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Covid variants to be renamed as Greek letters

The existing systems for naming and tracking genetic lineages of SARS-CoV-2 – the virus that causes Covid-19 – will remain in use by scientists and in scientific research….reports Asian Lite News

The World Health Organization (WHO) has announced that Covid-19 variants of concern will be known by letters of the Greek alphabet, saying it will help avoid stigmatising countries where they first appear.

A group of experts convened by the health organization recommended the new labelling, which “will be easier and more practical to (be) discussed by non-scientific audiences,” the WHO said on Monday, DPA news agency reported.

The organization said that the existing systems for naming and tracking genetic lineages of SARS-CoV-2 – the virus that causes Covid-19 – will remain in use by scientists and in scientific research.

So far, the WHO has identified four variants of concern.

The one first detected in Britain will be known as Alpha, the one first found in South Africa will be Beta and the one first identified in Brazil will be Gamma.

The newest of the four, which was first detected in India and designated as a variant of concern on May 11, will be known as Delta.

The labelling announcement came as WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus warned the coronavirus pandemic is far from over as he closed the group’s annual meeting, moved online this year due to the disease.

ALSO READ: UK warned of third Covid wave

“The reality is, we still have a lot of work to do to end this pandemic,” he said. “We’re very encouraged that cases and deaths are continuing to decline globally, but it would be a monumental error for any country to think the danger has passed.”

He stressed the importance of precautions that have gone into common usage since the pandemic started: social-distancing, hand-washing, wearing facial masks and ensuring a fair distribution of vaccines.

The WHO has criticized the fact that rich countries have purchased vast quantities of hard-to-get vaccines, and are already inoculating young and healthy people, while poorer countries don’t have enough shots even for health care workers and those especially at risk.

“One day – hopefully soon – the pandemic will be behind us,” said Tedros. “But the psychological scars will remain for those who have lost loved ones, health workers who have been stretched beyond breaking point, and the millions of people of all ages confronted with months of loneliness and isolation.”

Attendees at the session also agreed to meet in November to begin work on a pandemic treaty, which aims to make sure the world is better prepared the next time a pandemic spreads. One focus would be ensuring better cooperation in the next health crisis.

ALSO READ: ‘Very few Covid patients in hospitals get 2 doses’

-Top News COVID-19 World News

Global Covid-19 cases cross 170M mark

The US continues to be the worst-hit country with the world’s highest number of cases and deaths at 33,264,380 and 594,568, respectively…reports Asian Lite News

The overall global Covid-19 caseload has topped 170.5 million, while the deaths have surged to more than 3.54 million, according to the Johns Hopkins University.

In its latest update on Tuesday morning, the University’s Center for Systems Science and Engineering (CSSE) revealed that the current global caseload and death toll stood at 170,580,362 and 3,546,731, respectively.

The US continues to be the worst-hit country with the world’s highest number of cases and deaths at 33,264,380 and 594,568, respectively, according to the CSSE.

People line up to enter a mass COVID-19 vaccination site at the United Center in Chicago. (Photo by Joel Lerner_Xinhua)

In terms of infections, India follows in the second place with 28,047,534 cases.

The other worst countries with over 3 million cases are Brazil (16,545,554), France (5,728,788), Turkey (5,249,404), Russia (5,013,512), the UK (4,503,224), Italy (4,217,821), Argentina (3,781,784), Germany (3,689,921), Spain (3,678,390) and Colombia (3,406,456), the CSSE figures showed.

In terms of deaths, Brazil comes second with 462,791 fatalities.

Nations with a death toll of over 100,000 are India (329,100), Mexico (223,507), the UK (128,044), Italy (126,128), Russia (119,464) and France (109,690).

ALSO READ: Superstitions reign high amid Covid spread in Rajasthan

COVID-19 India News

Superstitions reign high amid Covid spread in Rajasthan

A major hurdle before the Rajasthan government in containing the spread of the virus is the deep-rooted traditions and superstitions in the minds of rural people, reports Kshitiz Gaur

Unfazed by the increasing spread of Covid-19 and related deaths, the rural folks in Rajasthan are relying on superstitions and crude practices of quackery, instead of health experts and medical help. Worse still, many people are even against vaccinations because they believe that the pandemic is a curse from God. Many others are influenced by misinformation.

On May 27, Dhapu Bai Gemati (70) of Baghelo Ka Kheda village in Bhilwara district hid from her family for five hours after slipping away from the vaccination centre in Kiratpura. Passerbys, who initially thought they had stumbled upon a dead body, found her hiding in the bushes. When they discovered her, she begged with folded hands asking not to be vaccinated, claiming it would kill her. She was shaking with fear when the sarpanch came and talked her into going back home. Her relatives said they will bring her back for vaccination after some counselling.

Even as the people of Dantra Dhani village in Bhilwara district believe that hanging shoes at the facades of their houses will ward off the “evil spirits”, those in Lachchipura village of Ajmer are keeping campfires alive throughout the night to please their village deities in hope that they would protect their lives. Similar is the situation in Nagaur, Bhilwara, and Tonk districts of the state, where the villagers infected with Covid-19 are turning to priests and quacks. Because of the dearth, or even complete lack, of medical facilities in some of these areas, the administration is unable to create awareness among these people about seeking proper medical help in case of diseases.

Also, the faith in traditions is so deep-rooted in the minds of people that all efforts by the district administrations to prevent them from gathering for rituals and functions are proving fruitless.

In Sagariya village of Bhilwara district, more than 100 people gathered in the first week of May to perform the last rites of an 80-year-old man, defying the lockdown and flouting restrictions that specify that no more than 20 persons should be present at a funeral. “

The people fled when they saw us. We seized 15 vehicles from the spot,” said Bhagirath Singh, the SHO of Shahpura police station.

Vaccination (ANI)

However, the relatives of the deceased once again defied orders and organised a community feast later, which was also attended by a large gathering as a mark of unity.

A similar incident was reported from Ajmer, where some members of the Koli community organised a grand funeral in the city’s Dhola Bhata area for a person who died of Covid-19. This, when on average, four Covid-related deaths are reported from the area every day.

“We had appealed to the people to desist from organising functions or rituals that involve the gathering of people, but in vain. Hence, we have requested the authorities to take stringent steps to prevent such gatherings,” said Lalit Verma, a former corporator from Dhola Bhata.

Verma said the district administration and the police should strictly enforce the state government order banning marriage functions till June 30.

“It is a major challenge to prevent marriages held in villages on the occasion of the Akha Teej. A large number of weddings are held in May because the month is considered auspicious for marriages. We have taken steps to prevent such functions and avoid gathering of crowds,” said Chinmaya Gopal, the district collector of Tonk, who has ordered around 60 families who had planned marriage functions to cancel their plans.

“Social gatherings and marriage functions are the major sources of Covid-19 spread in the rural regions of Nagaur. Many positive cases from these areas have been referred to our hospital,” said Anil Jain, superintendent of JLN Hospital in Ajmer.

Complete lockdown in Rajasthan from May 10 to 24

A major hurdle before the Rajasthan government in containing the spread of the virus is the deep-rooted traditions and superstitions in the minds of rural people.

In Dantra village of Bhilwara district, a tribal area with only 3,000 residents, 28 Covid-related deaths were reported in a span of 30 days. Yet, the villagers refuse to take vaccinations against the virus they believe that hanging shoes on the facades of their houses would keep the “evil spirits” at bay, and that quacks, who often use crude practices such as searing their skins with hot iron rods, could cure the disease.

“We have launched an awareness programme and are trying to convince people to take medical help,” said C.L. Sharma, the sub-divisional officer of Asind block of Bhilwara.

The district administration has so far sealed three clinics run by quacks in Pushkar town and Bhilwara. Raids to nab more such practitioners are on in Jahajpur, Mandal, Badnore, and Asind areas. In the first half of May alone, eight Covid-19 patients, who were initially treated by quacks, were admitted to Mahatma Gandhi Hospital at Bhilwara.

Even as the government machinery and the medical fraternity wage a war to protect people from contracting the virus, some religious leaders are putting more hurdles in their way. One Prem Agarwal at the Siddheshwar Peeth of Jhanki Wale Balaji recently told the devotees that reciting Hanuman Chalisa 11,000 times within 15 days could contain the spread of the virus in Rajasthan. This has prompted thousands of people across the state to congregate at temples and homes to chant the Chalisa, thus increasing the risk of more people contracting the virus.

(The author is an Ajmer-based freelance journalist and a member of, a pan-India network of grassroots reporters.)

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READ MORE-Complete lockdown in Rajasthan from May 10 to 24

Asia News India News

Imran harps on Kashmir for talks to resume

Demands India to restore the pre-August 5, 2019 status of Jammu and Kashmir, reports Asian Lite News

Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan said on Sunday that Pakistan would hold talks with India if New Delhi restores the pre-August 5, 2019 status of Jammu and Kashmir.

India abrogated the special status of Jammu and Kashmir under Article 370 on August 5, 2019 and bifurcated it into two Union territories.

“If Pakistan revives its relations with India (without the latter restoring the status of Kashmir), it will be similar to turning our back on the Kashmiris,” Khan said during a live questions and answers session with the people.

Khan said that if India takes back the steps it took on August 5, “then we can definitely hold talks”.

New Delhi has repeatedly said Jammu and Kashmir is an integral part of India and the country is capable of solving its own problems.

India has told Pakistan that it desires normal neighbourly relations with it in an environment free of terror, hostility and violence. India has said the onus is on Pakistan to create an environment free of terror and hostility.

Ties between India and Pakistan nosedived after a terror attack on the Pathankot Air Force base in 2016 by terror groups based in the neighbouring country. Subsequent attacks, including one on Indian Army camp in Uri, further deteriorated the relationship.

The relationship dipped further after India’s war planes pounded a Jaish-e-Mohammed terrorist training camp deep inside Pakistan on February 26, 2019 in response to the Pulwama terror attack in which 40 CRPF jawans were killed.

The relations deteriorated after India announced withdrawing special powers of Jammu and Kashmir and bifurcation of the state into two union territories.

However, lately there has been some improvement when the two countries agreed in February to restore peace on the Line of Control. It is said that the rival officials have been interacting through the back channel diplomacy to ease tension.

Khan also responded to several questions about domestic issues including inflation and promised that his government was working hard to bring down prices of commodities. He also said that Pakistan will continue to achieve economic growth in the days to come as he termed the process gradual and one that would take time.

Last week, Pakistan Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi has called on UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres to take decisive measures and ensure implementation of the UN Charter and the UN Security Council Resolutions on Jammu and Kashmir and play a key role in resolving the longstanding dispute.


“Pakistan desires normal relations with India, however, the onus is on India to create an atmosphere to enable meaningful engagement,” the Minister said during his interaction with the Guterres in New York.

Qureshi also renewed his invitation to India for a dialogue and said that the only solution to the Kashmir dispute is through talks, based on the aspirations of the people of Jammu and Kashmir.

“India is running away from table talks with Pakistan on Kashmir,” he said.

Qureshi briefed Guterres about what he called serious human rights violations in the “Indian occupied Jammu and Kashmir”, including incarceration of political leaders and extra-judicial killings.

The Foreign Minister also brushed aside the criticism on Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan, by the opposition political parties, for selling of the Kashmir cause, stating that the premier can never compromise on the Kashmir cause as he is the “Ambassador of the Kashmir cause and is the voice of the people of Kashmiris to the world”.

“Let this be clear, Pakistan’s position on the issue of Kashmir is very clear. There can be no talks until India reverses its decision of August 5, 2019,” he insisted.

ALSO READ-Imran retracts criticism of Pak diplomats after facing flak  

READ MORE-Imran endorsed Rawalpindi Ring Road project

-Top News UK News

Another Ryanair plane diverted to Berlin over potential threat

The plane was met by a group of police vehicles with lights flashing as it parked in a spot away from the main terminal…reports Asian Lite News.

In yet another flight diversion incident involving Ryanair, the Irish airline on Monday announced that a Poland-bound plane made an unscheduled landing in Berlin due to information received about a possible security threat on board.

The flight from the Irish capital Dublin to Krakow in Poland was diverted to the German capital at around 8 p.m. on Sunday because that was the closest airport, dpa news agency quoted the airline as saying.

The plane was met by a group of police vehicles with lights flashing as it parked in a spot away from the main terminal.

The 160 passengers and their luggage were taken off the plane and examined with the help of sniffer dogs, in an operation that lasted until 4 a.m. on Monday.

The passengers then continued on with their journey using a replacement aircraft.

German federal police said on Monday morning they had determined there was no danger to the aircraft but have yet to release details on the purported threat, saying only that it was a telephone call that had raised alarm.

German tabloids Bild and BZ said that there had been a bomb threat, but neither the police nor Ryanair confirmed those reports.

Sunday’s incident in Berlin comes exactly after a week after Belarusian authorities dispatched a fighter jet to force another Ryanair flight to divert to Minsk, where a dissident journalist who was on board was then arrested along with his girlfriend.

Roman Protasevich, a 26-year-old dissident journalist, and his partner were taken into custody after the landing on May 23, prompting a raft of measures by the EU, including restricted access to the bloc’s airspace for Belarusian carriers.

ALSO READ-Belarus defends forced landing of Ryanair flight

READ MORE-UK planes told to avoid Belarusian airspace

-Top News Defence

Royal Navy uses AI for first time at sea

It’s vital that our brave and highly skilled Armed Forces stay ahead of the game for the security of the United Kingdom and our allies,” said Scottish Secretary Alister Jack…reports Asian Lite News.

For the first time, Artificial Intelligence (AI) is being used by the Royal Navy at sea as part of Exercise Formidable Shield, which is currently taking place off the coast of Scotland.

This Operational Experiment (OpEx) on the Type 45 Destroyer (HMS Dragon) and Type 23 Frigate (HMS Lancaster), use AI applications, Startle and Sycoiea, which were tested against a supersonic missile threat.

As part of the Above Water Systems programme, led by Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (Dstl) scientists, the AI improved the early detection of lethal threat, accelerates engagement timelines and provide Royal Navy Commanders with a rapid hazard assessment to select the optimum weapon or measure to counter and destroy the target.

It’s vital that our brave and highly skilled Armed Forces stay ahead of the game for the security of the United Kingdom and our allies,” said Scottish Secretary Alister Jack.

“The Royal Navy’s use of AI for the first time at sea is an important development in ensuring readiness to tackle threats we may face. I’m proud to see that two Scottish built Royal Navy vessels are at the heart of this exercise in the waters off the Hebrides,” he added.

Dstl has worked closely with industry partners Roke (Startle App), CGI (Sycoiea App) and BAE Systems to ensure the new AI based applications work alongside existing radar and combat management systems.

Dstl’s Programme Manager, Alasdair Gilchrist MBE said:Dstl has invested heavily in the systems that are installed at the moment, but it’s imperative that we continue to invest to make sure that the Royal Navy remains relevant now and in the future.”

“Being able to bring A.I. onto the ships is a massive achievement, and while we can prove the AI works in the labs, actually getting Navy personnel hands on is brilliant,” he added.

Exercise Formidable Shield is Europe’s biggest and most complex air and missile exercise. Designed to improve allied interoperability and capabilities, it is a three-week exercise that carries out live-fire Integrated Air & Missile Defence activity with more than 15 ships, 10 aircraft and around 3,300 military personnel from around the world taking part.

Using NATO command and control reporting structures, ten nations are taking part in the Exercise including Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, Spain, the United Kingdom, and the United States.

Held every two years, Formidable Shield will run until 3 June and is led by Naval Striking and Support Forces NATO on behalf of the US Sixth Fleet.

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-Top News UK News

‘Very few Covid patients in hospitals get 2 doses’

According to the latest government data, there are 870 Covid-19 patients in hospitals in Britain, compared to the peak of 39,249 in January…reports Asian Lite News.

“Very, very few” Covid-19 patients in hospitals in England have received two jabs against the virus, showing the vaccines provide “very high” levels of protection, the chief of a British health association said.

A “handful” of patients in hospital had received both vaccination doses, but they usually have additional conditions, Xinhua news agency quoted Chris Hopson, chief of the National Health Service (NHS) Providers, as saying on Sunday.

Patients tend now to be younger, which means there was a lower need for critical care, he said.

However, it is “incredibly striking” how busy hospitals are, as they deal with non-Covid backlogs, Hopson told the BBC.

Hospitals are going “full pelt”, he said.

According to the latest government data, there are 870 Covid-19 patients in hospitals in Britain, compared to the peak of 39,249 in January.

“More informed debate” is needed for the final step of easing coronavirus restrictions in England on June 21, Hopson added.

Meanwhile, some British experts have warned that the B.1.6172 coronavirus variant could “pick up speed and become a big problem” in the UK if the country further eases its lockdown.

The B.1.6172 variant cases have doubled in a week in England to almost 7,000, prompting concerns that the government’s lockdown roadmap will be derailed.

The roadmap is expected to see all legal limits on social contact to be removed on June 21.

It is understood that a final decision on the planned easing of lockdown will not be made until June 14.

More than 39 million people, about three-quarters of adults in Britain, have been given the first coronavirus vaccine jab, according to the latest official figures.

ALSO READ-‘Pfizer-BioNTech vax very effective against UK, SA variants’

READ MORE-UK lockdown easing at risk over variant threat

-Top News COVID-19 UK News

UK warned of third Covid wave

However, he said the number of people who have been vaccinated in the UK meant this wave would probably take longer to emerge than the previous ones…reporrts Asian Lite News.

The UK is in the early stages of a third wave of Covid-19, a scientist advising the UK government said, media reports said on Monday.

The B1617 variant, which was first detected in India in October 2020, had fuelled “exponential growth” and is responsible for at least three-quarters of cases in the UK, Ravi Gupta, a professor at the University of Cambridge, was quoted as saying by the BBC.

“Of course the number of cases is relatively low at the moment — all waves start with low numbers of cases that grumble in the background and then become explosive, so the key here is that what we are seeing here is the signs of an early wave,” Gupta told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.

However, he said the number of people who have been vaccinated in the UK meant this wave would probably take longer to emerge than the previous ones.

“There may be a false sense of security for some time, and that’s our concern,” he noted, suggesting that ending Covid restrictions in the UK on June 21 should be postponed.

It should be delayed “by a few weeks while we gather more intelligence”, said Gupta, a member of the UK government’s New and Emerging Respiratory Virus Threats Advisory Group (Nervtag).

The concern was echoed by other experts who said that the B1617 variant could “pick up speed and become a big problem” in the UK as the country further eases lockdown measures.

The UK’s fight against coronavirus could turn bad “very, very quickly” unless the government acts cautiously on easing lockdown further, Xinhua news agency quoted Tim Gowers from the University of Cambridge telling the Guardian on Saturday.

Anthony Harnden, the deputy chair of the UK’s Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI), also warned that the B1617 variant is “clearly more transmissible”.

“We need to be reassured that we’re in a very different position now in that we’ve got a highly vaccinated population and we just need to continue moving at speed,” he told the BBC on Saturday.

“We do know that with this particular variant, you do need two doses to offer complete protection, and so we’re very, very keen to make sure that all those, particularly higher risk groups, over 50 years of age and those with underlying illness, receive their second vaccination as soon as feasible,” Harnden said.

The final stage of the government’s roadmap for lifting lockdown, which would remove all limits on how many people you can meet – either indoors or outdoors, is due no earlier than June 21.

On Sunday, the UK reported more than 3,000 new Covid infections for a fifth day in a row. Prior to this, the UK had not surpassed that number since April 12, the BBC report said.

ALSO READ-UK expert urges caution over B.1.617 variant

READ MORE-Covid variant cases up in UK

China UK News

British spies believe Wuhan lab leak theory is ‘feasible’

Sharing renewed concerns over virus origin, American diplomatic sources said that the world is “one wet market or bio lab away from the next spillover”, reported The Sunday Times…reports Asian Lite News.

British intelligence officials believe it is “feasible” that the pandemic began after the Covid-19 virus leaked from a lab in Wuhan, it was reported.

According to a Sunday Times report, British spies are now investigating the theory of a possible leak from the Wuhan Institute of Virology.

Quoting sources familiar with the development, the British daily said that a recent reassessment of the possible source of coronavirus disease (Covid-19) has prompted UK intelligence to investigate the lab leak theory.

Sharing renewed concerns over virus origin, American diplomatic sources said that the world is “one wet market or bio lab away from the next spillover”, reported The Sunday Times.

Former US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Saturday said that the Wuhan Institute of Virology was engaged in military activity alongside its civilian research — amid renewed scrutiny of the theory that the COVID-19 pandemic emerged from the secretive lab.

“What I can say for sure is this: we know that they were engaged in efforts connected to the People’s Liberation Army inside of that laboratory, so military activity being performed alongside what they claimed was just good old civilian research,” Pompeo said, as per Fox News.

He further mentioned: “They refuse to tell us what it was, they refuse to describe the nature of either of those, they refused to allow access to the World Health Organisation when it tried to get in there.”

China is coming under increasing pressure over probe into the origins of the COVID-19, even as scientists are demanding more clarity to go into the roots of the global pandemic.

Meanwhile, according to a latest breakthrough research conducted by a team of researchers, the coronavirus disease did not develop naturally, but was created by Chinese scientists in a Wuhan lab, who then tried to cover their tracks by reverse-engineering versions of the virus to make it look like it evolved naturally from bats.

The research, conducted by British Professor Angus Dalgleish and Norwegian scientist Birger Sorensen, is forthcoming in the scientific journal Quarterly Review of Biophysics Discovery, the reported on Friday.

In the 22-page paper, the researchers describe their months-long “forensic analysis” into experiments done at the Wuhan lab between 2002 and 2019.

It concludes that “SARS-Coronavirus-2 has no credible natural ancestor” and that it is “beyond reasonable doubt” that the virus was created through “laboratory manipulation”.

The paper also alleges of “unique fingerprints” in Covid samples that could only have arisen from manipulation in a laboratory and that “the likelihood of it being the result of natural processes is very small”.

“A natural virus pandemic would be expected to mutate gradually and become more infectious but less pathogenic which is what many expected with the Covid-19 pandemic but which does not appear to have happened,” the scientists wrote in the paper, according to the Daily Mail report.

“The implication of our historical reconstruction, we posit now beyond reasonable doubt, of the purposively manipulated chimeric virus SARS-CoV-2 makes it imperative to reconsider what types of Gain of Function experiments it is morally acceptable to undertake. Because of the wide social impact, these decisions cannot be left to research scientists alone,” they added.

Dalgleish and Sorensen wrote that they have had “prima facie evidence of retro-engineering in China” for a year, but their theory was rejected by academics and major journals, the report said.

ALSO READ-WHO likely to restudy Wuhan lab origin theory of Covid-19

READ MORE-China targets Fauci amid Wuhan lab controversy

Food India News

At 82, Khaira Babaji turns legend feeding 3 Mn

When the national lockdown started from March 24, 2020, Khaira Babaji’s ramshackle ‘langar’ proved to be a life-saver for millions…reports Asian Lite News

From the crack of dawn, the sprightly 82-year-old Baba Karnail Singh Khaira has been a busybee, shuffling around at his modest ‘Guru Ka Langar’, near Karanji village on NH-7 here.

With folded hands and a welcoming smile, the bespectacled Khaira Babaji warmly ushers in hordes of tired and famished travellers, offers them a seat and orders his loyal team to serve them piping hot meals, although today is “very special”.

“It’s the 415th anniversary of the martyrdom of Guru Arjan Dev, the Fifth Sikh Guru, today’ As per traditions, I offer ‘rose sherbet’ to all who come to my ‘langar’ for a month,” the beaming Khaira Babaji says.

When the national lockdown started from March 24, 2020, Khaira Babaji’s ramshackle ‘langar’ proved to be a life-saver for millions, mostly uprooted migrants or those stranded for weeks away from their homes and kin, waiting in long queues for their fill.

At that time, the humble ‘Guru Ka Langar’ was the only decent eatery on a 450-km stretch serving meals – free, 24X7 – to anybody who walked in, migrants, travellers, villagers, and even mute stray animals.

Now, a year later, the world-famous ‘langar’ has started an ‘oxygen bank’ with 15 cylinders given free to needy Covid-19 patients in the pandemic second wave.

His awe-inspiring story is what legends are made of – and he earned the admiration of millions, from celebrities to stars to politicians or commoners and was featured in the TV series “Bharat Ke Mahaveer”.

Thousands world-over like US-based author Sabina Khan, Amardeep Singh of Bengaluru, Yavatmal’s Kishore Tiwari and Salim Khetani, Narendra Narlawar, Amritsar Gurudwara Guru Ka Bagh’s Baba Satnam Singh and Baba Kirpal Singh, Amreek Singh Malli and many more sent big or small donations that kept the ‘langar’ fires burning without a break.

ALSO READ: French Cos promise support in India’s Covid fight

“In contrast, many international TV channels came, shot and telecast my films/documentaries, and suo moto assured to organise funds for my ‘langar’ services. They made billions of rupees ‘selling me’ through sponsors. However, I am still waiting for them to fulfil their promises. But, Wahe Guru is great..,” said Khaira Babaji, looking skywards.

Located in a desolate area, the ‘langar’ is linked with the historic Gurudwara Bhagod Sahib in Wai, around 11 kms away in a dense jungle, visited mostly by Sikhs.

It was here that the 10th Sikh Guru, Guru Gobind Singh stayed in 1705, while en route to Nanded, some 250 km away, where he was assassinated on October 7, 1708.

Nearly 125 years later, it bloomed as the world-famous ‘Gurudwara Takht Hazuri Sahib Sachkhand’ (Nanded), one of the most revered Five Takhts in Sikhism.

“Gurudwara Bhagod Sahib is barely accessible, so in 1988 we started this ‘langar’ branch on the highway. I was assigned to manage it with the blessings of Nanded Gurudwara Sahib’s Baba Narinder Singhji and Baba Balwinder Singhji,” recalls Khaira Baba.

The pandemic Lockdown 2.0 was a different experience for him, he chuckled. “My photos and phone numbers are all over on social media’ Now, people call me up hours before and request me to keep food ready for big or small groups 50, 100 or 500 people! This is Guru Nanak’s blessings..!”

The ‘langar’ serves breakfast of tea with hard bread or biscuits, meals comprising rice, rotis, dal, vegetables, biryani with daily menu change, providing soap and borewell water for bathing to the visitors.

Born in Meerut (Uttar Pradesh) the young Karnail left home at 11 to answer “a mysterious call for service to humankind”, later travelled all over India, lived in countries of the Middle-East and Europe for nearly 10 years organizing funds for Gurudwara services.

“Though semi-literate, I speak fluent English, Hindi, Punjabi, Arabic, Dutch, German and of course, Marathi,” Khaira Baba said with pride.

Attributing his daily lonesome grind in the dust and blazing sun as ‘marzi (desire) of Wahe Guru’, his sole possessions are 3 sets of clothes and travelling around in the three service vehicles donated by devotees to the ‘langar’. He drove down to run ‘langars’ outside Delhi during the ongoing farmers agitation.

Khaira Babaji calculated the number of persons fed based on the disposable plates count as 3 million plus for the past 15 months, 2 million in the initial 75 days, rest in the last 12 months (June 1, 2020-May 31, 2021), besides over 600,000 ‘take-away parcels’, and still counting.

The ‘Guru ka langar’ has kept two donation boxes outside in which people drop coins/notes, but the collection is never counted and the money ploughed back into public service.

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