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In the sharpest fortnightly dip in Covid-19 cases and deaths in the country, the first half of October saw an 18% fall in new infections from the previous 15-day period while deaths fell by nearly 19%.

India recorded 10,55,068 Covid-19 cases in the first 15 days of this month, the lowest fortnightly count since the second half of August, as per daily data collated from state governments. The number was 18.4% less than the case count in the second half of September.

This was the second straight fortnight when coronavirus cases had shown a decline. In the previous fortnight (September 16-30), when the pandemic numbers had dipped for the first time, fresh cases had dropped by 2.9%.

The Covid-19 death toll has followed a similar pattern. In the first half of October, 13,474 fatalities were recorded, an 18.9% dip from the previous fortnight. The death count had dropped for the first time in the second half of September, although the fall was just 0.2%.

Both the Covid-19 case count and the number of deaths had peaked in the first half of September. In that fortnight, the country had recorded 13,31,660 fresh infections (a 28.7% rise over the previous fortnight) and 16,641 deaths, up 15.4% from the previous 15 days.

The pandemic is clearly on the wane, but with more than 1 million new cases and over 13,000 deaths during the fortnight, the Covid crisis in India seems far from over.

Meanwhile, mirroring the fall in numbers, active cases in the country dipped below the 8-lakh mark on Friday for the first time since August 31. Daily cases remained above 60,000 on Friday, at 62,587, while the death toll was 871, the highest in six days.

Bengal again bucked the general trend of falling numbers by reporting its highest single-day rise in cases for the second day running. The state reported 3,771 fresh infections and 61 deaths.

Maharashtra added 11,447 new Covid-19 cases on Friday, the highest this week, taking the total to 15,76,062. However, the daily count of cases in Mumbai dropped by 14% with 1,823 new cases, taking the tally to 2.38 lakh cases.

The state added 306 deaths, the second day in a row to see more than 300 fatalities. The death toll touched 41,502.

Tamil Nadu continued to record a drop in fresh cases with 4,389 new Covid-19 cases and 57 deaths on Friday. The cumulative death toll touched 10,529 and the case tally stood at 6,79,191. The state has 40,959 patients still under treatment for the viral infection.

Meanwhile, Odisha has lowered its projection of the virus caseload for the month from 3.38 lakh to 3.14 lakh, less by 24,000, amid the dip in new infections. The state on Friday registered the lowest single-day infection count of 2,138 in the past two months. This took the virus caseload to 2,64,149. Fifteen more succumbed to Covid-19, pushing the death toll to 1,104.

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

‘I am not afraid of resigning’: Punjab CM Amarinder slams Centre, moves resolution against farm laws

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CHANDIGARH: CHANDIGARH: Saying that he is not afraid of dismissal of his government, chief minister Amarinder Singh on Tuesday moved three bills in the Punjab assembly to counter the Centre’s farm laws, which have triggered protests by farmers and opposition parties in different parts of the country including Punjab.

“I am not afraid of resigning. I am not afraid if my government is dismissed. But I will not let the farmers suffer or be ruined,” the Punjab CM said while introducing these resolutions.

The resolution also rejected the Centre’s proposed Electricity (Amendment) Bill 2020.

Singh appealed to all parties to rise above their political interests to save Punjab.

Cautioning the Centre against allowing the situation to get out of hand, Amarinder Singh said: “If the farm laws are not revoked, angry youths can come out on the streets to join the farmers, leading to chaos. The way things are going on, the situation has the potential to disturb the peaceful atmosphere in the state.”

He said that this is what had happened in the 80s and 90s when Sikh militancy had gripped Punjab.

“Both China and Pakistan will collude and try to take advantage of any disruption in the state’s peace, which will pose a serious threat to national security,” he added.

The resolution expressed the state assembly’s “deep regret” over the “callous and inconsiderate attitude of the Government of India in attending to the concerns of the farming community on recent farm legislation enacted by them”.

“The assembly is constrained to unanimously reject the three legislations and the proposed Electricity (Amendment) Bill, 2020,” stated the resolution, which was read out by the Speaker.

The three bills introduced by Singh to counter the Centre’s laws are — the Farmers Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Special Provisions and Punjab Amendment Bill 2020, the Essential Commodities (Special Provisions and Punjab Amendment) Bill 2020, and the Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services (Special Provisions and Punjab Amendment) Bill 2020.

The chief minister said these bills would form the basis of the state’s legal battle ahead.

The Centre has been saying that the three farm laws will raise farmers’ income, free them from the clutches of the middleman and usher in new technology in farming.

The opposition and some farmers’ organisations have, however, been agitating against the laws alleging they will destroy the minimum support price mechanism, end Agricultural Produce Market Committees and allow corporates to arm-twist farmers.

(With inputs from agencies)

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INDIA

Elections during Covid: Poll spending limit enhanced by 10%

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NEW DELHI: Poll spending limit for candidates in Bihar assembly poll as well as impending bypolls to one Lok Sabha seat and 59 assembly seats stands enhanced by 10%, with the Central government notifying the higher expenditure ceiling recommended by the Election Commission for all polls to be held during the Covid-19 pandemic.

In line with the EC proposal sent to the law ministry last month, the limit for all states/UTs where the cap for Lok Sabha poll was Rs 70 lakh, has been raised to Rs 77 lakh; and for states/UTs with Rs 54 lakh as existing limit, to Rs 59.4 lakh. For assembly polls, candidates in states/UTs with Rs 28 lakh as the expenditure limit, can now spend up to Rs 30.8 lakh and those with Rs 20 lakh as existing limit, up to Rs 22 lakh.

As per the notification issued by the law ministry on Monday, the enhanced poll expenditure limits will remain in force till such date as may be notified by the Central government.

The raised limits are set to come as a relief for political parties and candidates as they deal with additional expenditure on public rallies and meetings in view of precautions that need to be taken in line with Covid-19 health protocols. This included additional expenditure on sanitisers, masks and regulation of crowds so as to adhere to social distancing norms.

EC had, while seeking a 10% hike in expenditure limit for all polls and bypolls to be held during the Covid-19 pandemic, justified it saying that the precautionary measures to be taken by candidates while interacting with the public would entail a cost additional to normal expenditure incurred during the campaign. Also, a larger number of smaller gatherings may need to be organised with large gatherings not feasible, it had added.

Meanwhile, EC is also contemplating a permanent revision in the ceiling on expenditure by a candidate in Lok Sabha/assembly poll. Sources said the EC will be setting up a committee to revisit the poll spending limit for all future polls in view of the country’s total electorate having grown by 1.1 times from 834 million to 921 million and cost inflation index going up 1.37 times from 220 to 301 between 2014, when the poll spending limit was last raised, and 2020.

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INDIA

Time has come to stop blanket extension of bails, paroles for Covid-19 reason: HC

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NEW DELHI: The Delhi High Court on Tuesday observed that its blanket order extending interim bails and paroles granted to prisoners in view of the Covid-19 pandemic should come to an end as the number of infected persons in jails here was only three.

According to the director general (prisons), over 6,700 prisoners are out on bail or parole and continue to remain outside in view of the blanket order passed and extended from time-to-time by a full bench of the high court.

The DG Prisons also told the high court that the three jails – Tihar, Rohini and Mandoli – in the national capital together have a capacity of around 10,000, but presently there were 15,900 prisoners lodged in them.

The full bench headed by Chief Justice D N Patel on Tuesday said, “Let us bring to an end the Covid-19 chapter. Let these people surrender or go back to jail. We passed the order in view of the pandemic. Our order has nothing to do with overcrowding of the jails. We are not concerned by the nature of the crimes.”

“The Covid chapter is over. The other reasons for grant or extension of bail and parole can continue. We will go back to the situation that prevailed in January-February this year,” he added.

The bench also observed that the prison was taking care of the issue and those who had tested positive for Covid-19 in jails have been hospitalised.

The Chief Justice said the judges of the full bench, also including Justices Siddharth Mridul and Talwant Singh, will sit together and take a decision on whether to extend the blanket or not.

The observations by the bench came while hearing an application, moved by one of the prosecutors dealing with the northeast Delhi riots cases in the trial courts, seeking modification of the high court’s July 13 and July 24 orders by which it had clarified that its orders extending interim bails/paroles would be applicable to everyone granted the relief before or after March 16.

The application has alleged that the two orders were being misused by the accused in the riots cases by seeking bail on grounds of family illness or some such other reasons, instead of seeking regular bail, and then getting the same extended on the basis of the high court’s direction.

The lawyer told the bench during the hearing around 20 accused in the riots cases were out on interim bail on some pretext and are now enjoying the benefits of the high court’s blanket order.

He also said that the prosecution opposes grant of bail in such cases as the accused do not surrender after the bail expires in view of the high court order.

Delhi government standing counsel (criminal) Rahul Mehra, appearing for the DG Prisons, told the bench that removing the blanket order would go against the spirit of the Supreme Court’s order to decongest jails during the pandemic as COVID-19 cases have not gone down in the national capital.

He further said that the decongestion of the prisons has not led to any increase in crimes or anarchy in the city.

The high court on September 28 had said it will not permit misuse of its orders and it will recall its extension order if it was being misused.

The bench said, “If they (prisoners) are misusing it, we will stop it and then let them suffer.”

The high court on August 24 had extended till October 31 all the interim orders which were to expire on or after August 31 in cases that are before it as also the district courts in view of the persisting Covid-19 pandemic.

It had also extended the relief in cases related to those who were enlarged on interim bail or parole and may carry Covid-19 infection.

If interim bail of anyone is ending, they are required to surrender to the already congested and over-crowded jails, which may not be in a position to strictly maintain physical distancing amongst inmates, it may pose a risk of unchecked spread of the virus, the court had said.

On March 25, the high court had extended till May 15 the interim orders in all matters pending before it and subordinate courts in view of the coronavirus-triggered lockdown. Thereafter, the relief was extended from time-to-time.

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