KOCHI l THURSDAY l AUGUST 27, 2020 l `7.00 l PAGES 16 l LATE CITY EDITION CHINA SPRUCING UP MILITARY INFRA IN EASTERN SECTOR China has begun construction of huge habitat for large troop formation in the Eastern Sector, sources said on Wednesday Indian Army trucks move towards Ladakh on Wednesday | PTI PLA BUILDING A BRIGADE-SIZE GARRISON STRATEGIC MISSILES ALSO DEPLOYED The Peoples Liberation Army is building a brigade size garrison at Gyantse in Tibet, which appears to be meant for the ground forces, sources said. Its construction reportedly began after January. Also, satellite images from June and July confirm that China is building and connecting roads to the border areas at multiple points in the Eastern Sector | P7 ■ ■ ■ The new garrison includes six battalion headquarters and more than 600 sheds for vehicles and equipment It will be strategically positioned in Gyantse, which is not far from the Indian border states of Arunachal Pradesh and Sikkim Sources say China has also moved strategic missiles to the area 2021 WHEN THE CONSTRUCTION OF THE GARRISON IS EXPECTED TO BE FINISHED 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 Oppn on attack, govt raises firewall State witnesses widespread protests Cases registered Govt orders to make security at Secretariat foolproof Probe agencies had collected all details from protocol office E X P R E S S N E W S S E R V I C E @ T’Puram A DAY after a fire in the protocol section of the Government Secretariat triggered a political wildfire, the state witnessed widespread protests and violence on Wednesday with the Opposition UDF and the BJP turning it into major political campaigns against the Left government. While the Congress-led UDF observed a ‘Black Day’, the BJP marked a ‘Protest Day’. They alleged the fire was a deliberate attempt to destroy evidence related to the gold smuggling case. The government and the CPM fortified their defences accusing the Congress and the BJP of attempting to “start a riot” in the state. Opposition Leader Ramesh Chennithala urged Governor Arif Mohammed Khan to summon the Chief Minister and the Chief Secretary. He also shot off a letter to the Governor demanding his intervention in the issue as the fire occurred in a critical section that had evidence related to the gold smuggling case. “Therefore, I appeal to Governor to come in the exercise of his constitutional powers to summon and direct the Chief Minister to submit all documents and evidence called for by the investigating agencies and ensure their safe transmission within a short reasonable time frame,” Chennithala said in the letter. Meanwhile, the two high-level teams tasked with probing the fire incident got down to work. Led by ADGP Manoj Abraham and Disaster Management Commissioner A Kowsigan, the teams collected evid e n c e f ro m t h e s p o t o n Wednesday. Sources said pre- Can Messi leave Barca? Barcelona star Lionel Messi has asked club to release him. Here’s a brief look at what transpired... Messi has told Barcelona through his lawyers he wants to leave despite a year remaining on his contract. This may lead to legal complications if both sides remain firm. The club buying Messi has to pay Barcelona €700 million as release fee, but the 33-year-old believes he can leave as a free agent. Few clubs can match his weekly salary of €1 million, but the names of Bayern Munich, Manchester City, PSG are doing the rounds. 2001 Year when Messi joined the club’s junior team 20 Major titles Messi won at Barcelona P11 E X P R E S S N E W S S E R V I C E @T’Puram KSU leaders, who led a protest march to the Secretariat in Thiruvananthapuram on Wednesday alleging that the fire at the protocol office was staged, are heckled by the police. Water cannons were used to disperse them | VINCENT PULICKAL liminary examinations suggested the fire occurred due to a s h o r t - c i rc u i t , r u l i n g o u t sabotage. Earlier, the Cantonment Police registered cases against BJP state chief K Surendran and Congress MLA V S Sivakumar on the charge of trespassing into the Secretariat premises. A total of 12 cases were registered in connection with various incidents related to the protests. The state cabinet on Wednesday looked into the incident and observed security lapses in activists entering the Secretariat premises. It tasked the Additional Chief Secretary (Home) with taking immediate steps to ensure foolproof security at the Secretariat. The government insisted the fire was a normal one and that none of the important files were destroyed. State Industries Minister E P Jayarajan said no files were gutted com● More on P4 pletely . INVESTIGATION LAUNCHED INTO FIRE INCIDENT 12 cases have been registered against various political outfits for taking out protest marches in front of the Secretariat since Tuesday evening Cases registered against BJP state chief K Surendran and Congress MLA V S Sivakumar for violating Covid protocol, rioting and obstruction of government officials from discharging duties A team led by ADGP Manoj Abraham launches probe into the fire incident The govt asks additional chief secy to take immediate steps to ensure foolproof security at the Secretariat A Yuva Morcha worker who took part in the protest in Kollam tests positive. Cops under observation Preliminary assessment is that a short-circuit from the wiring of a wall-mounted fan triggered the fire Cabinet congratulates Chief Secretary Vishwas Mehta for his timely and effective intervention soon after the fire outbreak WHILE the Opposition alleges conspiracy behind the fire in the protocol office at the Secretariat, sources in the General Administration Department (GAD) ruled out the possibility of an attempt to destroy the files intentionally. The agencies probing the gold smuggling and related cases also told TNIE that they have collected almost all details they required from the office. “We don’t need any more details from the department. In fact, we had collected almost all details regarding the import of consignments through the diplomatic channel and we just crosschecked the same with the protocol office staff. The protocol office provided the duty exemption certificate to the UAE Consulate 11 times from 2016 to 2018. Since 2018, the imports by the UAE Consulate through the diplomatic channel had been done without informing the office,” said a senior Customs officer. F u r t h e r, t h e G A D h a s switched to the e-file system, but all files are not updated in the system on time. A senior bureaucrat said no confidential files will be uploaded on the efile server soon after every decision. The confidential reports of almost all departments will be made into e-files only after a particular period and, by the time, key decisions on such projects would have been taken.● More on P4 Today’s GST Council meet Clear the mess you created: SC to Centre likely to be stormy, states not keen on mkt borrowing E X P R E S S N E W S S E R V I C E @ New Delhi A N U R A D H A S H U K L A @ New Delhi THURSDAY’S GST Council meeting is likely to be stormy as many states, including BJPruled ones, are miffed at nonpayment of GST compensation to states. While Kerala and West Bengal have been very vocal on the delayed payout, many Congress-ruled states have also accused the Centre of denying their rightful dues. Almost all states are going through a rough patch as revenues have fallen drastically d u e t o t h e c o ro n av i r u s pandemic. Punjab Finance Minister Manpreet Singh Badal said the state has received compensation only till March 2020 and the Centre is sitting over `4,400 crore unpaid dues. Chhattisg arh has complained the state has not received a single penny since April 2020 as compensation. Last month, Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan had also flagged the matter ter ming the Centre’s non-payment of GST compensation to states unconstitutional. Recently, Bihar deputy CM and state finance minister Sushil Modi said the Centre has a moral commitment to paying the states. According to sources claim Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh – all BJP-ruled states – too have conveyed their displeasure over the Centre’s stand on delaying GST compensation. P8 ASKING the Centre not to hide behind the RBI, the Supreme Court on Wednesday directed it to clarify its stand on waiving interest on loans during the moratorium period. “It is your responsibility to take steps under the Disaster Management Act. You have enough powers to decide the issue of waiver. You cannot just depend on the RBI,” the bench headed by Justice Ashok Bhushan said. The court was hearing a petetion filed by Agra resident Gajendra Sharma. Noting that the economic distress was created by the Centre’s nationwide lockdown, the SC asked the government to decide on the matter within one week. The court’s observation came after Solicitor General Tushar Mehta referred to the RBI’s affidavit, and said the banking institutions are also distressed. “The problem was created by your (Centre) lockdown. This isn’t the time to take care of only the business interests. You must also consider the people’s plight,” the bench noted. 16 PAGES, INCLUDING 4 PAGES OF KOCHI EXPRESS JAILED IN YEMEN Husband desperate to raise `70L to save Nimisha A J AY K A N T H @Kochi EVERY DAY, the seven-year-old daughter of Tomy Thomas asks, “When will my mother come?” And Tomy, a Thodupuzha native, gives a routine reply: “Soon”. Since December 2019, the 43-year-old Tomy has been knocking on the doors of many seeking support to raise a blood money of Rs 70 lakh for the release of his 30-year-old wife Nimisha Priya who has been awarded death penalty by a court in Yemen in connection with the murder of a Yem- Tomy Thomas and Nimisha Priya. eni citizen identified as Talal Abdu Mahdi. “I don’t know for how long I can keep convincing my daughter that her mother will come to see her soon. We never expected the court to deliver such a verdict as talks on a possible pardon after giving blood money have been on for quite some time. We couldn’t give a statement to the court because we have no idea from where we can raise such a huge amount,” Tomy, who drives an autorickshaw to eke out a living these days, told TNIE. The case of Nimisha, a Malayali nurse in Yemen, is not new to Keralites as she has been in the news since her murder trial began in 2017. “She hasn’t hid anything from me. It was our collective decision to start a clinic after I, along with our child, returned home on April 20, 2014. I had raised around `35 lakh from various sources to help her start the clinic,” Tomy said. They have decided to go for an appeal against the lower court order sentencing her to death, he said. Nimisha, who belongs to Palakkad, was found guilty of murdering Mahdi in 2017 and disposing his body in a water tank at her house after chopping the body into ● More on P5 pieces. Students protest the Central government’s move to hold JEE and NEET examinations amid the spike in Covid-19 cases across the country | PARVEEN NEGI Opposition to move apex court to put off JEE Main & NEET EXPRESS NEWS SERVICE @ New Delhi AMID rising chorus against holding JEE/NEET in the midst of a pandemic, the Chief Ministers of seven Oppositionruled states met on Wednesday to discuss the prospects of filing a joint plea in the Supreme Court to postpone the exams. The development comes a day after the Centre decided to increase the number of examination centres for JEE and NEET to ensure social distancing. Both the exams are scheduled to be held in early September. During a virtual meeting called by Congress chief Sonia Gandhi to discuss issues faced by the Opposition-ruled states, West Bengal CM Mamata Banerjee mooted the idea of filing a joint petition before the apex court seeking a review after it rejected a plea on August 17 to postpone the exams. The SC had said, “Life cannot be stopped and the career of students cannot be put in jeopardy .” “Let us go to the Supreme Court and talk about this matter. This is a mental agony for students and with limited 6.8L downloaded admit cards in 5 hours: Govt New Delhi: About 6.84 lakh NEET candidates downloaded their hall tickets within five hours after its allocation began on Wednesday, the government said. A total of 15.9 lakh students registered for the exam trains and flight operations, I don’t know how they will commute to sit for the exams. The situation is very serious with cases rising, we have to speak up for the children,” said Banerjee. Supporting Mamata’s suggestion, the other CMs present in the meeting said they should approach the court keeping in mind that the JEE (Main) is scheduled to be held from September 1-6 and NEET on September 13. Jharkhand CM Hemant Soren said a delegation should also meet President Ramnath Kovind and Prime Minister Narendra Modi on the matter. Addressing the Chief Ministers, Sonia said the government is indifferent to the difficulty students will have to endure if they have to write the exams amid Covid-19 induced restrictions.
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