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Raju Vernekar

Raju Vernekar

Raju Vernekar is a Media Professional based in Mumbai and is a regular contributor of Imphal Times. He had served as Chief Reporter at Free Press Journal (1996 – 2015 ). His Activities includes writing for different news papers, script writing/production for TV channels, Films Division. Writing poems in Marathi, Hindi, English, Guiding mass media students and helping people to solve their problems. Raju may be contacted at [email protected]

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Seventh Indian tests positive for Coronavirus on cruise ship off Japan coast; All the 645 passengers returning from Wuhan tested negative, discharged

IT News
Mumbai Feb 20

Even as 621 out of the 3,711 people on board luxury cruise liner “Diamond Princess” have tested positive, one more Indian aboard a quarantined cruise ship off Japan’s coast was found to be infected by the new strain of coronavirus, taking the total number of affected Indians on the ship to seven, said the Indian Embassy.
There are total of 138 Indians on the ship, including 132 crew and 6 passengers. One Indian crew who tested positive for COVID19 among 88 new cases on Diamond Princess shifted to hospital for treatment,” said a tweet by the Indian embassy on Wednesday..The tweet read as “Indian crew who tested positive for #COVID19 among 88 new cases yesterday on #DiamondPrincess taken to hospital for treatment. Indians receiving treatment responding well. From today, disembarkation of passengers only started, likely to continue till 21 Feb. @MEAIndia”.
The Indian Embassy said that it was in discussions with the Japanese government and the ship management company to affect de-boarding of all the Indians after the end of the quarantine period.
Passengers on the ship begun to leave with the first bath of 500  de-embarked on Wednesday  after a two-week quarantine period failed to stop the spread of the virus. The cruise ship arrived at the Japanese coast earlier this month and was quarantined after it was found that a passenger who had got off the ship in Hong Kong in January was infected with the deadly virus that has led to an international alarm and over 2000 deaths in China alone.
In another development 645 passengers who were kept at Indo Tibetan Border Police ( ITBP)’s facility at Manesar (Haryana) after their return from Wuhan province, by Air India’s 747 Boeing aircraft on February 1 and 2 in two 747 Boeing Air India aircraft,  were allowed to go home on Wednesday, after all of them tested negative. They included 36 passengers from Maharashtra.
In Maharashtra, 69 passengers out of 71 passengers admitted to different hospitals have been discharged and only two passengers remain under observation at Kasturba Hospital in Mumbai.
In  all 41,208 passengers were subjected to thermal scanning at Mumbai’s Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport till Wednesday. Major airlines have suspended flights to China and banned arrivals from the country in the effort to contain the spread.
In the meanwhile the Union Health Ministry has denied that a person named Sakthikumar (42) from Kothaimangalam Village in Tamil Nadu died of COVID-19 disease on Saturday. The ministry released a statement in which it clarified that the death occurred due to End Stage Liver Disease and not due to COVID-19.
According to the statement,the deceased was known case of chronic liver disease with jaundice manifestation due to alcoholism and was under treatment for the past three years. Also he was admitted and treated for his ailment during August 2019 at a private hospital at Tanjore.
Sakthikumar, who ran a small restaurant in China, had gone back to China, due to manpower shortage to run his eatery there despite his illness. However he returned to India on 4 February, due to jaundice and underwent treatment initially in his village and then in a private hospital at Madurai.

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Four well-known Mumbai hotels get ‘’LeT’’ threat mail

IT News
Mumbai, Feb.20

Four high-end hotels in Mumbai on Wednesday received threat e-mail, demanding Rs 7 crore within 24 hours, or else the hotels will be blown off with bomb, with its sender claiming to be a member of the terror outfit Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT).
Hotel Leela (Andheri), Hotel Princess, Hotel Park and Hotel Ramada Inn(all the three located at Juhu, Vile Parle West) in North West Mumbai and Seven Eleven Club ( Mira Road), near Mumbai, received the threat mails, following which they were thoroughly checked. However, nothing suspicious was found during the check.
“After the police were told about the threat mails, security was beefed up at these hotels. The Bomb Detection and Disposal Squad (BDDS) checked the hotels, but nothing suspicious was found in them,” the official said.
Deputy Commissioner of Police (Operation) Pranay Ashok said, “The anti-sabotage check of these hotels was conducted in the presence of the local police. But nothing suspicious was found there. The sender of e mail is being traced, he added.
Former BJP MLA who owns the Seven Eleven Club, said that he received the threat on hotel’s e mail. The e mail stated that “we were prepared to become martyrs. But if innocent people die, you will be responsible Deputy superintendent of police, Mira Road, Shantaram Walvi, said a former MLA and his hotel in the area also received the emails. The subject of the emails read: “Lashkar-e-Taiba wants management of your hotel”. The police said the sender demanded bitcoins as ransom. “We rushed a team of ATS and BDDS to the hotel and intensified security arrangement there,” Walvi said.
The anti-terrorism squad (ATS) and crime branch officials are conducting parallel inquiries. However, a crime branch official said the email appears to be a hoax. The Bomb Detection and Disposal Squad (BDDS) has been deployed in the premises of the hotels.
The emails that most of the Mumbai hotels received were generated by their websites after the sender wrote the threat messages in the comments section. Joint commissioner of police, Santosh Rastogi, said, “Four five-star hotels in the western suburbs have received threat emails and we are looking into it.” A senior ATS officer said they are trying to trace the sender.
In the meanwhile the Mumbai Police have beefed up security in five-star hotels located near the international airport and in Andheri, Juhu, Santacruz and Mira Road after a few of them received emails from an unknown sender threatening a bomb blast by Lashkar-e-Taiba.

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Pune based institute develops vaccine against Coronavirus Government to ban export of 12 essential medicines in view of the probable drug shortage

IT News
Pune Feb 19

A Pune (Maharashtra) based Serum Institute of India (SII) has developed a preventive vaccine against coronavirus (COVID-19), expected to be available within next two years, in  partnership with American biotechnology company “Codagenix”.
 “The vaccine designed by SII and “Codagenix” is ready for the pre-clinical test and will progress to human trials in the next six months. The SSI-Codagenix candidate vaccine has been developed using a laboratory-made synthetic virus. This is an important breakthrough since it could significantly reduce the time taken to build against the virus at the heart of the current outbreak emanating from China”.
Owner and CEO, SII, Adar Poonawalla, proprietor and CEO, SII said, “It usually takes eight years to fully develop a vaccine for use. We have already marched ahead by generating a candidate vaccine in the “Codagenix” laboratory in the US. Our vaccine-virus strain is identical to the original virus and can generate a robust immune response”. Adar said that the vaccine will be ready for human trials within six months, that makes it the fastest ‘Make in India’ vaccine to enter this phase.
The newly identified coronavirus causes mild to severe respiratory illness, with symptoms including cough and fever. Until an effective vaccine becomes available, transmission of the virus can be prevented by frequent hand washing and avoiding close contact with people who are sick.
SII, a vaccine manufacturer and distributor with a global footprint, will scale-up the manufacture of the vaccine to ensure its availability to meet a critical public health need. “Codagenix” and SII are pursuing an accelerated development pathway with built-in redundancies to increase speed and likelihood of success.
SII inaugurated its new plant built up with an investment of Rs 4000 crore in Pune in September last year. It is designed to produce up to 500 million doses of vaccines in a year over the next three years. SII is the world’s largest vaccine manufacturer selling over 1.5 billion doses, including Polio vaccine as well as Diphtheria, Tetanus, Pertussis, Hib, BCG, r-Hepatitis B, Measles, Mumps, and Rubella vaccines. It is estimated that about 65% of the children in the world receive at least one vaccine manufactured by SII, which was founded in 1966.
Similarly SII supplied 30,000 doses of Measles/Rubella vaccine to the Government of Maldives in response to its emergency requirement last month. After Maldives approached the Government of Denmark and UNICEF with a request to supply vaccines, it approached Indian Embassy in Maldives on 20 January. Then Union Ministry of External Affairs  procured 30,000 doses of Measles/Rubella vaccine from the SII and delivered the consignment on 23rd January. By now Measles has been eliminated from the Maldives.
In the meanwhile the Union Government is planning to impose export ban on 12 essential medicines- mainly antibiotics, vitamins and hormones, to ensure that there is no shortage of essential drugs in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak in Hubei province in China. The Chinese government continues to impose a lockdown in Hubei as it is the epicentre of the coronavirus epidemic.
An eight member panel set up by the Ministry of Chemicals and Fertilisers has suggested a temporary ban on drugs such as chloramphenicol, neomycin, metronidazole, azithromycin, vitamins B1, B2 and B6 and hormones such as progesterone, which are essential during pregnancy and menstruation. The panel is stated to have in its report that the states need to ensure that the traders don’t exploit this situation and increase the prices of either API or medicine formulations.
India gets around 80-85 per cent of active pharmaceutical ingredients(APIs) APIs used for making medical formulations from China. India imports 57 types of molecules and 90 per cent medical devices and apparatus from China. This is largely for drugs like antibiotics - crucial among them being penicillin G (and other products based on it such as amoxicillin and ampicillin), tetracycline - and for vitamins such as vitamin C and D. All of these are based on drug ingredients made using the fermentation-based process, an area where China has achieved global dominance.
Indian pharma majors such as Lupin, Sun Pharma and Dr. Reddy’s do manufacture APIs but it is for captive use or used by pharmaceutical companies for in-house production of finished dosage forms.
Even as India stares at probable drug shortage Indian pharma industry has assured the Government that there will be sufficient supply of medicines and an emergent situation will not arise.

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NE students at TISS allege racial discrimination

IT News
Mumbai, Feb 18

Amid the global panic over the novel Coronavirus [COVID-19], students hailing from the North Eastern states, studying at the Tata Institute of Social Sciences [TISS], located at Deonar in North East Mumbai, have complained of racial discrimination in and around campus in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak.
In a letter to the institute, the Northeast Students’ Forum of TISS alleged racial profiling of some members of the forum as potential carriers of the virus (Covid-19), which originated in China, owing to their facial features. “Many students from TISS have recently been subjected to racial treatment due to their distinctive identities and features,” the letter said.
The letter also said that students from north-eastern states have faced name-calling, such as “corona” and “coronavirus”. Around 200 of 2,900 students at TISS are from the North-East.
“We would like to bring this matter to the notice of concerned authorities of TISS to adopt adequate measures to ensure safety of students from North-East who are vulnerable to racial discrimination. We request the general student body, faculty, and staff to deter any practices of casual and structural racism and promote a sensitive approach towards students. We also request the concerned government bodies to take appropriate measures to ensure the safety of people from north-east states in Mumbai and to deter cases of harassment and racial discrimination,” read the letter.
A student from Nagaland said, “I was travelling in a share cab when I coughed and suddenly the fellow passengers started discussing the virus. Nothing was directed to me per se but it just showed a complete insensitivity.”
 ”In the midst of the ongoing global health crisis due to an outbreak of Coronavirus, purportedly originating in the Wuhan province of China, we have seen a disturbing trend of discrimination and racial profiling across the world towards people of China origin and other Asian nations bearing Mongoloid features. It is a grim reminder of inherent racial prejudices and stereotyping of particular peoples based on their physical features and perceived cultural inferiority, manifested by subjecting them to various forms of hostilities, slurs, and suspicions which is now being played out in the pretext of health concerns. We condemn this form of discriminatory behaviour and call for a sensitive approach for addressing the outbreak without racial profiling of people. This is especially to bring to light the increasing instances of racial discrimination within India being faced by people from the North Eastern states due to distinctions in socio-cultural traits and physical features,” reads the NESF statement.
The group also had a meeting with the institute authorities regarding the insensitive behaviour. “The Dean of Students’ Affairs at the institute gave us a patient hearing and has assured that specific steps will be taken to create awareness and to ensure safety of students from northeast,” a research student from the institute who also hails from northeast said.
Asha Banu, dean, student affairs, confirmed that students approached her office to discuss the matter adding that the administration is mulling ways to spread awareness within the campus and in nearby areas.

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