Mariamma Varkey, founder of Dubai's first private school, passes away at 90

News Network
March 31, 2021

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Dubai, Mar 31: One of the pioneer private sector educators of the UAE, Mariamma Varkey, passed away at her son's Dubai residence on Wednesday morning. She was 90.

The matriarch of the Varkey family, along with her late husband KS Varkey, founded Dubai's first private school, Our Own English High School, in 1968.

She was bed-ridden for several years.

She is survived by her son Sunny Varkey, Chairman of the GEMS group — the world's largest school operator — and daughter Susan Mathews.

The Dubai Mar Thoma Parish has offered "heartfelt condolences" to the bereaved family members. Mariamma Varkey was one of "our senior most members", the parish said.

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News Network
July 24,2021

Bengaluru, July 24: Further easing Covid-19 restrictions, the Karnataka government on Saturday permitted reopening of amusement parks and similar places, and allowed places of worship to carry out related religious activities from July 25.

"Amusement Parks and similar places permitted to reopen strictly adhering to Covid-appropriate behaviour and following guidelines issued by the Health and Family Welfare Department," an order issued by Principal Secretary to Revenue Department (Disaster Management) N Manjunatha Prasad said.

However, water sports and water related adventure activities are not allowed, it said.

Also, places of worship (Temples, Mosques, Churches, Gurudwaras, and other religious places) are allowed to open and related activities pertaining to the places of worship are permitted from July 25, strictly adhering to Covid-19 appropriate behaviour and SOP issued by the department concerned.

However, temple festivals, processions, and congregations are not allowed, the order added.

Earlier this month the government had allowed places of worship to open only for darshan, and no other special seva or other activities were permitted. 

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News Network
July 17,2021

Bengaluru, July 17: JD(S) leader HD Kumaraswamy on Saturday said Karnataka Chief Minister BS Yediyurappa’s meeting with Prime Minister Narendra Modi piqued his curiosity.

“According to my information, Yediyurappa had six bags with him. What was in those bags?” Kumaraswamy wondered, amid speculation that Yediyurappa was on his way out.

"It piques one's curiosity. Was Yediyurappa carrying six bags full of documents on issues faced by Karnataka? Or, was it something else? Media reports claimed that these were gifts. Did these bags go in with Yediyurappa when he met the PM?" he asked, taking a dig at Yediyurappa's meeting with Modi.

The former chief minister was speaking after holding a district-level meeting with the party cadre. The party is conducting district-level meetings for the past three days, he said. "We will fight the Zilla Panchayat and Taluk Panchayat elections fiercely. This is like the semi-finals ahead of the Assembly elections. I have urged all party members to spend time with people at the ground level," he stated.

Regional issues will be the party's electoral plank in the next elections, Kumaraswamy said, giving an instance of the Mekedatu and Mahadayi projects that are stuck in disputes.

"Yediyurappa recently claimed that Union Minister Gajendra Singh Shekhawat was here to discuss Mekedatu and Mahadayi issues, whereas he was here only to review the implementation of Jal Jeevan Mission project. The same Union minister has told the Tamil Nadu minister that Mekedatu still has a long way to go before being approved. This shows that the Centre is not serious about Karnataka's interests," Kumaraswamy alleged, reiterating that Karnataka did not need "high command" administration. 

‘High command asked to continue as CM’

Meanwhile, terming his visit to Delhi as successful, Chief Minister B S Yediyurappa on Saturday said Central leaders have asked him to continue in his post and that there was no discussion on leadership change.

"The central leaders have asked me to continue as Chief Minister and strengthen the party.It is our duty to follow their instructions from time to time.There is no question of leadership change," Yediyurappa told reporters here on his return from New Delhi.

Earlier in the day, Yediyurappa had dismissed news reports about his resignation as chief minister as "not at all true".

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News Network
July 19,2021

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Makkah, July 19: Muslim pilgrims ascended Saudi Arabia's Mount Arafat on Monday in the high point of this year's Hajj, being held in downsized form and under coronavirus restrictions for the second year running.

Just 60,000 people, all citizens or residents of Saudi Arabia, have been selected to take part in this year's Hajj, with foreign pilgrims again barred.

The mask-clad faithful, who had spent the night in camps in the Valley of Mina, converged on Mount Arafat where it is believed the Prophet Mohammed delivered his final sermon, for the most important of the Hajj rituals.

Worshippers will assemble on the 70-metre (230-foot) high hill and its surrounding plain for hours of prayers and Quran recitals to atone for their sins, staying there until the evening.

After sunset, they head to Muzdalifah, halfway between Arafat and Mina, where they will sleep under the stars before performing the symbolic "stoning of the devil".

The scene was dramatically different to past pilgrimages, which have drawn up to 2.5 million people, and this year the mountain was free of the huge crowds that descend on it in normal years.

Privileged few

Being one of the lucky few "gives you a feeling that our God is forgiving and has chosen us to be in this place," said Selma Mohamed Hegazi, a 45-year-old Egyptian. "God willing, our prayers will be accepted."

"My whole body is shivering," she said as she stood among the other emotional pilgrims, wearing the ihram, the traditional seamless white garment worn during the Haj.

Worshippers described a sense of tranquillity descending on the mountain, also known as the "Mount of Mercy".

"To be one of only 60,000 doing haj ....I feel like I am part of a (privileged) group that was able to reach this place," said Baref Siraj, a 58-year-old Saudi national.
The Haj, one of the five pillars of Islam and a must for able-bodied Muslims with the means to travel at least once in their lifetime, is usually one of the world's largest religious gatherings.

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.

Safety first

Authorities are seeking to repeat last year's successful event, which took place on the smallest scale in modern history with just 10,000 participants, but which saw no virus outbreak.
Saudi health authorities said Sunday that not a single Covid case had been reported amongst the pilgrims this year.

The kingdom has so far recorded more than 509,000 coronavirus infections, including over 8,000 deaths. Some 20 million vaccine doses have been administered in the country of over 34 million people.

The Haj, which typically packs large crowds into congested religious sites, could have been a super-spreader event for the virus.

But Saudi Arabia has said it is deploying 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 potential exposure, and a "smart Haj card" has been introduced to allow contact-free access to camps, hotels and the buses to ferry pilgrims around religious sites.

Black-and-white robots have been deployed to dispense bottles of sacred water from the Zamzam spring in Makkah's Grand Mosque, built around the Kaaba, the black cubic structure towards which Muslims around the world pray.

Ibrahim Siam, a 64-year-old Egyptian pilgrim who comes from Dammam in the east of the country, said that high-tech procedures introduced to manage the Haj "have made things a lot easier."

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