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Supreme Court dismisses new petition on verifying all votes with VVPAT, says ‘let country elect its government’

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The Supreme Court on Tuesday dismissed a new petition that sought matching of all voter verifiable paper audit trail (VVPAT) slips with electronic voting machines (EVMs) during the counting of votes on May 23.

Calling the petition a “nuisance”, the court said, “We won’t entertain such a plea over and over again. Can’t come in the way of people electing their representatives. Let country elect its government.”

A vacation bench headed by Justice Arun Mishra refused to entertain the plea filed by a Chennai-based organisation ‘Tech for All’ saying that a larger bench headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi had already dealt with the matter and passed an order, news agency PTI reported.

The apex court had on May 7 dismissed a review plea filed by 21 Opposition leaders led by Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister N Chandrababu Naidu seeking that random matching of VVPAT slips with EVMs be increased to 50 per cent.

The top court had on April 8 directed the Election Commission to increase random matching of VVPAT slips with EVMs from one to five polling booths per assembly segment in Lok Sabha polls, saying it would provide greater satisfaction not just to political parties but also to the entire electorate.

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IMD issues ‘red alert’ for North India as heatwave intensifies, warns people to stay indoors between 1-5pm

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As the temperature in the Northern India is soaring high with each passing day the India Meteorological Department (IMD) has warned that heatwave is likely to persist for the next few days in most parts of the northern India, Maharashtra and Telangana. While, the day temperature in the state capital is likely to touch 46 degrees Celsius by Tuesday.

The IMD has also issued a ‘red alert’ for a severe heatwave, for parts of Delhi, Punjab, Haryana, Chandigarh and Rajasthan for the next two days.  While sweltering heat engulfing the capital city on Sunday with maximum temperature hovering close to 45 degrees Celsius in most parts of the city.

Meanwhile, the IMD also issued “orange” warning for eastern Uttar Pradesh.

“Heatwave will prevail in many places and severe heatwave in isolated places. Mainly clear sky with strong surface winds (20-20 kilometres per hour),” the IMD forecast said.

The maximum temperature was recorded at 44.4 degrees Celsius, which was five notches above the normal, on Sunday and the minimum temperature was recorded at 28.7 degrees Celsius, two notches above the normal.

The temperature is likely to remain around 46-48 degrees Celsius in all the northern states affected by heatwaves except for Uttar Pradesh.

Kuldeep Srivastava, the head of the regional forecasting centre of the IMD, said some respite from the stifling heat is expected in the national capital on May 28 due to a fresh Western Disturbance and easterly winds at lower levels.

“Dust storm and thunderstorm with winds gusting up to 60 kilometres per hour is likely over Delhi-NCR on May 29-30,” he said.

Srivastava added that this this is the first “Red” warning for heatwave which is issued by the IMD according to the intensity ascending from  green to  yellow to orange with the highest level of red.

“The warning has been issued to caution people not to step out between 1 pm and 5 pm, when heat is most intense,” said Srivastava.

The ‘Red alert’ comes at a time when lakhs of migrant labourers are on roads, walking back to their home states amid the Coronavirus lockdown, making it all the more difficult for them to reach their destinations when even the ‘Shramik Special’ trains and buses with inadequate numbers and mismanagement haven’t been able to take them  back safely.

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As India resumes domestic operations partially after two months of shutdown, 82 flights cancelled on Day 1

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India finally resumed its domestic flight services from Monday, two months after commercial airlines ceased operations in view of the Coronavirus pandemic.

Accordingly, the first flight from Delhi’s IGI airport since resumption of domestic flight operations, landed at Pune early today.

Similarly, two flights operated at the Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj International Airport, while one departed from Mumbai for Patna. The first arrival was from Lucknow as the domestic flights operations resumed. Both operated by IndiGo, the first service to Patna flew out at around 6.45 am, while the incoming flight landed aound 8.20 am, said airport officials.

Several other incoming and outgoing flights are scheduled during the day as the Maharashtra government late on Sunday permitted restricted operations in view of the Coronavirus pandemic that has gripped the state in a big way. The Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj International Airport authorities and the BrihanMumbai Municipal Corporation, state government and other agencies have deployed full Covid-19 protocols to handle the incoming and outgoing flight passengers.

Flights are so expected to resume at Pune, Nagpur — both international airports — besides smaller state airports like Nashik, Shirdi, Kolhapur etc.

Maharashtra government has allowed 25 takeoffs and 25 landings every day from Mumbai airport.

However, adding to the frustration of passengers, as many as 82 flights to and from Delhi have been cancelled, with the people claiming that they were not informed till the last minute.

An Air India Bengaluru-Hyderabad flight was reportedly cancelled without prior notice from the airline. Passengers came to know about the cancellation only when their boarding passes were scanned at the airport entry.

Also, an Air India flight to Delhi from Mumbai was cancelled without prior notice.

Meanwhile, as mandated, airline officials and cabin crew were seen in full protective suit, while passengers in masks were checked for their temperatures before entry into airports.

The re-commencement of services comes a day after massive spike in ticket cancellations, along with a drop in bookings, was reported by the aviation industry for Monday’s flights as several states had moved to limit air operations.

Consequently, in order to calm nervous passengers Centre said that barring just two states rest of the country is open to accept domestic flights.

States across the country will resume domestic flight services on Monday except Andhra Pradesh and West Bengal, said Union Minister for Civil Aviation Hardeep Singh Puri on Sunday.

Airports in Andhra Pradesh will resume services on Tuesday, May 26, and West Bengal will restart on Thursday, May 28.

Another daunting confusion was over the quarantine norm which many states said they will enforce on air travellers.

This led to a cascade of calls at the customer care centres of online travel agents.

Nevertheless, many passengers still wanted to travel, if they were provided with a choice for ‘Home Quarantine’.

Earlier, air passengers gave an overwhelming response to the re-commencement of passenger flight services from May 25, as healthy demand was witnessed for tickets on all metro routes.

The Centre had only allowed limited passenger flight operations of about one-third capacity of the summer schedule to operate between metro cities and other destinations from May 25, adding that this capacity might be ramped up in the coming period.

Aarogya Setu App status is a must for air travel. Passengers with “Red” status on the app are not allowed to travel. No traveller from containment zones would be allowed. Further, it is mandatory for passengers to wear protective gear i.e. a mask.

Meanwhile, the Centre has said that it will try to start a good percentage of international passenger flights before August.

Union Civil Aviation minister Hardeep Singh Puri Saturday said that if the virus gets under control, the international flights could resume as early as mid June.

On May 20, the Government had informed that domestic flights would recommence in “calibrated manner” from May 25.

Passenger air services were suspended for both scheduled domestic and international flights since March 25, due to the imposition of the nationwide lockdown in the wake of the Coronavirus outbreak.

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India among top 10 worst hit countries with over 1.38 lakh Coronavirus cases, death toll at 4,021

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As domestic flight operations in India start on Monday, the total number of Coronavirus infections in the country rose to 1,38,845. Of these 77,103 are active, while 57,720 patients have been discharged. The death toll stands at 4021.

For the fourth consecutive day, India reported the highest ever spike of 6,977 COVID-19 cases in 24 hours. As many as 154 new deaths were reported during the same period.

According to data from Johns Hopkins University, the total number of cases in India has surpassed that of Iran becoming the 10th country with the highest number of confirmed cases worldwide.

With 50,231 confirmed novel Coronavirus cases, Maharashtra remains the worst-affected state in the country, followed by Tamil Nadu (16,277) and Gujarat (14,056).

According to the latest data from the Union Health Ministry, Maharashtra has reported 1,635 COVID-19 deaths so far. As many as 14,600 patients have recovered.

The death toll was 111 in Tamil Nadu and 858 in Gujarat. Delhi has reported 13,418 cases and 261 casualties.

States/UTs with more than 5,000 COVID-19 cases are Rajasthan (7,028), Madhya Pradesh (6,665) and Uttar Pradesh (6,268). Others with more than 1,000 cases are West Bengal (3,667), Andhra Pradesh (2,823), Punjab (2,060), Telangana (1,854), Bihar (2,587), Jammu and Kashmir (1,621), Karnataka (2,089), Odisha (1,336) and Haryana (1,184). States and UTs with significant number of cases are Kerala (847), Jharkhand (370), Chandigarh (238), Assam (378), Tripura (191), Chhattisgarh (252) and Uttarakhand (317).

Sikkim and Dadra and Nagar Haveli did not report any fresh incident in the last 24 hours, as per ministry data. Goa has reported 66 cases so far. A spurt has been observed in Pudducherry which now has 41 cases. There are now 52 cases in Ladakh.

With the number of cases passing 1.38 lakh, the government announced an SOP(Standard Operating Procedure) that would begin with social distancing at the airport and no-contact check-in. All the passengers have been asked to download the Aarogya Setu application on their mobile devices and state to ensure thermal screening. Passengers have also been asked to reach the airport two hours before departure and maintain social distancing.

Globally, over 5.5 million people have been infected with the novel Coronavirus, with death toll at 3.4 lakh.

Currently, the US has the world’s highest number of cases and deaths at 1,643,098 and 97,711, respectively.

In terms of cases, Brazil accounted for the second highest number of infections at 363,211.

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