Owaisi or ISF no alternative; Muslims reposed faith in TMC to stop BJP juggernaut: Politicos

News Network
May 8, 2021

Kolkata, May 8: Muslims in Bengal have largely exercised their franchise in favour of the TMC, putting to rest all speculations over their voting pattern, as results showed that the AIMIM and newly floated ISF have failed to curry favour with members of the community.

Veteran TMC leader Siddiqullah Chowdhury stated that the minority community knew well that Banerjee was the only person who could stop BJP's juggernaut in Bengal.

Voters from the community were unsure of reposing faith in the Sanjukta Morcha -- an alliance of the Left Front, Congress and Peerzada Abbas Siddiqui's Indian Secular Front (ISF) -- as ideologies of the three parties varied, he said.

"At least 95 per cent of all Muslims in Bengal voted for Mamata Banerjee. My brothers and sisters from the community would have never voted for a communal force. They have clearly realised that Mamata didi is the only one that can fight communalism in West Bengal," he told PTI.

Chowdhury also asserted that Muslims had seen through BJP's ploy to create divisions on religious lines.

"I had said during my campaigns that Muslims will definitely prove more trustworthy than others. They will remain faithful to Mamata Banerjee," the 71-year-old leader, who bagged the Monteswar seat with 1,05,460 votes, said.

Senior Congress leader Abdul Mannan, on his part, contended that scepticism of some party members over formation of a coalition with the ISF cost the Sanjukta Morcha dearly.

"People could not bank on us as the coalition did not shape up as expected, owing to non-acceptance of the ISF by some of our leaders. And that, in a way, led to our downfall," Mannan told PTI.

AIMIM's Asadullah Sheikh, however, reasoned that the Muslims, scared and threatened by the BJP, found no better option than the TMC as they could not have relied on new parties that joined the fray.

"Our Muslim brothers and sisters were tormented by BJP men. They felt threatened as BJP leaders kept harping on the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) and National Register of Citizens (NRC). Apprehensive of an uncertain future, they could not rely on Sanjukta Morcha or us," he pointed out.

Sheikh also claimed that the TMC government did nothing to improve the living standards of the community over the past 10 years, but it still managed to pocket votes because "Muslims, more than anything else, wanted to stop the BJP from coming to power in Bengal".

"The voting pattern has been the same everywhere, be it Lalgola, Bhagawalgola, Berhampore, Malda, South 24 Parganas or Birbum or Uttar Dinajpur," he explained.

Political analyst Biswanath Chakraborty also felt that the community voted for the TMC to protect their identity.

"It's 100 per cent true that members of the minority community voted for the TMC in hordes. They feared losing their identities. The poll narrative around Citizenship Act and National Register of Citizens scared them," Chakraborty told PTI.

Interestingly, the Muslim representation in West Bengal assembly has dropped this time when compared to what it was in 2016, even as members of the community voted en masse for the Mamata Banerjee camp.

The new assembly will be having 44 Muslim legislators - 43 of the TMC and one of the ISF -- as against 59 during its last term.

Apart from Chowdhury, some of the prominent Muslim legislators in the new Assembly will be TMC heavyweights Firhad Hakim, Javed Khan, Idris Ali and IPS-turned politician Humayun Kabir.

The ISF had contested 26 seats this election, while the Asaduddin Owaisi-led party fielded candidates in seven constituencies. 

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News Network
June 10,2021

New Delhi, June 10: India saw a massive jump of 6148 fresh fatalities due to the coronavirus disease (Covid-19) in the last 24 hours, as the country's death toll rose to 359,676, the Union ministry of health and family welfare’s (MoHFW) data showed on Thursday morning. This is the highest number of fatalities recorded in India due to the Covid-19 pandemic in a single-day.

The number of new cases remained below the 100,000-mark for a third straight day, as 94,052 people tested positive in this period. However, this also marks the second consecutive rise in fresh cases, though marginal. With this latest single-day jump, India’s cumulative Covid-19 infection tally has risen to 29,183,121, the data showed.

The humongous rise in daily fatalities could be attributed to the revised figures given by the Bihar government. On Wednesday, Bihar initially reported 20 new deaths, and an overall death toll of 5,478. Later, a backlog of 3,951 fatalities was added, taking the actual death toll to 9429.

According to Thursday's data, 151,367 more people recovered from the disease, taking the total number of such cases to 27,655,493, while the recovery rate improved to 94.76%. Active cases fell further to 1,167,952, a decline of 63,463 cases, and are currently at 1,167,952, comprising 4% of the total number of positive cases.

Also on Thursday, the government-run Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) put the number of samples tested for Covid-19 on June 9 at 2,004,690, as against 1,985,967 tests on June 8. A total of samples have been tested for the infection 372,198253, according to ICMR’s data.

On June 8, the Union health ministry reported 86,498 fresh infections from the preceding 24 hours; this was for the first time since April 6 that the country’s Covid-19 tally saw an addition of less than 100,000 new cases in a single-day. A day later, the number of new cases rose marginally to 92,596. The number of daily fatalities on the two days stood at 2219 and 2123 respectively.

India has the second-highest cumulative Covid-19 cases in the world, after the United States. In terms of related deaths, it is third, behind the US and Brazil, respectively.

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News Network
June 13,2021

Bengaluru, June 13: More than 1.5 lakh employees in shopping malls across Karnataka have become jobless due to lockdowns and restrictions over the past year and owners have incurred losses in crores of rupees. Mall owners have urged the government to allow them to reopen by June 21 to help them stem the tide.

Mukesh Kumar, chairman, Shopping Centres Association of India (SCAI) & CEO, Infiniti Malls, said for every person directly employed with malls, on an average, three others are indirectly employed, providing logistics and support.

“In such a scenario, at least 1.5 lakh people have lost their jobs in the state,” Kumar said during a press conference in Bengaluru on Friday. “Though around 50,000 of them were reemployed after malls reopened for a brief time, many were laid off during the second lockdown,” he said. He said over 50% of malls, a majority of them standalone ventures, will close down if no support is provided.

Sunil Munshi, AVP operations, Orion Malls, said almost 80% of employees working in malls, shops, restaurants and service sectors come from economically weaker sections.

Kumar said a moratorium extended by RBI last year ended in March and they now have nothing to fall back on. “There has hardly been any revenue for a retailer or the mall. The past few months have been so stressful that we don’t know how to cope,” he said.

He said on average, revenue from retail in malls in the state is Rs 2,000 crore per month. They pay Rs 350 crore GST. Due to lockdowns, retails have incurred losses of Rs 20,000 to 25,000 crore and governments have suffered GST loss of Rs 3,000 crore. “Malls have lost 15% of the revenue generated by retailers,” Kumar said.

Kumar said pre-Covid estimates show that across India, 1,000 malls generate monthly revenue of Rs 12,000-Rs 15,000 crore. The whole ecosystem has suffered almost Rs 1 lakh crore losses.

Najeeb Kunil, CEO, PPZ Mall Development & Management Services Co said they have urged the state government to provide waivers around rental / lease, electricity charges, upcoming renewals of existing permits / licenses / NOCs among others. They have also sought waiver of property taxes payment till January 2022 and support around minimum wages rates and guard-board payments until FY 2021-22.

He also feared a downstream effect hitting smallscale industries and small businesses which have no income with shopping malls shut. “The sooner they take a call and heed our requests, the better it will be for everyone in the ecosystem, not just the developers,” he said.

SCAI members said that the solution lies in reopening the shopping malls as soon as possible. Kunil said vaccination is a major solution. “We hope to be back to 90% of footfall by October,” he said.

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News Network
June 7,2021

New Delhi, June 7: Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Monday announced that the central government will provide free coronavirus vaccine to states for inoculation of all above the age of 18 from June 21, and asserted that vaccine supply would be increased significantly in the country in the coming days.

The Centre has decided to buy 75 per cent of jabs from vaccine makers, including 25 per cent of the state quota, and give it for free to state governments, the prime minister said in an address to the nation.

Modi said private sector hospitals can continue to procure 25 per cent of vaccines, but their service charge would be capped at Rs 150 per dose over fixed price of the vaccine.

As several states take cautious steps towards unlocking and easing of restrictions with a decline in Covid-19 cases, the prime minister said vaccination is like a protection shield against the virus and asserted that vaccine supply would be increased significantly in India in coming days.

Modi said seven companies are producing various vaccines against the coronavirus in the country and trial of three more vaccines is at an advanced stage.

The process of procuring vaccines from companies of other countries has also been expedited, the prime minister said.

Amid concerns expressed by experts recently over children being affected by the virus, Modi said that in this direction trials of two vaccines are being carried out.

Modi said research is continuing on a nasal spray vaccine which, if successful, can significantly boost India's vaccination drive, he said.

Asserting that vaccines are like a protection shield against the virus, he also asserted that with the efforts made in the country recently, vaccine supply would be increased significantly in India in coming days.

India proved its mettle by making two made-in-India Covid-19 vaccines in a short time and over 23 crore doses have already been administered, the prime minister said.

Modi asserted that efforts are being made on a war-footing to fight the Covid-19 pandemic at various levels and production of essential medicines was ramped up.

India is fighting against the Covid-19 pandemic on multiple fronts and new health infrastructure has been created across country, he asserted.

India has gone through a lot of pain during this battle and many lost their loved ones, he noted and extended his condolences to the bereaved families.

Modi has addressed the nation a number of times since the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic last year, offering suggestions to people and outlining measures his government has been taking to deal with the situation.

Key takeaways 

1. New health infrastructure has been developed in the past one and a half years with Covid-19 hospitals, ventilators beds, to preparing a network of testing labs, PM Modi said. 

2. PM Modi noted that during the second wave in April-May, demand for medical oxygen increased at an unprecedented rate. "India never faced such a huge demand of oxygen ever before, and for this, the country did everything possible to meet the demand," the PM said.

3. He stated that vaccination is the only shield but there are only a few vaccine companies in the world. "The Covid-19 vaccine is a lifesaver," he said. 

4. He lauded the efforts of scientists across the nation for preparing a vaccine against Covid-19 in such a short span. "There were fears that how would India save such a big population from the pandemic. But we managed to launch two made-in-India vaccines in no time. Our scientists proved it that we are not behind any other country," Modi said.
5. "India is fighting against the Covid-19 pandemic on multiple fronts," the prime minister said. 

6. He also said that there is a very low number of vaccine manufacturers in the world compared to its demand. "Imagine what would have happened in India if we didn't have vaccines. If you look at the history of the last 50-60 years, you will know that it used to take decades for India to get vaccines from abroad," PM Modi said.

7. The prime minister said that work on three more Covid-19 vaccines are in the advanced trial stage and research on a nasal vaccine is also being done. 

8. PM Modi announced a centralised vaccination drive where all vaccines will be procured by the Government of India and it will be given to States for free.

9. "Twenty-five per cent of vaccination work with states will now be handled by the Centre, it will be implemented in the coming two weeks. Both State and Centre will work as per new guidelines in the coming two weeks. From June 21, free vaccines will be given to all those who are above 18 years," PM Modi said.

10. "No state government of the country will have to spend anything on the vaccine. Till now, crores of people of the country have got free vaccine. Only the Government of India will provide free vaccine to all the countrymen," the prime minister said.

11. The government has decided to extend Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Anna Yojana till Diwali. About 80 crore beneficiaries will be provided free ration, under the scheme. 

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