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Top news of the day: BJP formally announces alliance with Amarinder Singh and Dhindsa for Punjab Assembly polls; Manipur Cabinet likely to meet in a day or two to discuss AFSPA, and more

The major news headlines of the day, and more.

Election Commission assesses COVID-19 situation in poll-bound States

The Election Commission on Monday assessed the COVID-19 situation in the five poll-bound States with the Union health secretary and asked the top brass of the Narcotics Control Bureau to check the influence of drugs in elections. The commission also met top officials of ITBP, BSF and SSB and pressed for maintaining strict vigil on international borders some of the poll-going States share.

Kerala best State on health parameters, Uttar Pradesh worst: NITI Aayog

Kerala has again emerged as the top performer in terms of overall health performance among larger States, while Uttar Pradesh is the worst, according to the fourth Health Index launched by NITI Aayog. The fourth round of the Health Index took into account the period 2019-20 (reference year).

Punjab Assembly election 2022 | BJP formally announces alliance with Amarinder, Dhindsa’s party

The BJP will contest the Assembly polls in Punjab in alliance with Amarinder Singh’s Punjab Lok Congress and Sukhdev Singh Dhindsa’s SAD (Sanyukt), Union minister Gajendra Shekhawat said on Monday. Both Mr. Singh and Mr. Dhindsa, a Rajya Sabha MP, met with the BJP top brass, including president J.P. Nadda and Union Home Minister Amit Shah, at Mr. Shah’s residence in New Delhi to chalk out a strategy for the polls.

Mamata, Archdiocese of Calcutta express shock over freezing of Missionaries of Charity’s bank accounts

West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee and the Archdiocese of Calcutta on Monday expressed shock over the Centre’s decision to freeze all bank accounts of Mother Teresa’s Missionaries of Charity in India. Taking to social media, she stated that the decision had left about 22,000 patients and employees without food and medicines. The Trinamool Congress chairperson emphasised that humanitarian efforts must not be compromised.

PM Modi counts benefits of ‘double-engine govt’ in Himachal Pradesh

Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Monday said it has benefitted the people of Himachal Pradesh to have a double-engine government in the state and at the Centre as the speed of development projects and the implementation of different schemes have got a momentum.

Data | Why is the Indian rupee weakening

On December 16, the Indian rupee’s exchange rate slid past the 76-per-U.S.-dollar-mark for the first time since June 2020 and stood at 76.25. It had fallen beyond 76 in March 2020 when COVID-19 cases surged and economies came to a grinding halt. However, this time its fall was driven by widening trade deficit and foreign investors pulling out funds from equities. India’s trade gap widened to a record high of $22.9 billion on account of rise in imports. Foreign portfolio investments (FPI) also plunged for the third consecutive month, thus weakening the rupee further. But the rupee’s fall is modest when compared to the currencies of other emerging economies.

AFSPA: Manipur Cabinet likely to meet in a day or two

A meeting of the Manipur Cabinet is likely to be convened in a day or two to discuss the growing demand for the repeal of the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act (AFSPA) 1958 from this border State, according to officials. The last Disturbed Areas Act declared for six months expires on December 31.

Air India handover to Tata Group delayed by a month till January

Tata Group’s takeover of loss-making national carrier Air India is most likely delayed by a month till January as the completion of procedures taking longer than expected, an official said on Monday. In October, the government accepted the highest bid made by a Tata Sons company for 100% equity shares of Air India and Air India Express along with its 50% stake in ground-handling company AISATS – the first privatisation in 20 years.

Declare priority- stop Omicron or crowds at poll rallies, Varun tells govt.

On a day when Union Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushan met Election Commission of India officials to brief them on the spread of Coronavirus variant Omicron in view of the coming Assembly polls, BJP MP Varun Gandhi asked the government and political class to declare its priority on “whether to fight the rapid spread of Omicron or demonstrate political heft via large crowds at poll rallies.”

Also read: Coronavirus live | December 27, 2021

Cape Town bells toll to honor Archbishop Desmond Tutu’s life

Bells rang at midday Monday from St. George’s Anglican Cathedral in Cape Town to honor Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu, a day after his death at age 90. The bells at the cathedral, where Tutu urged South Africans of all races to work together against apartheid, will toll for 10 minutes at noon for five days to mark Tutu’s life.

Shocked to hear about freezing of Missionaries of Charity bank accounts: Mamata

West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on Monday said she was to shocked that the Centre had frozen all bank accounts of Mother Teresa’s Missionaries of Charity in India. Taking to the social media, she stated that the decision has left about 22,000 patients and employees without food and medicines. The Trinamool Congress chairperson also emphasised that humanitarian efforts must not be compromised.

Explained | India’s vaccination programme for minors

Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced that beginning January 3, vaccines would be available for those who are 15 years of age. Boosters would also be available for health-care workers, frontline workers and those over 60 with co-morbidities on a doctor’s prescription.

The Ashes | England in big trouble in third Test amid virus scare

On an extraordinary of cricket both on and off the field, England faced an uphill battle to save the third test against Australia and with it the Ashes. Before play even began Monday. Cricket Australia called for calm after a COVID-19 scare involving two members of England’s support staff resulted in a delay to the start of the second day of play at the Melbourne Cricket Ground.

Right way to go: Shastri backs split captaincy

Former India coach Ravi Shastri has supported the splitting of captaincy in the red and white ball formats, saying it is the right way to go. While Virat Kohli remains the Test skipper, one of the finest white-ball exponents and star opener, Rohit Sharma has been appointed as the T20 and ODI captain.

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