Covid cases touch 60L

India’s Covid-19 caseload neared 60 lakh with 88,600 fresh infections being reported on Sunday, while the number of people having recuperated from the disease crossed 49 lakh pushing the national recovery rate to 82.46 per cent, according to the Union Health Ministry.

Meanwhile, the second sero-survey of the Indian Council of Medical Research shows that Indian population is still far from achieving herd immunity against coronavirus infection, Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan said on Sunday while underlining the need for following Covid appropriate behaviour.

The total coronavirus cases mounted to 59,92,532, while the death toll climbed to 94,503 with 1,124 people succumbing to the disease in a span of 24 hours, data updated at 8 am on Sunday showed.

The total recoveries have surged to 49,41,627, and there are 9,56,402 active cases of coronavirus infection in the country which comprises 15.96 per cent of the total caseload, the data stated. The Covid-19 case fatality rate was recorded at 1.58 per cent. According to the ICMR, a cumulative total of 7,12,57,836 samples have been tested up to September 26 with 9,87,861 samples being tested on Saturday.

Travellers from Dubai and the UK were primary sources of importing Covid-19 into India, according to an analytical study conducted by the Indian Institute of Technology, Mandi. According to the research, which has been published in the ‘Journal of Travel Medicine’, Covid-19 was induced into Indian states mainly due to international travels. The study has also found that infected cases from Tamil Nadu, Delhi and Andhra Pradesh played less role in spreading the disease outside their communities. Whereas infected people in Gujarat, Rajasthan, Maharashtra, Kerala, Jammu and Kashmir, and Karnataka played a significant role in the local transmission.

Maharashtra is first in country to ban sale of loose cigarettes

Maharashtra has become the first state in the country to ban the sale of “loose” cigarettes and beedis.

A notification issued by the state public health department on Thursday states that, in sync with sub section (2) of section 7 of Cigarette and other Tobacco Products (Prohibition of Advertisement and Regulation of Trade and Commerce Production, Supply & Distribution) Act, 2003, the state imposes a complete ban on sale of single stick loose cigarette and beedis. The notification is signed by principal secretary (health) Dr Pradeep Vyas.

This has been done because loose cigarettes were sold without packet, which carry graphic health warnings meant to educate the public about the harms of smoking. Smoking has been linked to cancers and heart disease.

Tata Memorial Hospital’s cancer surgeon Dr Pankaj Chaturvedi said that the new order would help cut down the habit among the youth. “The tobacco epidemic in India is fuelled by youth who are 16 to 17 years of age. They buy loose cigarettes as they don’t have the financial resources to buy a full packet,” he said. Also, grown-ups who bought loose cigarettes never felt the pinch of higher taxes imposed on tobacco goods.

“Studies have shown that a 10% rise in taxes results in 8% drop in the number of smokers. But if people are allowed to buy a single cigarette, they don’t feel the effect of the higher taxes,” added Dr Chaturvedi. As per the Global Tobacco Youth Survey 2016, Maharashtra has the lowest smoking rate in the country.


Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Terminus Redevelopment

The pre-bid meeting for the CSMT redevelopment project received huge response from industry, developers and fund houses.

The digital meeting was attended by about 43 bidders, including developers Adani Group, Tata Projects, Eldeco, GMR Group, JKB Infrastructure, SNCF Hubs & Connexions, I Squared Capital, Kalpataru Power Transmission, Ace Urban developers, GR Infrastructure, Essel Group, Larsen & Toubro; architects BDP Singapore, Hafeez Contractor, AECOM; fund houses Anchorage Infrastructure Investment Holdings, Brookfield; and consultancy firms JLL, Boston Consultancy Group, KPMG, PwC India, EY; and the British High Commission.

According to a railway ministry statement, the Rs.1,642-crore redevelopment project encapsulates integration of various modes to make the iconic railway station a multi-modal transport hub.

The total real estate built-up area is 25 lakh square feet and the construction period is four years, it said.

The redevelopment plan for the station, a Unesco World Heritage site, will include segregation of arrival and departure, divyang friendly station, better level of services for passengers, energy efficient facilities and restoring the heritage site as per its 1930 levels.

The station will function like a city centre rail mall where, in addition to a passenger’s transportation needs, their daily needs like retail, food and beverage, entertainment, souvenir shopping would also be fulfilled. The aim is that most of their daily needs are catered to by visiting the railway station, thus avoiding unnecessary travel within the city.

The Request for Qualification for the redevelopment on public-private partnership mode has been invited by Indian Railway Stations Development Corporation Limited.

During the pre-bid meeting, it was highlighted that at the RFQ stage the applicants would need to fulfil only the financial criteria, and the technical eligibility criteria have been dispensed with.

As per the tender documents, IRSDC will be a single-window for approval of the master plan and building plans in consultation with local authorities in terms of power conferred under Section 11 of Railway Act, 1989. Alternate Investment Fund or Foreign Investment Fund are also eligible to participate. No change in land use is required and no prior environmental clearance is required from the Ministry of Environment and Forest.

The selected bidder at the RFP stage will take up the redevelopment of the railway station and commercial development of the surrounding land on leasehold basis for 60 years for commercial development and up to 99 years for residential development on selected plots, along with operation and maintenance of the station for 60 years on concession basis.

“During the meeting, most of the participants sought clarification on user charges, eligibility criteria, commercial utilisation of space and various other issues,” an official said.

Dams full, water bounty for Marathwada this year

The rivers are in spate and the dams overflowing in the Marathwada region, one of the country’s most drought-prone areas. Just a few years ago, water scarcity in Latur city in the region had reached such grim proportions that a water train had to be operated.

This year, Latur district has already received over 100% of its normal rainfall. Much like Latur, five other districts in this region have received over 100% of their normal rainfall and seven of 11 major dams are overflowing here. The collective water storage in all dams in the region is 192.4 TMC, which is almost 75% of the combined storage capacity and double that during the corresponding period last year.

While the region already received 774mm, or 114% of the normal rainfall, till Monday, more rain is expected across Marathwada. Officials across the region, especially those in Beed, Latur and Osmanabad districts that often reel under scarcity, said there is sufficient water available for drinking purposes till next monsoon.

Jaisingh Hire, assistant engineer with the Command Area Development Authority, Aurangabad, said seven of the 11 major irrigation projects supplying water to Marathwada are overflowing currently, while the rest also hold considerable stock when compared to the average stock in the past. “The region will not witness any drinking water crisis as these dams, along with other reservoirs and barrages, hold sufficient water. Moreover, irrigation needs can be addressed effectively as majority of dams hold over 33% live storage, which is benchmark for releasing water for agricultural purposes,” he said.

Latur collector G Sreekanth said district has sufficient water to cater to drinking needs till December 2021.

Bihar votes on Oct 28, Nov 3 and 7

In what is being termed as one of the biggest elections to be held during the Covid-19 pandemic globally, Bihar will go to polls in three phases next month and results will be announced on November 10, the Election Commission said as it also released a set of unprecedented arrangements and rules for campaigning and voting.

The 243-member Bihar assembly will see voting on October 28, November 3 and 7 from 7 am to 6 pm, instead of the standard 7am-5pm schedule to accommodate Covid-19 patients, suspects and those in quarantine during the last hour of voting. This will, however, not be applicable, in the Left-wing extremism affected areas.

Janata Dal (United) chief Nitish Kumar, who seeks a fourth term, along with coalition partners BJP and Chirag Paswan’s Lok Janshakti Party under the NDA banner will take on the Tejashwi Yadav-led RJD and Congress combine in the absence of incarcerated RJD patriarch Lalu Prasad Yadav. The handling of the Covid-19 pandemic, migrants distress and job losses owing to the nationwide lockdown and the farmer crisis that is picking pace remain the top issues at stake.

Amid much apprehension over the spread of the virus during the mammoth poll exercise, a slew of measures have been put in place.

Wearing face masks during every election related activity is mandatory, at the entry of poll premises thermal scanning of all persons will be carried out, sanitizer to be made available at all locations, compulsory social distancing measures to be in place. “As far as practicable, large halls should be utilised to ensure social distancing,” an official statement by the EC read.

While physical contact during rallies is prohibited, political parties and candidates can hold rallies as part of their campaign amid strict social distancing norms.

During door-to-door campaigning, a maximum of five persons including the candidate and excluding security personnel will be allowed.

In a first, candidates will have the option to deposit the security amount for contesting the elections online.

Covid-19: Pune tops in cases, deaths/m among metros

Pune has the highest number of Covid cases and deaths per million population among the country’s nine largest megapolises with over 5 million population. But Bengaluru is where the situation appears to be worsening fastest, with the city having the highest growth in cases and deaths over the last one month. Ahmedabad continues to have the worst case fatality rate of 4.8, though it has come down over the last month.

Pune, Mumbai and Chennai, in that order, have the highest number of Covid cases and deaths per million population. Pune has overtaken Mumbai in the last one month.

Pune, Mumbai and Chennai are followed by Bengaluru in terms of cases per million, but with a resurgence of the disease in recent weeks, Delhi is in fourth place with in terms of deaths per million with 254 fatalities per million.

The 86% growth in cases and 58% rise in deaths over the last month in Bengaluru are the highest for any of these cities on both counts. Pune has seen the second sharpest growth in cases over the last month at 77%. When it comes to deaths, Kolkata has seen the biggest spike after Bengaluru.

The case fatality rate, or the number of deaths for every hundred cases, has come down in all nine cities over the one-month period, which might indicate better management of hospitalised cases or that cases are now less severe than they were. Delhi and Mumbai have seen the greatest reduction in CFR, followed by Ahmedabad and Pune.

However, with the exception of Hyderabad and Bengaluru, these cities have higher CFRs than the national average. Ahmedabad, Mumbai and Surat continue to have the highest CFR among these nine urban agglomerations, a term used to describe contiguous urban areas that are for all practical purposes one city, for example, Mumbai, Thane and Navi Mumbai.

Mumbai: Toll rates to rise from Oct 1

Toll rates at Mumbai entry point booths at Vashi, Mulund, LBS Marg, Airoli and Dahisar will go up from October 1. The one-way toll for a passenger car, which was Rs.35, will now be Rs.40. A state government notification said for toll recovery against cost of flyovers, bridges, subways and road development besides maintenance, the increase of roughly 18% in rates is made effective every three years. The toll of Rs.35 has been constant for six years. The new rates will be applicable till September 30, 2023.

For light commercial vehicles, the toll has been increased by Rs.10 one-way to Rs.65, and for trucks and buses by Rs.25 each way to Rs.130. For multi-axle vehicles, the increase is of Rs.25, to Rs.160.

In September 2002, a toll was introduced at Vashi, Mulund, LBS, Airoli and Dahisar, and it was extended in 2010 on the pretext of maintenance. The collection contract will continue till September 2027. Mumbai Entry Point Toll Ltd is expected to generate a cash flow of over Rs.11,500 crore by 2027. MEP had paid Rs.2,100 crore upfront in 2010 to the state as part of the contract. If one considers the bank loan interest, maintenance cost and other charges over 17 years, Mumbaikars paid more than 10 times the initial cost of Rs. 2,100 crore by 2017.