Bombay HC asks Centre to look at Kerala, J&K pattern for door-to-door vaccination


The court was hearing a public interest litigation filed by advocates Dhruti Kapadia and Kunal Tiwari

Mumbai: The Bombay High Court on Friday said the Union government should look at the door-to-door vaccination programme carried out “successfully” by Kerala and Jammu and Kashmir, and take a “sound decision” on its present policy that states door-to-door vaccination was not possible.

A division bench of Chief Justice Dipankar Datta and Justice G S Kulkarni noted that it was unable to understand what the Centre’s problem was in starting door-to-door vaccination when states such as Kerala and Jammu and Kashmir were already carrying out such drives.

 

Responding to a query raised by the court earlier this week, as to how a senior politician got vaccinated at his residence in Mumbai, Anil Sakhare, counsel for the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC), on Friday said the jab was not given by the civic body.

The bench then asked additional government pleader Geeta Shastri, appearing for the Maharashtra government, about who administered the vaccine to the politician. Shastri sought a week’s time to respond.

To this, Chief Justice Datta said, “One week to take information on this? This is alarming. There is an old saying ‘You show me the man and I will show you the rule’.”

 

The court was hearing a public interest litigation filed by advocates Dhruti Kapadia and Kunal Tiwari, seeking door-to-door vaccination for senior citizens above the age of 75 and persons who are specially abled, wheelchair bound or bed ridden.

The court asked how the Union government policy says door-to-door vaccination was not possible presently, when individual states such as Kerala and Jammu and Kashmir were carrying out the drive.

“How is it that individual states like Kerala and Jammu and Kashmir have introduced and are successfully doing door-to-door vaccination? What is the Centre’s comment on the Kerala and Jammu and Kashmir pattern?” the bench asked.

 

“We are not able to understand what the Centre’s problem was. Why don’t you (Union) communicate with these states and if it appeals to you, then you can ask other states also to start the same drive,” the court said, asking the government to take a “sound decision”.

The court also noted that it was very happy with the good job being done by the BMC during the pandemic and asked why the civic body was hesitant to introduce door-to-door vaccination.

To this, BMC counsel Sakhre pointed out a letter written by civic commissioner Iqbal Chahal to the Centre stating that the civic body was willing to carry out door-to-door vaccination and requested the Union government to provide guidelines for the same.

 

The bench directed Additional Solicitor General Anil Singh to take instructions from the Health Secretary of the Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare on the letter and posted the matter for further hearing on June 14.

ASG Singh told the court that the COVID-19 pandemic had a national impact and all states need to work in coordination with the Centre.

“The Centre forms guidelines and it is expected from all state governments that the guidelines are followed,” Singh said, adding that the guidelines for the vaccination drive are updated as per the prevalent situation from time to time.

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Kerala CM Vijayan condemns ‘harassment’ of nuns by Hindu outfit members in UP


In his letter to Amit Shah, Vijayan sought strict action against those ‘who disrupt and impair the freedom of individual rights’

Thiruvalla: Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan on Wednesday strongly condemned the alleged harassment of a group of nuns by some Bajrang Dal activists in UP’s Jhansi recently and urged the Centre to take action, saying such incidents tarnish the image of the nation.

In his letter to Union Home Minister Amit Shah, Vijayan sought strict action against those “who disrupt and impair the freedom of individual rights” guaranteed by the Constitution.

 

Citing reports, he said two postulants, who had recently joined a Christian congregation were travelling for the first time to their homes accompanied by two nuns and were “harassed and intimidated” by the Bajrang Dal activists.

The CM further said the nuns and the postulants were forcefully removed from the train by the police following a complaint from the Bajrang Dal members alleging that the two girls were being taken for forceful religious conversion.

“You would agree with me that such incidents tarnish the image of the nation and its ancient tradition of religious tolerance and practice.”

“Such incidents require utmost condemnation by the Union Government,” Vijayan said.

 

Earlier, addressing the media in Pathanamthitta, Vijayan said the Constitution gives freedom to everyone in the country to believe and not to believe in any religion.

Everyone here has the right to live according to their faith, he added.

“.. What happened yesterday was an encroachment on the freedom. Both these freedoms are fundamental rights of Indians. The nuns faced the violation of these rights during the train journey,” he pointed out.

What happened in Uttar Pradesh should not have happened in the country and it is a “very serious matter.”

Vijayan also attacked the ruling BJP in UP, saying the northern state is ‘notorious’ for such matters.

 

“Violence in the name of religion is on the rise in many parts of our country. Violence against women and marginalized groups are on the rise.”

“Uttar Pradesh is notorious for such matters. All such illegal activities are taking place under the ruling BJP government there. It should also be taken seriously that all this is happening on an uncontrolled scale,” Vijayan said.

He asserted that his government would not allow Kerala to become a breeding ground for communalism and secularism would be fully protected.

According to officials in Jhansi, the nuns were detained after local Bajrang Dal activists complained that two of the women were allegedly being taken forcibly for religious conversion.

 

The police said there was no basis in the complaint and all four women later took the next train to their destination in Odisha.

Expressing concern over the matter, Kerala Catholic Bishops Council had called for strong action against the culpritsinvolved in the incident.

The Congress and BJP had taken up the matter with Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath, respectively.

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Heated Battle In BJP’s Lone Seat In Kerala Assembly


Kerala Assembly Polls: BJP candidate Kummanam Rajasekharan expressed confidence about his victory.

Thiruvananthapuram:

Nemom, a tiny suburb located on the outskirts of Kerala, is the most talked-about constituency in the April 6 assembly polls.

What makes it high profile is the do-or-die situation faced by the major political fronts — Congress-led UDF, CPI(M)-headed LDF and BJP-NDA- at this segment which has already garnered national attention.

Nemom is the lone seat of the BJP in the Kerala Assembly.

BJP candidate and former Mizoram Governor Kummanam Rajasekharan and LDF nominee V Sivankutty have already begun their campaign in the constituency.

Congress heavyweight, K Muraleedharan, whose candidature was announced only two days ago, made an entry into the constituency by taking out a mammoth road-show on Tuesday.

With the arrival of a strong leader like Mr Muraleedharan, Nemom is expected to witness one of the toughest triangular fights in the history of the polls.

Mr Rajasekharan, who submitted nomination papers on Wednesday, expressed confidence about his victory and said the BJP would surely retain the seat.

The senior leader, who was reportedly the unanimous choice of the saffron party in the prestigious segment, said his candidature was the result of the trust shown by the people of Nemom.

The saffron party has no choice but to try all means to retain their sole Assembly constituency, which they had gained after years of struggle, breaking the dominance of decades-long bipolar polity enjoyed by the UDF and LDF in the southern state.

However, the traditional fronts- UDF and LDF- have a big responsibility to defeat the BJP to reclaim their hegemony in the polls and implement their aim to keep the state “BJP mukth”.

The steady rise in its vote bank in Nemom has prompted many BJP leaders to label the constituency as the “Gujarat of Kerala” while the Marxist party termed it as their “red fort” quoting the figures of the voting percentage in the previous polls.

The Congress party leadership might have spent a significant time to choose a strong nominee in Nemom to discard the allegations by the Marxist party against their “tie-up” with BJP in the constituency.

The mass drain of votes from the UDF side during the 2016 assembly election was the reason for the Left to raise allegations against them.

The Congress even thought about fielding a high profile leader like Oommen Chandy to give a befitting reply to the CPI(M) but finally roped in senior leader K Muraleedharan, a member of parliament.

If the party wins and it can wrest the lone seat from BJP, it would be a game-changer in state politics, the Congress leadership feels.

After launching the campaign at Nemom, Mr Muraleedhran, son of former Chief Minister, the late K Karunakaran, said he and the Congress were contesting for the first position in the upcoming elections.

“Let them (LDF and BJP) decide the second and third positions. But, we are fighting for the top position. I have wholeheartedly taken up the responsibility entrusted to me by my party,” the leader said.

Rejecting the claims of the UDF and BJP, Sivankutty, the LDF candidate, however, said the constituency has all the favourable factors for the Left front to succeed and he was receiving very positive responses from voters.

“People here have their own reasons, whether the issues at the national level or the development projects implemented by the Pinarayi Vijayan government, to choose an LDF candidate as their representative this time,” he said.

He alleged that the present BJP MLA had done nothing for the development of the constituency in the past five years.

With nearly two lakh voters, Nemom has a large chunk of upper-caste Hindu votes besides a considerable Muslim and Nadar community votes.

BJP veteran and former union minister O Rajagopal had won Nemom in the 2016 assembly polls garnering 67,813 votes and defeating V Sivankutty who secured 59,142 votes.

However, the UDF candidate V Surendran Pillai (JD-S) could finish only in a distant third with 13,860 votes.

Until the saffron party wrested Nemom in 2016, both the traditional fronts – LDF and UDF – had won the constituency twice each in four elections since 1996.

Of the total 1,57, 949 votes polled in Nemom assembly segment during the 2019 Lok Sabha polls, the BJP candidate garnered 58,513 votes while Congress and CPI nominees 46,472 and 33,921 votes respectively.

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Kerala CM, 6 CPI(M) ministers in fray; FM Thomas Isaac denied poll ticket


Five ministers have been denied seats as the party decided not to provide seats to those who had been elected twice

Thiruvananthapuram: Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan and six of his cabinet colleagues have been fielded by the ruling CPI(M) for the April 6 state assembly elections, while Finance minister Thomas Issac has been denied a ticket this time.

The party on Wednesday released the list of 83 of its 85 candidates including nine CPI(M) supported independents.

 

Health Minister K K Shailaja, Labour minister T P Ramakrishnan, Power minister M M Mani,Devaswom minister Kadakkampally Surendran, Fisheries minister Mercykutty Amma and Local Self Government minister A C Moideen are trying their luck once again.

Vijayan will contest from Dharmadam constituency in Kannur district.

However, five ministers have been denied seats — T M Thomas Isaac, E P Jayarajan, R Ravindranath, G Sudhakaran and A K Balan as the party decided not to provide seats to those who had been elected twice.

M V Govindan Master, K Radhakrishan, P Rajeev and K N Balagopal are the state secretariat members who are contesting.

 

There are 12 women candidates in the list.

Candidates for Manjeshwaram and Devikulam constituencies would be announced later, Acting state secretary, A Vijayaraghavan, told reporters here.

The party’s aim was not to deny tickets to anyone, but to give an opportunity to new candidates, he said.

The CPI(M) led LDF is eyeing a second consecutive term this time.

In the 2016 polls, the LDF had won 91 seats in the 140- member assembly.

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RJD eyes Bihari voters in West Bengal, Assam, Kerala


Senior RJD leaders reportedly in touch with Badruddin Ajmal of AIUDF, Assam Congress president Ripun Bora, TMC

Patna: After its resounding performance in the recently concluded Bihar polls, the RJD is eyeing Hindi-speaking voters in West Bengal, Assam and Kerala.

The RJD, which has been trying to expand its wings outside Bihar, hopes to give a tough fight to the BJP. Political analysts said that the party has been eyeing sizable “Bihari voters” in West Bengal, Assam and Kerala.

 

Talking to this newspaper, a senior RJD leader said, “Our party’s decision is based on the feedback from people who have been urging our leaders to contest in areas where Hindi speaking voters, mostly from Bihar and eastern Uttar Pradesh, stay. Our senior party leaders are already in touch with like-minded political parties in West Bengal and Assam and will make a final announcement soon”.

Reports suggest that senior RJD leaders are in touch with Badruddin Ajmal of All India United Democratic Front (AIUDF), Congress state president Ripun Bora in Assam and Mamata Bannerjee’s TMC in West Bengal.

Political analysts are of the view that RJD’s main interest in AIUDF could be its popularity among Muslim voters in Assam.

 

On Friday, after the poll dates were announced by the Election Commission, RJD leader Tejashwi Yadav and the party’s national general secretary landed in Guwahati and held a series of meetings with top leaders of some regional parties. Sources said that after Assam, Mr Yadav along with other senior leaders of the RJD, will also visit Kolkata to discuss the poll related issues with political leaders.

Meanwhile, the JD(U) which is an alliance partner of the BJP in Bihar, is also gearing up to field candidates in West Bengal and Assam in the coming Assembly polls.

Sources in the JD(U) said that leaders in both the states have been asked to identify seats to contest. JD(U) national secretary Sanjay Verma is camping in Assam and the final decision regarding alliance and seats will be taken by the party leadership after the assessment of Assembly constituencies in both the states.

 

The LJP is also planning to contest the polls in West Bengal and Assam and is currently assessing its party’s position in both the states. 

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Tough time for tipplers as Kerala plans to hike liquor prices by 7% from Feb


 

The Kerala State Beverages Corporation (Bevco), the public sector agency with a monopoly on purchase and distribution in the State, has finalised a proposal to increase the price of liquor by seven per cent effective February 1 in response to a long-pending demand of the alco-bev industry.

Post-2018 floods, the State had raised the excise duty on liquor for 100 days with a view to tiding over a fiscal crisis. Two years down the line, Covid-19 had prompted it again to reach out for this low-hanging fruit. The price hike announced in May last took liquor sales tax up to 247 per cent, among the highest in the country.

Annual revenues

This compares with the levy of as low as 25 per cent levy in 1960-61! The hike of May last year alone amounted to 35 per cent. Bevco’s turnover in 2019-20 was at a record ₹14,508 crore, or ₹1,568 crore higher than the previous year.

On an average, the State sources up to 20 per cent of its annual revenues from liquor.

United Spirits and Tilaknagar Industries, makers respectively of McDowells No 1 and Mansion House Brandy, are the leading players in the Kerala market. The latest price hike is expected to not only help boost the bottomlines of the manufacturers but also shore up revenues of both Bevco and the government.

ALSO READ Kerala eyes production of its own Feni brand from cashew apple

Sales gallop quarter on quarter

The price hike could not have come at a better time for the stakeholders, with sales having improved substantially after easing of the lockdown. Amit Dahanukar, Chairman & Managing Director, Tilaknagar Industries, told BusinessLine that sales have shown significant pick-up, quarter on quarter.

“The industry has witnessed a strong rebound even into the third quarter. Opening up of tourism and hospitality sectors coinciding with the festive season may have facilitated this. Sales will grow further in the immediate future as more people start travelling and holidaying,” Dahanukar said.

ALSO READ Liquor app BevQ pips food delivery platforms in Kerala

Beats Covid-19 blues

Revenue to the State government from liquor sales comprises sales tax, excise duty, gallonage fee and license fee. It is estimated that for every sale of ₹ 100, as much as ₹ 85 goes to the government as tax. Along with petrol and lottery, liquor has always been the go-to source for the cash-strapped government.

Dahanukar said that for Tilaknagar Industries, quarter 1 (April to June) was virtually a washout owing to the lockdown, but sales had come back strongly in Q2 and Q3. Citing figures, he said sales of one lakh cases in Q1 had more than tripled to three lakh cases and 3.5 lakh cases in Q2 and Q3, respectively.

Mostly brandy market

Asked if the lockdown has encouraged ‘home-drinking/binge drinking’ habits, he said this has been an unprecedented situation and may have induced unusual response in some people. “But I don’t see that as permanent. People will resort to social drinking as the open-up becomes complete.”

The State is predominantly a brandy market with more than 50 per cent of the aggregate sales. In 2019-20, sales amounted to approximately 19.3 million cases (by all manufacturers) and brandy made up for nearly 56 per cent at 10.7 million cases. The year before, sales logged in at 19.1 million, and those of brandy at 10.1 million cases, or 53 per cent of the total.

‘High levies are regressive’

Within the overall brandy category, maximum sales are recorded in regular-brandy segment that includes brands like Courrier Napoleon Red and McDowell No.1, among the most in demand. This segment accounted for 58 per cent of the total brandy sales in 2019-20. The regular-brandy segment is followed by the ‘upper medium’, ‘semi-premium’ and ‘medium’ brandy segments.

Meanwhile, Dahanukar of Tilaknagar Industries observed that Kerala retains a very high levy on liquor resulting in the MRP’s of IMFL brands being amongst the highest in the country. This does limit the growth of the premium category. Moreover, there are frequent changes in taxation.

“Alcohol has traditionally been the highest grosser for the state government in terms of revenue. While one can understand the short-term compulsions behind these moves, it may not augur well for the long term. Excessive taxation and frequent changes in taxation could encourage illicit sales and production.”

 

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Kerala gold-smuggling case: NIA files chargesheet against 20 accused


KOCHI: The NIA filed a chargesheet against 20 people before a special court here on Tuesday for their alleged involvement in smuggling 30 kg of gold worth Rs 14.82 crore in a diplomatic baggage into Kerala, an official said.

The accused, including Sarith P S and Swapna Prabha Suresh, have been booked under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA).

So far, 21 accused have been arrested by the National Investigation Agency (NIA) in the case, while eight are absconding.

The case pertains to the seizure of 30 kg of gold worth Rs 14.82 crore on July 5 last year from a diplomatic baggage at the air cargo of the Trivandrum International Airport by the Customs (Preventive) Commissionerate, Cochin.

The NIA investigation revealed that the accused had knowingly conspired since June 2019, raised funds and smuggled around 167 kg of gold into the country from the United Arab Emirates (UAE) between November 2019 and June 2020 through the import cargo addressed to diplomats at the Consulate General of the UAE in Thiruvananthapuram.

The main accused in the case had planned to smuggle more gold from countries such as Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and Malaysia.

The probe against the absconding accused and others who had facilitated them is on, the NIA said.

The consignment was found camouflaged in a diplomatic baggage from the UAE that is exempted from inspection in accordance with the Vienna Convention.



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Lone BJP MLA in Kerala supports Assembly resolution against farm laws


The MLA clarified that he had actually opposed the resolution and said the laws were aimed at protecting the farmers.

Thiruvananthapuram: Kerala Assembly on Thursday demanded the immediate repeal of three farm laws.

The demand was raised through a resolution passed unanimously in the state Assembly. The legislators belonging to the ruling CPM led LDF and opposition Congress led UDF vehemently opposed the farm laws during the special session of Assembly.

 

Even the lone BJP member O Rajagopal said that he agreed with the sentiments conveyed in the resolution. “We supported the spirit of the resolution despite having differences on certain issues pointed out in it,” he said at a press conference.

With his statement causing confusion in the BJP circles, the MLA clarified that he had actually opposed the resolution and said the laws were aimed at protecting the farmers.

Embarrassed by the Rajagopal’s statements, BJP state president K Surendran said he would look into the matter.

Earlier the resolution said that The Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services ACt 2020, Framers Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation ) Act 2020, Essential Commodities (Amendment) Act 2020 were not only against the farmers but also infringed into the state’s powers.

 

The resolution called for immediate solution to the farmers’ agitation. “If the agitation continues it will adversely affect a consumer state like Kerala. If food grains stop coming to Kerala, the state would plunge into starvation and it will not be able to face such a grave situation especially with no let up in Covid – 19 situation.”

The resolution pointed out that agriculture, market and fares came under state subject as per the Constitution.  The government should have convened the interstate council and discussed these issues with the states at length. Such serious matters involving agriculture were not even subjected to discussion in the Parliamentary standing committee.

 

The resolution said considering the concerns mentioned above, the Centre should accept the genuine demands of the farmers who are the backbone of the nation.

Even while supporting the resolution, the Congress led UDF hit out at the LDF Government for failing to criticize the Prime Minister’s indifferent attitude and his failure to hold with farmers in the resolution.

The opposition also took the government to task for not criticizing the Governor who had initially shot down the proposal to hold a special session of Assembly.

Congress MLA K C Joseph took a dig at the chief minister saying that he should not be afraid of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

 

Responding to the opposition criticism, the chief minister said there was no need to mention the prime minister by name as the resolution was against the central government. He rejected the opposition charge that the government was soft on Governor Arif Mohammad Khan.

“We made the Governor see constitutional sense when two of our ministers called on him at the Raj Bhavan. We clarified our position by quoting various Supreme Court verdicts on governor-state government relations,” Mr Pinarayi Vijayan said.

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Kerala CM moves resolution against central farm laws in Assembly


The resolution was moved in a one-hour special session convened solely to discuss the farmers’ issue and express solidarity with them

Thiruvananthapuram: Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan on Thursday moved a resolution in the state Assembly and attacked the BJP-led NDA government at the Centre over the three contentious central farm laws against which farmers are agitating in Delhi.

The resolution was moved in a one-hour special session convened solely to discuss the farmers’ issue and express solidarity with them.

 

While moving the resolution demanding the immediate scrapping of the new laws, VIjayan said the country was now witnessing one of the most iconic protests ever by farmers in its history.

The central farm laws, passed in Parliament, were not only “anti-farmer” but also “pro-corporate”, he alleged and said that at least 32 farmers had lost their lives in the last 35 days of the agitation.

“Legislative assemblies have the moral responsibility to take a serious view when people have anxieties about certain laws which affect their lives,” he said, adding that agriculture was part of the culture of the country.

The Centre had come up with the contentious laws at a time when the agriculture sector was facing still challenges, he said, adding as a result of which the farmers were anxious they would lose even the present support price.

 

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Kerala Couple Accidentally Die In Fire, State To Look After Children


When the police approached couple, they doused themselves in kerosene (Representational)

Thiruvananthapuram:

The death of a poor couple, who died from burn injuries after accidentally immolating themselves to stop an eviction drive in Thiruvananthapuram, has triggered a widespread row in Kerala, with opposition parties blaming the police for the incident, following which the state government extended a helping hand to their orphaned children today.

The couple, Rajan (47) and his wife Ambili (40), died at the government medical college and hospital in Thiruvananthapuram after they suffered multiple organ failure on Monday.

The video of the their two teenaged children, Rahul and Renjith, crying outside the hospital for help to cremate their father at the disputed land as per his last wish went viral on the social media, following which many offered to help them construct a house of their own.

As the opposition Congress took up the matter and criticised the police for the incident, Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan announced that his government will protect the children of the couple.

“The government will take over their protection and other responsibilities. We will meet their educational expenses and construct a house for them,” he said in Thrissur when he came as part of his state-wide tour to meet dignitaries in various fields ahead of the assembly elections that are due next year.

The Youth Congress have already announced that they were ready to construct a house for the children while the Democratic Youth Federation of India, the youth arm of the ruling CPI(M), said they would meet their educational expenses.

According to the police, the incident occurred on December 22 when the police and an advocate commission appointed by a local court had gone to Rajan’s house to implement a judicial order to evict him and his family from a three cent land that belongs to the government based on the complaint of a neighbour. Earlier in June this year, there was an attempt to evict the family from the disputed land.

When the police personnel approached them, Rajan doused himself and his wife in kerosene and warned them not to come closer.

They caught fire accidentally when a police officer tried to snatch the lighter away from him.

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Their children later alleged that the haste shown by the police had caused the mishap.

The law enforcers had tried to evict them even after knowing that there would be a stay order, which came soon after the tragic incident, they told the media.

Opposition leader Ramesh Chennithala on Tuesday demanded a probe into the alleged lapses by the police during the eviction drive.

Based on the complaint of human rights activist Ashwathy Jwala, the state Human Rights Commission directed the Thiruvananthapuram district police chief (Rural) to probe the alleged lapses by the police in the incident and submit a report within four weeks.

In the wake of the widespread complaints, Director General of Police (DGP) Loknath Behera directed Thiruvananthapuram Rural Superintendent, B Ashok Kumar to probe the immolation incident and the death of the couple.

“The DGP directed to submit the report at the earliest,” his office said.

(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)



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