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Daily Briefing: Security breach leaves PM Modi stranded in Punjab; India, US tweak home isolation norms amid Omicron surge – The Indian Express

Big Story 

In a major security lapse, Prime Minister Narendra Modi was stranded on a flyover in Punjab for 15-20 minutes after farm protesters blocked the route of his cavalcade while he was on his way to the National Martyrs Memorial at the Hussainiwala border with Pakistan. The Union Ministry of Home Affairs, “taking cognisance of this serious security lapse”, sought a detailed report from the Punjab government and asked it to “fix responsibility for this lapse and take strict action”. 

Key to the unprecedented security breach involving the Prime Minister in Punjab is how his cavalcade was, effectively, grounded for 15 minutes on a flyover en route to his destination. The Indian Express spoke to several police, local officials and protesting farmers who blocked the road, to find that behind the breach was a series of lapses marked by crossed wires, the exigencies of politics and a failure by the state police and administration to respond as per protocol.   

Only in the Express 

At least 900 people were scammed of over Rs 1,200 crore after they invested in an “initial coin offering” floated by a Kerala man for a non-existent cryptocurrency, Enforcement Directorate officials said. ED sources said investment in fake crypto coins had taken place in 2020, mostly during the lockdown. The affected people had bought the “Morris Coin”, listed with a Coimbatore-based cryptocurrency exchange called Franc Exchange, in a manner similar to an initial public offering purchase.  

From the Front Page 

The Assistant Record Officer court in Ayodhya has declared a government order transferring nearly 21 bigha (52,000 square metres) of Dalit land to Maharishi Ramayan Vidyapeeth Trust on August 22, 1996, void after finding the transfer to be “illegal”. The order comes five days after the investigation by The Indian Express revealed that local MLAs, close relatives of bureaucrats, and kin of revenue officials, bought land in Ayodhya to cash in on the momentum in the real estate market after the Supreme Court cleared the construction of the Ram temple.  

The Mumbai police has made their third arrest in the case related to the app which hosted doctored photographs and objectionable comments targeting Muslim women — a 21-year-old Delhi University student from Uttarakhand. The app was hosted on US-based GitHub on December 31. Doctored photos of at least 100 Muslim women, along with lewd remarks and comments, were posted online.  

Must Read 

Countries around the world, including India and the United States, have revised their guidelines for home isolation of mild and asymptomatic cases of Covid-19 amid the recent Omicron wave. The Ministry of Health too has cut the isolation period — and, like the CDC, it has not recommended testing before a patient leaves isolation. This is largely because infections caused by the new variant are believed to be milder, with a shorter incubation period and quicker recovery. 

In 2021, a year when the second wave of the pandemic relegated discretionary spending to the backburner, luxury goods and items bucked the trend. Top-end cars, gold, jewellery and super-luxury residential projects recorded a surge in numbers during the last year, topping not just the pre-pandemic levels but also, in some cases, levels reported 5-10 years ago.

When a BJD MLA from Lanjigarh in Odisha’s Kalahandi district arrived in Baitikhaman village to inaugurate a telecom tower, he did not expect to find a rickety bamboo structure adorned with a banner that read ‘BSNL 4G’. Angry villagers, who organised the fake event, mobbed the MLA and demanded better mobile network in the area. “The fake inauguration was our way of protesting against politicians and their fake promises,” one villager said. 

In the latest edition of Express Adda, former Head Coach of the Indian cricket team, Ravi Shastri, spoke on the recent Virat KohliSourav Ganguly controversy, similarities between himself and Kohli, and on the tough decisions he had to make as head coach.

And Finally 

Has Rishabh Pant ever been successful with his down-the-track heaves to pacers in Tests? He has tried that shot many times in the past – in Australia, in England, in India – but has hardly connected. Usually, he misses. This time, he got the edge and shoved India into danger territory.

Delhi Confidential: Interestingly, Rajnath Singh played an important role in reinstating the Kalyan Singh government in 1998. On Singh’s 90th birth anniversary, the Defence Minister shared pictures of the two of them at the gates of Rashtrapati Bhavan, where they had gone to seek the President’s intervention in saving the government and “protecting the Constitution and democracy” after then-UP Governor Romesh Bhandari allowed the then leader of Loktantrik Congress Jagdambika Pal to become CM. 

In this episode of ‘3 Things’, we discuss why the largest farmer union in Punjab is still protesting. We also talk about Congress’ marathons in UP and the poll promises of other political parties for the UP elections.

Until tomorrow, 

Rahel Philipose and Rounak Bagchi

Express Cartoon by EP Unny.


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