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Bihar by-election results 2021: Nitish Kumar decimates Tejashwi; Congress gets another reality check

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For the RJD, neither its caste card nor a high octane campaign by Tejashwi and Lalu Prasad proved sufficient.

There was a lot at stake for all parties in the Bihar bypolls this time. While it was a litmus test for the Congress, the opposition RJD had pinned its hopes of a resurgence based on the results. The Congress, which went solo in Bihar assembly bypolls this time, faced a reality check as its candidates lost their deposits on both the seats while Nitish Kumar’s JD(U) decimated Tejashwi Yadav’s ‘khela’ dream by winning the seats. Last month, Leader of Opposition Tejashwi Yadav had said that if the RJD wins Kusheshwar Asthan and Tarapur seats, there could be a ‘Khela’ in the state. Tejashwi was allegedly hinting at bringing smaller parties together to reach the majority mark and topple the incumbent NDA government. The Opposition benches have 115 seats in the state while the majority mark is 122.

However, the NDA not only won the two seats but further consolidated its position in the government by taking its tally to 128. Debutants Aman Bhushan Hazari and Rajiv Kumar Singh won Kusheshwar Asthan (SC) and Tarapur respectively on the JD(U) ticket. Hazari beat his nearest RJD rival by a margin of over 12 thousand votes, retaining the seat which was earlier held by his late father Shashi Bhushan Hazari.

Hazari got 59887 votes while RJD candidate Ganesh Bharti received 47192 votes. The Congress candidate Atirek Kumar could secure only 5603 votes, losing his deposit. From Tarapur, JD(U)’s Rajeev Kumar Singh registered a victory by securing 79090 votes. The RJD candidate from the seat, Arun Kumar polled 75238 votes while the Congress candidate Rajesh Kumar Mishra got 3590 votes. Mishra also lost his deposit.

For the RJD, neither its caste card nor a high octane campaign by Tejashwi and Lalu Prasad proved sufficient. Chirag Paswan’s Lok Janshakti Party (Ram Vilas) also failed to make a mark in Tarapur, which falls under his own Jamui Lok Sabha seat and in Kusheshwar Asthan which is a part of Samastipur represented by his rebellious cousin Prince Raj.

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Belgium confirms case of new, heavily mutated Covid variant

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Advice on how to protect yourself against the coronavirus can be seen on a poster standing in the market square in Brgge, Belgium. In the background, the town hall with the Belfry, an 80-metre-high tower, one of the city’s landmarks.

Bernd Thissen | picture alliance | Getty Images

Belgium has confirmed a case of the new, heavily mutated variant of the virus that causes Covid-19, according to one of the country’s leading virologists.

Marc Van Ranst, who works with the Rega Institute for Medical Research, said a sample was confirmed as the novel B.1.1.529 variant in a traveler who returned from Egypt on Nov. 11. The patient first showed symptoms on Nov. 22.

Belgian Health Minister Frank Vandenbroucke told reporters that the individual was unvaccinated, according to Reuters.

“It is a suspicious variant. We do not know if it is a very dangerous variant,” Vandenbroucke said, according to Reuters.

Belgium is home to the capital of the European Union in Brussels.

The variant was detected in a small number of samples in South Africa, according to the World Health Organization. There were also reports on Friday morning that cases had been found in Israel and Hong Kong.

The B.1.1.529 variant contains 30 mutations to the spike protein that allows the virus to enter the body, scientist Tulio de Oliveira said Thursday during a briefing held by the South African Department of Health. The new strain has roughly 50 mutations in total, including 10 to the receptor binding domain, the part of the virus that first comes in contact with cells.

The highly contagious delta variant, which the WHO says accounts for 99% of the world’s Covid cases, has just two mutations to the receptor binding domain.

Health officials caution that many of these mutations could lead to increased antibody resistance and transmissibility, limiting the effectiveness of Covid vaccines. The WHO convened a meeting Friday to determine how Covid therapeutics and immunizations might be affected by the new variant.

The WHO’s virus evolution working group will determine whether to list the new strain as a variant of interest or a variant of concern. The variant of concern label is reserved for Covid mutations that are more contagious, more virulent and more skilled at evading public health measures, vaccines and therapeutics.

The emerging variant arrives in Europe amid an already devastating Covid surge linked to the delta strain. Europe saw more than 2.4 million new Covid cases over the week ended Nov. 21, an increase of 11% from the previous seven days, according to the WHO’s most recent epidemiological update.

Europe represented 67% of all Covid cases reported globally during that span, the WHO measured.

Belgium tightened restrictions this week to stop the spread of the virus, requiring people to work from home four days a week through the middle of December. Austria started its fourth lockdown of the pandemic on Monday, with a nationwide vaccine mandate scheduled to take effect on Feb. 1. Chancellor Alexander Schallenberg has said that the lockdown will last for at most 20 days.

Slovakia followed suit Wednesday with a two-week lockdown, closing restaurants and select businesses in hopes of curbing the nation’s latest Covid outbreak, Reuters reported. The Netherlands entered a partial lockdown on Saturday as well, requiring some companies to shut early and preventing the public from attending sporting events for three weeks.

The U.K. has already halted flights from six countries in the region, and European Union member states have collectively agree to pause travel to and from southern Africa.

Singapore is also banning flights from southern Africa, with Japan increasing border controls for travelers from the region.

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Attention passengers! Indian Railways rolls back platform ticket fare in Mumbai; Here’s how much it will cost

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platform ticket, Mumbai divisionplatform ticket, Mumbai divisionThe price of platform tickets was hiked to avoid the unnecessary crowds at railway stations in view of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Attention train passengers! Indian Railways to roll back the platform ticket fare from Rs 50 to Rs 10 at several railway stations in Mumbai. The Central Railway zone’s Mumbai division has decided to change the price of the platform tickets from Rs 50 to only Rs 10 at Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Terminus (CSMT), Lokmanya Tilak Terminus, Kalyan, Thane, Dadar, and Panvel railway stations with immediate effect. According to Central Railways, the price of platform tickets was hiked to avoid the unnecessary crowds at railway stations in view of the Covid-19 pandemic. Now, in the light of the easing of restrictions imposed due to the coronavirus pandemic, the decision to revert back the platform ticket price has been taken by the national transporter.

Meanwhile, the rate of platform tickets has also been regularised at Rs 10 per ticket for suburban as well as non suburban stations of the Mumbai Division of the Western Railway zone with immediate effect. All travelling passengers are required to follow health protocol and the current guidelines regarding the Covid-19 pandemic, the Western Railway zone added.

Also, from now on, passengers won’t have to pack their meals for train journeys. The national transporter has decided to resume serving freshly cooked food to passengers in Vande Bharat Express, Rajdhani Express, Shatabdi Express, Tejas Express, Duronto Express and Gatiman Express trains. In this regard, an order has been issued by Indian Railways to all concerned departments and stakeholders. The order said that the matter has been examined and it has been decided by the national transporter to restart serving of cooked meals in trains.

The zones of Indian Railways, according to an ANI report, will verify the onboard catering charges to be realized based on services being offered and also the applicable rate list. Also, for allowing booking or opting out of Catering services, it will feed the same in the Passenger Reservation System software, from ARP date, at the time of ticket booking.

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Boeing, airline stocks tumble as new Covid variant spurs travel curbs

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Boeing, airlines and other travel stocks tumbled on Friday after several European and Asian countries announced new travel restrictions from southern Africa because of a new Covid variant.

European Union member nations on Friday agreed to suspend travel from the region, a day after the U.K. said it would temporarily suspend flights from South Africa, Namibia, Lesotho, Eswatini, Zimbabwe and Botswana.

The U.S. starting Monday will bar entry to visitors from South Africa, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Namibia, Lesotho, Eswatini, Mozambique and Malawi. The Biden administration announced that decision after the stock market closed on Friday.

South African scientists detected the variant, which contains high numbers of mutations, raising concerns that it could spread quickly.

Health officials cautioned more research is needed, but the new travel restrictions highlight how quickly countries can limit travel as new variants are detected. The fast-spreading delta variant of the virus earlier this year drove down travel demand and prompted some companies to delay employees’ return to the office.

Airlines and aircraft manufacturers like Boeing have been upbeat about a rebound in travel demand, particularly from a recent drop in cases and after the U.S. lifted entry restrictions earlier this month.

Travel and aerospace shares fell more than the broader market on Friday but several pared earlier losses. Boeing shares dropped 5.4% to $199.21 during an abbreviated, post-holiday session.

Delta Air Lines and United Airlines are the only U.S. carriers with nonstop service scheduled to and from South Africa next month. United lost 9.6% to close at $42.26, while Delta fell 8.3% to $36.38. American Airlines dropped 8.8% to $17.75. Hotel giant Hilton dropped 6.3% to $136.21, while Marriott ended down 6.5% at $147.44.

There are 122 flights between the U.S. and South Africa scheduled for December, according to aviation consulting firm Cirium. United, which has the most scheduled service with 87 flights, is set to resume nonstop flights between its Newark, New Jersey, hub and Cape Town next month. A spokeswoman said no changes are currently planned.

Delta has 35 scheduled flights between the U.S. and South Africa in December.

“Delta will continue to work closely with our government partners to evaluate any changes to U.S. policy,” the airline said in a statement.

British Airways will operate 214 flights between London and South Africa next month, while Virgin Atlantic will operate 75, according to Cirium.

“Following the latest announcement from the Health Secretary we’re working through plans for our customers and colleagues currently in South Africa and those due to travel from the UK in the coming days,” British Airways, an American Airlines partner, said in a statement. The carrier said it would contact customers affected by the changes.

Delta’s transatlantic partner Virgin Atlantic said it would cancel flights from Johannesburg from Friday to early Sunday because of the new U.K. rules.

On Nov. 8, the Biden administration lifted a broad pandemic travel ban on most non-citizens visiting from more than 30 countries, including the U.K., the EU, South Africa and Brazil.

Though domestic travel had largely recovered from early pandemic lockdowns, international travel remained a missing piece in airlines’ recovery.

On Wednesday, the day before Thanksgiving in the U.S. and generally one of the busiest travel days of the year, the Transportation Security Administration screened more than 2.3 million people. That was the most since February 2020, though still 12% below the same day in 2019.

CNBC’s Matt Clinch contributed to this article.

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