Karnataka govt urged to declare 2020-21 zero academic year for students up to Class 7

News Network
October 17, 2020

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Bengaluru, Oct 17: Janata Dal (Secular) leader and MLC Basavaraj Horatti has urged the Karnataka government to not open classes for students up to Class 7 during this academic year to ensure the safety of students in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic and declare 2020-2021 zero academic year.

Speaking to media persons here today, Horatti said classes must be conducted batch-wise for students from Class 8th to 10. Besides, students of pre-university and first-grade colleges are not kids and their immunity power would be high. So, colleges could be opened, he suggested.

More than 250 teachers have tested positive for Covid-19 and around 70 teachers have died.  "Is there a government in the state?" he questioned.

Referring to the Vidyagama scheme, he said the government is of the view that around 47 lakh students have benefitted from it. But in reality, not even 5% of students attended classes.

Horatti said that food items that should have been distributed to students were rotting in godowns and the government's apathy was responsible for this. He urged the government to initiate action against the officials concerned.

On the New Education Policy, he said the Centre must collect opinions from the states before implementing it. Except for the point that education must be given in mother tongue, the remaining factors are in favour of the BJP and not the education sector, he said.

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News Network
October 19,2020

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Houston, Oct 19: A 14-year-old Indian-American girl has won a USD 25,000 young scientist challenge for a discovery that could provide a potential treatment for Covid-19.

Anika Chebrolu, an eighth-grader from Frisco in Texas, won the 3M Young Scientist Challenge, regarded as the US' premier middle school science competition, for her work using in-silico methodology for drug discovery to find a molecule that can selectively bind to the Spike protein of SARS-CoV-2 virus in an attempt to find a cure for the coronavirus pandemic, according to the 3M Challenge website.

3M is an American manufacturing company based in Minnesota.

Chebrolu decided to take part in the Young Scientist Challenge after she battled a severe influenza infection last year. She wanted to find a cure for influenza. However, that all changed after the Covid-19 pandemic hit, the website said.

“I was drawn towards finding effective cures for influenza disease after a severe bout of the infection last year,” Chebrolu said.

“I would like to learn more from 3M scientists to pursue my drug development and with their help, would like to conduct in-vitro and in-vivo testing of my lead drug candidate,” she said.

Chebrolu was one of the 10 finalists in this year’s 3M Young Scientist Challenge. In addition to the prize money, she was also awarded an exclusive 3M Mentorship.

As a finalist, she worked with 3M Corporate Scientist Dr Mahfuza Ali, who mentored Chebrolu one-on-one throughout the summer. Together, they transformed her idea from concept to reality.

Dr Ali helped Chebrolu perfect her innovation through the scientific method, and she presented her project to a judging panel of scientists and leaders. Each finalist was evaluated on a series of challenges and the presentation of their completed innovation.

"I am extremely humbled at being selected America's Top Young Scientist as all of the finalists had amazing projects and were extremely well-rounded individuals," Chebrolu said.

"Science is the basis of life and the entire universe and we have a long way to go understand it fully," said Chebrolu, who wants to become a medical researcher and professor.

Talking to CNN, Chebrolu said, "The last two days, I saw that there is a lot of media hype about my project since it involves the SARS-CoV-2 virus and it reflects our collective hopes to end this pandemic as I, like everyone else, wish that we go back to our normal lives soon."

Chebrolu said she was inspired to find potential cures to viruses after learning about the 1918 flu pandemic and finding out how many people die every year in the US despite annual vaccinations and anti-influenza drugs on the market.

"Chebrolu has an inquisitive mind and used her curiosity to ask questions about a vaccine for Covid-19," Dr Cindy Moss, a judge for the competition, told CNN.

"Her work was comprehensive and examined numerous databases. She also developed an understanding of the innovation process and is a masterful communicator. Her willingness to use her time and talent to help make the world a better place gives us all hope," Moss said.

Chebrolu said that winning the prize and title of top young scientist is an honour, but her work isn't done.

Her next goal, she says, is to work alongside scientists and researchers who are fighting to "control the morbidity and mortality" of the pandemic by developing her findings into an actual cure for the virus.

"My effort to find a lead compound to bind to the spike protein of the SARS-CoV-2 virus this summer may appear to be a drop in the ocean, but still adds to all these efforts," she told CNN.

"How I develop this molecule further with the help of virologists and drug development specialists will determine the success of these efforts," she said.

Denise Rutherford, senior vice president of Corporate Affairs at 3M in his congratulatory message said that amidst the challenges of a global pandemic, quality STEM education for all has become an even more urgent need.

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News Network
October 23,2020
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Bengaluru, Oct 23: Taunting the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) for its free COVID-19 vaccine promise in Bihar Assembly polls, former Karnataka Chief Minister and senior Congress leader Siddaramaiah on Friday asked whether Kannadigas would get vaccines since there is no general election in Karnataka.

Siddaramaiah, in a series of tweets, also questioned whether Chief Minister BS Yediyurappa will announce free COVID-19 vaccines for the people of the state.

"Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman has made it clear that the distribution of free vaccine is dependent on the electoral outcome in Bihar. Should pandemic not be a concern for Central govt? What does PM Narendra Modi have to say about this? Is it 'Vote over Health & Life' for BJP4?" Siddaramaiah tweeted.

The senior Congress leader also said that he hopes the 25 MPs from the state and Yediyurappa have the spine to demand free COVID-19 vaccine for Karnataka.

"There is no general election in Ktaka now. Does this mean Kannadigas will not get free vaccine? I hope 25 MPs, @CMofKarnataka & @BJP4Karnataka President has spine to demand free vaccine for Kannadigas also. Or will BJP President make way for another general election soon?" he said.

"Kannadigas are waiting for the announcement of free vaccine by govt. Will @BJP4Karnataka President assure on behalf of @narendramodi? Or will he conspire against @CMofKarnataka @BSYBJP to eventually promise in the election manifesto? #OpportunistBJP," he added.

The BJP on Thursday released its manifesto for three-phased Bihar elections and promised that after approval of coronavirus vaccine, every person in the state will get vaccinated free of cost. Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman released the party's manifesto.

The party has been facing ire from the opposition parties incliding the Congress and the Shiv Sena over the free vaccine promise.

Notably, three vaccines are in advanced stages of development in the country, out of which two are in Phase II and one is in Phase-III trials.

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News Network
October 14,2020

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New Delhi, Oct 14: The Supreme Court Wednesday said the centre should implement "as soon as possible" interest waiver on loans of up to Rs 2 crore under the RBI moratorium scheme in view of the Covid-19 pandemic, saying the common man's Diwali is in the government's hands.

The apex court sought to know from the Centre as to whether the benefit of loan interest waiver for borrowers of up to Rs 2 crore during the moratorium period has “percolated” to the common man.

The court, which observed that it is concerned about how the benefit of interest waiver would be given to borrowers, said the Centre has taken a “welcome decision” by taking note of the plight of the common man but authorities have not issued any order in this regard.

“Something concrete has to be done,” a bench headed by Justice Ashok Bhushan said, adding, “Benefits of waivers to borrowers up to Rs 2 crore must be implemented as soon as possible”.

The top court, which posted the matter for hearing on November 2, told the advocates appearing for the Centre and banks that “Diwali is in your hand”.

The Centre recently told the apex court that going any further than the fiscal policy decisions already taken, such as waiver of compound interest charged on loans of up to Rs 2 crore for six months moratorium period, maybe "detrimental" to the overall economic scenario, the national economy and banks may not take "inevitable financial constraints".

The top court is hearing a batch of petitions which have raised issues concerning the six-month loan moratorium period announced due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

The bench, also comprising Justices R S Reddy and M R Shah, said when authorities have decided something then it has to be implemented.

“The government has taken a welcome decision taking note of the plight of common man. But you have not issued any order to anybody. You have simply given us the affidavit,” the bench told Solicitor General Tushar Mehta.

“We are now concerned about how waiver benefit will be given,” the bench said, adding, “We are only asking whether the loan interest waiver has percolated or not”.

During the hearing conducted through video-conferencing, Mehta told the bench that the Centre has taken an “informed decision” and has taken a “huge burden”.

“When Central Government says on an affidavit that it will be implemented then there should not be any apprehensions,” Mehta said. “There is diversity in lending and different modalities are required to be followed.”

He said banks would waive interest on interest and then will be compensated by the government and calculation will have different modalities.

“We are telling you that it is a welcome decision but they want some concrete things,” the bench observed, adding, “We welcome the decision of the Centre, only thing it should be translated practically”.

The bench said the Centre may take steps to implement its decisions referred to in the affidavits filed in the court.

Senior advocate Harish Salve, appearing for banks association, told the bench that banks would implement whatever decision has been taken by the government.

Senior lawyer Rajeev Dutta, appearing for one of the petitioners, said the banks are capitalizing by taking interest on interest on existing loans.

“We are small people with small loans (less than Rs 2 crore). They should not compound the interest in these cases," Dutta said.

To this, the bench said it has already ordered that banks cannot declare NPAs.

“We have already passed an order prohibiting classification of NPA's and without a fiscal policy, proposals cannot be altered,” it said, while asking the Centre and banks association as to when the benefits would be implemented.

“For these modalities you require one-month time,” the bench asked.

Salve said, “The complexity is such, it requires time”.

The bench, however, said that the decisions taken by the authorities should be implemented now.

The top court is hearing the petitions, including the one which has sought a direction to declare the portion of an RBI notification, issued on March 27, "ultra vires to the extent it charges interest on the loan amount during the moratorium period..."

The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has recently filed an affidavit in the apex court recently saying that loan moratorium exceeding six months might result in “vitiating the overall credit discipline”, which will have a “debilitating impact” on the process of credit creation in the economy.

These affidavits were filed following the top court's October 5 order asking them to place on record the K V Kamath committee recommendations on debt restructuring because of the Covid-19 related stress on various sectors as well as the notifications and circulars issued so far on loan moratorium.

It has also said that the apex court’s interim order of September 4, restraining classification of accounts into non-performing accounts in terms of the directions issued by the RBI, may kindly be vacated with immediate effect.

The Kamath panel had made recommendations for 26 sectors that could be factored by lending institutions while finalising loan resolution plans and had said that banks could adopt a graded approach based on the severity of the coronavirus pandemic on a sector.

Initially, the RBI on March 27 had issued the circular which allowed lending institutions to grant a moratorium on payment of instalments of term loans falling due between March 1, 2020, and May 31, 2020, due to the pandemic.

Later, the period of the moratorium was extended till August 31 this year.

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