KOCHI l FRIDAY l JULY 17, 2020 l `7.00 l PAGES 16 l LATE CITY EDITION INDIA ESTABLISHES BILATERAL AIR BUBBLES WITH U.S., FRANCE FLIGHTS TO GERMANY, U.K. TO START SOON Air France will operate 28 flights between Paris and Delhi, Mumbai and Bengaluru from July 18, while American carrier United Airlines will fly 18 flights to India from July 17. This arrangement is till July 31 but could be extended. Civil Aviation Minister Hardeep Singh Puri said on Thursday a similar arrangement will be made soon with Germany and the UK International flight operations are all set to resume under exclusive agreements with countries like the US and France CAP ON DOMESTIC AIRFARE TO STAY ■ ■ ■ From India, Air India will operate flights to the US and France The civil aviation minister also said the cap on domestic airfare is likely to be extended beyond August 24 due to low demand So far, more than 6.8 lakh Indians stranded abroad have been evacuated under the repatriation exercise Vande Bharat Mission 80,000 PEOPLE HAVE FLOWN OUT OF INDIA SINCE THE COVID-19 OUTBREAK CHENNAI ■ MADURAI ■ VIJAYAWADA ■ BENGALURU ■ KOCHI ■ HYDERABAD ■ VISAKHAPATNAM ■ COIMBATORE ■ KOZHIKODE ■ THIRUVANANTHAPURAM ■ BELAGAVI ■ BHUBANESWAR ■ SHIVAMOGGA ■ MANGALURU ■ TIRUPATI ■ TIRUCHY ■ TIRUNELVELI ■ SAMBALPUR ■ HUBBALLI ■ DHARMAPURI ■ KOTTAYAM ■ KANNUR ■ VILLUPURAM ■ KOLLAM ■ WARANGAL ■ TADEPALLIGUDEM ■ NAGAPATTINAM ■ THRISSUR ■ KALABURAGI SUSPENSE ENDS IN SUSPENSION CM suspends his former secretary M Sivasankar over a week after his name figured in gold smuggling case; decision follows chief secretary’s report citing violation of service rules; UDF demands Pinarayi’s resignation E X P R E S S N E W S S E R V I C E @ T’Puram SUCCUMBING to pressure from all around, Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan finally suspended his most trusted lieutenant and former secretary M Sivasankar from service, pending enquiry, on Thursday . While the CM seemed bent on protecting Sivasankar, the most powerful bureaucrat until nearly a fortnight ago, the CPM leadership and the Left allies were of the view that action should be taken against the officer as the issue was tarnishing the government’s image. Sivasankar was suspended for violation of service rules, as per the All India Service Rules, following the recommendation by a panel comprising Chief Secretary Vishwas Mehta and Additional Chief Secretary (Finance) R K Singh. Announcing the decision, Pinarayi said follow-up action will be taken after going through other aspects in the report. The department-level probe against the officer will continue. “The committee found that he had committed acts not in line with the All India Service Rules. That’s why suspension was recommended and action taken,” the CM said. The committee, he said, has also recommended to check whether appointments to various establishments in the IT sector under the government were in order. The government has decided to probe that aspect too. It is learnt the CS-led panel put forth several aspects before the CM, the primary one being the violation of the code of conduct. Secondly, a lack of vigil while making appointments. The panel also felt the officer failed to exercise caution in the appointment of Swapna Suresh, an accused in the gold smuggling scam, and that his name being linked to a smuggling accused affected the government’s image. Besides, the committee asked the state government to check all appointments to the IT department. The UDF continued to demand Pinarayi’s resignation with Opposition leader Ramesh Chennithala saying the CM took the decision after he felt the NIA probe may lead to ● More on P4 him Fall from high pedestal M Sivasankar, 57, was CM’s principal secretary, IT secretary, chairman of Kerala State IT Infrastructure Ltd (KSITIL) and CEO of Life Mission PAK FOUL PLAY EXPRESS NEWS SERVICE @ T’Puram/New Delhi EVEN as the probe into the smug gling of 30kg gold through the diplomatic channel gathered steam, Rashed Alshemeili, the administration attache of the UAE Consulate in Thiruvananthapuram, whose name was linked to the case, has left the country . Alshemeili, the second-incommand in the UAE’s diplo- Oxford shot shows early promise Oxford University/AstraZeneca’s vaccine candidate shows promise, as researchers believe it could provide double protection against coronavirus. Early tests show it stimulates body to produce both antibodies and ‘killer T-cells’. While antibodies fade away within months, T-cells stay for years P U S H K A R B A N A K A R @ New Delhi INDIA on Thursday hit out at Pakistan for not providing unimpeded consular access to Kulbhushan Jadhav and said the Indian national was visibly stressed. According to Ministry of External Affairs spokesperson Anurag Srivastava, Pakistani officials were present in close proximity to Jadhav in an intimidating demeanour despite protests from the Indian side. Besides, the conversation with Jadhav was being recorded. “The arrangements did not permit a free conversation between them. The Indian consular officers could not engage Jadhav on his legal rights and were prevented from obtaining his written consent for arranging his legal representation,” Srivastava said. Jadhav, a for mer Indian Navy officer, was sentenced to death by a Pakistani military court on charges of “espionage and terrorism” in April 2017. While Pakistan claims he was ar rested from Balochistan, India maintains he ran a business in Iran and Pak agencies abducted him from Chabahar . 16 PAGES, INCLUDING 4 PAGES OF KOCHI EXPRESS Sivasankar was appointed KSEB chairman during UDF govt’s tenure when Aryadan Muhammed was power minister T-cells are components of the immune system. They kill infected host cells and activate other immune cells for robust response The Oxford University’s vaccine is among three that have reached Phase III P10 matic mission in the state capital, left New Delhi for the UAE on Tuesday. Sources said Alshemeili flew to Delhi from Thiruvananthapuram on Sunday and reported at the UAE Embassy there. On Tuesday he , flew home. “Alshemeili had a stopover in Delhi and met top diplomats in the UAE embassy It’s likely . that they had sought his explanation on the misuse of the diplomatic track for smug- gling gold,” a source said. The Indian security agencies had doubts about Alshemeili’s involvement in the case, but due to the diplomatic immunity that he enjoyed and being aware of bilateral implications of such a case, the authorities chose to ignore it, the source added. The Ministry of External Affairs said it had seen reports on Alshemeli’s departure. ● More on P4 SINOVAC, BY A CHINESE STATE-OWNED PHARMACEUTICAL COMPANY SINOPHARM, LAUNCHED THE WORLD’S FIRST PHASE III TRIAL USING AN INACTIVATED VACCINE. UAE IS WHERE THE TESTS ARE HAPPENING WITH UP TO 15,000 VOLUNTEERS The Modern/NIAID investigational vaccine, mRNA1273, in the US was generally well tolerated and created antibodies, initial tests suggested. It is in Phase III 23 THE VACCINE RACE Vaccine candidates reached clinical evaluation stage globally as of July 15 CHANCES of a rapprochement between warring Congress factions in the state flew out of the window on Thursday after the rebels led by Sachin Pilot challenged in the Rajasthan High Court the disqualification notices issued to 19 of them by Assembly Speaker C P Joshi. Harish Salve and Mukul Rohatgi represented the rebels while the party fielded Abhishek Manu Singhvi. Salve called the notice unconstitutional and sought time to amend his petition. Heeding his request for a two-member bench, hearing was put off till Friday It gave the rebels some . breathing space as the notice had sought their replies by Friday noon. Salve basically argued that the Speaker does not have the authority to take any action on activities outside the Assembly . Prateek Srivastava, one of the lawyers from the Speaker’s side, said, “The rebel MLAs are challenging the notice on a lot of D IRTY TRICKS D EPA RTM ENT grounds. One that the Speaker does not have the power to issue such notice. Also, they claim the Speaker has not given sufficient time. As per Vidhan Sabha rules of 1989, it has to be seven days. They say this shows malice. They have pleaded that that the anti-defection clause 10(2)(1)A is per say illegal.” The whole game appears to be to disqualify rebel MLAs to bring down the majority mark (now 101) for Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot to win the floor test. BREAKING NEW GROUND Vision more important than eyesight, says visually impaired Bokaro DC M U K E S H R A N J A N @ Ranchi An IAS officer getting posted as a deputy commissioner (DC) is no big deal, but it surely is if the person happens to be visually impaired. Jharkhand just broke new ground in inclusiveness by promoting Rajesh Kumar Singh to that post in Bokaro. Just how rare such appointments are can be gauged from the fact that he is the first in the state and second visually impaired officer ever in India to occupy the position of a deputy commissioner. The first such appointment was made in Madhya Pradesh in 2014. Reacting to the challenging assignment, Rajesh sought to use word play in Hindi to put his point across. The drishtikon (vision) is more important that drishti (eyesight), he emphasised. My way of appreciating things is different. Defiantly there is struggle in schooling, education, accessibility for the visually impaired, but in a way all of us struggling somewhere - Rajesh Kumar Singh “Everyone has eyesight but very few know how to use it. Vision comes from experience, your inner being and the way you perceive things. Therefore, what you hear is more important rather than merely looking at things without understanding them,” 140 candidate vaccines in preclinical evaluation Hackers supported by Russia trying to steal Covid-19 vaccine and treatment research from institutions around the world, a joint statement from Britain, the US and Canada warned Pilot calls disqualification notice illegal, Rajasthan Cong potboiler shifts to court RAJESH ASNANI & R I C H A S H A R M A @ Jaipur/New Delhi Unimpeded access to Jadhav not provided Credited with ushering in the latter phase of digital revolution and managed to woo Nissan Digital to Kerala. His heyday was as director, IT Mission T’Puram: Arun Balachandran, former IT Fellow of the Chief Minister, repeated the allegation, in his letter to NIA and Customs, that it was on the insistence of M Sivasankar that he had helped Swapna’s husband Jayashankar rent an apartment at Statue Jn. He said that efforts were on to trap him in the case to protect the senior IAS officer, sources said. Consulate attache under gold scanner goes back to UAE after Delhi stopover Whopping 10 lakh cases in India now India’s total coronavirus count reached 10,04,383 late on Thursday night, global dashboard Worldometers reported. It recorded an addition of 34,214 cases. While there were 3,42,237 active cases, recoveries stood at 6,36,541. In other words, close to 3 lakh more recoveries than active cases Arun alleges bid to frame him to protect Sivasankar He started his career with the RBI. Later, he joined state government service as deputy collector. Was conferred IAS in 1995 said the 2007 batch officer. Vision is a wider term that is more relevant for nation building, he added. Even to get his first posting, Rajesh had to wage a long legal battle against the Centre, which went right up to the Supreme Court. The first posting came in 2011 after the SC ruled in his favour. Before his Bokaro assignment, Rajesh was posted as Special Secretary in the School Education and Literacy Department. He thanked Chief Minister Hemant Soren and Chief Secretary Jharkhand for taking the bold decision amid the coronavirus pandemic. Bokaro is also due to face a by-election soon, he added. Though it took a lot of time for getting his first posting as also the DC’s position, Rajesh is not grumpy . 339 new cases vs 1 recovery, situation in T’Puram a worry E X P R E S S N E W S S E R V I C E @ T’Puram KERALA’S Covid-19 cases confirmed so far crossed the 10,000mark on Thursday, but what worries the health authorities the most at the moment should be the alarming situation in Thiruvananthapuram where 339 contracted the virus on Thursday and just one patient recovered. While the number of Ramachandran hypermarket employees who tested positive alone rose to 78, Poonthura continued to be another area of concern. “The transmission scenario in Thiruvananthapuram has forced the government to make necessary changes to its prevention and control strategies. A thorough examination will be conducted on how 78 got infected at a hypermarket,” said C h i e f M i n i s t e r P i n a r ay i Vijayan. Of the 339 cases, 317 were due to direct or indirect contact. They include 16 patients with unknown sources of infection. As many as 34 areas were declared containment zones. “The situation is serious. When 91 employees working at the hypermarket in Attakulangara were tested on Wednesday, 61 turned positive. On Thursday when 81 more got tested, 17 turned positive. Now the customers will have to be traced. It will be better if the customers themselves tur n up at the health centres near them for testing,” said the CM. Citing Thiruvananthapuram as an example, Pinarayi said the market places, shopping establishments, hospitals and CASES CROSS 10,000 722 10,275 confirmed so far 34 cases with unknown sources of infection 481 people contracted the virus through local contact 5,372 are under treatment 37 DEATHS cases reported on Thursday in biggest spike Government asks the expert committee to look into complications developed among recovered people Deaths among positive cases involving relatively young people worry health authorities Source-tracing of persons who test positive is becoming a real challenge in Kasaragod 2 more deaths were reported in the state other areas could trigger a large-scale transmission. The situation worsened with the state reporting 722 cases, the highest single-day spike so far. The confirmed cases touched 10, 275 while active cases crossed the 5,000-mark and stood at 5,372. The CM, who said the state is on the verge of community transmission, added the situation has not reached a point to enforce a total lock● More on P5 down.
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