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NEW DELHI: The decision to hold Bihar assembly polls amid the coronavirus pandemic is not a “misadventure” but a leap of faith and not a leap in the dark, Chief Election Commissioner Sunil Arora asserted on Friday.

Responding to a volley of questions on holding elections when the pandemic has not subsided, he said, “As a commission, we don’t regard it as a dussahas (misadventure) … it is a very, very meticulously worked, from our side, exercise.”

He also said the decision to hold the elections in the state, where the term of the assembly ends on November 29, is “a leap of faith and not a leap in the dark.”

Arora also gave the example of recently-held JEE and NEET examinations, saying thousands of candidates from various district across India came out to write the test.

Some opposition parties had urged the EC to postpone the elections in view of the pandemic.

The CEC also cited a recent Supreme Court observation, saying eventually life has to go on.

In a related development, the apex court on Friday refused to entertain a plea seeking to postpone the upcoming Bihar assembly elections in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic.

A three-judge bench of Justices Ashok Bhushan, R Subhash Reddy and M R Shah also refused to grant liberty to the petitioner to give representation to the Election Commission in this regard.

“We can’t permit everybody to go to the Election Commission. We can only permit you to withdraw the petition,” the bench said.

Asked whether the voter turnout will be effected due to the pandemic, Arora said the electors are very aware of what they want and most won’t miss out on the opportunity of exercising their franchise.

Responding to a question on whether the Covid-related guidelines would be in place for future elections too, he said God has not given him wisdom of astrology. He said much would depend on the situation prevailing at that time.

The CEC said the decision to hold state elections in three phases was taken keeping in mind the Covid-related safety norms and the fatigue factor of security personnel.

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

Sharpest weekly drop in Covid numbers

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NEW DELHI: In the steepest weekly fall yet in Covid-19 numbers in India, fresh infections recorded this week (October 19-25) were nearly 16% less than the previous week’s tally while deaths from the virus fell by 19% during this period.

India recorded just over 3.6 lakh fresh cases during the week, the lowest in absolute terms in three months (since 3.2 lakh were detected in the July 20-26 week), as per data collated from state governments.

This marked a drop of 15.7% from the previous week’s numbers, the sharpest weekly fall in cases since the pandemic hit India. Last week, nearly 4.3 lakh cases were recorded in the country.

Sixth straight week of decline in fresh Covid cases in India

This was the sixth straight week of decline in fresh Covid-19 cases from the peak of 6,45,014 infections reported during September 7-13, indicating a sustained reduction in the pandemic’s spread in India.

Meanwhile, India achieved another positive milestone when the number of recoveries crossed 90% of all cases on Sunday. Close to 71.3 lakh people have now recovered from the infection, out of a total caseload so far of 79.1 lakh, as per TOI’s database. Deaths from the virus were down 19% from last week’s toll. This week India recorded just over 4,400 fatalities due to Covid-19, as compared with 5,455 last week. Deaths too have been declining for five consecutive weeks since peaking at 8,175 during September 14-20.

Last week (October 12-18) had seen a 13.3% fall in fresh cases and a 15.9% drop in fatalities, the highest weekly fall till then. The fall in daily cases continued, with 46,135 fresh infections recorded on Sunday. This was the lowest daily tally of cases (not counting Mondays when the numbers fall due to other reasons) in 95 days since 38,444 cases were reported on July 21. Sunday’s death toll, at 489, was also the lowest daily fatalities in 108 days since July 9.

Numbers fell in almost all states on Sunday, which also coincided with festivals of Dussehra and Durga Puja. Delhi was an exception, recording 4,136 fresh cases, the highest in 38 days.

Karnataka became the third state in the country to record 8 lakh Covid-19 cases. It reached the grim milestone with 4,439 fresh cases taking the total to 8,02,813 on Sunday. Gujarat added 919 new cases, taking the total to 1.67 lakh. The new cases in Gujarat included 227 from Surat, 174 from Ahmedabad, 115 from Vadodara, and 97 from Rajkot.

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INDIA

India’s reaction to aggression left China rattled: RSS chief

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NAGPUR: India needed to increase its power to be able to respond to China, RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat said on Sunday. “In our military and economic preparations, in forging relations internationally and with our neighbours, we will need to be bigger than China,” he said. China was surprised by the vigorous Indian response to its aggression in east Ladakh this year, but Beijing’s reaction to the new situation it faces couldn’t be easily anticipated, he added during his annual Vijayadashami speech here.

India’s resolve in standing up to China had led to more countries realising the need to confront the expansionist power that had been taking on several nations. “Unwavering caution, vigilance and preparedness are the only ways to respond,” he said.

“This time China was surprised as India stood up resolutely… just how it will respond is not known,” Bhagwat said. “If we do this (increase our power and forge close ties with neighbour), we can stop China. Our neighbours like Myanmar, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Nepal are not just our neighbours. We have had ties with them for thousands of years and more or less they are countries with the same nature and temperament as us. We should quickly associate with them… there will be disputes when borders are shared. We should move faster to remove this issues,” he said.

In fairly explicit references to the border situation with China, the RSS chief said India’s hand of friendship to all should not be mistaken for weakness. “The erroneous impression of those who felt that (India) can be bent this way and that should have been cleared up by now. The bravery of our Army and the self-esteem reflected in the policies of our leadership and the unity of our people should be recognised by China. There is an air of self-confidence in the nation,” he said.

“A haughty China locked horns with a number of countries at a single point of time. Of course, it has been an expansionist regime and has been encroaching upon other’s territories, be it Taiwan, Vietnam, Japan and even America. However, India’s reaction to its aggression has left it rattled. Rather, China was taken aback by India’s response,” he added.

Bhagwat said there was a need to be vigilant against internal challenges as well. Political competition was a fact of democracy but there should be some wisdom in this and elections were not a war between enemies, he said, warning against bitterness within society. “This is not politics, there are forces that want to see a society at conflict with itself, these are in the world and in the country,” he added.

He said the anti-CAA agitation was used to create conflict by propagating the view that it was intended to reduce Muslim population. “These people speak of Bharat ke tukde but use certain situations to present themselves as secular and constitutionalists. They actually have no regard for the Constitution at all. They teach society the wrong things (ulti patti) and they speak the grammar of anarchy as Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar said. They have worked against the Sangh, only that they are not effective today,” he added.

In a departure from tradition, the event was held at a hall inside the RSS’s Smruti Mandir premises and not on the grounds adjacent to it. A limited number of around 50 swayamsewaks, sporting saffron masks, attended.

“The diversity among people of country is being used to fuel separatism. We need to be careful of such elements who are carrying out their activities in the name of saving the Constitution but they only intend to divide the country for their gains,” he said.

On protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act, Bhagwat said a misconception was spread that it was an attempt to reduce population of Muslims in the country. “It was only meant to facilitate immigration of minorities facing religious persecution in some of the neighbouring countries. Such people had nowhere else to seek refuge but in India. The existing law on getting Indian citizenship remains and the amendment only gives certain facilitations to such people,” he said.

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INDIA

Snowfall in Gulmarg, other areas of Kashmir

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SRINAGAR: Gulmarg and other places in the higher reaches of Kashmir received fresh snowfall on Sunday, causing the mercury to drop across the valley, officials said.

Gulmarg, the famous ski resort in north Kashmir‘s Baramulla district, received light snowfall in the evening. It continued for most part of the evening before making way for rain, they said.

Snowfall was also recorded in Sonamarg tourist resort in central Kashmir’s Ganderbal district and Zojila Pass along the Srinagar-Leh highway, according to the officials.

There were reports of snowfall in several other areas in the higher reaches of Jammu and Kashmir including areas along the Mughal Road – the alternate roadway connecting the valley with Jammu, the officials said.

The road has been closed for traffic, they said.

The snowfall in the higher reaches of Kashmir led to a drop in temperature across the Valley.

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