2nd scaled-down hajj of covid era witnesses highest levels of health precautions

News Network
July 18, 2021

Makkah, July 18: Hajj pilgrims streamed out of the holy city of Makkah Sunday, launching the rituals of the great pilgrimage which Saudi Arabia is holding in a scaled-down form for a second year to ward off coronavirus.

Saudi Arabia is allowing only 60,000 fully vaccinated citizens and residents of the kingdom to take part, far from the vast crowds that descend on Mecca in normal times, when the ritual draws some 2.5 million pilgrims.

Since Saturday, groups of pilgrims have been performing the "tawaf" at Makkah's Grand Mosque, circling the Kaaba, a large cubic structure draped in golden-embroidered black cloth towards which Muslims around the world pray.

After that, pilgrims have been making their way to the Valley of Mina, where they will spend the night.

"46,000 pilgrims have arrived in Mina," Deputy Minister of Hajj and Umrah Abdelfattah bin Suleiman Mashat told AFP on Sunday morning.

"The number of women participating in the Hajj this year exceeds 40 percent," he added.

Mina sits in a narrow valley surrounded by rocky mountains, and is transformed each year into a vast encampment for pilgrims.

"Public health teams are monitoring the health status of pilgrims around the clock upon their arrival in Mecca," said Sari Asiri, director of the hajj and umrah department at the health ministry.

Anyone found to be infected would be taken to isolation facilities, he added.

In the high point of the hajj, worshippers will on Monday climb Mount Arafat.

Also known as the "Mount of Mercy", it is the site where it is believed that the Prophet Mohammed delivered his final sermon.

Worshippers will undertake hours of prayers and Quranic recitals.

After descending the following day, they will gather pebbles and perform the symbolic "stoning of the devil".

The hajj, usually one of the world's largest annual religious gatherings, is one of the five pillars of Islam and must be undertaken by all Muslims with the means at least once in their lives.

This year's pilgrimage is larger than the pared-down version staged in 2020 but drastically smaller than in normal times, creating resentment among Muslims abroad who are barred once again.

Participants were chosen from more than 558,000 applicants through an online vetting system, with the event confined to fully vaccinated adults aged 18-65 with no chronic illnesses, according to the hajj ministry. 

"I thank God that we received approval to come, even though we did not expect it because of the small number of pilgrims," said Abdulaziz bin Mahmoud, an 18-year-old Saudi.

Saddaf Ghafour, a 40-year-old Pakistani woman travelling with her friend, was among the increasing number of women making the pilgrimage without a male "guardian", which was a requirement until recently.

"It is a privilege to perform hajj among a very limited number of pilgrims," she said.

Saudi Arabia has so far recorded more than 507,000 coronavirus infections, including over 8,000 deaths. Some 20 million vaccine doses have been administered in the country of over 34 million people.

The hajj, which typically packs large crowds into congested religious sites, is potentially a super-spreader event for the virus. 

But the hajj ministry has said it is working on the "highest levels of health precautions" in light of the pandemic and the emergence of new variants.

Pilgrims are being divided into groups of just 20 "to restrict any exposure to only those 20, limiting the spread of infection", ministry undersecretary Mohammad al-Bijawi said.

Aside from strict social distancing measures, authorities have introduced a "smart hajj card" to allow contact-free access to camps, hotels and the buses to ferry pilgrims around religious sites.

The hajj went ahead last year on the smallest scale in modern history.

Authorities initially said only 1,000 pilgrims would be allowed, although local media said up to 10,000 eventually took part.

No infections were reported as authorities set up multiple health facilities, mobile clinics and ambulances to cater for the pilgrims, who were taken to the religious sites in small batches.

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News Network
February 3,2023

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Bengaluru, Feb 3: The ruling BJP in Karnataka is preparing to handover the alleged sex CD scandal case of former minister and BJP MLA Ramesh Jarakiholi to the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI).

Minister of Home for Karnataka, Araga Jnanendra, meanwhile, said on Thursday that a decision will be taken regarding handing over the CD case of Jarakiholi to the CBI, after a discussion with Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai.

"Ramesh Jarkiholi met me in this regard. He had given sufficient information and requested to handover the case to CBI. Whether or not to handover the case to CBI will be decided after discussing the matter with the CM Bommai," he said.

"It is wrong to defame someone through a CD. No one should indulge in this. If it is done, police will take action," Jnanendra said.

The former Minister had been urging the state government to handover the sex CD scandal matter to the CBI.

Jarkiholi further demanded the arrest of some persons in connection with the matter.

He challenged that he would send Karnataka Congress President D.K. Shivakumar to jail, adding that hundreds of politicians from state, officers and top officers in Bengaluru are trapped in CD conspiracy. "I have 120 pieces of evidence. I am not releasing them here. The matter has to be investigated by the CBI."

Jarkiholi alleged that Shivakumar had hit him by hatching a conspiracy and got that video made to finish him off politically.

The alleged sex CD released in March 2021 created a huge controversy in the state.

Following the embarrassment, the ruling BJP in Karnataka dropped Jarkiholi from the cabinet.

Jarkiholi had played a prominent role in 'Operation Lotus' carried out by the BJP to come to power in the state. He was at the forefront of the collapse of the coalition government headed by the JD-S and the Congress.

Earlier, the Special Investigation Team probing allegations of rape against Jarkiholi had filed a 'B report' in the case, stating that no evidence to prove the charge or the other allegations made against him.

Currently, Jarkiholi is seeking a cabinet position in the state. 

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News Network
February 4,2023

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Mangaluru, Feb 4: Mangaluru North traffic police arrested a car driver on February 2, who was allegedly responsible for the death of two persons in an accident reported near a petrol bunk in Padupanambur on February 1. 

According to police, the arrested accused is YouTuber Arpith Indravadhan (35), from Indira Nagar 

It is learnt that the incident took place when three men, including the driver of a truck, were engaged in repairing the punctured tyre of the truck that was bound for Kerala, from Madhya Pradesh, when a car rammed them.

Bablu,24, and Achal Singh,27, died due to being run over by a car.

Arpith allegedly fled from the spot, without stopping the car. The Mulky police were searching for the accused and on February 4 arrested him.

Aneesh sustained serious injuries due to being run over. Based on his eyewitness account and CCTV footage, the police arrested the accused.

However, he was released on station bail, and the police seized the car he was driving.

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News Network
February 7,2023

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Mangaluru, Feb 7: The authorities and parents heaved a sigh of relief on Tuesday as most of the nursing and paramedical college students, among 231, who fell sick from food poisoning have recovered.

The hospital authorities have confirmed that most of the students admitted were discharged and many have been sent back after treatment. No student is critical and about 13 students are still under treatment, they stated.

Meanwhile, an FIR has been registered at Kadri police station against the management board, in connection with the food poisoning case based on the complaint lodged by District Surveillance Officer (DSO) Dr Jagadeesh.

As many as 231 nursing and paramedical students from a private hostel in Shaktinagar here hadfallen sick, some seriously, due to food poisoning. Among them 137 students had been admitted to at least five hospitals in the city. 

City police commissioner N Shashi Kumar said, the students had developed stomach ache, vomiting and diarrhoea, since 2am on Monday, and the college authorities had not shared any details to the family members. It is suspected water contamination could be the reason for food poisoning.

Though they complained of severe distress at 2am, they were brought to the hospital after 9pm. Sources said that the condition of some of the students was serious. While 52 students were admitted at AJ Hospital, 42 at Fr Muller Hospital, 18 at KMC, 14 at Unity Hospital, eight at City Hospital and three at Mangala Hospital. Most of them have already been discharged. 

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