities. In Britain, authorities are closing pubs and bars in areas in the country's north, while putting limits on socializing in London and other parts of the country.

This is a serious situation that should not be underestimated. It is serious on a European level,'' Italy's health minister, Roberto Speranza, said Friday.

Merkel: EU summit on China called off as virus resurges

A planned European Union summit on the bloc's China policy that was to be held in Berlin next month has been called off because of the resurgent coronavirus pandemic, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said Friday.

The 27-nation EU's leaders had planned to meet in Berlin on Nov. 16 to discuss policy toward China.

Merkel said after an EU summit in Brussels on Friday that the meeting won't go ahead.

We will have to do without it, because I think that is a necessary message in terms of (reducing) contacts, she added.

FinMin kick-starts Budget making exercise amid contraction pressure

The finance ministry on Friday kicked off the exercise to prepare the annual Budget for 2021-22 amid the urgency to push economic growth hit by the Covid-19 pandemic.

The upcoming Budget will be crucial for the country as it will have to deal with impact of pandemic which has affected all segments of the economy, including revenue collection, disinvestment, expenditure, exports and food prices.

The economy is projected to contract by a massive 10.3 per cent this year, according to an IMF forecast. Even the Reserve Bank of India expects the economy to shrink by 9.5 per cent in the current financial year.

Cultural ministry issues SOPs for artistes to hold events online, claim benefits of govt schemes

The Culture Ministry Friday issued guidelines for holding events in online mode, allowing artistes to take benefits of government schemes even if they are unable to hold such programmes in physical settings owing to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The ministry said the guidelines will ensure continued financial assistance to artistes and help them tide over the present crisis.

In a statement, the ministry said there has been a substantial impact on the performing arts and cultural sector with in-person exhibitions, events, and performances either cancelled or postponed due to the coronavirus outbreak.

India on road to be trans fat free by 2022: Harsh Vardhan

Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan on Friday said that due to the unprecedented challenges faced by the world on account of the coronavirus pandemic, there has been a renewed focus on food, nutrition, health, immunity and sustainability.

Presided over an event organised by the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) to celebrate World Food Day, he said: The "FSSAI's Eat Right India movement targets to promote safe and healthy food for everyone in an environmentally sustainable way. It is a part of its mandate to provide safe and wholesome food for all citizens. This will improve the food safety ecosystems and lift the hygiene and health of our citizens."

Minister of State for Health and Family Welfare Ashwini Kumar Choubey also joined, via video conferencing, the event, whose theme this year's event is "Grow, Nourish, Sustain. Together".

Madras HC judge turns emotional over plight of govt school students

A judge in the Madras High Court bench in Madurai on Friday turned emotional on the delay in taking a decision on the 7.5 per cent reservation for students of government schools in medical college admissions.

The state government told the court that it will not come out with the prospectus for medical college admissions till Governor Banwarilal Purohit takes a decision on the Bill for reservation for students of government schools.

The Bill passed by the state Assembly unanimously to provide 7.5 per cent horizontal reservation for students of government schools in medical college admissions was sent to Purohit for his assent.

The Governor is yet to take a decision on the Bill.

Prepare for no-trade deal Brexit, Johnson says, but talks to continue

Prime Minister Boris Johnson said on Friday it was now time to prepare for a no-trade deal Brexit in 10 weeks time unless the European Union fundamentally changed course, though Brussels said talks would continue.

A tumultuous "no deal" finale to the United Kingdom's five-year Brexit crisis would sow chaos through the delicate supply chains that stretch across Britain, the EU and beyond - just as the economic hit from the coronavirus pandemic worsens.

At what was supposed to be the "Brexit summit" on Thursday, the EU delivered an ultimatum: it said it was concerned by a lack of progress and called on London to yield on key sticking points or see a rupture of ties with the bloc from January 1.

"I have concluded that we should get ready for January 1 with arrangements that are more like Australia's based on simple principles of global free trade," Johnson said.

Rains likely in Kolkata, other parts of Bengal during Durga Puja

A low-pressure area brewing over the Bay of Bengal is likely to cause rains in Kolkata and other parts of West Bengal during the Durga Puja, weather officials said on Friday.

The low-pressure area is likely to form around October 19 and be more marked thereafter, they said.

Though the system is likely to move towards the Odisha-Andhra Pradesh coast, south-westerly wind flow will enhance in West Bengal, resulting in the probability of rain, the Met department said.

Kerala launches portal to support pandemic-hit MSME sector

The Kerala government on Friday launched an online portal for speedy and transparent delivery of concessions, including interest subsidy for the revival of Micro Small and Medium Enterprises, hit badly by the economic downturn triggered by the Covid-19 pandemic.

The portal, inaugurated by Industries minister E P Jayarajan, carries all the details of various measures under the Vyavsaya Bhadratha Package, including financial support and concessions for MSMEs reeling under the impact of the pandemic.

Farm sentiments remain positive led by good monsoon: Report

Farm sentiments have remained buoyant mainly driven by healthy monsoon and further optimism of a good kharif crop, according to a report.

Agriculture income is likely to benefit over the medium term aided by increased government focus on rural income coupled with the recently introduced farm reforms, Icra Ratings said in the report.

Moreover, it said the rural household incomes have stayed resilient in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic and have been supported by healthy farm cash flows across regions, aided by high levels of rabi procurement under various government schemes after a season of bumper harvest.

Stubble burning role in Delhi's foul air to be lesser this year: CPCB

Amid the massive spike in air pollution in Delhi and ts surroundings, the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) on Friday claimed that stubble burning in Punjab, Haryana and other neighbouring regions may not contribute much to city's deteriorating air quality this year.

The air pollution reaches a peak in Delhi and surrounding regions every winter, when pollution from stubble burning combines with the suspended water droplets in the lower atmosphere to form a thick blanket of noxious smog.

"This time, we are expecting that the peak contribution of the stubble may not coincide with the peak adverse meteorology in Delhi. We may see less contribution of stubble burning in Delhi's air quality, but it depends on meteorological conditions," CPCB Member Secretary Prashant Gargava said at a press conference.

Climate change drove early human species to extinction, study says

Climate change likely played a major role in driving early human species to extinction, according to a modelling study published on Friday which researchers said serves a "thunderous warning message" to humans today.

Of the six or more different species of early humans, all belonging to the genus Homo, only Homo sapiens have managed to survive.

The study, published in the journal One Earth, combined climate modelling and fossil record to search for clues to what led to all those earlier extinctions of our ancient ancestors.

Centre should now work to re-establish trust with states: Chidambaram on GST row

After the Union government agreed to borrow Rs 1.10 trillion on behalf of states to meet the GST shortfall, Congress leader P Chidambaram said Friday that the Centre has taken the "correct first step" and it should now work to re-establish trust with them.

"I welcomed the change of heart," he tweeted and asked the Centre to clarify how the debt of states will be serviced and repaid.

"Having taken the correct first step, I urge the PM and the FM to take the second step also and re-establish the trust between the Centre and the States," the former finance minister said on Twitter.

He said Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman has written to the states that the central government will borrow Rs 1,10,208 crore and give them "back-to-back loans".

North Delhi civic body to be fined Rs 1 crore for no action against garbage burning: Gopal Rai

Delhi Environment Minister Gopal Rai on Friday issued directions for imposition of Rs 1 crore fine on North Delhi Municipal Corporation for not taking action against garbage burning in Kirari village in northwest Delhi.

He said regular incidents of large-scale garbage burning had been brought to his notice.

"Delhi's air quality has been worsening gradually, but the agencies are still not taking it seriously. Environmental norms are being flouted brazenly here. Garbage burning is rampant," Rai told reporters.

Gadkari inaugurates, lays foundation stones of Rs 15,592-cr projects in Andhra Pradesh

Union Minister Nitin Gadkari on Friday inaugurated and laid the foundation stones of highways projects worth Rs 15,592 in Andhra Pradesh, an official statement said.

These include 16 highway projects stretching over 1,411 km.

"Union Minister for Road Transport, Highways and MSMEs Nitin Gadkari inaugurated and laid the foundation stones of 16 national highway projects with a total length of 1,411 km worth Rs 15,592 crore in Andhra Pradesh," the road transport and highways ministry said in a statement.

Addressing an event through video-conferencing on the ocassion, Gadkari said the length of national highways in Andhra Pradesh before May 2014 was 4,193 km, which has now increased to 6,860 km, registering an increase of 2,667 km, or 64 per cent, in length in six years.

Record turnout in early voting for US presidential election despite Covid-19

US states have witnessed a record turnout in the early voting, both in-person and by mail, for the November 3 presidential election despite the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, it was reported.

According to the US Election Project, which tracks early voting statistics in real time, as of Thursday, more than 17,800,000 Americans have cast their ballots either through the mail or in person, The Hill news website reported.

The figure equates to almost 13 per cent of the total number of voters in the 2016 presidential election.

Voter turnout in some swing states also broke records.

Puja grant to be used on Covid-19 equipment, public-police bonding: Calcutta HC

The Calcutta High Court directed the community Durga Puja organisers in the state on Friday to spend 75 per cent of the Rs 50,000 grant given by the West Bengal government on the procurement of Covid-19 protection equipment and the rest on strengthening public-police bonding.

A division bench comprising justices Sanjib Banerjee and Arijit Banerjee directed that the money given by the state to the Durga Puja committees cannot be used for any other purpose, and purchase bills have to be submitted to the authorities for audit.

Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee had announced on September 24 the Rs 50,000 grant for each of the 36,946 Durga Puja committees in the state.

Plan to implement New Education Policy by June next: Goa CM

The Goa government plans to implement its New Education Policy (NEP) 2020 by June next year, Chief Minister Pramod Sawant said on Friday.

The three sub-committees formed to examine educational infrastructure and finalisation of new syllabi in sync with the NEP have been asked to submit reports by February 2021 said Sawant, who also holds the education portfolio.

"The three panels will make recommendations for pre-primary, secondary and higher secondary education after studying the infrastructure available in Goa. They will also examine the issue of new syllabi," Sawant said.

Dinesh Karthik steps down as KKR captain, Morgan takes charge

Wicketkeeper-batsman Dinesh Karthik on Friday stepped down as captain of the Kolkata Knight Riders team, handing over the reins to his English deputy Eoin Morgan hours before the IPL match against Mumbai Indians here.

Karthik told the KKR management that he wants to "focus on his batting and contributing more to the team's cause." Appointed skipper in 2018, the 35-year-old led KKR in 37 matches.

Covid-19: Central teams sent to Kerala, Karnataka, Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh, WB

High-level central teams have been deputed to Kerala, Karnataka, Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh and West Bengal, which have been reporting a surge in COVID-19 cases, to support them in management of the disease.

The Union Health Ministry on Friday said these teams will support the state towards strengthening containment, surveillance, testing, infection prevention and control measures, and efficient clinical management of the positive cases.

"The Central teams shall also guide in effectively managing the challenges related to timely diagnosis and follow up," it said.

Each team comprises a joint secretary (nodal officer for the respective state), one public health expert to look after the public health aspects, one clinician to look after infection prevention practices and clinical management protocol being followed by the State.

No exclusivity clause dampens railway route privatisation: Report

Railway route privatisation is not as rosy it looks as there is no bar on competition on one hand and demand risks outweigh the benefits on other, even though the private operator is free to fix the tariffs, warns a report.

Currently, the railways cross-subsidises passengers by overcharging freight to minimise the losses generated in running passenger trains.

Learning from previous public-private partnership models, the government has drafted a new concession framework for private train operators giving them autonomy to fix tariffs.

Twitter partners with EC, launches dedicated search prompt for Bihar polls

The micro-blogging site Twitter on Friday announced a partnership with the Election Commission of India and launched a new search prompt that makes it easy to find credible and authoritative information related to Bihar Assembly elections.

The new search prompt will provide information about the candidate lists, voting dates, polling booths, EVMs voter registration, among other election-related topics.

The 'Get the Latest Updates' prompt will get activated in over 30 hashtags across English and Hindi languages.

Passenger vehicle sales in India rise 17% in Sept quarter: SIAM

Passenger vehicle wholesales in India increased by 17 per cent in the second quarter of the current fiscal year as buying sentiment improved and companies stocked up to cater to enhanced demand in the festive season, auto industry body SIAM said on Friday.

According to the latest data by the Society of Indian Automobile Manufacturers (SIAM), passenger vehicles sales in the July-September quarter increased to 7,26,232 units from 6,20,620 units in the same period last year.

Similarly, two-wheeler sales during the September quarter this fiscal rose marginally to 46,90,565 units as compared with 46,82,571 units in the same period last fiscal.

After petrol, diesel demand returns to pre-Covid-19 levels

After petrol, diesel demand has returned to pre-Covid-19 levels as sales rose 8.8 per cent in the first half of October from a year ago, preliminary industry data showed.

This is the first annual increase in sales of diesel - the most consumed fuel in the country - since the nation imposed lockdown in late March to curb the spread of the pandemic.

While demand for petrol has been more resilient than diesel due to an increased preference for using personal vehicles instead of public transport to follow distancing norms, October 1-15 sales number showed better than anticipated recovery.

India has potential to increase Covid testing 10-fold: Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw

India has the ability to aggressively ramp up coronavirus testing capacity, a move that will help it check a wave of new active cases hitting hospitals and skirt an economically unviable lockdown, according to the head of one of the country’s largest drug makers.
With pooled testing that can include as many as 10 people in one go, India “could potentially scale up its testing 10-fold,” said Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw, the founder and chairman of Biocon Ltd. Pooled testing increases the number of people that can be tested using the same amount of resources but it works well in clusters with low prevalence. Shaw suggested using this technique in combination with the more prevalent rapid antigen and RT-PCR tests. Read on...

Delhi Government exempts electric vehicles from registration fee

Electric vehicles were also exempted from road tax on October 11

Why are the admission cut-offs so high in Delhi, questions chief minister Arvind Kejriwal

Why are the admission cut-offs so high in Delhi? It is so because there is a huge lack of colleges & universities in Delhi, while the number of students is increasing. We need many more colleges & universities here: Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal

Tamil Nadu weather update: Heavy rain is likely to occur at isolated places over Salem, Tiruvannamalai, Dharmapuri and Tirupattur districts

Heavy rain is likely to occur at isolated places over Salem, Tiruvannamalai, Dharmapuri and Tirupattur districts of Tamil Nadu tomorrow: India Meteorological Department

Aamir Khan, Renuka Shahane and others pay tributes to India's first Oscar winner Bhanu Athaiya

Several Bollywood personalities, including actors Aamir Khan, Renuka Shahane and Simi Garewal, have mourned the passing away ofOscar-winning costume designer Bhanu Athaiya.
Athaiya, 91, died at her home after prolonged illness on Thursday. She won an Oscar for her work in the Richard Attenborough's 1983 film Gandhi.
Her daughter, Radhika Gupta, told PTI that the costume designer was diagnosed with a tumour in her brain eight years ago and was bedridden for the last three years as one side of her body was paralysed.
One of her closest friends, Garewal saidAthaiya was suffering from dementia and didn't remember anything or any of the films, except "Gandhi".
"It was very hard to talk to her. I felt sad... Is this what happens to talented human being? It is a huge sense of loss. She had brain tumour too for eight years. Maybe it was time for her to be at peace. She has left a legacy," Garewal told PTI.
Khan, who worked with Athaiya for his 2001 period drama "Lagaan", extended his condolences to her family and said that the veteran will missed by the industry.

Bihar election 2020: Nitish Kumar is tired and can't handle the state, says RJD's Tejashwi Yadav

Bihar CM Nitish Kumar is tired & can not handle the state. He doesn't want to talk about development, unemployment, education, health infrastructure & poverty. He says Bihar is a landlocked state hence industries can not be set up resulting in no job creation: Tejashwi Yadav, RJD

Samsung Galaxy S20 FE: A worthy premium smartphone despite some compromises

The Samsung Galaxy S20 FE (Fan Edition) is a new smartphone model in South Korean electronics maker’s flagship Galaxy S20 series launched earlier this year. Priced at Rs 49,999, the Galaxy S20 FE is touted as a flagship smartphone with features inspired by premium siblings.
At first look, the smartphone appears to be an all-rounder, with a big AMOLED screen of 120Hz refresh rate, practical triple-camera set-up on the back, flagship processor, ample onboard storage, wireless charging, and ingress protection rating. Read on...

In a breather, IMD predicts drop in rainfall in Maharashtra from Friday

In a relief for Maharashtra, where several districts have received heavy showers, the India Meteorological Department (IMD) on Thursday predicted "drastic reduction" in rainfall activity in the state from Friday.
Western Maharashtra districts of Pune, Solapur, Sangli, Satara and Kolhapur have been witnessing heavy showers in the last two days. Read on...

20,000 people moved to safety in rain-battered Maharashtra, Karnataka flood situation grim

Over 20,000 people were moved to safer places in three districts of Maharashtra which witnessed heavy showers for the past two days, even as the flood situation in Karnataka worsened on Thursday with several areas inundated due to torrential rains and release of water from major dams.
After being battered by torrential rains that triggered one of the worst floods in recent times and claimed 50 lives, Hyderabad and other parts of Telangana were returning to normalcy with relief measures being stepped up by the government.

B S Yediyurappa to review rain havoc in north Karnataka

Karnataka Chief Minister B.S. Yediyurappa would review the situation in the flood-battered northern region of the state on Friday, a statement said.
"The Chief Minister will do an aerial survey of the affected districts and assess the situation with its Deputy Commissioners on Friday for releasing funds," the statement said.

With an eye on China, India gifts a used submarine to Myanmar

With New Delhi’s announcement on Thursday of the gift of a used submarine to Myanmar, India has played a high card in its long-running competition with Beijing for influence in that country.
The Indian Navy has operated INS Sindhuvir, a Soviet-origin Kilo-class submarine, since 1988. Now, with its service life extended by 10-15 years in an overhaul at Hindustan Shipyard Ltd, it will serve the Myanmar navy till the 2030s. READ ON...

Government of India has banned the import of air conditioners with refrigerants

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