Chill forecast for next week

Chill forecast for next week

The sky was dark throughout Friday and the city received persistent rain that started in the early hours and went on till evening with the Met office predicting the mercury to drop from Monday.

The Met office in Alipore recorded 29.6mm of rain in the past 24 hours till 8.30pm. The last time the city had got more rain in January was in 2012, when January 9 saw a downpour of 71.2mm, the met office said.

“The quota of rain is mostly over. There could be one or two spells of drizzle on Saturday. But the sky is likely to remain partially cloudy in the first half,” said a Met official.

On Friday, the overcast conditions and cloudy sky ensured that the sun remained out of sight for the entire day, barring a brief appearance in the morning. The result — the maximum temperature fell seven notches to 18 degrees, the lowest in at least seven years, said a met official.

Though the minimum temperature went up a couple of notches to 15.2 degrees, people felt the “bite of cold” because the day temperature was consistently low.

Darkness descends on AJC Bose Road around noon
Darkness descends on AJC Bose Road around noon

A cyclonic circulation over Gangetic Bengal was behind the showers, said G.K. Das, director, India Meteorological Department, Calcutta. The system was over Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand 24 hours ago and moving eastwards.

The rain started around 3.45am on Friday and continued in patches till late evening. New Market received 32mm of rain in the past 24 hours, Behala got 31mm and Cossipore 30mm, according to the Calcutta Municipal Corporation.

The wet weather and chill feel prompted many Calcuttans to stay indoors. People who stepped out were cloaked in woollens and carried umbrellas. “The minimum temperature is likely to remain around 14-15 degrees and the maximum temperature is tipped to rise a few notches over the next few days. But once the moisture is cleared, the temperature is likely to dip from Monday,” he added.

The system led to snowfall in North Bengal. Sandakphu, the highest point in Bengal, experienced a fair bit of snowfall on Friday.

In south Bengal, especially districts like Birbhum, East Burdwan and Hooghly, the untimely rain has posed a threat to winter crops like potatoes and onion. Jagannath Chattopadhyay, deputy director of Agriculture in East Burdwan, said: “The rainy weather is a threat to winter crops, mainly potatoes, which get damaged easily. If the rain continues, the damage in crops will increase.”

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30 Trains Delayed, 4 Flights Cancelled & 16 Diverted as Dense Fog Envelops Delhi; Air Quality Dips

Delhi: Dense fog enveloped Delhi and adjoining cities on Monday morning, disrupting air and rail traffic as the visibility was reduced to zero in some parts, officials said.

Thirty trains are running late due to low visibility. At least 50 flights have also been delayed even though authorities earlier said no flights have been cancelled. The airport authorities have asked the air passengers to contact their respective airlines for flight updates. Flights are operating at the airport under CAT III B conditions, which means that the runway visual range (RVR) is between 50 metres and 175 metres.

Sixteen flights have been diverted and four flights cancelled at Delhi airport due to dense fog.

Traffic jam was also reported from DND (Delhi Noida Direct) due to low visibility.

The minimum temperature settled at 2.6 degrees Celsius at the Safdarjung observatory, four notches below the season’s average, and humidity was 100 per cent.

The minimum temperature at Palam was recorded at 2.9 degrees Celsius, Lodhi Road at 2.2 degrees Celsius while at Ayanagar it was recorded at 2.5 degrees Celsius

Delhi’s air quality index was in the severe category at 450 at 8.38 am.

The visibility recorded by the Safdarjung and Palam observatories stood at zero metres at 8.30 am. It was recorded at 100 metres at Safdarjung and zero at Palam at 5.30 am.

Since December 14, the national capital has been experiencing “severe cold days” with the average minimum temperature on Sunday morning being recorded at 3.4 degrees Celsius, four notches below what is considered normal for this time of the year.

The mean temperature for December 2019 till Sunday was 19.07 degrees Celsius and it is “most likely to become second coldest December since 1901”, behind 17.3 degrees Celsius in December 1997, the Met department said.

Humidity levels oscillated between 64 per cent to 100 per cent, it added.

For Monday, the weatherman had predicted dense fog in the morning with cold day at a few places in Delhi-National Capital Region (NCR).

A significant increase in wind speed is also expected over Delhi-NCR from Tuesday evening under influence of approaching western disturbance and easterly winds in lower level, the department said.

Meanwhile, the schools in Haryana and Uttar Pradesh’s Lucknow and Agra will remain closed on December 30 and 31 due to the cold wave conditions.

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Salamander eludes ‘sanctuary’

In 1985, the Bengal government had notified a 10 acre land near Sukhiapokhri in the Darjeeling hills as a “Jorepokhri Salamander Sanctuary”.

But 34 years down the line, the sanctuary at Jorepokhri is yet to be demarcated and not a single salamander was sighted at the place which used to be swamped by the amphibian.

Instead, in the past three decades, the marshy land was converted into a concrete lake and tourist lodges have come up at Jorepokhri.

Pasang Dukpa, 56, a resident of Jorepokhri, said: “Since 2016, salamander sightings have been few and apart and this year, we could not spot a single salamander.”

The sighting of the amphibian which is characterised by lizard-like shape takes place between April and mid-September.

On March 14, 1985, the governor issued a notification declaring the 10-acre marshy land as a sanctuary and asked the then Darjeeling deputy commissioner (the post was later replaced by district magistrate) to take necessary action as per the provisions of Wildlife Protection Act, 1972, and report to the forest department “at an early date”.

From May 1986, the hills were engulfed in the Gorkhaland agitation and after the Darjeeling Gorkha Hill Council was formed in 1988, its then chairman Subash Ghisingh started constructing a tourist lodge in the area and converted the marshy land into a concrete lake.

A reservoir to supply water to Sukhiapokhri town, situated about 20km from Darjeeling, was also set up in the area.

Asked about the status of the sanctuary, Jiju Jaesper, DFO, Darjeeling Wildlife Division, said: “As per our information, the land has not been transferred to our division.”

Following the notification, the forest department has to prepare a 10-year management plan of the sanctuary that needs to be approved by the chief wildlife warden. The sanctuary then gets listed with the Union government which allocates funds to the tune of 60 per cent for its conservation. The rest of the amount has to be contributed by the state government.

The sanctuary can be de-notified only after receiving clearance from the National Board for Wildlife, source said.

In the Union government’s understanding, the area is still a sanctuary as the Centre made a submission to that effect in the Supreme Court in a forest case some years ago.

While the state has been sitting on the issue, concerned locals have formed a group called REOHS (Restoration Efforts of Himalayan Salamander).

Rinzing Namgyal Bhutia of REOHS said: “We have noticed that salamanders have moved away from the place. A group of students and individuals from other walks of life have come together to goad the government into starting the conservation.”

The area is under the control of the GTA now but the land is still with the district administration. Bhutia has, however, said there is space to start the conservation project.

Darjeeling district magistrate Deepap Priya P. told The Telegraph that she would get the Jorepokhri proposal “verified”. “After I had joined, I received a proposal for salamander conservation at Namthingpokhri near Kurseong. We have transferred the land for the same and a biodiversity conservation committee has also been formed.”

Forest department sources have said the salamander is found in Maneybhanjyang, Latpanchar and Chattakpur in the hills.

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Let me vow, I am the wow cow

Moooooooooo! Helooooooooo! Frump! Frump! Frrrrrrrrrrraaaaah! Aaaaah! Swiiiiiisssh! Thop! Thop! Thop! Plop! Thop! Chhurrrrrrrrrr! And then another long Chhhurrrrrrrrrrrr!! Mooooooooo! WhoYouuuuuuuuu?

Well, while you decide, let me tell you, Me Mooooooo!

YouWhooooo! YouTooooo?


Do you not know?

But you should. You better. The year’s about to end, and if you don’t know me, you’re about to, you know. Know a lot. An awful lot. If you know what I mean. You mean, you don’t know me? Me? Then God be with you, Khuda Hafiz. You are spent. Gone. Khallasss! So brace yourself, and find out things. About yourself. About me. Else…

But, mooooo, that’s okay, there will be more where you are when you are not where you are. Bother about yourself. And what you say of yourself, because that you will have to. Say about yourself. Say about your mother. Say about your father. Say about your grandfather. Say about your grandmother. Say about their forbears too, who knows. And not merely say, but say with authority and with proof. Who were they? Where were they from? Wherefrom?

But there is a problem. There are problems with identity, that’s not unusual. You look at yourself in the mirror and often you wonder who that person looking at you from the other side is. And that person on the other side probably has similar wonders? You raise a quizzical brow and that other person does the same; you wink and the other one does too; you scowl and the other one does too. You have one identity, others may have perceptions of it. You may say you are this, others may say you are not this, you are that. So what you say of yourself is never the final thing; others have a say on what you say of yourself. You will say, for instance, here’s where I came from; they’ll say, no, that’s not where you came from. You’ll say this is where I belong; they’ll say no this is not where you belong. You’ll say here’s what I think of myself; they’ll say no that cannot be true because we think quite differently of you. And so, on and on and on, and so forth as well.

I may have come from somewhere else: I most likely did. And who knows where from? If I was from here, I would have been elsewhere by now. We are wandering things, we mooo and start to trek in the direction of the mooo. I don’t remember where I came from, I arrived. How am I to know where the one that birthed me and the one that sired me came from. I have no memory of them. Is that my fault? I have no notion where those that sired and birthed those that sired and birthed me came from. Who’s to know? How is one to tell? But should that mean I am illicit? Should that mean my presence here is illegal? And should that be so, where shall I go? Duh! What nonsense!

Ah, but I can say that. Not YOU, not you who I have my finger pointed at, not you who I have now learnt to swiftly mark out because the trick of how to do that has been revealed to me. I can say that because I am the privileged one you see. The mooooo. So much as touch me and see what happens. Or read up on the consequences that have befallen those who are even alleged to have done something to me. Nothing can happen to me; but something can happen to you because you have to tell us who you are and we may not believe you, hai naa? No need to flail about, no need to complain, no need to scream discrimination and all those sorts of big words or start quoting from that Book and tell me this can be done and that cannot be done. Do only as I say.

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Mercury dips to 10 degrees in North Bengal

The temperature dipped to 10 degrees Celsius across north Bengal on Friday with indications that the mercury would plummet further in the days to come.

The sky remained overcast throughout the day and the cold made people put on heavy woolens and light fires to keep themselves warm even in the afternoon. As the evening rolled, the temperature started dipping again.

“It was a dry cold day as the maximum temperature was below 16 degrees Celsius at many places. There is a forecast for similar weather conditions in the next three-four days. There might also be dense fog in some areas of sub-Himalayan Bengal which can reduce the visibility to around 500m,” said a weather expert.

In the past 24 hours, the minimum temperature recorded in Darjeeling was 4.6 degrees Celsius, 5.5 degrees in Kalimpong, 7.7 degrees in Gangtok, 9.5 degrees in Siliguri, 9.1 degrees in Cooch Behar and 10.2 degrees in Jalpaiguri and 10.6 degrees in Malda.

“In north Bengal, Friday was the coolest day in the current winter. The north-westerly wind is bringing down the temperature,” the expert said. 

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Farmers forced to sell vegetables at a low price

Farmers are forced to sell their produces at half the market rate as road and rail connectivity was disrupted in the violent protests against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act.

The vegetables include cabbage, cauliflower, beans, and eggplants.

“I sold my produce at Rs 18 a kg on Tuesday, but today I was forced to sell the eggplants at Rs 9. The wholesalers in Berhampore market said they would not buy the vegetables as trucks stopped coming from Orissa and north Bengal and trains are canceled,” said, Hannan Sheikh, a farmer of Isherpara village in Murshidabad’s Islampur.

Vegetable cultivation is the main source of livelihood in Islampur, Beldanga, Raghunathganj and Hariharpara in the district.

The picture is almost the same for farmers in East Burdwan which produces cauliflowers and cabbages and transport the same to Calcutta, Odisha, and Bihar.

“I sold both cabbage and cauliflowers at Rs 25 apiece till last Wednesday. But I had to sell cauliflower at Rs 10 apiece yesterday. As we could not send our produces to different places, we are being forced to sell the same in the local markets at a much lower price,” said, Nripen Das who produced vegetables on a 3-acres plot in Purbasthali.

Laloo Mukherjee, the state president of the West Bengal Progressive Potato Traders Association, said: “Potatoes from Hooghly and Burdwan East are supplied to Calcutta, north Bengal, and other south Bengal districts. But the supply has been disrupted.”

The traders at the Siliguri Regulated Market, one of the largest markets of fruit and vegetable and fish in the city, was also facing a supply crisis as trucks could not come in the past few days.

Additional reporting by Subhasish Chaudhuri and Avijit Sinha

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Set free, captive vultures soar into the air

Six captive-bred vultures were released into the wild from a north Bengal park on Tuesday morning in what forest officials termed “a landmark event” in the conservation of critically endangered birds.

Six Himalayan griffons were released from an aviary adjacent to the Vulture Conservation and Breeding Centre in Alipurduar’s Rajabhatkhawa. The centre is inside the Buxa Tiger Reserve.

Two of the birds have satellite transmitters — platform terminal transmitter devices — around their necks so that their movement can be monitored.

“While PTTD has been fitted on two birds, all six have been marked with red tapes. This will help us identify them in due course. The idea is to see whether the birds can sustain in natural environment,” said Vibhu Prakash, the principal scientist at the Bombay Natural History Society (BNHS), which is at the helm of the vulture conservation project in the country.

“If we succeed, more vultures, which have been bred at the centre, will be released in due course. The initiative has been taken to improve vulture population across the country.’

Around 10.15am on Tuesday, state forest minister Rajib Banerjee, along with forest officials, representatives of BNHS and Chris Bowden, the director of the UK-based Royal Society for Protection of Birds, reached a watchtower at 22nd Mile inside the reserve forest.

One of the netted gates of the aviary was rolled up and the birds lured with a carcass kept outside. Around 10.35am, the first bird came out and started feeding on the carcass. It was one of the two with a transmitter. After a few minutes, the bird took flight but kept circling the sky. Within 10 minutes, it was out of sight.

The rest of the flock followed suit, some taking more time than others. When the last bird disappeared into the horizon, it was past 1.30pm.

In 2006, the breeding centre was set up to take care of the rapidly dwindling population of these scavenging birds, which were dying because of diclofenac, a common painkiller administered to cattle whose carcasses vultures feed on. Another similar centre was set up at Pinjore in Haryana. Both centres are run with the help of the BNHS.

The worst hit by the drug were the white-backed, the long-billed and the slender-billed vultures. The Rajabhatkhawa centre has 84 white-backed, 27 long-billed and 17 slender-billed vultures.

The vultures released on Tuesday were Himalayan griffons, of the same Gyps genus like the three but not as endangered because their usual habitat is in remote forests where they are relatively less exposed to the drug.

The griffons are being released in the first lot because the authorities don’t want to risk the lives of the critically endangered birds in the first trial.

“By tracking the birds, we would be able to know whether the area is free of diclofenac,” Prakash said.

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Captive vultures to be released in wild today

Six vultures from a north Bengal park, two of them with satellite transmitters tied around their necks, will be released into the wild on Tuesday.

The movement of the birds will be closely tracked after the release by forest officials and a team of researchers from the Bombay Natural History Society, which is helming the project.

A scientist with BNHS said the project could be a significant step in bringing vultures back from the brink of extinction. Metro gives the low-down:

Alarming decline

India’s vulture population had fallen to a few hundred in 2007 from an estimated 40 million in the early 1980s. Scientists blamed the decline in numbers on diclofenac — a common painkiller administered to cattle.

Vultures get exposed to diclofenac when they feed on carcasses of livestock that were administered the drug. The drug is toxic for vultures. “It leads to kidney failure and a painful death,” a veterinarian in the forest department said.

Three types of vultures were worst hit by the drug — the white-backed vulture, the long-billed vulture and the slender-billed vulture. All three are critically endangered — a step away from extinction.


The Centre had in 2006 banned the use of diclofenac on livestock. But multiple-dose vials of the drug available in the market for humans continued to be used in the veterinary sector. In 2015, the government restricted the vial size for humans at 3ml hoping it would not be used in the veterinary sector as the size was too small for cattle. But some veterinarians and quacks continued buying multiple vials of the drug to administer it to cattle, forest officials said.

“We are sensitising para vets and quacks, the go-to option for cattle owners,” Ravi Kant Sinha, chief wildlife warden of Bengal, said.

The BNHS had set up the Rajabhatkhawa centre and similar facilities across the country in collaboration with state forest departments to revive the vulture population. The Rajabhatkhawa centre, set up in 2006, has 130-odd vultures, mostly the three critically endangered varieties. Over one-third of the population is captive-bred.

Cousins to lead

The six vultures that will be released on Tuesday are Himalayan griffons of the same Gyps genus like the white-backed, long-billed and slender-billed vultures but not as endangered.

“Their habitats are more remote and forested and consequently, their exposure to the drug is much less,” Vibhu Prakash, principal scientist with the BNHS who first documented the decline in vulture numbers at a park in Rajasthan, said.

The griffons are being released in the first lot because the authorities don’t want to risk the lives of the critically endangered birds in the first trial.

All six were rescued from the wild as babies and raised at the Vulture Conservation and Breeding Centre in Alipurduar’s Rajabhatkhawa. “If the birds are able to survive in the wild for one year, their endangered cousins will next be released into the wild,” Prakash said.

Stage set

The six birds were released into an aviary four months ago. The aviary is a 400ft-long and 100ft-wide patch in the Buxa forest by the Bala riverbed, with nets in place of boundary walls. The breeding centre is inside the forest.

“From the breeding centre, they were released into the aviary. It is a stop before they are released into the wild. So far, the birds have adjusted well with their new home outside the centre. Wild vultures have also been flying in and spending some time outside the aviary,” Subhankar Sengupta, field director of Buxa Tiger Reserve and member secretary of the Rajabhatkhawa centre’s governing body, said.

On Tuesday, the nets of the aviary will be removed to let the birds move out.

Spreading the word

A conference was held in the Buxa reserve on February 22 and 23. Apart from forest officials from Bengal and neighbouring states, drug controllers from the health ministry and representatives of the Medical Council of India and the state animal husbandry department attended the conference.

The conference was meant to spread awareness about the perils of using diclofenac. “Chemists have to be dissuaded from selling multiple vials of the drug without prescription,” chief wildlife warden Sinha said.

The immediate periphery of the centre has been declared a priority zone. Special drives have been undertaken at local markets and neighbourhoods to discourage the use of diclofenac.

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IDS epidemic spectre in Meghalaya

Meghalaya is sitting on an AIDS time bomb, waiting to explode, activists fear.

On World AIDS Day on Sunday, the general secretary of the Meghalaya State Network for Positive People (MSNP), Barry Leslie Kharmalki, said the state’s population was around 31 lakh, but only approximately two lakh had undergone HIV test and already 4,489 cases had been detected.

“It is not only the people living on the edge of society who are getting infected. In Meghalaya, HIV has penetrated into the general population,” he said.

Kharmalki added that out of 4,489 people, around 500, who did not turn up for further treatment, were most likely to infect others.

He said out of 4,000-plus people living with HIV, only around 200 were in the high-risk group. “Only approximately 200 are drug users, sex workers or members of the gay community. The rest are just people with no high-risk behaviour such as wives, girlfriends and colleges students.”

Kharmalki said in Meghalaya, there was no advanced treatment for people living with HIV and those who needed it had to go to Manipur.

He added that the National HCV (hepatitis C virus) programme was launched on August 26, 2019 in Meghalaya, but it had not yet taken off till date in the state. “HCV confirmatory test cannot be done in Meghalaya… people living with HIV will not die of HIV but will die of HCV if not treated early.”

Kharmalki added the HIV Act, 2017, had not yet been implemented in Meghalaya.

This landmark act is one of its kind in Southeast Asia passed by Parliament.

Stating the difficulties faced by the patients who avail treatment, he said: “There is a specific scheme for people living with HIV (PLHIV). HIV drugs are not included in the ‘essential drug list’ but alcohol and drug addiction have been included in the Meghalaya Health Insurance Scheme.”

According to Kharmalki, there is a need for communities to contribute to the AIDS response in different ways.

“Their leadership and advocacy must ensure that the response remains relevant and grounded, keeping people at the centre and leaving no one behind. Human rights must be respected. World AIDS Day offers an important platform to highlight the role of communities and greater mobilisation of communities is urgently required to address the barriers that stop communities from delivering services.”

Kharmalki urged all to salute the communities who have been working hard to bring about changes to stop this epidemic.

“In the state there is the Meghalaya Legislators Forum on HIV/AIDS, but sadly the fund donated by MLAs is only being utilised for World AIDS Day. Apart from the World AIDS Day why not also look into free transport, nutritional and educational support for children? Assam is giving Rs 1 lakh to every widowed person living with HIV.”

According to the data released by the Meghalaya AIDS Control Society on Saturday, till October this year, there are 4,525 registered people living with HIV in the state. Of them, 2,198 are females and 223 are children (104 boys and 119 girls).

Rally: The Family Strengthening Programme of SOS Children’s Village, Hojai, on Sunday organised an AIDS awareness rally and a community-awareness programme at Pandit Jeevan Ram Barman MV School at Kumrakata.

Members of four youth homes of the village also participated in the event and staged a street play.

An AIDS awareness programme was organised for mothers and other community members at Dhanuharbasti in Hojai. 

Additional reporting by Nikhil Mundra in Hojai

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Parliament LIVE: Delhi’s Pollution Crisis in Focus on Day 2, JNU Protests May Also be Discussed

New Delhi: Congress MP Gaurav Gogoi displays a placard to protest against government inaction on growing pollution, on the first day of the Winter Session of Parliament, in New Delhi, Monday, Nov. 18, 2019. (PTI Photo/Atul Yadav)(PTI11_18_2019_000041B)

New Delhi: The second day of Parliament’s Winter Session on Tuesday is expected to be action-packed with the pollution crisis in Delhi and neighbouring states being the prime focus, and MPs discussing ways to combat the problem. Several crucial and controversial bills are also expected to be tabled on day two.

The 250th session of Rajya Sabha started on Monday and Prime Minister Narendra Modi addressed the House saying the Upper House comes second but it shouldn’t be made secondary as it has made some historic decisions. The first day also saw massive protests by Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) and a showdown with police when they marched towards the Parliament. Here’s a look at key discussions on day 2 and developments from Monday:

 The Parliament’s Winter Session had a stormy start on Monday as the Opposition cornered the government over the situation in Kashmir. MPs from the Congress, National Conference and the DMK protested in the well of the House against the instability in the Valley more than 100 days after the abrogation of Article 370.

• PM Modi said on Monday that the government is ready to discuss all issues in the Winter Session of Parliament. The winter session is from November 18 to December 13. During the session, which will be the last session of Parliament in 2019, there should be high quality of debates in which all MPs should contribute, Modi said. “We are open to discussions on all issues,” he said addressing journalists at the Parliament complex ahead of the beginning of the session.

• The issue of JNU protests may get picked up on the second day after Binoy Viswam, leader of CPI Parliamentary Party and secretary, National Council, wrote to the Rajya Sabha chairman urging him to suspend the business of the House on Tuesday and take up the matter urgently. “On November 18, over 2,000 students had planned a peaceful protest march from the JNU to Parliament against the actions of the JNU administration. The students were manhandled and detained by the police, resulting in injuries to numerous students,” Viswam said, adding that the change in the university fees and hostel charges will affect all students, especially those belonging to vulnerable sections of society.

• Calling it a “black mark” on the India’s democratic values, he said, “The assault on students of India’s premier educational institute threatens the very idea of education in India. I urge you to suspend the business of this House on November 19 and take the issue up urgently.”

• The government has listed Citizenship (amendment) Bill, a key BJP plank which is aimed at granting nationality to non-Muslim immigrants from neighbouring countries, for passage in this session. The Modi government had introduced the bill in its previous tenure as well but could not push it through due to vehement protests by opposition parties, which criticised the bill as discriminatory on religious grounds. The legislation seeks to grant Indian citizenship to Hindus, Jains, Christians, Sikhs, Buddhists and Parsis from Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan if they have fled their respective country due to religious persecution.

• The government is also set to table Personal Data Protection Bill – which proposes to put restriction on use of personal data without explicit consent of citizen – in the current session of Parliament. As per the proposal, hefty penalties on entities found violating privacy of users will be imposed. The draft of Personal Data Protection Bill, 2018 – which is based on the recommendations of the government-constituted high-level panel headed by Justice B N Srikrishna – restricts and imposes conditions on the cross-border transfer of personal data, and suggests setting up of Data Protection Authority of India to prevent any misuse of personal information.

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