NCB searches for Sushant’s friend for questioning in drugs case

Agencies
January 8, 2021

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Mumbai, Jan 8: The Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB) on Friday carried out searches to look for late Bollywood actor Sushant Singh Rajput's friend who had skipped the agency's summons for questioning a day earlier in a drugs-related case, officials said.

"We are looking for Sushant's friend and Assistant Director Rishikesh Pawar who has been absconding since yesterday," a senior NCB official connected to probe told media.

The official said that the NCB had directed Pawar to appear for quizzing on Thursday but he skipped the summons.

The latest development pertains to drugs-related case linked to the death of Sushant, who was found dead at his Bandra flat in Mumbai on June 14.

The NCB had registered two cases on Enforcement Directorate (ED) request after a few alleged chats vis-a-vis drugs came to the fore in August last year.

The NCB has since questioned top Bollywood actors like Deepika Padukone, Sara Ali Khan, Shraddha Kapoor, Rakul Preet Singh and several others.

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Agencies
January 12,2021

Mumbai, Jan 12: The Central Board of Direct Taxes dashed hopes of all taxpayers waiting for further extension of due dates for filing tax returns rejecting all representation in this regard, citing that the process cannot be delayed 'indefinitely' and hamper the functioning of the tax department and welfare programmes of the government.

The decision means that individual taxpayers who have missed the January 10 deadline for filing returns may now have to pay a penalty to complete the process. Similarly, taxpayers who need to file audit report before filing returns will have to do so by January 15 and file their returns by February 15.

The income tax department had received several representations to further extend dates for filing returns as disruptions caused pandemic had continued to create problems for various taxpayers. The suggestion was to extend dates for all categories of taxpayers to March 31.

In its office order directing all tax formation across the country to see the due dates for tax payment is followed as no further extensions were due, the CBDT cited that the contentions of lesser number of audit reports filed this year and thereby extension was required, as completely baseless. It said that even in previous years audit reports were filed in the last few days before the deadline and similar trends were seen even in 2020-21.

The board also cited that India has been more generous compared to other global economies, particularly, Covid hit the US and UK, in providing relief to its taxpayers on compliance issues.

Moreover, the statistics of returns filed this year clearly shows that the numbers are higher than last year already. In 2019-20, about 5.62 crore income tax returns were filed till due date and this year (2020-21) already 5.95 ITRs have been filed (up to January 10).

Any further extension would adversely affect the return filing discipline and shall cause injustice to those who have taken pains to file the return before the due date, CBDT said in its order.

It will also hamper the government's efforts to provide relief to the poor during Covid times, the office order said.

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News Network
January 10,2021

Wuhan, Jan 10: It is the world’s most pressing scientific puzzle, but experts warn there may never be conclusive answers over the source of the coronavirus, after an investigative effort marked from the start by disarray, Chinese secrecy and international rancour.

January 11 marks the anniversary of China confirming its first death from Covid-19, a 61-year-old man who was a regular at the now-notorious Wuhan wet market.

Nearly two million deaths later, the pandemic is out of control across much of the world, leaving tens of millions ill, a pulverised global economy and recriminations flying between nations.

Yet China, which has broadly controlled the pandemic on its soil, is still frustrating independent attempts to trace the virus’ origins and the central question of how it jumped from animals to humans.

There is little dispute that the virus which brought the world to its knees sparked its first known outbreak in late 2019 at a wet market in the central Chinese city of Wuhan where wildlife was sold as food, and the pathogen is believed to have originated in an undetermined bat species.

But the trail ends there, clouded by a mishmash of subsequent clues that suggest its origins may predate Wuhan as well as conspiracy theories — amplified by US President Donald Trump — that it leaked from a Wuhan lab.

Establishing the source is vital for extinguishing future outbreaks early, leading virologists say, providing clues that can guide policy decisions on whether to cull animal populations, quarantine affected persons, or limit wildlife hunting and other human-animal interactions.

“If we can identify why they (viruses) keep emerging, we can reduce those underlying drivers,” said Peter Daszak, president of EcoHealth Alliance, a global NGO focused on infectious disease prevention.

China won early kudos for reporting the virus and releasing its gene sequence in a timely manner, compared with its cover-up of the 2002-03 SARS outbreak.

But there has also been secrecy and shifting stories.

Wuhan authorities initially tried to cover up the outbreak and later spent precious weeks denying human-to-human transmission.

Early on, Chinese officials declared flatly that the outbreak began at the Huanan Seafood Market in Wuhan.

But Chinese data in January 2020 showed that several of the first cases had no known links to the now-shuttered market, suggesting a source elsewhere.

China’s story morphed again last March when top Chinese disease control official Gao Fu said the market was not the source, but a “victim”, a place where the pathogen was merely amplified.

But China has since failed to publicly connect any dots, releasing scant information on animal and environmental samples taken at the market that could aid investigators, experts say.

And it has kept foreign experts at arm’s length, with a planned mission by World Health Organization virus sleuths now in limbo after China denied them entry.

On Saturday, a top Chinese health official said the country was now “ready” for the 10-strong team and opened the door to a visit to Wuhan.

Yet “the specific time is being determined”, National Health Commission vice minister Zeng Yixin told reporters.

What the scientists will be allowed to see or may expect to find a year on is also in doubt. Experts say authorities may have destroyed or scrubbed away crucial evidence in a panicked initial response.

“Every outbreak goes the same way. It’s chaotic and dysfunctional,” said Daszak.

“They didn’t do a great job on the animal investigation early on,” he added.

“In some ways, they were quite open, in others they were less than open.”

The reasons for China’s secrecy are unclear, but the ruling Communist Party has a history of suppressing politically damaging information.

Whistleblowers and citizen reporters who shared details of the terrifying early weeks of the virus on the internet have since been muzzled or jailed.

Beijing may want to hide regulatory or investigative lapses to avoid domestic embarrassment or global “blowback”, said Daniel Lucey, a Georgetown University epidemiologist who closely tracks global outbreaks.

The Wuhan market might not even be the issue, Lucey adds.

He notes that the virus was already spreading rapidly in Wuhan by December 2019, indicating that it was in circulation much earlier.

That’s because it may take months or even years for a virus to develop the necessary mutations to become highly contagious among humans.

The market-origin theory is “just not plausible whatsoever”, Lucey said.

“It occurred naturally and it had to have been many months earlier, perhaps a year, perhaps more than a year.”

Augmenting the doubt, in December China said the number of coronavirus cases circulating in Wuhan may have been 10 times higher early in the epidemic than revealed by official figures at the time.

The trail has now gone cold, with the drip of subsequent clues only adding to the confusion, including findings that the virus may have existed in Europe and Brazil before Wuhan’s outbreak, unconfirmed suggestions which China has seized upon to deflect blame.

Daszak remains hopeful the source can be found, especially after US President Donald Trump’s re-election loss.

He blames Trump for killing cooperation with China by politicising the virus — typified by his “China virus” label — and his administration’s promotion of the conspiracy theory that China created it in a lab, which scientists reject.

“I’m confident we will eventually find out the bat species it came from and the likely pathway,” Daszak said.

Others are less certain.

Diana Bell, a wildlife disease expert at the University of East Anglia who has studied the SARS virus, Ebola and other pathogens, said focusing on a particular origin species is misguided.

She says the overarching threat has already been exposed: a global wildlife trade that fosters a “combustible mix” of trafficked species, a known breeding ground for disease outbreaks.

“(The species) actually doesn’t matter. We don’t need to know the source, we just need to stop that sodding mixing of animals in markets,” she said.

“We need to stop the wildlife trade for human consumption.”

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News Network
January 17,2021

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Kasaragod, Jan 17: A major calamity was averted following the timely detection of a fire in Malabar Express which was moving from Mangaluru to Thiruvananthapuram on Sunday. 

According to sources, the train (No 06630) which left Mangaluru on Saturday evening met with the mishap at Edava on Kollam-Thiruvananthapuram border area by Sunday morning. 

The fire broke out from the parcel van close to the engine and a gatekeeper who spotted the smoke alerted the authorities and the fire was swiftly put out.

A commercial supervisor of Kasargod railway station, Narayan Naik, was placed under suspension after a preliminary enquiry found that the fire originated from two motorcycles improperly loaded from Kasargod. A detailed probe into the incident was also on, railway sources said.

The incident took place by around 7.35 am. After the train left Paravur station in Kollam district and was proceeding towards Varkala in Thiruvananthapuram, a gate keeper near the Edava station noticed the smoke and alerted the Varkala station authorities. 

The message was immediately passed on the loco pilot of the train and the train was stopped and loco pilot and guard tried to extinguish the fire. Fire and Rescue Services personnel too joined and the fire was put out before spreading.

Passengers who got panicked and remained off the coaches while the fire fighting was going on. Passengers said that burning smell was persisting for some time and they were under the impression that it would be from outside. After safety inspections, the train resumed the journey to Thiruvananthapuram.

Railway sources said that there were not much luggage in the parcel van as most luggage were already offloaded at stations prior to Paravur. Estimation of loss to property was being determined.

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