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India starts off with emphatic win over South Africa

Chahal’s four for 51 and Rohit’s unbeaten 122 prove decisive

India commenced its World Cup campaign on a rousing note, with a six-wicket triumph over South Africa at a packed Hampshire Bowl here on Wednesday.

Ardent fans, notably the ‘Bharat Army’, were ecstatic after witnessing a command performance that found its twin pillars in opener Rohit Sharma’s unbeaten 122 and leg-spinner Yuzvendra Chahal’s four for 51.

South Africa was restricted to 227 for nine in 50 overs after Chahal snapped up key wickets. His two spells kept the South Africans on a leash. None from the opposition line-up got a grip on the spinner, and perished. For all the noise about 300-plus scores in England, this World Cup seems to be slowly shifting the balance towards bowlers and both speedster Jasprit Bumrah, who grabbed two wickets, and Chahal reiterated that point.

The chase was never going to be easy under cloudy skies and with a rival pace attack that was potent despite the absence of Dale Steyn. Kagiso Rabada prised out Shikhar Dhawan but India had a string of partnerships that ensured the target was within reach. ‘Man of the Match’ Rohit braved past the initial nerves, smote a few sixes and fours and dropped anchor while the others batted around him, ranging from skipper Virat Kohli to M.S. Dhoni. K.L. Rahul, too, contributed at number four.

South Africa never got wickets in clusters and its fielding too wilted while the noise from the stands acquired an ear-splitting pitch.

A relieved Rohit said: “It was a small total, but since there was something in it for the bowlers, it was tough and we needed partnerships.” A happy Kohli summed up the game, saying: “Hats off to Rohit, and also the guys who batted around him.”

T.N students crack NEET code, 49% of the candidates qualify

Nalin Khandelwal of Rajasthan emerges the all-India topper with 701 out of 720

After fighting tooth and nail against the introduction of the National Eligibility cum Entrance Test (NEET) for undergraduate medical and dental courses, Tamil Nadu has seen a quantum jump in the performance of its students in 2019.

Almost half the applicants (48.57%) from the State have qualified, up from just 39.56% last year. However, this was still lower than the national qualifying percentage of 56.5%.

Overall, almost eight lakh students have qualified for counselling, said the National Testing Agency (NTA), which conducted the examination and released the results on Wednesday.

The highest qualifying percentage was recorded in Delhi, where almost 80% of the applicants qualified.

The only large State that saw a major drop in performance was Rajasthan. Its qualifying percentage dropped from 74.3% to 69.6%. However, the all-India topper Nalin Khandelwal is from Sikar district of the State and studied at a coaching centre in Jaipur. He scored 701 out of a possible 720 marks.

The Tamil Nadu government had objected to the introduction of NEET from 2012 and fought an extended but unsuccessful legal battle to keep the State out of its purview.

Rural obstacles

Concerns about State autonomy and the ability of rural students to match NEET standards fuelled its opposition. The death in 2017 of S. Anitha, the daughter of a Scheduled Caste labourer from Ariyalur after she failed to qualify in NEET, focussed public anger against the examination. Anitha, who got 1,176 out of 1,200 marks in the State Board exams, only managed 86 out of 720 in NEET as she could not afford the coaching required.

Path in politics now open, says Akhilesh

‘Tie-up with BSP was a trial that failed’

Akhilesh Yadav

Samajwadi Party (SP) president Akhilesh Yadav on Wednesday equated his party’s gathbandhan (alliance) with the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) in Uttar Pradesh to a “trial” that didn’t succeed, and declared that the “path in politics” was “open” for his party.

“It’s fine, trials happen. Sometimes you don’t succeed. But at least you come to know of the weaknesses,” he told reporters at an Id event in Lucknow.

Eyes on 2022

Mr. Yadav said if his party was to contest the coming bypolls alone, he would chart out a strategy in discussion with his colleagues to bring the “Samajwadi people” to power in 2022.

“As far as the question of alliance and contesting alone goes, now the path in politics is open,” he said.

The SP chief, however, kept the window for compromise open, just like BSP chief Mayawati did a day earlier, when she praised Mr. Yadav and his wife Dimple. Ms. Mayawati said their personal relationship would never end despite the “political compulsions” of putting the alliance on hold.

NRC casts shadow over Id in Assam

Celebrations muted for some families

Rehat Ali with his son Lukman Ali.

The detention centre at Goalpara in Assam for those declared foreigners following the NRC exercise and subsequent verification process, played a key role in the Id celebrations of two families, living some 40 km apart.

For the first time in her almost 30 years of married life, Samina Begum did not celebrate Id-ul-Fitr. Her husband, ex-serviceman Mohammed Sanaullah, was taken from their home in Guwahati to the detention centre on May 28, five days after a Foreigners Tribunal order.

“How can I?” was all an disconsolate Ms. Samina could say.

Bleak Id

Members of her family said Id has never been so bleak for them, though there were occasions earlier when Mr. Sanaullah, who retired from the Army as an Honorary Captain in August 2017, had to be away on festive days for military assignments.

Members of Mr. Sanaullah’s family did not go to the detention centre to meet him on Id, their lawyer Sahidul Islam said.

Some 40 km away in Khopanikuchi village the family of Rehat Ali had invited almost the entire neighbourhood for a exuberant Id celebration. Rehat Ali was released on May 7. Home after three years at the very same Goalpara detention centre, Mr. Ali said “My children insisted on a large-scale festivity because Id for them and me has been subdued for three years.”

He recalled the years when his family would meet him at the detention centre ahead of Id, give him new clothes, some grain and money to celebrate in captivity.

The story of Id at the Sanaullah and Rehat Ali homes was replicated across the State depending on the result of the decisions on citizenship.

The Assam government had in April told the Supreme Court that more than 900 “declared foreigners” were lodged across six detention centres — essentially central jails — in the State. More than 200 others have since added to those remanded after the court pulled the government up for slackness. “About 70% of the inmates in these centres are Muslims,” said Aman Wadud, an advocate who represents suspected foreigners pro bono.

“We used to fast for Ramzan and celebrate Id from the gifts received by the more prosperous among us. Jail authorities never stopped our celebrations, which fellow Hindu inmates would participate in,” Mr Ali said.

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