India in 2 minutes

XBB cases double in a week, set to be dominant Covid strain

A new batch of Omicron sub-variants has entered India, raising fears of a fresh Covid-19 wave in the coming months.

Omicron's XBB variant, the recombinant of BA.2.75 and BJ.1, that caused a rapid spike in the number of Covid cases in Singapore and Bangladesh, has been detected in India and is driving a surge in Covid cases in Maharashtra, Kerala and other parts of the country.

Experts advise taking precautions against this highly-infectious strain.

Modi hands job letters to thousands ahead of elections

Prime Minister Narendra Modi handed out 75,000 employment letters at a virtual event as he looked to tackle India's soaring unemployment less than two years ahead of a national poll.

Key elections in Gujarat and Himchal Pradesh are due in the next few months.

"Central government is working on multiple fronts simultaneously to create more and more jobs," he said at the virtual event that connected several cities across the country, where his ministers handed out appointment letters to the youth.

Saturday's event was part of Mr Modi's vow to provide one million government jobs by end of next year.

India's foreign capital inflows could be affected

India's economy faces risks from the external sector, the nation's finance ministry said in its monthly report.

It flagged the possibility of foreign capital inflows suffering negative impact as the Federal Reserve tightens monetary policy and concerns about elevated global energy prices cloud the near-term outlook.

Earlier this month, the International Monetary Fund flagged headwinds for India, and lowered its growth forecast by 0.6 percentage points to 6.8 per cent for the year to March 2023 - the biggest downgrade among major economies after the United States.

Toddler dies after leopard attack

A 16-month old girl lost her life after a leopard attacked her in Mumbai's western suburb of Aarey colony on Monday.

The girl was on her way to visit a temple with her mother when the leopard pounced on her. She was immediately taken to a nearby hospital but was declared dead by the doctors.

Soldiers killed in helicopter crash

Five Indian army soldiers were killed when their helicopter crashed near the border with China, the defence ministry said on Saturday.

It was the second such fatal accident in the region this month.

The Advance Light Helicopter came down on Friday south of Tuting, a remote town in Arunachal Pradesh.

Air traffic controllers had received a mayday call that suggested technical or mechanical failure.

Google fined $159m for 'unfair' payment system

India's antitrust watchdog fined Google US$113 million ($159 million) on Tuesday for "unfair" payment policies, a week after hitting the tech giant with an even bigger financial penalty for abusing its market dominance.

The California-based company's Android mobile operating system is by far the most dominant player in India and runs on 95 per cent of all the country's smartphones, according to research agency Counterpoint.

This policy amounts to an "unfair condition on app developers", the Competition Commission of India said in a statement announcing the fine.

Last week, the watchdog fined the company US$162 million after ruling that it had configured Android to crowd out potential rivals to YouTube, Chrome and other popular Google apps.

Boy killed, two wounded in bomb blast in West Bengal

A seven-year-old boy was killed and another child and a woman were wounded on Tuesday in a bomb blast in West Bengal.

The blast took place on a railway track at Bhatpara in North 24 Parganas district, about 30km north of Kolkata.

ISRO's heaviest rocket places 36 satellites in orbit

The Indian Space Research Organisation's (ISRO) heaviest rocket Launch Vehicle Mark 3 (LVM3 or GSLV Mark 3), which took off from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre SHAR in Sriharikota early on Sunday, placed 36 satellites of United Kingdom-based OneWeb in orbit.

The 43.5m LVM3 weighing around 644 tonnes carried 36 satellites weighing 5,796kg.

With this launch, LVM3 has made its entry into the global commercial launch service market.

Conman defends actress Jacqueline Fernandez

Investigators claim actress Jacqueline Fernandez tried to flee India after being named in a Rs200 crore ($34 million) extortion case but the alleged kingpin Sukesh Chandrashekhar has released a letter defending her.

"It's very, very unfortunate that Jacqueline has been made an accused in the PMLA (money laundering) case," he said in a handwritten letter, released through his lawyer.

"We were in a relationship and if I gave her and her family gifts, what is their fault? She never asked me for anything except loving her and standing by her."

Vaccine-maker destroys 100 million expired doses

Indian vaccine-maker Serum Institute of India said it had to dump 100 million doses of its Covid-19 vaccine after they expired.

The firm stopped producing Covishield in December last year due to low demand, CEO Adar Poonawalla said on Thursday.

Serum Institute of India, the world's largest vaccine-maker, has been making the local version of AstraZeneca's Vaxzevria jab.

Covishield accounts for over 90 per cent of the doses given in India.

Lancet study: High temperatures killing more Indians

India saw a 55 per cent rise in deaths due to extreme heat between 2000-2004 and 2017-2021, a recent study published in the medical journal The Lancet has found.

Exposure to heat also caused a loss of 167.2 billion potential labour hours among Indians in 2021, the study noted. This resulted in loss of incomes equivalent to about 5.4 per cent of the country's GDP.

India has faced increasingly intense heatwaves in recent years.

Zee, Sony agree to divest three regional channels

The Indian unit of Japan's Sony and Zee Entertainment Enterprises have agreed to divest three Hindi language channels as part of their deal to create a US$10 billion TV giant, according to an order by India's competition regulator.

The Competition Commission of India had approved the deal earlier this month with certain conditions.

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