Rise in fraud related to COVID-19

The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) of the United States has issued a warning, which is true for the entire world. “Scammers are leveraging the COVID-19 pandemic to steal your money, your personal information, or both. Don’t let them,” the FBI has cautioned.

India has started witnessing cheating in the name of coronavirus. Unknown NGOs, commercial firms, including so-called food chains and restaurants, societies and individuals, are using social media to ask people to donate money to help the needy, through their bank accounts or e-wallet. A respectable civil society leader told this newspaper that the people should rather donate funds to the Central or state governments designated bank accounts. The FBI has advised people to be on the lookout for the following: fake healthcare emails and phishing emails. The idea is not to give out any personal information to any entity online.

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Ram Lalla’s ‘tent-vas’ ends

Ram Lalla’s “tent-vas” ended on Wednesday in Ayodhya as He was shifted to a temporary new location early morning in the presence of Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath, clearing the site to allow construction of a Ram temple. The idol of Ram Lalla was placed on a 9.5-kg silver throne in the new structure where the idol would remain till the construction of the Ram temple is completed on the site.

The CM offered special prayers in the presence of Ram Mandir Trust secretary Champat Rai. Adityanath in his personal capacity donated Rs 11 lakh for the construction of the Ram temple.

The Ayodhya administration did not allow people to gather on the occasion as a lockdown has been imposed across the country to check the spread of Covid-19.

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Justice to students during lockdown

The Delhi High Court resorted to video conference to help Indian medical students stuck at Almaty Airport in Kazakhstan. In a first such step, a two-member bench on Wednesday directed the Ministry of External Affairs to ensure welfare, well-being and safety of these students stranded because of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The court directed the Central government to “promptly appoint a Nodal Officer from the Indian Embassy in Kazakhstan”. Justice Siddharth Mridul and Justice Talwant Singh, operating from their homes, ordered “to expeditiously facilitate, secure and provide the students with all basic amenities and including humanitarian assistance, in terms of, medical care, boarding (food), lodging and transportation, as may be necessary or warranted.”

The court’s direction was issued on a plea by Shehla Saira, who apprised the bench that “Indian nationals in sizeable numbers, who are enrolled for higher studies, including MBBS, as regular students, at the Semey Medical University in Kazakhstan, are stated to be stranded in Kazakhstan…”

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RS bids farewell to 57 members

The Rajya Sabha on Monday bid farewell to 57 members from 20 states, including veteran NCP leader Sharad Pawar and the 92-year Congress leader Motilal Vora, who will retire between April and July. One-third of the members of the Upper House retire every two years. The March 26 election for many seats was postponed due to countrywide lockdown in view of the coronavirus.

Reacting to the Rajya Sabha Chairman M. Venkaiah Naidu’s observation that to get a seat in the Upper House is “an honour”, a senior Congress leader told this writer in the Central Hall: “Naiduji should ask our former party leader Jyotiraditya Scindia how big is this honour! To get a Rajya Sabha seat, Scindia betrayed Congress, which caused the fall of our government in Madhya Pradesh. Naidu Saheb might have made his honour comment keeping Jyotiraditya in mind.”

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‘Utilise MPs’ funds to fight Covid-19’

Some Parliamentarians have started self-publicity by announcing financial-grants from their respective MPLAD funds in a manner as if they are giving these from their own pockets. “The Public Accounts Committee of the Parliament and Planning Commission have termed MPLADS useless and corruption-generating,” Right to Information activist Subhash Chandra Aggarwal told The Sunday Guardian.

A TV sting operation many years ago had caught some Parliamentarians allegedly taking bribe to approve schemes in their constituencies to be funded through MPLADS. The then Lok Sabha Speaker Somnath Chatterjee had urged the government to scrap the scheme.

“Many MPs and MLAs are over-generous to fund their favourite organisations from this scheme even though such funding may have nothing to do with public-welfare. Already, the Bihar government has abolished such a scheme,” Aggarwal said.

Aggarwal suggested that “The Central government should announce immediate abolition of the MPLADs scheme, and advise states to abolish similar schemes to raise funds for the fight against the virus.”

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