GREENERY

Greenery may refer to any foliage of a plant, either live, freshly cut, or artificial. The term is used in the landscaping, interior design, and florist industries. Greenery is referred to nature. Nature is the natural, physical, material world or universe. Nature can be referred to as phenomena of the physical world, and also to life in general. Nature is very important for our living. It would be very difficult to live without nature. The study of nature is large.

Human beings are considered to an important part of nature. Human activity is often understood as a separate category from other natural phenomena. The concept of nature as a whole, the physical universe, is one of the several expansions of the original notion.

Nature can refer to the general realm of living plants and animals, and in some cases to the processes associated with inanimate objects-the way that particular types of things exist and change of their own accord, such as the weather and geology of the Earth. It is often taken to mean the “natural environment” or “wilderness”-wild animals, rocks, forest, and in general those things that have not been substantially altered by human intervention, or which persist despite human intervention.

Greenery or Nature is very important for our living, life and our souls. We should take care of our surroundings and nature.

CHOCOLATES

Image result for chocolates wikipedia

Chocolates are love. People just love consuming chocolates as they are very sweet and delicious. Chocolates are a preparation of roasted and ground cacao seeds that is made in the form of a liquid, paste, or in a block, which may be used as a flavoring ingredient in other foods.

The process of preparation of chocolates is that the seeds of the cacao tree have an intense bitter taste and must be fermented to develop the flavor. After fermentation, the beans are dried, cleaned, and roasted. The shell is removed to produce cacao nibs, which are then ground to cocoa mass, unadulterated chocolate in rough form. Once the cocoa mass is liquefied by heating, it is called chocolate liquor. The liquor may also be cooled and processed into its two components: cocoa solids and cocoa butter.

Chocolate is one of the most popular food types and flavors in the world, and many foodstuffs involving chocolate exist, particularly desserts, including cakes, pudding, mousse, chocolate brownies, and chocolate chip cookies. Many candies are filled with sweetened chocolate. Chocolate bars are either made up of solid chocolate or other ingredients coated in chocolate, are eaten as snacks. Gifts of chocolate molded into different shapes are traditional on certain Western holidays, including Christmas, Easter, Valentine’s Day, and Hanukkah. Chocolate is also used in hot and cold beverages, such as chocolate milk and hot chocolate, and in some alcoholic drinks, such as creme de cacao.

Who is Marjorie Taylor Greene, the Republican whose past comments are causing a furore in the US House.

The US House of Representatives is set to vote on whether to strip firebrand Republican lawmaker Marjorie Taylor Greene of her committee assignments, after several of her past social media posts and comments sparked a furore within the Democratic Party. This comes after top Republican leader Kevin McCarthy condemned her controversial remarks, but failed to take action against her.

Before she won a US House seat representing Northwest Georgia last year, she was known to have made a number of racist, anti-semitic and anti-Muslim statements on social media. She notably courted controversy for supporting a host of conspiracy theories, including the since-debunked QAnon theory.

In recent weeks, several old comments resurfaced where the Georgia Republican claimed school shootings were staged and even liked posts that called for the execution of top Democratic leaders, such as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Lawmakers on either side of the aisle have slammed Greene for her comments, and several Democrats have demanded her resignation.

But on Wednesday, McCarthy declined to take action against her — a decision that has angered both House Democrats as well as a growing number of Republicans, including Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell. In a lengthy statement, McCarthy condemned her past comments but accused the Democratic Party of trying to carry out a “partisan power grab” by pushing for Greene’s resignation so vehemently.

Who is Marjorie Taylor Greene?

Greene co-owns a commercial construction and renovation company with her husband in Georgia. In November last year, she won a US House seat from Georgia’s 14th congressional district, where she ran unopposed after her Democratic opponent Kevin Van Ausdal dropped out of the race in September.

Greene is no stranger to controversy. Over the last few months, she has been widely criticised for some troubling social media posts and statements that have recently resurfaced. She has publicly endorsed the far-right QAnon conspiracy theory and has even repeatedly expressed racist views in public.

Despite this, she was a favourite of former President Donald Trump who praised her and once even called her a “future republican star. Trump himself has repeatedly refused to denounce the since-debunked QAnon theory, which suggests that the former President is secretly fighting a highly-placed child sex-trafficking ring.

But after she was criticised by several Republican leaders for elevating the warped theory during her primary race against fellow Republican candidate and neurosurgeon John Cowan, Greene distanced herself from QAnon conspiracy, without explicitly denouncing it.

In January, the political newcomer was once again in the spotlight when she introduced a measure attempting to impeach US President Joe Biden, accusing him of abuse of power and corruption. Late last month, another set of old social media posts surfaced, prompting the Democratic Party to file a resolution to strip her of her committee assignments.

Why are Greene’s social media posts causing outrage?

In January, Greene took down dozens of Facebook posts dating back to 2018 and 2019, where she publicly endorsed a number of fringe conspiracy theories and showed her support for executing Democrats, CNN reported.

She has been slammed for claiming that mass shootings are “false flags” used to justify gun control. In one video shared on social media, she is seen harassing David Hogg, a survivor of a school shooting who now advocates for gun control. In another video shared in 2017, just days after a gunman shot and killed 58 people at a music festival in Las Vegas, she suggested that the incident was staged by gun control activists to promote their agenda.

She has also previously claimed that the 2018 wildfires in California were started by “Jewish space lasers”.

A CNN review of Greene’s activity on Facebook found that apart from filling her feed with extremist content and conspiracy theories, she also indicated her support for executing prominent Democrats. In January, 2019, Greene liked a comment on her post that advocated “a bullet to the head” of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

On Monday this week, a group of House Democrats introduced a resolution to remove Greene from her committee assignments in the House Education & Labor Committee and the House Budget Committee. Her appointment to the Education & Labour Committee caused tremendous friction between Republicans and Democrats, with the latter questioning how she could possibly be placed in the panel given her history of troubling posts and statements, particularly about school shootings.

“I think that the focus has to be on the Republican leadership of this House of Representatives for the disregard they have for the death of those children,” Pelosi said at the time, according to NBC News. “You’re just going to have to ask them why they thought that that raised itself to the level of something appropriate to do in the Congress of the United States.”

How did the Republican Party respond to the Democrats’ demands?

In a statement issued on Wednesday, top Republican Kevin McCarthy condemned Greene for endorsing conspiracy theories and making bigoted statements, but did not take away her posts on the two congressional committees.

“Past comments from and endorsed by Marjorie Taylor Greene on school shootings, political violence, and anti-Semitic conspiracy theories do not represent the values or beliefs of the House Republican Conference,” he said. His statement was issued following a closed-door meeting of Republican leaders, where they debated whether to strip Greene of her leadership posts.

They were also deciding the fate of Wyoming Republican Representative Liz Cheney after she voted in favour of impeaching former President Trump. Finally, Cheney, the third-highest ranking Republican, survived a secret ballot to oust her by 145-61.

Meanwhile, there is more of a divide within the party as far as Greene is concerned. Several top Republican lawmakers have been vocal in their criticism of her past comments. Florida Senator Marco Rubio called her “either deranged or a sadist”. Mitch McConnell accused her of embracing “loony lies” that were a “cancer” to the party. Senator Todd Young of Indiana said she was “nutty” and an embarrassment to the party, BBC reported.

During the meeting, Marjorie apologised for her past statements. She said that she did, in fact, believe school shootings were real and called them “awful”. Greene told her colleagues that she had made a mistake by being curious about QAnon, The Hill reported. At the conclusion of her address, several Republican leaders gave her a standing ovation, the report stated.

Some Republicans have argued that Greene cannot be published for comments she made before she was elected.

What next?

Nancy Pelosi announced that the House would proceed with a vote on Thursday to decide whether Greene will be removed from the education and budget committees. To pass, the measure needs a simple majority in the Democrat-controlled House.

“McCarthy’s failure to lead his party effectively hands the keys over to Greene – an anti-Semite, QAnon adherent and 9/11 Truther,” Pelosi said in a statement. Republicans are responding to the Democrats’ push to expel Greene, by trying to remove Democratic lawmaker Ilhan Omar from her committees for statements they have alleged were anti-semitic.

Why not remove Marjorie Taylor Greene from Congress altogether?

Democratic Congressman Jimmy Gomez Wednesday announced that he was introducing a resolution to expel Greene from the Congress for her comments.

“As if it weren’t enough to amplify conspiracy theories that the September 11 attacks were an inside job and the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School was staged, a string of recent media reports has now confirmed that Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene had previously supported social media posts calling for political violence against the Speaker of the House, members of Congress, and former President Barack Obama,” he said in a statement.

“Her very presence in office represents a direct threat against the elected officials and staff who serve our government, and it is with their safety in mind, as well as the security of institutions and public servants across our country, that I call on my House colleagues to support my resolution to immediately remove Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene from this legislative body,” he added. But is it possible for Greene to be expelled from the Congress altogether? Experts say that it seems unlikely.

India series on free-to-air channel in England a boost for Test Cricket

For the first time since the 2005 Ashes, England Test cricket returns to Channel 4. On Wednesday, the free-to-air terrestrial channel confirmed that it had secured the rights for the four-match series between India and England from Star Sports.

What is the history of cricket broadcast in England?

The BBC covered all England home games for 60 years until 1999, when they lost the rights to Channel 4. The matches were on free-to-air television till England’s Ashes win over Australia in 2005 before all international cricket broadcast in the UK moved to Comcast’s pay-TV operator Sky.

While before anyone with television could see England’s home games, the move to Sky made a subscription necessary.

Sky did share the rights with Channel 4 in a one-off deal for the 2019 World Cup final between England and New Zealand — and the hosts’ thrilling Super Over win over New Zealand at Lord’s attracted 15.4 million viewers over the course of the day.

What is the new deal?

According to the deal, all four Test matches along with highlights will be available for free on Channel 4, as well as its dedicated streaming platform: All 4.

Channel 4 will get the Star Sports’ live world feed commentary from India. An in-house, London-based panel of former England captains Alastair Cook and Andrew Strauss will provide the expert analysis, along with presenter Rishi Persad

“We’re delighted to be showing live Test cricket on Channel 4 again and given the recent performances of both sides this series is set to be a cracker,” Channel 4’s head of sport Pete Andrews told Variety. “We’re thrilled to have struck this deal with Star Sports.”

The UK radio rights, meanwhile have gone to TalkSport, and the BBC Test Match Special team will opt for the ‘Cricket Social’ format of online discussion instead of ball-by-ball commentary by pundits.

How did Channel 4 pip Sky Sports and BT Sport?

Citing sources in India, The Times reported that Channel 4 may have paid as little as £5 million to Star Sports, which had initially been seeking more than £20 million for both the Test and limited-overs UK rights. Sky and BT Sport may have had to pay more due to a smaller potential audience than Channel 4. While the Test deal has been finalised, Star Sports might look for a more lucrative deal for the limited-overs matches.

Sky and BT Sport have also been in cost-cutting mode since the Covid- 19 pandemic hit, and are expected to battle it out for the Premier League football rights later this year.

The early-morning start also adds a wrinkle. The matches will begin at 4am England time, except for the third Test — a day-night match with a 9am start.

What has been the response?

England captain Joe Root hoped Test cricket’s return to terrestrial television will “inspire the next generation.”

“You look at the stuff Sky do and the reach they get, they do a wonderful job and they give great content for all the viewers. [But] this is a great opportunity to reach out to a new audience, to grow the game as we keep talking about and for it to be more accessible for everyone else,” Root told the Guardian. “So it’s a great thing for the sport and hopefully people will tune in and watch us and have something to smile about at the end of it.”

Jonathan Trott, England’s batting consultant in India who played all his 52 Tests career behind Sky’s paywall, called the development “exciting.”

“I think the more people we can get watching the game is a great idea and fantastic for the sport,” Trott told The Times. “I’m sure it’s going to be exciting for everybody. For people in lockdown, hopefully they can watch it and we can get the nation behind the side and give a little bit back in what is quite a testing time all around the world.”

For the Telegraph, historian Simon Heffer wrote: “Perhaps teenagers won’t flood back to county grounds this summer after watching India play England on free-to-air television: but it will spark the imagination of some. If a way can be found to keep showing serious cricket on free-to-air channels, it will remind the young generation that it is there.”

More vaccine doses given than Covid cases detected

In the couple of months since governments took up vaccination against the novel coronavirus, the number of vaccine doses administered worldwide has crossed the number of Covid-19 cases detected in the one year since the pandemic began.

Until February 3, a total of 107.34 million vaccine doses had been administered across the world, according to the online resource Our World in Data, which collates data from various government and educational institutions. This does not reflect the number of people vaccinated, though: every dose administered is counted and, depending on the vaccine, some regimens require multiple doses.

The number of Covid-19 cases detected until February 3 was 104.38 million (10.44 crore), according to Our World in Data citing Johns Hopkins University. By February 4 night in India, JHU had updated the count to 104.60 million.

With 44.5 million doses administered until February 3, India is fourth on the list, behind the US, UK and Israel. In terms of doses given per 100 population, Israel is on top at 1.39. India, owing to its large population, is far behind on this count, at 0.02 doses per 100.

Two PSU banks, one insurance firm to be privatised, LIC IPO this year

The government on Monday announced that two public sector banks and one general insurance company will be privatised and LIC will be listed on the bourses in the financial year 2021-22 as part of the consolidation in the banking and insurance sectors. It has also announced Rs 20,000 crore recapitalisation of PSU banks.

What privatisation of PSU banks means?

The government will start the process of privatisation for two public sector banks in the coming financial year, Finance Minister Finance Minister said in her budget speech. However, the Minister did not disclose the names of the banks. The government currently holds majority stake in PSU banks. The government is expected to bring down the stake in the two PSU banks below 51 per cent or sell the entire stake to private ownership. Bank unions are likely to oppose the government’s initiative to privatise PSU banks.

Which bank will qualify for privatisation?

Banking sources say that smaller and middle level banks are likely to be privatised by the government. It’s unlikely to change the structure of big banks like State Bank of India and PNB. “The privatisation of two public sector banks and the stake sale of LIC should help the government meet the disinvestment target and reduce the fiscal constraints,” said Raghvendra Nath, Managing Director, Ladderup Wealth Management.

Is IDBI Bank on the privatisation list?

IDBI Bank is unlikely to be in the list of the government. Life Insurance Corporation (LIC) currently holds majority stake in IDBI Bank. LIC is supposed to reduce the stake in IDBI over a period of time. LIC is unlikely to give up control over IDBI Bank in the near future.

Which general insurance company will be privatised?

The government has not disclosed the name of the public sector insurance firm that will be on the privatisation block. There are four PSU general insurance companies: New India Assurance, United India Insurance (UII), National Insurance Company (NIC) and Oriental Insurance Company (OIC). The government had earlier dropped its plan to merge UII, NIC and OIC and decided to recapitalise them. Besides, the government also owns reinsurer General Insurance Corporation (GIC Re).

What does LIC IPO mean for the government?

Finance Minister Nirmala Sitamaraman has said Life Insurance Corporation (LIC) will go for an initial public offering in 2021-22. This is likely to be a mega IPO going by the Rs 32 lakh crore assets under management of LIC. The government is expected to mop up a sizeable amount from the LIC IPO, making the life insurer one of the largest firms in market capitalisation. LIC has already started the spadework for the IPO.

What is Stardust 1.0, the first rocket to run on biofuel?

On January 31, Stardust 1.0 was launched from Loring Commerce Centre in Maine, US, a former military base, becoming the first commercial space launch powered by biofuel, which is non-toxic for the environment as opposed to traditionally used rocket fuels.

Sunday’s launch marks another historic first for Maine since Stardust 1.0 has become the first commercial rocket launch for the state located in northeastern US.

So, what is Stardust 1.0?

Stardust 1.0 is a launch vehicle suited for student and budget payloads. The rocket is 20 feet tall and has a mass of roughly 250 kg. The rocket can carry a maximum payload mass of 8 kg and during its first launch carried three payloads. According to a report in Politico, the payloads included a cubesat prototype built by highschool students, a metal alloy designed to lessen vibrations, which is developed by Kellogg’s Research Labs and a cubesat from software company Rocket Insights.

The rocket is manufactured by bluShift, an aerospace company based in Maine that is developing rockets that are powered by bio-derived fuels. Stardust 1.0 is being developed by the company since 2014 when the company was founded by its CEO Sascha Deri.

These rockets will help to launch small satellites called cubesats into space in a way that is relatively cheaper than using traditional rocket fuel and is less toxic for the environment. Other rockets being developed by the company include Stardust Gen. 2, Starless Rouge and Red Dwarf, which is a low-Earth orbit (LEO) vehicle and is designed to fly a maximum payload of 30 kg.

There are other companies working towards making access to space easier. One of them is Amazon founder Jeff Bezos’s space company called Blue Origin. Last year in October, the company tested a rocket system called New Shephard. The rocket system is meant to take tourists to space eventually and offers flights to space over 100 km above Earth and accommodation for payloads. Such efforts are a part of a growing number of commercial space companies that are working to provide easier and cheaper access to space to laypeople and also to make access to space cost-effective for purposes of academic research, corporate technology development and entrepreneurial ventures among others.

Significantly, the accommodation of mini payloads provides easier access to space to not only experienced researchers but also to students who are part of educational institutions and are working to develop their own space programs “for less than the price of new football uniforms” as Blue Origin has put it.

Another company founded by British entrepreneur Richard Branson called Virgin Galactic signed a Space Act Agreement with NASA’s Johnson Space Center in June 2020 to encourage commercial participation in orbital human spaceflight to the International Space Station (ISS) and help in the development of a Low Earth Orbit economy.

What is biofuel?

What the biofuel used for Sunday’s launch is made up of is not yet clear, but as per media reports it can be sourced from farms around the world. Deri told Politico that the biofuel is a blend of substances that can be had from any farm across the US and that it is nontoxic. “My two young daughters could eat the fuel and no harm would come to them with the exception of constipation maybe,” the report quoted Deri as saying.

But broadly, biofuels are obtained from biomass, which can be converted directly into liquid fuels that can be used as transportation fuels. According to the US government’s office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, the two most common kinds of biofuels in use today are ethanol and biodiesel and they both represent the first generation of biofuel technology. Ethanol, for instance, is renewable and made from different kinds of plant materials. Biodiesel on the other hand is produced by combining alcohol with new and used vegetable oils, animal fats or recycled cooking grease.

How the series defeat against India has put Australian coach Justin Langer under scanner

After the test series lost against India, Justin Langer’s coaching style has come under scrutiny. Sources close to the team told The Sydney Morning Herald that the Australia head coach style of management “wore thin” with players. According to the report, Langer’s intensity and mood swings have drained experienced players, who have spent months on end in either quarantine or bio-bubbles.

The reality sandwich

According to the report, during the final Test in Brisbane, Langer ordered a player to stop habitually stuffing a toasted sandwich in his pocket before walking onto the field.

“You’re walking on against India, we’re trying to win a Test match and one of our players walks on with a toasted sandwich in his hand,” Langer — whose contract as a three-format coach and selector lasts another 18 months — was quoted as saying. “I spoke to (the player) about it at length yesterday. I said, ‘How do you reckon it looks, mate?’ Is that not something I should say?”

Micro-managing bowlers

SMH also reports that some senior players are frustrated by the micro-management, with Langer bombarding bowlers with statistics and instructions during lunch breaks.

Langer denied the accusation: “It’s actually the opposite of what happens. I never talk about statistics to the bowlers, ever. I don’t go to any of the bowlers’ meetings. That’s what the bowlers’ coach is meant to be doing. And the learnings of the last few months are I should start looking at that more.”

Langer’s response

On Friday, Langer said any suggestion of deteriorating relationships with players “couldn’t be further from the truth” but added, “leadership isn’t a popularity contest”.

“If players just want someone to tickle their stomachs all the time then I’m not doing my job.”

Not the first time

A previous confrontation between Langer and his players over his coaching style — after Australia failed to regain the Border-Gavaskar trophy two years ago — was a prominent theme of the Amazon-produced documentary The Test: A New Era for Australia’s Team’.

The coach was given a stern message during a team meeting after the 2018 Boxing Day Test drubbing. Captain Tim Paine wanted Langer to be more positive and batsman Usman Khawaja asked him to not make things “too complicated”.

“We can’t always control the result. You get better as individuals, players, staff, everyone, be in better control of that emotion, be more level-headed, without trying to make it too complicated,” Khawaja was seen saying. “I think that’s what the boys are trying to say. Does that make sense? If it doesn’t then…”

When asked where the message was coming from by Langer, Khawaja replied: “Um, I think the boys are intimidated by you, Alf. I think there’s a bit of the walking-on-eggshells sort of thing. I feel like I think the boys are afraid to say it.”

An old New Year’s Resolution

After the 2-1 defeat in 2018-19, Langer resolved to be more mellow for the ODI series in India. Changing his approach, he allowed players to take more control over the training. The team came back from a 0-2 deficit to win a five-match series.

“(The Test series loss to India) was a massive wake-up call and a really tough time in my life,” Langer said on a podcast. “I’ve got no doubt in 10 years’ time, I will look back on that period and it will be the making of my coaching career.”

After the 1-wicket defeat in Leeds during the Ashes, Langer waited a day before conducting a post-mortem to avoid an emotionally-charged feedback session. Australia struck back to win at Old Trafford and, while they lost at The Oval, managed to retain the Ashes.

All seemed well last year. In October, after the opening round of Sheffield Shield matches was dominated by fringe players, Langer called it a tell-tale sign of a glorious era when “it’s harder to get into the Test side than out”.

Then India came visiting again…

The Maharashtra-Karnataka border dispute – the past and the present

Earlier this week, Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray and Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) leader Sharad Pawar released a book published by the state government, titled ‘Maharashtra-Karnataka Seemavad: Sangharsh Aani Sankalp’ (Maharashtra-Karnataka Boundary Dispute: Struggle and Pledge). The book is a collection of articles, news, and other material on the demand that Marathi-speaking areas in Karnataka should be integrated into Maharashtra.

Until the Supreme Court gives is verdict on the dispute, the areas should be declared Union Territory, Thackeray said.

Pawar was more circumspect, saying that the government must make all legal efforts to ensure a favourable verdict in the apex court.

The matter has been in the Supreme Court since 2004.

The dispute

This long smouldering inter-state dispute resurfaces from time to time, rather like the issue around the demand for the renaming of Aurangabad. Maharashtra has staked claim to over 7,000 sq km area along its border with Karnataka, comprising 814 villages in the districts of Belagavi (Belgaum), Uttara Kannada, Bidar, and Gulbarga, and the towns of Belagavi, Karwar, and Nippani. All these areas are predominantly Marathi-speaking, and Maharashtra wants them to be merged with the state.

The genesis of the dispute lies in the reorganisation of states along linguistic and administrative lines in 1956.

The erstwhile Bombay Presidency, a multilingual province, included the present-day Karnataka districts of Vijayapura, Belagavi, Dharwad, and Uttara Kannada. In 1948, the Belgaum municipality requested that the district, having a predominantly Marathi-speaking population, be incorporated into the proposed Maharashtra state.

However, The States Reorganisation Act of 1956 made Belgaum and 10 talukas of Bombay State a part of the then Mysore State (which was renamed Karnataka in 1973). While demarcating borders, the Reorganisation of States Commission sought to include talukas with a Kannada-speaking population of more than 50 per cent in Mysore. But the opponents of the region’s inclusion in Mysore have maintained that in 1956, Marathi-speakers outnumbered Kannada-speakers in those areas.

Political parties in Maharashtra are united on the merger of the border areas with the state. The dispute features in every election manifesto of the Congress, NCP, Shiv Sena, and BJP Over the last six decades, every Governor’s address (which outlines the state government’s policies and programmes) to the joint session of the Maharashtra Assembly and Council has mentioned the border dispute to loud applause from members across parties.

Recent incidents

This is not the first time that this matter has arisen in the last 13 months of the Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) coalition government.

Bus services between Kolhapur (Maharashtra) and Belgaum (Karnataka) had to be suspended for a few days following tensions that flared on both sides of the border after Chief Minister Thackeray referred to the contentious areas as “Karnataka-occupied Maharashtra” in the Assembly.

He also named two senior ministers, Eknath Shinde and Chhagan Bhujbal, to a co-ordination committee to oversee the expeditious resolution of the case in favour of Maharashtra in the Supreme Court.

Late last year, the Maharashtra government asked all ministers to wear a black band on November 1, which is celebrated in Karnataka as Rajyotsava or state Formation Day, to express support for Marathi-speaking people in Karnataka.

Thackeray reiterated his commitment to redrawing Maharashtra’s borders to include areas that now lie in Karnataka on January 17, which is observed in Maharashtra as Martyrs’ Day, while paying tributes to those who died in the 1956 border struggle to join Maharashtra.

Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar echoed the pledge.

The Mahajan Commission

The BJP government in Karnataka has accused Maharashtra of seeking to incite violence on the border dispute, and Karnataka Chief Minister B S Yediyurappa has vowed he would “not part with an inch of land”. The Mahajan Commission had “long ago settled the dispute”, Yediyurappa said, condemning Maharashtra.

The Mahajan Commission was set up by the Government of India in October 1966 to look into the border dispute. In its report submitted in August 1967, the Commission, led by former Chief Justice of India Mehr Chand Mahajan, recommended that 264 villages should be transferred to Maharashtra, and that Belgaum and 247 villages should remain with Karnataka.

Maharashtra rejected the report, calling it biased and illogical, while Karnataka welcomed it. Despite demands from Karnataka, the Centre never implemented the recommendations of the report.

Earlier this week, Sharad Pawar said the report was “100 per cent against Maharashtra”.

The BJP’s dilemma

At a time when the BJP has tried to corner Thackeray on the issue of renaming Aurangabad, challenging him to act on the old promise, the border row has handed the Shiv Sena an opportunity to hit back at its former ally.

The Maharashtra BJP had lain low for long, shying away from saying anything that would pit it against its own government and party in Karnataka. However, former Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis has now said that the Maharashtra BJP wants that the predominantly Marathi-speaking border areas should be merged with Maharashtra.

“Irrespective of the party in power, both states have from the beginning struck to their positions. The Maharashtra BJP’s stand remains unchanged,” Fadnavis has said.

What are Canada’s new Covid-19 travel restrictions

To address the threat posed by new and more infectious variants of the novel coronavirus, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau Friday unveiled a fresh set of Covid-19 restrictions for travellers who are planning to visit the country. “New variants of Covid-19 pose a real challenge to Canada,” Prime Minister Trudeau said at a press conference. “That’s why we need to take extra measures.”

The new restrictions are aimed at minimising the impact of the deadly disease ahead of the upcoming holiday season.

From suspending flights to a number of popular destinations, to making Covid PCR tests mandatory upon arrival — the Trudeau administration announced a slew of strict new measures to crack down on the spread of the coronavirus pandemic.

What are the new travel restrictions Canada PM Trudeau announced?

Prime Minister Trudeau announced that the country’s main airlines — Air Canada, WestJet, Sunwing, and Air Transat — are suspending all flights to the Caribbean and Mexico from April 30. The airlines are in the process of “making arrangements with customers who are currently on a trip in these regions to organise their return flights,” Trudeau said at the press conference on Friday.

In addition to this, all international flights will only be permitted to land in Vancouver, Calgary, Montreal, and Toronto from next week onwards. Travellers arriving in the country will also have to take compulsory Covid-19 Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) tests. While awaiting their results, they will be required to quarantine in a government-approved hotel at their own expense. According to Trudeau, the cost for this is “expected to be more than $2,000.”

“Those with negative test results will then be able to quarantine at home under significantly increased surveillance and enforcement,” he added. But those who test positive, will have to quarantine in a designated government facility to ensure that they are not carrying “variants of potential concern”.

He also urged Canadians to avoid all forms of non-essential travel. Trudeau said that nonessential travellers will soon have to present a negative Covid-19 test before entering the land border with the US.

“By putting in place these tough measures now, we can look forward to a better time, when we can all plan those vacations,” the Canadian Prime Minister said.

Non-essential travel to Canada by foreign tourists has been banned since the country first began reporting coronavirus cases in March, last year. Earlier, anyone entering the country for essential travel was required to undergo a mandatory self-quarantine period of two weeks. Travellers had to provide a negative Covid-19 test, taken within three days of their departure time, before boarding a Canada-bound flight.

What has led to the new restrictions?

Trudeau’s recent announcement follows weeks of furore in Canada’s provinces, where local authorities have been urging the Prime Minister and his administration to introduce stricter travel regulations to contain the spread of the deadly virus.

According to latest statistics from the Canada Border Services Agency, over 6.3 million travellers who entered the country since the onset of the pandemic did not have to complete the mandatory 14-day quarantine, Global News reported. The figure includes truck drivers and others involved in cross-border transportation of goods. A number of these workers travel to and from the United States — the world’s
worst-affected country — regularly.

But during his press conference yesterday, Trudeau noted that only 2 per cent of Covid-19 cases in Canada are due to incoming travellers — which he claimed was evidence of the effectiveness of the country’s strict coronavirus restrictions.

What sort of travel is permitted and what is not?

While tourism has not been allowed since the very onset of the pandemic, visitors are permitted to travel to Canada for ‘family-reunification’ in some cases. Most permitted travel is exclusively reserved for Canadian citizens and permanent residents only. Foreign nationals will only be permitted to enter if they are protected workers, asylum claimants, or if they have applied to travel to the country on other compassionate grounds.

While healthcare workers have strongly advised against non-essential inter-provincial travel, residents are permitted to visit most Canadian provinces, other than the Atlantic provinces and Arctic territories. Here, authorities have banned the entry of people from the rest of Canada, unless they are travelling for essential reasons, such as for school or work.

So far, Canada has reported over 7.74 lakh Covid-19 cases and 2.2 lakh deaths.