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    PORT BLAIR: The Covid-19 tally of Andaman and Nicobar Islands rose to 3,631 on Saturday as 27 more people tested positive for the infection, a health official said.

    Twenty-three infections were detected during contact tracing, while four new patients have travel history, he said.

    Thirty-six more people have been cured of the disease, the official said.


    The Union territory now has 165 active coronavirus cases, while 3,414 people have recovered from the disease and 52 patients have succumbed to the infection so far, he said.

    The administration has so far sent 50,035 samples for Covid-19 tests, of which 49,901 reports have been received and 134 are awaited, the official added.

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    The Times of India is an Indian English-language daily newspaper owned by The Times Group. It is the third-largest newspaper in India by circulation and largest selling English-language daily in the world. according to Audit Bureau of Circulations.

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    INDIA

    EC action against BJP’s Imarti Devi over poll code violations

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    NEW DELHI: The Election Commission on Saturday imposed a 24-hour campaign ban on BJP leader Imarti Devi due to poll code violations.

    “BJP leader Imarti Devi has been barred from holding, anywhere in MP, public meetings, public processions, public rallies, roadshows and interviews, public utterances in media in connection with ongoing elections for one day on November 1,” the poll panel said.

    Earlier this week, the election commission had issued a notice to Imarti Devi, who is contesting a bypoll in Madhya Pradesh, for allegedly describing an unnamed political rival as “insane” and making remarks against women members of his family.

    Devi, who is also a minister in the Madhya Pradesh government, did not name the political rival in a video on social media.

    According to the transcript of the video, Imarti Devi said after the person left the chief minister’s post in Madhya Pradesh, he became “insane” (pagal).

    Devi was involved in another incident earlier when senior Congress leader Kamal Nath called her an “item” during an election rally. Following his remarks, Nath was served a notice by the EC and later removed as Congress’ “star campaigner”.

    Bypolls to 28 Madhya Pradesh assembly seats will be held on November 3.

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    INDIA

    Covid-19: Indian students speak of depression and isolation at UK universities under lockdown, some plan to return to India

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    LONDON: Indian students in Manchester have spoken of their isolation and depression at being stuck in their rooms all day since all teaching went online and the city moved into a harsh lockdown owing to rising Covid-19 cases.

    Five joined a protest outside the university offices holding placards saying “Are we paying £22k for this?” and “Was it worth me flying from India to attend an online class?”. The students want greater offline social activities, blended teaching, mental health support and a reduction in fees.

    “I have not experienced 5% of university life this year. It was our last year to have fun and live university life. Now everything is ruined,” said Danish Hussain (21) of Ajmer, in the final year of his £15k-a-year undergraduate degree in tourism management at Manchester Metropolitan University (MMU). He returned to India in the spring, when Covid cases were rising, and returned in September expecting teaching to be blended.

    But on October 7, the University of Manchester (UoM) and MMU moved all teaching online after young people accounted for 55% of Covid-19 cases. On October 23 the city went into a Tier 3 lockdown.

    “I don’t know why they can’t divide us into groups and do face-to-face learning with social distancing. The teachers come on video chat but I’m not getting to interact with classmates. We don’t have anywhere to go. You can’t meet new people. Everyone is stressed,” he said. “There used to be so many house parties in Manchester, now it is dead.”

    He is staying alone in a house-share as less students have come because of Brexit and Covid-19, he said.

    MMU told TOI it had increased investment in its counselling services and from November 2 it will offer up to three hours of on-campus activity each week.

    “The isolation is the worst part. It makes you feel so demotivated. The main struggle is not money, it is mental health,” said Shubhi Verma, 25, from Bhopal, who is doing an intellectual property masters at the UoM costing £19,500 a year. “I could have done this in India and saved a lot of money. There are no contact hours with the professor. How can you create a relationship online? Online teaching is on Zoom but there is a lack of interaction. We have to stay in a bubble and can only interact with people we live with. We want more pastoral support. The societies have become WhatsApp groups. We are sat in our rooms and it is depressing,” Verma said.

    “I think if you meet people in person you feel more pressured to do your work. Now no one feels bothered. People are not doing their work properly. I am just watching Netflix, eating and sleeping,” she said.

    The UoM said online teaching would be reviewed on November 11, that the campus remained open, and insisted there were lots of activities.

    “Many Indian students want to go back to India at Christmas and stay until the spring. They don’t see the point of being here as their courses are all online, student bars are closing and a lot of events are online. Already 50% didn’t come back in September,” Indian National Students Association UK president Amit Tiwari said.

    Ahaan Gupta, 20, a third year undergraduate student of PPE at LSE, is doing just that. He went back in March and has not returned.

    “I am at home with my parents and there is less chance of catching it here whereas in the UK there are so many possible interactions in a student halls of residence. The quality of teaching at LSE is really good online. It is the same as offline,” he said. Ahaan is paying £19,000 a year but doing the course from his parents’ home in Delhi.

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    INDIA

    After slamming NHAI officials for ‘inefficiency’, Gadkari says his remarks meant for just a few

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    NEW DELHI: Barely days after hitting out at NHAI and terming a section of its senior officials as “inefficient” and slamming them for adopting delaying tactics, Road Transport and Highways Minister Nitin Gadkari on Saturday said his remarks were aimed at only a few officials.

    The minister said he was pained at the inordinate delay in completing construction work for a new NHAI office building.

    Addressing an event of industry lobby ASSOCHAM on “Advanced Digital Technology & Policy for Infrastructure with special focus on Tunnel Engineering” on Saturday, Gadkari said a few days back he had pulled up NHAI officials while inaugurating the new NHAI building as its construction took eight years while it should have been done in two years.

    “I was deeply hurt due to the inordinate delay. There are good people in NHAI, my ministry and NHIDCL including the NHAI chairman, secretary in the ministry and managing director of NHIDCL. There are hundreds of good engineers. My unhappiness was against only a few people,” he said.

    The minister said while the NHAI was accelerating to complete the Rs 1 lakh crore Delhi-Mumbai Expressway project in three years, it was a bad show to complete such a small building project in eight years.

    The minister’s comment had left several NHAI officials disheartened. “There was a lot of misconception as the minister’s speech went viral on social media. The highway construction has increased in recent years, which is the main parameter to assess performance. NHAI is not a building construction agency. Ideally, this project should have been assigned to a agency which is into construction of buildings,” said a senior NHAI official.

    NHAI had recorded highest ever highway construction in 2019-20 at 3,979 km and the highways ministry as a whole had recorded maximum ever highway construction at 10,855 in 2018-19. Last year, it reduced marginally to 10,237 km.

    During his address at the ASSOCHAM event, Gadkari said private contractors, after getting works, should not adopt tactics to “delay works, escalate costs and then go for arbitration to extract more money” from the government. He urged them to bag more work and earn profit by completing the projects in time.

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