Daily Briefing: New South Africa Covid variant triggers alert in India; PM Modi lays foundation of Jewar airport

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Hours after South African authorities announced they had detected a new variant of the novel coronavirus with a “very unusual constellation” of mutations, the Union Health Ministry has directed states to rigorously screen and test travellers coming from or transiting through three countries in which the variant had been confirmed — South Africa, Botswana, and Hong Kong. 

Only in the Express 

13 years after the 26/11 attacks, Amitabh Bachchan writes: “No terrorist must be allowed to change the way we are in the dark, or with our neighbour, or ourselves. No single act of terror must be given the power to destroy the interconnectedness of our stories, our plural solidarities. Thirteen years later, this 26/11, as we begin to see the first glimmer after the devastating pandemic, in which we lost many of our loved ones, that is the promise we need to solemnly renew to ourselves.”

From the Front Page 

Former Mumbai Police Commissioner Param Bir Singh’s sudden reappearance in Mumbai after being untraceable for more than six months came after a series of developments in various judicial forums. The IPS officer, shunted out of the post of Mumbai Commissioner in March, went underground as cases started being filed against him in Mumbai and other parts of the state, and the Mumbai police initiated enquiries against him.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi laid the foundation stone for the Jewar International Airport on Thursday, saying the project would bring “huge benefits” to crores of people in western Uttar Pradesh and the national capital region. While the Prime Minister played the development card, Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath spoke of disruptions caused by “Jinnah’s supporters”, a reference to Samajwadi Party leader Akhilesh Yadav.

A day after announcing that they were leaving the Congress, 12 of the party’s 17 MLAs in Meghalaya said they were merging with the Trinamool Congress, while regretting that they had failed to “prevail upon the leadership” despite multiple trips to Delhi. The TMC has now emerged as the main Opposition party in the Assembly, replacing the Congress.

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Punjab Lok Congress Party, the new political outfit formed by former Punjab Chief Minister Capt Amarinder Singh, has named a man with a rather dubious past as its president. Sukhinder Singh was booked by the CBI in 2019 along with his wife and son in connection with a bank fraud of Rs 33 crore. Just last month, Singh’s house was once again raided by the CBI and he was booked along with several others in a case of Rs 16.80-crore fraud caused to SIDBI and UCO banks.

Political consensus is the way forward for introducing remote voting in India, Election Commission of India officials on Thursday told a Parliamentary Standing Committee, it is learnt. The officials highlighted that remote voting may require legal changes in electoral roll related provision; polling booth, polling officials and territorial concept; conduct of elections; counting and electoral offences.

The recent National Family Health Survey-5 (NFHS-5) found a significant jump over the last five years in the number of women having bank accounts — a sign of possible improvement in women’s social and economic status within Indian households. The all-India figures show close to 80% women now have a bank account that they use — from 53 per cent in 2015-16 to 78.6 per cent in 2019-21. Interestingly, the all-India figure for phone use among women went up from 45.9% in 2015-16 to 54% in 2019-21.

Yusuf Sharif, known to some as Scrap Babu and Gujuri Babu, is now the wealthiest candidate in the forthcoming Council elections in Karnataka — and in the state’s electoral history — declaring assets worth Rs 1,744 crore. The former scrap dealer, who claims his luck changed after finding gold in the Kolar fields, , is the Congress MLC candidate for Bengaluru Urban.

And Finally 

Grandmaster Surya Sekhar Ganguly, who has worked in Viswanathan Anand’s team of seconds, writes on the preparation process for the World Chess Championship: “The work you do in the lead-up, the preparation part, you basically work on different openings and fix the match strategy. You give the player different positions, you play training games with him. You work on the end-game. For us, the process started eight months prior to the world championship.”

Delhi Confidential: Parents who believe their children have exceptional scientific abilities often visit the residence of Science and Technology minister Jitender Singh, seeking direction. Singh was pleasantly surprised upon meeting one such candidate, a 15-year-old boy who has been building rudimentary satellites at home in his Jammu village. The minister immediately put the young man in touch with ISRO where he is now being mentored.

In today’s episode of the ‘3 Things’ podcast, we discuss the highlights of the National Family Health Survey, why 12 Congress MLAs in Meghalaya have joined the TMC, and new restrictions for international travellers in India.

Until tomorrow, 

Rahel Philipose and Rounak Bagchi

Express Cartoon by EP Unny.

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