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
July 27,2021

New Delhi, July 27: Reports on Israeli Pegasus spyware allegedly being used to spy on opposition leaders, two union ministers and 40 journalists among others should be investigated by a sitting or former judge, senior journalists N Ram and Sashi Kumar have said in a petition to the Supreme Court.

The petition says the global investigation involving several leading publications around the world has revealed that more than 142 persons in India were identified as potential targets for surveillance using Israeli firm NSO's Pegasus spyware.

The petition says the Supreme Court should direct the government to disclose whether it has obtained a license for the spyware or used it - directly or indirectly - to conduct surveillance of any kind.

According to the petitioners, the forensic analysis of several mobile phones belonging to people listed as potential targets by the Security Lab of Amnesty International have confirmed security breaches.

Opposition leaders including Rahul Gandhi, two union ministers, businessman Anil Ambani, a former CBI chief, a virologist and 40 journalists are on the list of 300 phones from India revealed to be on the list of potential targets on the leaked database of NSO. It is not established, however, that all the phones were hacked.

Two petitions were filed earlier in the Supreme Court on the same case, one by CPM MP John Brittas and the other by advocate ML Sharma.

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coastaldigest.com news network
July 26,2021

Bengaluru, Jul 26: With the chief minister B S Yediyurappa, who had single-handedly led the party to the seat of power in Karnataka, finally quitting the post, the Central BJP leaders are likely to announce new name to head the only-BJP-government in the entire southern-peninsula.

While Yediyurappa is perceived as a ‘soft Hindutva’ ideologue, the BJP is said to be considering a hardliner backed by the RSS to become its face for the 2023 polls. 

According to official sources, there are several names to replace B S Yediyurappa doing the rounds including that of the Union minister Prahlad Joshi, Karnataka Assembly Speaker Vishvedhwar Hegde Kageri, Home minister S R Bommai, Mining minister Murugesh Nirani and others. 

The Central BJP leaders who had directed the Chief minister B S Yediyurappa to demit office, must have a definite name at their proposal and may announce it very soon, a senior BJP party functionary said.

Speaking to newsmen, after coming out from the Raj Bhavan, submitting his resignation Chief minister said, "The Governor had accepted my resignation and has asked to remain in office as caretaker till the next alternate arrangements were made".

The outgoing chief minister thanked Prime minister Narendra Modi, Home Minister Amit Shah, and the BJP National President J P Nadda, for showing generosity for heading the state despite being beyond the age of 75".

Terming his resignation to the office of the Chief minister as an act of 'Voluntary-one" he said, "During my visit to Delhi recently I myself had requested to replace me with a new face."

Replying to the question he said he would remain in active politics and work for the party to bring it back to power in the 2023 assembly elections.

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News Network
July 30,2021

New Delhi, July 30: The Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) on Friday announced results for class 12 board exams. 

The board exams were cancelled this year in view of the aggressive second wave of Covid-19, and the result will be announced on basis of an alternate assessment policy by the board.

Here's how you can check the result online

Step 1: Visit cbseresults.nic.in, or cbse.gov.in. 

Step 2: On the homepage of the website, click on the link related to the CBSE Class 12 Result 2021. You will be directed to a new window.

Step 3: Enter your roll number and other details.

Step 4: Hit the submit tab once done.

Step 5: Your CBSE Class 12 Result 2021 will open in a new window.

Step 6: Download and take a print of your CBSE Class 12 Result 2021.

CBSE Class 12 Result 2021: How to find your roll number

Step 1: In a browser, search for cbseit.in/cbse/2021/rfinder/RollDetails.aspx.

Step 2: Fill in details including name, mother’s name, father’s name, and school code.
Step 3: Click on the 'search' option.

Step 4: Your roll number will be displayed on the screen.

You can carefully note down your roll number and keep it safely.

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