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Domestic flights grounded; first fatalities in West Bengal, Himachal Pradesh

As the death toll from COVID-19 touched nine on Monday, the government announced a slew of measures, including the suspension of all domestic flight operations until the end of March, to slow down the spread of the novel coronavirus.

Thirty States and Union Territories moved to a complete lockdown mode, and governments warned of strict punitive action against those who violate preventive measures.

The number of cases confirmed by the Union Health Ministry rose to 471. Data from the States put the total number of cases at 476, with 443 active cases.

West Bengal and Himachal Pradesh reported their first fatalities.

In view of the continuing spread of the virus, Parliament curtailed its session and adjourned sine die after passing the Finance Bill.

650 aircraft grounded

The Ministry of Civil Aviation ordered the shutting down of all domestic flight operations hours after an announcement was made by Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal suspending all incoming flights to the capital.

The new restriction will be effective from Tuesday midnight, a day after the ban on international flights came into effect.

A total of 650 aircraft operated by various Indian airlines will now be grounded across airports. The Centre's move comes after several States, including West Bengal and Bihar, requested a ban on flights.

Kerala and Maharashtra, which are facing the brunt of the crisis, with 95 and 97 cases respectively, announced more sweeping measures.

Following 28 new cases on Monday, Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan said shops, offices and establishments barring essential services will be closed. Camps will be prepared for migrant labourers, who will be provided food and given medical examinations, as economic activities come to a complete halt in the State.

Announcing a State-wide curfew, Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray said: “People are not listening and they were stepping out as if the virus threat had diminished. However, that is not the case. I am forced to say this because there are still those who have not understood the seriousness of what we face.”

Prime Minister Narendra Modi once again urged people to take the lockdown seriously.

The content is made available online for free, thanks to the voluntary community effort by some Yakshagana lovers

On a song: A Yakshagana performance in progress at Jeppu in Mangaluru on Monday.H.S. Manjunath

More than 900 Yakshagana scripts, including the ones printed in 1905 and 1907, have now been digitised and made available online for free, thanks to the voluntary community effort by some Yakshagana lovers who did it under the banner Yakshavahini, a registered trust.

The teamwork by about 100 professionals, including software engineers, has resulted in conservation of 934 scripts in the digital form in less than a year of launching the project. The number of digitised scripts is expected to touch 1,000 by March-end.

The ‘Prahlada Charitre’ printed in 1905 and ‘Ramashwamedha’ printed in 1907, ‘Putrakamesti’ published in 1913, ‘Kanakangi Kalyana’ in 1929, Kumudhwati Kalyana of 1931 and Sampoorna Ramayana printed in 1938 are among the ones digitised.

The concept of digitisation, conceived in August last, took birth soon after a month and the first set of scripts scanned went online in October 2019 through a blog, Nataraja Upadhya, a software engineer and a co-ordinator of the project, told The Hindu.

The scripts sourced from different sources have been scanned, preserved in digital form (in PDF format) in Google drive and made available on

www.prasanga

prathisangraha.com and through the ‘Prasanga Prathi Sangraha’ app, Mr. Upadhya said.

The collection and digitisation of scripts, both in printed and manuscript forms, is one among the four projects being taken up by the Bengaluru-based Yakshavahini, he said.

Among those digitised now are 65 scripts scanned and digitised by the Sristi Foundation of award-winning film-maker and director Abhaya Simha and others, he said. “We have given links to those scripts,” he said.

Half disappeared

Mr. Upadhya said that it was estimated that Karnataka had about 8,000 Yakshagana scripts. Of them, half might have disappeared due to various reasons. The Yakshavahini is making efforts to collect the remaining scripts and digitise at least 3,000 of them.

Ashwini Hodala, another co-ordinator and a pillar of the project, said the scripts digitised included the ones written by Parthi Subba, considered as the pioneer of Yakshagana, Devidasa, Keerikkadu Vishu Master, Dwajapurada Nagappaiah and contemporary writer D.S. Sridhara.

Lakshminarayana Bhat, a software engineer who developed the app for the project, said 1,045 users had installed it since it was released on December 15, 2019.

M. Krishna, administrator of a Yakshagana WhatsApp group, said the documentation was a good source for researchers and present generation artistes.

Budget session ends early because of the situation arising out of the COVID-19 pandemic

Sense of the House: Lok Sabha members, led by Narendra Modi, applaud the work of health workers.PTI-

The Lok Sabha was adjourned sine die on Monday after the passage of the Finance Bill, 2020 without any debate due to the situation arising out of the COVID-19 pandemic. The House was scheduled to adjourn on April 3.

Extraordinary situation

The decision was taken before the House convened at 2 p.m. (later than the usual time of 11 a.m. as flight disruptions delayed the arrival of MPs to Delhi) after a meeting was held by Speaker Om Birla with floor leaders of various parties.

Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs Arjun Ram Meghwal said it was an extraordinary situation and that the Finance Bill needed to be passed.

As Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman presented amendments to the Bill for passing, Congress Legislature Party leader Adhir Ranjan Choudhary said the Opposition was ready to pass it, but wanted an announcement from Ms. Sitharaman of a financial package that would help mitigate the economic hardships resulting from the pandemic. Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam member T.R. Baalu also made the demand.

Ms. Sitharaman, however, did not speak on the issue.

Two more Bills

After the passage of the Bill, two more Bills for a National Security University was introduced by Minister of State for Home G. Kishen Reddy.

“We are ready to pass the Finance Bill but we need to hear some announcement of an economic package from the Finance Minister,” Mr. Choudhary said.

Towards the end of the sitting, Prime Minister Narendra Modi arrived in the Lok Sabha and members gave a standing ovation to the first responders, medical professionals, essential services workers and media for being at the forefront in the fight against COVID-19. The Speaker also mentioned the success of the “Janata Curfew”. He said that as MPs go back to their constituencies, they would be joining the fight against the virus.

He added that the Budget session, the first part of which began on January 31, saw 109 hours and 23 minutes of work done in 23 sittings. “As we go back to our constituencies, we need to take on the challenge of this pandemic and turn a negative atmosphere into a positive one,” he said.

Warns workers against celebrations, says priority is to contain COVID-19

Change of guard: Governor Lalji Tandon swearing in Shivraj Singh Chouhan as Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister, in Bhopal on Monday.A.M. Faruqui

BJP vice-president and Budhni MLA Shivraj Singh Chouhan on Monday took oath as the Chief Minister of Madhya Pradesh for a fourth term. The oath was administered by Governor Lalji Tandon at 9 p.m.

Earlier in the day, Shivraj Singh Chouhan was elected unopposed as the leader of the BJP Legislature Party paving the way for his appointment as Chief Minister.

Mr. Chouhan told legislators that his priority was to contain the COVID-19 outbreak.

“I will go to the Vallabh Bhavan [Secretariat] tonight itself to contain corona. Like a family, we need to fight this disease,” Mr. Chouhan said.

Work in constituencies

Cautioning party workers against holding celebrations, Mr. Chouhan said, “This is not the time to celebrate or come outside houses. We need to start working immediately. We need to carry forward the sentiments expressed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.”

Mr. Chouhan called upon the 107 BJP MLAs to tour their regions to spread awareness of the disease. “We have to fight this epidemic; there is no other priority. With all the strength, we will fight it. I want all your cooperation,” he said.

At the meeting, Gopal Bhargava, former Leader of the Opposition, had proposed Mr. Chouhan’s name, even as party general secretary Arun Singh and party State in-charge Vinay Sahasrabuddhe conducted the proceedings through video-conferencing from New Delhi.

“Let’s make a new beginning,” Mr Chouhan said.

“For 15 years, I ran an efficient administration, but will make it better this time. We will not repeat any mistakes that may have happened in the past, and make Madhya Pradesh the number one State in the country.”

‘Reverse Cong. harm’

Mr. Chouhan further said he would work towards undoing the destruction wreaked upon the State by the previous Congress regime.

Meanwhile, Kamal Nath, who resigned as Chief Minister on March 20, met Congress president Sonia Gandhi in New Delhi and briefed her on the political turmoil in the State.

Throughout the three-week upheaval in the State, Mr. Chouhan repeatedly distanced the BJP from the crisis, and termed it an internal matter of the Congress.

While in Opposition whenever factional fissures emerged within the Congress, he professed that the government would fall under its own weight.

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