• Hollywood star, Perry, uses own Gulfstream III jet to aid relief in Hurricane-torn Bahamas

    It was reported that filmmaker, Tyler Perry, used his own private jet to transport relief supplies to the Bahamas to help the thousands who were devastated by Hurricane Dorian.

    The writer, actor, director and producer, who, himself, owns a 25-acre island in the Bahamas, was also said to have seven people, including children and a pregnant woman, rescued to receive medical attention.

    The Category 5 storm, which destroyed homes and properties, was said to have claimed some 50-plus civilians, with anywhere of up to 70,000 people who became homeless.

    Noted for films and TV shows including; ‘Why Did I Get Married?’ ‘Diary of a Mad Black Woman’ and ‘Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows’, was so moved by the plight of the people of the Abaco Islands that he posted on his Instagram feed;

    “To all the incredible people of the Bahamas who have welcomed me and called me an adoptive son, I want you to know that I am watching closely, and as soon as I can, I will be there to do whatever I can to help you rebuild stronger and better. You’re not only in my heart and my prayers, you’re in my blood. God bless you. Stay Bahamas strong. The sun will shine again [sic]”.

    After posting the message, Perry, 50 - who Forbes list as the highest paid man in entertainment - sent his Gulfstream III jet plane made several trips, carrying necessities such as water, juice, diapers, sleeping bags, hygiene products, and much more.

  • Hospitals in India passes 200,000 Covid deaths

    India has reached the devastating figure of 200,000 coronavirus deaths, with the pressure on many hospitals showing no sign of abating amid a surging second wave. The real number of fatalities is thought to be far greater, with many not being officially recorded.

    Oxygen supplies remain critically low across the country, with the black market the only option for some people. Crematoriums are operating non-stop, with makeshift pyres in car parks.

    There have been at least 300,000 new infections every day in the past week, with more than 360,000 new cases in the past 24 hours on Wednesday. Overall, more than 17.9 million cases have been registered.

    Foreign aid has started to arrive from the UK and Singapore. Russia, New Zealand and France have pledged to send emergency medical equipment, and even regional rivals Pakistan and China have put aside their differences and promised to help.

    However, experts say the aid will only have a limited effect in a nation that has a population of 1.3 billion. A government website where Indians can register for a vaccination programme crashed soon after it launched, as tens of thousands of people tried to access it.

    In the state of Assam, a 6.4 magnitude earthquake damaged hospitals which were already under intense strain. People ran from their homes and other buildings in panic.

    Mortality data in India is poor and deaths at home often go unregistered, especially in rural areas.

    There are reports of journalists counting bodies at morgues themselves, to try to get a more accurate number. In Uttar Pradesh, health officials said 68 people had died on one day earlier this month across the state.

    But a Hindi newspaper pointed out that officials also said there were 98 Covid funerals in the capital, Lucknow, alone. One man in Uttar Pradesh was investigated for spreading a rumour with an intent to cause fear or alarm by asking for help to find oxygen for his sick grandfather on Twitter. It caused widespread anger, and the man could face jail.

    Crematoriums continue to work throughout the night to keep up with the number of bodies arriving, and many families are facing long waits before their loved ones can receive funeral rites. Some say they were asked to help speed up the process by piling the wood themselves.

    In the southern city of Bengaluru, one doctor said people were panicking. It is one of the worst-hit cities in India, with some estimates saying there are about 300 active Covid cases per square kilometre. A senior consultant at a government said: "We were not prepared for this second surge.

    “For the first surge it was well organised - as soon as we came to know [of the virus] everything was streamlined and we were much better prepared. This time there are more cases, it was more sudden, and the situation was not prepared for."

    With most hospitals overwhelmed, families are having to find ways to treat loved ones at home. Many have turned to the black market, where prices of drugs such as remdesivir and tocilizumab, and oxygen cylinders, have soared.

    "I know a family that cobbled together money to buy the first three doses of remdesivir from the black market, but couldn't afford to get the remaining three as prices shot up further," our correspondent says. "The patient continues to be critical." Some private jet companies have reported a spike in business, as people try to fly their sick relatives to other hospitals in India.

    "It's basically families of patients who are looking to get into a hospital and are trying to see if there are any beds in other parts of the country," Ashish Wastrad, head of Air Charter Service's Mumbai office, says. However, he said the company's planes were not properly equipped to carry Covid-positive patients.

    The World Health Organization (WHO) reported in its weekly epidemiological update that there were nearly 5.7 million new cases reported globally last week - and India accounts for 38% of them. It also said that the B.1.617 variant of the virus detected in India has a higher growth rate than other variants in the country, suggesting increased transmissibility.

    India is carrying out the world's biggest vaccination drive, but less than 10% of the population has so far received an initial jab, and as infections continue to surge, there are concerns about meeting the demand. The US is helping India with the raw materials it needs for vaccine production, after India's biggest vaccine maker, the Serum Institute of India, complained of shortages of specialised imports from the US.

    Meanwhile, it has been reported that the first batch of the Russian Sputnik V vaccine is set to arrive in India on May 1. It has not yet been revealed how many doses will be delivered.

  • How a dancing doctor and a surprise cake cheered up India

    As Covid-19 dominated headlines, there were some social media moments in India that cheered people amid the gloom,

    Karan Puri, an elderly resident of Panchkula, in the northern Indian state of Haryana, was in for a pleasant surprise when the police came to his door. In a video that later went viral, Mr Puri can be seen striding towards the gate, saying, "I am Karan Puri, I live alone and I am a senior citizen." But what happens next leaves him stunned and touched. As the officers sing "happy birthday to you", Mr Puri doubles over in surprise, and asks them how they found out. He tears up and tells the police officers that his children live abroad and he was indeed feeling lonely.

    The officers there then say "we’re like your family" and that "there is no need to feel alone". They bring out a birthday cake and everybody starts clapping and singing again. This heart-warming video melted hearts on social media and won the officers praise for their thoughtful gesture.

    It all started with a teary-eyed video uploaded to Instagram by a food blogger. The video showed Kanta Prasad, 80, breaking down on camera over the lack of business at his street food stall during the pandemic. Street food, although hugely popular, had taken a massive hit during the pandemic, forcing many vendors to shut shop. Mr Prasad and his wife, Badami Devi, had been running their shop, Baba ka dhaba, since 1990 in south Delhi's Malviya Nagar

    In the viral video, Mr Prasad shows the dishes they have prepared for the day. When asked how much he has earned so far, he says "very little" and breaks down. The blogger, Gaurav Wasan, shared the clip on Instagram in early October. It travelled quickly, soon making its way on to Twitter. A woman shared it saying it "completely broke her heart" and urged people in Delhi to visit Baba ka Dhaba and help Mr Prasad and his wife. And the appeal was heard as crowds of people and camera crews gathered at the small eatery within hours after the video went viral.

    The tweet was noticed by celebrities - from Bollywood stars to cricketers - and ordinary people alike. The video has now been watched nearly five million times.

    People donated from all over the world to help the elderly couple. But the story took an ugly turn when Mr Prasad accused Mr Wasan of misappropriating funds collected under his name. The blogger denied the allegation. Mr Prasad also filed a police complaint against him. But it appears that the two have patched up now. Mr Prasad reportedly thanked Mr Wasan after opening a new restaurant recently and the blogger wished him luck. Arup Senapati started working as a Covid doctor in the north-eastern Indian state of Assam in April.

    As the pandemic continued to overwhelm hospitals, health workers and doctors like him were forced to work around the clock, often to a point of physical and mental exhaustion. But Dr Senapati found a unique way to de-stress while also cheering up Covid-19 patients. It also happened to be something he loved doing - dancing to Bollywood numbers.

    A colleague filmed one of his impromptu dance routines in October and tweeted the video, which instantly went viral. It has so far been watched 5.7 million times.

    Bollywood star Hrithik Roshan, famous for his dance moves, praised Dr Senapati, who says it was his humble attempt to make his patients laugh. But he never imagined that his video would reach so many people! When Snehal Satpute returned home after recovering from Covid-19, she didn't expect the welcome she received.

    In a video which went viral on social media in July, her 23-year-old sister Saloni is seen dancing with joy on the street in front of their house to welcome her sister home. Snehal then joins her and other family members also come out to participate.

    Saloni told the Pune Mirror newspaper that she wanted to "relay a message to her neighbours who had shunned them after five members of her family tested positive".

    In India, stigma against those who had contracted Covid was a widespread issue when the pandemic first took hold there.

  • How Covid vaccination programme is progressing around the world

    More than four billion doses of coronavirus vaccines have been administered, in over 190 countries worldwide.

    However, there are vast differences in the pace of progress in different parts of the world.

  • How the EndSARS protests have changed Nigeria forever

    A potent mix of street protests and social media gave young Nigerians a voice that shattered the country's culture of deference. As the #EndSARS hashtag went viral, so did a defiance of the elite in Nigeria.

  • Hurricane Dorian - The devastation left in The Bahamas

    As our hearts goes out to the people of Bahamas, Hurricane Dorian have been catastrophic on the Island of Bahamas killing at least seven people, destroying as many homes during its path of dark destruction through the Bahamas this past weekend.

    Despite been downgraded to a category 2 Hurricane, it came to a grinding halt on Tuesday morning as the Bahamas came to a virtual standstill after days of howling winds of up to 175mp with fierce rain where it battered the Island with a Category 5 status the strongest in history of a Atlantic hurricane. The hurricane battered the islands of Abaco, Grand Bahama and left The Grand Bahama airport under 6 feet of water. Fear gripped residents as the wind tore roofs off and had houses or what remained of houses under siege. Dorian has been unleashing torrents of rain, as the entire area continues to endure devastating and flooding in its wake.

    The scale of the catastrophe and intensity of damages in the Bahamas is just beginning to unfold as a large mass of area is still under complete water.

    Now that there is the calm after the storm, the water has risen so high that many are forced to wait out the storm by taking refuge at shelters and or in their roof spaces.

    Literally, everything is under water, fire trucks, police vehicles therefore posing a situation where not much help can be done thus staying put and no one can leave where they are presently to go anywhere to help. With the streets impassible due to rising waters, stranded vehicles on top of each with pounding rain still falling islanders are devising actions to be taken once it is safe to do so.

    Dozens of individuals were attempting to rescue those nearby that are trapped along with animals however this is proving quite exhausting after spending the last few days under water clinging to their lives.

    The Prime Minister of Bahamas, Mr Hubert Minnis, spoke yesterday in the aftermath of the hurricane said “We are in the midst of an historic tragedy.” As he added: “The devastation is unprecedented and extensive.”

    It is estimated that over 70,000 people in both Abaco and Grand Bahama will need food and supplies following the destruction on the island as swiftly as possible especially with babies, toddlers and the elderly that requires the help.

    Mr Hubert Minnis tweeted that "There are many difficult days, weeks and months ahead of us as a people and as a country." "Relief and rapid assessment teams are standing by and will be deployed to Abaco and Grand Bahama as soon as possible."

    As Hurricane Dorian will remain a powerful hurricane during the next couple of days the exact toll of the devastation is not known at this stage and rescue crews cannot as yet execute their plan of actions on the ground. Dorian battered the Bahamas since landfall over the weekend and it is expected to be one of severe damages.

    Dorian is now moving north however there is evidence of miles of debris from houses that were pulled apart and have left the island in disrepair as life will start all over again for those who have survived.

    During this very difficult time for those in Bahamas our thoughts and prayers are completely with them and profound condolences to the families to whom have lost their loved ones.

    By Dee Burrowes, Life Coach/Author.

  • Huvafen Fushi chef becomes Maldives’ first member of World Master Chefs Society

    Pioneering Maldives icon, Huvafen Fushi, is proud to announce that Executive Chef Ashish Domee has become the first Maldives-based member of the prestigious World Master Chefs Society; a leading global honours society for exceptionally skilled professional chefs. Establishing him the same company as Michelin-starred talents such as Daniel Clifford and Paul Croasdale, Chef Ashish’s trailblazing induction is testament to the exceptional quality of the culinary offering he leads across Huvafen Fushi’s tantalising array of restaurants. 

    The collective expertise of the World Master Chefs Society’s highly qualified founders, patrons and life voting members guarantees its reputation and recognition as an authority by the hotel and catering industry. Membership is based strictly on high qualifications, career achievements and managerial recommendations, and aims to cultivate a vibrant union of talented professionals who are dedicated to advancing the culinary arts.

  • Iconic Istanbul museum turned into a mosque

    After a court annulled the site's status the world-famous Hagia Sophia museum in Istanbul - originally founded as a cathedral - has been turned back into a mosque following President Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced the decision.

    Built 1,500 years ago as an Orthodox Christian cathedral, Hagia Sophia was converted into a mosque after the Ottoman conquest in 1453. It became a museum in 1934 and is now a Unesco World Heritage site.

    Islamists in Turkey long called for it to be converted to a mosque but secular opposition members opposed the move. The proposal prompted criticism from religious and political leaders worldwide.

    Defending the decision, President Erdogan stressed that the country had exercised its sovereign right in converting it back to a mosque. He announced the first Muslim prayerers to take place inside the building on July 24.

    "Like all our mosques, the doors of Hagia Sophia will be wide open to locals and foreigners, Muslims and non-Muslims," he added.

    A change is coming to Hagia Sophia, which has endured since the 6th century, outlasting the Byzantine empire and the Ottoman era. Now, once again, it will be a mosque. But Turkish officials say Christian emblems, including mosaics of the Virgin Mary which adorn its soaring golden dome, will not be removed.
    Making changes at Hagia Sophia is profoundly symbolic. It was Kemal Ataturk, the founder of modern Turkey, who decreed that it should be a museum. President Erdogan is now taking one more step to dismantle Ataturk's secular legacy, and remould Turkey according to his vision. The Turkish leader - who presents himself as a modern day conqueror - is making no apologies for the change. He says anyone who doesn't like it - and plenty abroad don't - is attacking Turkey's sovereignty.
    Reclaiming Hagia Sophia plays well with his base - religious conservatives - and with Turkish nationalists. Critics say he's using the issue to distract attention from the economic damage done here by the Covid19 pandemic.
    But many in the international community argue that the monument belongs to humanity - not to Turkey - and should have remained unchanged. They say it was a bridge between two faiths, and a symbol of co-existence.
    Shortly after the announcement, the first call to prayer was recited at Hagia Sophia and was broadcast on all of Turkey's main news channels. The cultural site's social media channels have now been taken down.
    Unesco has said it "deeply regrets" the decision to turn the museum into a mosque and called on the Turkish authorities to "open a dialogue without delay."significance as a religious and political symbol
    The head of the Eastern Orthodox Church has condemned the move, as has Greece - home to many millions of Orthodox followers.
    Culture Minister Lina Mendoni said it was an "open provocation to the civilised world".
    "The nationalism displayed by President Erdogan... takes his country back six centuries," she said in a statement.
    The court ruling "absolutely confirms that there is no independent justice" in Turkey, she added.
    But the Council of State, Turkey's top administrative court, said in its ruling on Friday: "It was concluded that the settlement deed allocated it as a mosque and its use outside this character is not possible legally."
    "The cabinet decision in 1934 that ended its use as a mosque and defined it as a museum did not comply with laws," it said.
    The Church in Russia, home to the world's largest Orthodox Christian community, immediately expressed regret that the Turkish court had not taken its concerns into account when ruling on Hagia Sophia.
    It said the decision could lead to even greater divisions.
    While the move is popular with conservative religious supporters of President Erdogan, Turkey's most famous author, Orhan Pamuk said the decision would take away the "pride" some Turks had in being a secular Muslim nation.
    "There are millions of secular Turks like me who are crying against this but their voices are not heard," he told the BBC.

  • Iconic Maracana to be named after Brazil legend Pele

    Brazil's iconic Maracana stadium is to be named in honour of the country's legendary footballer Pele. The move follows a vote by the Rio de Janeiro state legislature to change the venue's name to the Edson Arantes do Nascimento - Rei Pele stadium.

    Edson Arantes do Nascimento is the 80-year-old's full name, while Rei means king in Portuguese. The Rio de Janeiro's state governor must approve the name change before it becomes official.

    Pele, who won three World Cups as a player for Brazil, scored his 1,000th goal at the stadium in 1969 when playing for Santos against Vasco da Gama. The Maracana held the 1950 and 2014 World Cup finals, as well as the opening ceremony of the 2016 Olympics.

    Some fans, however, are not happy because Pele never played for its local teams and he does not hail from Rio de Janeiro. 

    The deputy responsible for the project said: “It is a worthy homage to a man who is recognised the world over for his legacy in Brazilian football and for the corresponding services rendered to our country.”

    The home stadium for two local football clubs, Fluminense and reigning champions Flamengo, more than 200,000 spectators are reported to have been in the stadium to watch Uruguay beat Brazil in the 1950 final, although its capacity is now 78,838. It was named after Mario Filho, a journalist who lobbied for its construction in the 1940s, but was known as the Maracana after the area in which it is located.

    The legislature said the football stadium will be renamed but the larger sports complex around the ground can retain its current name. The bill now goes to interim governor Claudio Castro, who has 15 days to decide whether to sign it into law. 

    The giant 78,000-seat stadium's history is also loaded with trauma for Brazilians. It opened in 1950 for the World Cup, hosting Brazil's heartbreaking 2-1 defeat by Uruguay in the final - an event still sorrowfully remembered as the 'Maracanaco,' which roughly translates as 'Maracana death blow.'

    The only player in history to win three World Cups - in 1958, 1962 and 1970 – and considered by many to be the greatest footballer in history - Pele is credited with restoring Brazil's football pride in the aftermath.

  • IFAD and Guinea to help rural populations recover from the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic

    The International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) will provide the Republic of Guinea with a grant to improve the resilience of more than 2,123 poor farming households trying to cope with the COVID-19 pandemic, by ensuring rapid access to inputs, information, markets and cash.

  • IFAD and KSrelief agree to jointly tackle hunger and malnutrition in world’s most vulnerable countries

    Escalating hunger and malnutrition as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic is particularly dire for people living in the world’s most fragile countries. In response, the UN’s International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) and the King Salman Humanitarian Aid and ‎Relief Centre (KSrelief) today agreed to join forces to help ensure sustainable access to nutritious food.

  • IFAD and Maharashtra Government join hands to empower 1 million rural women

    The UN’s International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) and the Government of Maharashtra in India launched the Nav Tejaswini programme this week.

  • IFAD calling for increased investments ahead of World Conservation Congress

    If we do not invest more in protecting biodiversity, development cannot be sustainable and we will not eradicate hunger or achieve the Sustainable Development Goals, said the President of the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) ahead of his participation in the IUCN World Conservation Congress, in Marseille.

    “Biodiversity is a cornerstone of healthy and sustainable food systems,” said Gilbert F. Houngbo, President of IFAD.

  • Increasing number of countries ban UK arrivals

    More than 40 countries have banned UK arrivals because of concerns about the spread of a new variant of coronavirus. Flights from the UK are being suspended to countries across the world including Spain, India and Hong Kong.

    Boris Johnson said he spoke with French President Emmanuel Macron and both sides wanted to resolve "these problems as fast as possible". The prime minister told a Downing Street press conference: "We had a very good call and we both understand each other's positions."

    Mr Johnson, who earlier chaired a meeting of the government's emergency committee, added: "We are working with our friends across the Channel to unblock the flow of trade."

    European Union member states met earlier in Brussels to discuss a coordinated response, with officials suggesting a requirement for tests could be imposed on all people arriving from the UK. Eurotunnel services to France are also suspended and Eurostar trains to Belgium are not operating.

    Health Secretary Matt Hancock has warned that the new variant of the virus - which may be up to 70% more transmissible - is "getting out of control". The new variant has spread quickly in London and south-east England, but health officials say there is no evidence that it is more deadly or would react differently to vaccines.

    The only journey they're being told to make is to the back of the ever-growing queue that makes up Operation Stack. That will mean spending tonight, and all day tomorrow in their cabs - when all they want to do is get back home. It's a depressing situation in the run-up to Christmas. And if France does insist that all drivers need to be tested before being allowed to cross the Channel, it's likely some won't make it back before the big day.

  • India elects first lawmaker of African origin

    An activist in India has become the first person from a tiny African-origin ethnic group to become a legislator in the country.

    Shantaram Siddi is from the Siddhi community – descendants of Africans who travelled to India as merchants or slaves from the 17th Century onwards. Only about 50,000 remain.

    He has been appointed to the assembly in the state of Karnataka. He’s also the first college graduate from his community.

    He said he would continue to work for the rights of India’s tribes.

    Speaking of his joy at the announcement, Mr Siddi told news site The Hindu: “I thought someone may be playing a prank.”

    A message on his social media read: “I thought someone may be playing a prank. I went home for lunch. It was then that my wife and I started getting calls continuously, congratulating me for the nomination,’’ says Shantaram Siddi, the first from his community in any house of legislature –https://t.co/EhyfH5QvH9 — Nistula Hebbar (@nistula) July 23, 2020.”

  • India locate lost lunar lander on final Moon approach

    Having initially lost contact the Vikram lander module from the Indian Moon mission was finally located on the lunar surface.

    The Vikram lander of Chandrayaan-2 (Sanskrit for ‘Moon Vehicle) was due to land in the lunar South Pole region, but the space agency lost touch with it on Saturday as it made its final approach to deploy a rover to search for signs of water.

    After a lengthy in-depth search, ISRO (Indian Space and Research Organisation) chair, K. Sivan, was quoted as saying that cameras from the Moon mission's orbiter had located the lander. He added that: “It must have been a hard landing.”

    The lunar rover was supposed to help scientists better understand the origin and evolution of the Moon through studying the area's topography and minerals.

    This was India's second mission – the first lunar mission in 2008 (Chandrayaan-1) did not land on the Moon, but it did detect ice in the frigid shadows of craters at the lunar poles.

    A successful landing would have made India just the fourth country to land a vessel on the lunar surface, and only the third to operate a robotic rover there.

    The space agency said the lander’s descent was normal until 2 kilometres (1.2 miles) from the lunar surface.

    The roughly $140m Chandrayaan-2 mission was intended to study permanently shadowed moon craters that are thought to contain water deposits that were confirmed by the Chandrayaan-1 mission in 2008.

  • India resume worldwide export of Covid-19 vaccines following surge at home

    As the largest vaccine producer in the world, India’s health minister says that it is now resuming exports and of surplus coronavirus vaccines following a recent surge in infections in the country.

    “India is commitment towards the world’s collective fight against COVID-19,” Mansukh Mandaviya said, “but vaccinating Indians will remain the government's top priority.”

  • India set to loosen lockdown restrictions

    India has announced that it is planning to further ease its strict nationwide lockdown even though the country has reported a record daily rise in new coronavirus cases.

    From June 8, hotels, restaurants, shopping centres and places of worship are due to be allowed to re-open in many areas in the country in the first stage of a three-phase plan.

    In the weeks to follow, schools and colleges will then be set to resume teaching.

    But areas with a high number of Covid-19 cases will remain under a tight lockdown.

    The plan come following India registering a record single-day rise in confirmed infections, with nearly 8,000 cases reported in one day.

    With a population totalling some 1.3 billion people, the country has recorded around 174,500 Covid-19 cases with a death toll in excess of 5,000 in total.

    It went into a strict lockdown over two months ago when the confirmed caseload was in the hundreds.

    Data has suggested that the decision did prevent the loss of some 37,000 to as much as 78,000 lives.

  • Indian 'Flying Sikh' Milkha Singh dies from Covid

    One of India's greatest athletes, Milkha Singh, has died from Covid-related complications.

    Popularly known as "the Flying Sikh", Singh won four Asian gold medals and finished fourth in the 400m final at the 1960 Rome Olympics.

    In 2013, his story was turned into the Bollywood film Bhaag Milkha Bhaag - Run Milkha Run.

    Singh's wife, Nirmal Kaur, a former volleyball captain, also died with Covid earlier this week, aged 85.

    Singh had contracted Covid-19 last month and died of complications from the disease in a hospital in the northern city of Chandigarh. Prime Minister Narendra Modi led the tributes to the athlete, who has been described as independent India's first sporting superstar.

    Singh's exploits on the track and field are legendary in India.

    He won five golds in international athletic championships and was awarded the Helms World Trophy in 1959 for winning 77 of his 80 international races. He also won India's first

    Commonwealth gold in 1958.

    Singh grew up in a small village in what, during his childhood, was still British India. As a young boy who lived in a remote village in Multan province, he saw his parents and seven siblings murdered during the Partition of India and the creation of Pakistan in 1947.

    As his father fell, his last words were "Bhaag Milkha Bhaag", exhorting his son to run for his life. The boy ran - first to save his life, and then to win medals.

    Arriving in India as an orphan in 1947, he took to petty crime and did odd jobs for survival until he found a place in the army. It was there that he discovered his athletic abilities.

    Singh won Gold at the 1958 Commonwealth Games in Cardiff and went on to finish fourth in the 400 metres at the Rome Olympics, missing out on a bronze medal by a whisker. In 1960, he was invited to take part in the 200m event at an International Athletic competition in Lahore, Pakistan. He hadn't been back to Pakistan since fleeing in 1947 and initially refused to go.

    Singh eventually did go to Pakistan. Despite the huge support for his main rival, Pakistan's Abdul Khaliq, in the stadium, Singh went on to win that race, while Khaliq took the bronze medal. As Gen Ayub Khan, Pakistan's second president, awarded the competitors their medals, Singh received the nickname that would stick with him for the rest of his life.

    He said: "Gen Ayub said to me, 'Milkha, you came to Pakistan and did not run. You actually flew in Pakistan. Pakistan bestows upon you the title of the Flying Sikh.' If Milkha Singh is known as the Flying Sikh in the whole world today, the credit goes to General Ayub and to Pakistan.”

    Even though he never won an Olympic medal, his only wish was that someone else should win that medal for India. When the biographic film was released in 2013, Singh told the BBC that it would inspire the next generation.

    "We had nothing in our times,” he said. “The athletes and sportsmen in those days didn't earn much money. We worked for the applause, people's appreciation inspired and motivated us, we ran for the country." He was 91.

  • Indian city returns to lockdown amid Covid surge

    Nagpur in western India is to be the first major city in the country to return to a complete lockdown amid a sharp spike in coronavirus cases. The week-long lockdown, which starts on 15 March, will extend to adjoining areas of the district as well.

    Maharashtra state, where Nagpur is located, has always been a Covid hotspot, with the highest number of active and confirmed cases in India. The country has recorded more than 11 million cases and 157,000 deaths so far.

    Caseloads have declined sharply in recent months across the country, but six states, including Maharashtra, have been reporting a fresh surge. Amaravati district, also in Maharashtra, was put under a week-long complete lockdown in February due to a spike in cases.

    Scientists fear that new variants could be one of the reasons for the uptick in the state. The other is laxity in following Covid-19 safety protocols. Lack of masking and social distancing, and poor test and trace has all added to the spike in Maharashtra, Dr Sanjay Oak, a member of the state's Covid task force, said recently.

    This comes early on in India's vaccination drive, which began in January. More than 20 million people have been given at least one dose of a Covid vaccine so far. The drive will continue in Nagpur as planned, state cabinet minister Nitin Raut said. "Except for 25% attendance in government offices and industries, all other establishments and non-essential shops will remain closed," he added.

    Essential services such as hospitals and grocery shops will remain open. While restaurants will be shut, home delivery will be permitted. Police have been ordered to impose a strict curfew. The Maharashtra state government is also watching four other districts that, along with Nagpur district, are contributing to more than half of Maharashtra's current active caseload of 106,070.

    "We will take a decision in the next two days and the lockdown will be imposed wherever required," Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray said. Nagpur district has been reporting more than 1,000 cases daily for nearly two weeks now - and it added more than 2,000 cases in the last 24 hours.

    Among the districts, it currently has the country's second-highest active caseload - 13,800. Pune, also a district in Maharashtra, is at the top with more than 21, 200 active infections.