THIRUVANANTHAPURAM l monday l January 25, 2021 l `7.00 l PAGES 28 l LATE city EDITION NINTH round of talks over LAC stand-off under way The Corps Commander-level talks to address the situation in Eastern Ladakh began at Moldo on Chinese side on Sunday India firm on demanding status quo ante ties in ‘difficult phase’ due to china While India is demanding that China pull back its troops from all stand-off points and restore status quo ante along the Line of Actual Control, the latter wants India to first withdraw its soldiers deployed on strategic heights on the southern bank of the Pangong Tso lake. Indian jawans continue to hold their positions despite the merciless Himalayan winter ■ ■ On December 9 last, External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar had said ‘five differing explanations’ by China for its deployment on the LAC had pushed bilateral ties into its most difficult phase It’s not a problem of lack of communication. The fact is there are ample pacts but the other side is not following them, he said Round 8 of bilateral talks had taken place on november 6 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 Ahead of polls, LDF govt hands over solar sex abuse case to CBI Decision based on complainant’s plea to CM; ready to face any investigation, says Chandy E x p r e s s N e w s S e r v i c e @T’Puram Just as the state is heading for assembly elections, the LDF government has decided to hand over the investigation into the sensational solar sexual abuse case allegedly involving senior Congress leaders, including former chief minister Oommen Chandy, to the CBI, setting off allegations of political vengeance. As the news of the gazette notification on the decision came out on Sunday an avalanche of , criticism on the government’s intentions and double standard and counter-allegations filled media discussions. The decision was taken on a petition handed over to Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan recently by the complainant seeking investigation by a central agency . The case pertains to the alleged sexual abuse of the woman entrepreneur by senior politicians, including Chandy MPs , Adoor Prakash and Hibi Eden, AICC general secretary and Rajya Sabha MP K C Venugopal, MLA A P Anil Kumar and former Congress leader A P Ab- dullakutty who is now the BJP , national vice-president. Reacting to the development, Chandy said the government’s decision was politically motivated and that he was ready to face any investigation. “This case has been there for the last five years. Did the government do anything? The government has the responsibility to tell why it has taken such a decision now. I am not going to the court opposing the probe,” he said. The government gazette authorising the CBI to take up six cases related to sexual abuse was issued on Saturday. The follow-up procedures to hand over the probe will be completed in the coming days and the ball will be in the CBI’s court to decide whether to take up the cases or not, said a government source. Thanking the chief minister for handing over the probe to the CBI, the complainant said she had raised complaints against 16 politicians, including Kerala Congress (M) leader Jose K Mani, and hoped that similar action will be taken on those ● More on P4 complaints also. Turn of events the Solar case June 2013: A Perumbavoor native files a police complaint against Team Solar Energy Company and its founders, Biju Radhakrishnan and a woman, for fraud and cheating. That was the beginning of a fraud case that later grew in magnitude and came to be known as solar case. Offices of several ministers and then chief minister Oommen Chandy came under scanner as allegations of graft, sexual misconduct and misuse of power began flying around. June 2013: Woman arrested for cheating July 2013: Phone call report revealed her communication with four state ministers October 2013: Retired High Court judge G Sivarajan appointed as one-man commission Sexual ABUSE Charges December 2013: Complainant’s lawyer claims to possess “private videos” of UDF legislators April 2016: A TV channel releases the letter purportedly written by the woman, in which she accused Oommen Chandy of sexually abusing her September 2017: Sivarajan Commission says cases can be registered under IPC sections over the sexual abuse allegations raised by the woman October 2018: Crime Branch registers FIRs against Oommen Chandy and K C Venugopal for allegedly abusing the woman. Four more cases were registered in the subsequent years January 2021: The government decides to hand over six sexual abuse cases to the CBI Let CBI probe. The LDF, which had unleashed major protests for three years when it was in the Opposition and had been in power for the past five years, couldn’t do anything in the case - Oommen Chandy Bar on diesel sale to stymie tractor parade lifted Day after jumbo attack kills woman, resort closed down N a m i ta B a j pa i @ Lucknow L e s ly J o s e p h @ Kozhikode A circular issued by the Gazipur police in eastern Uttar Pradesh advising fuel outlets not to tank up tractors ahead of the proposed farmers’ parade in New Delhi was withdrawn after it drew flak on social media on Sunday . Ghazipur SP Om Prakash Singh sought to play down the circular, claiming it was issued by a station officer two days ago. “It has been withdrawn,” he added. The circular issued by station officer of Sohawal in Ghazipur refers to the ‘high alert’ ahead of the farmers’ rally, and tells fuel outlet owners to sell diesel to tractors. “Farmers have announced to take out a tractor march. Therefore, you are advised not sell diesel to any tractor or in a can...” it read. The UP police on Sunday mounted vigil in districts bordering Delhi, besides putting 100-odd farmer leaders under house arrest. The top brass met on Sunday to chalk out a strategy to tackle the rally a day af, ter an attempt by farmers to P7 besiege Raj Bhawan. The Wayanad district administration has ordered the closure of the resort and homestay at Elimbileri in Meppadi, where a young woman was killed by a wild elephant on Saturday night. According to panchayat authorities, the resort didn’t have licence for operation and permission to set up tents near the forest. District Collector Adeela Abdulla, who inspected the Rainforest Resort along with Wayanad DFO and Vythiri tahsildar, said: “The property didn’t have proper safety facilities. Also, the homestay operates in a landslide-prone area. The resort has been ordered to close down immediately. We will inspect all the nearby resorts in the coming days and take necessary actions in case of breach of law.” Shahana Kallarapurayil, 26, a native of Cheleri in Kannur, was trampled to death by a wild elephant around 8pm on Saturday . Shahana was attacked when she came out of the tent after having food. Two others, who were with her, escaped after they ran to safety Though she . was rushed to a private medical college hospital in Meppadi, her life could not be saved. She was a guest lecturer at Darunnujoom Arts and Science College in Perambra. Meppadi grama panchayat president Omana Ramesh said from the primary investigation by newly-elected panchayat council, it is learnt that the resort didn’t have a ● More on P2 licence. 35 past two died in years in wild elephant attacks in state No licence From the primary probe by the panchayat council, it is learnt that the resort didn’t have a licence. The property didn’t have proper safety facilities. Also, the homestay operates in a landslide-prone area. The resort has been ordered to close down immediately Adeela Abdulla, Wayanad Collector Their shrinking habitat has forced elephants to foray into human settlements. Meanwhile, 113 wild jumbos have died in last one year, where humans played a direct role. P2 Shah plays infiltration card against Congress-AIUDF E x p r e s s N e w s S e r v i c e @ Guwahati Amit Shah addressing a political rally at Nalbari in Assam on Sunday | pti ‘Congress adopting divide-and-rule policy’ Hitting out at the Congress, Home Minister Amit Shah said the party had adopted the British Empire’s policy of ‘divide-and-rule’ by pitting different groups of people against one another, leading to bloodshed and loss of lives of thousands of youth. Listing out the achievements of the BJP-led government in Assam, Home Minister Amit Shah pitched for another term to ‘safeguard’ the state’s interests. Shah on Sunday said the Congress-AIUDF combine would open ‘all g ates’ to infiltrators if voted to power. Addressing his first political rally in the poll-bound state, Shah took a swipe at the Congress for calling the BJP communal by questioning its alliance with Badruddin Ajmal-led AIUDF, which draws support mainly from Muslims.At the Vijay Sankalp Samaroh, Shah asserted that an era of peace and development has been ushered in Assam by the BJP Appealing to . the people to vote for BJP, Shah said Assam has become ‘bullet-free and ag- itation-free’ and the next BJP dispensation will make it ‘flood-free’, calling floods its biggest problem. Shah projected his party as the only alternative capable of safeguarding and promoting the regional culture. He also took a dig at the Assam Jatiya Parishad, a party floated by former AASU leader Lurinjyoti Gogoi, which is tipped to ally with Akhil Gogoi-led Raijor Dal, without naming them, saying they are in the poll arena to help the Congress by trying to cut into votes of the BJP . These two parties are stridently opposed to the Citizenship (Amendment) Act and have alleged the CAA is a ‘threat’ to Assam’s culture and identity. The All Assam Students’ Union (AASU), which has led mass agitations over the issue of regional identity in the past, has backed Assam Jatiya Parishad. Worry over Centre’s move to tie forests to wholesale price index R i c h a S h a r m a @ New Delhi In what is being seen as a severe threat to the country’s green cover, the Union environment ministry has proposed that forests be treated as tradable commodity having value as per the Wholesale Price Index (WPI), to cut down the cost of diversion of pristine forests for infrastructure projects. In a draft note on the revision of the Net Present Value (NPV) of forest land diverted for nonforest purposes sent to a Committee of Secretaries (CoS), the ministry on January 22 suggested the interim arrangement of aligning the rates with the WPI till the information sought for revision in NPV rates as proposed by experts of the Indian Institute of Forest Management (IIFM), Bhopal, are compiled. “Keeping in view that more than three years had elapsed since the NPV came into force, the MoEF&CC proposed to revise the NPV based on the WPI,” said the ministry in the draft note, a copy of which is with this newspaper. The sticking point was articulated in clause 1.30 of the note. It said the IIFM had proposed scaling up NPV rates by as much as four times the existing figures, and warned that the higher tariff could impact ongoing power and other infrastructure sector projects. To soften the blow, the ministry is seeking to align the rates with the WPI, as the escalation that way would not be as steep. However, experts expressed concern over the proposed new system because high NPV rates are meant to be a deterrent, but WPI is a facilitator. Kanchi Kohli, Legal Research Director at CPR-Namati Environment Justice Program, said: “This new proposal further embeds forests as a commodity to be traded through instruments such as the ‘Wholesale Price Index’. It is not focused at protecting forests or forest rights. Ironically the success of this exercise is only dependent on more forests being lost.” EXPRESS READ ‘Rafeeq died of heart attack, not assault’ Kasaragod: Muhammed Rafeeq, who collapsed during a mob attack in Kasaragod on Saturday, died of heart attack and not of physical assault, said Kasaragod DySP P Balakrishnan Nair, quoting the postmortem report | P4 11 rescued from mine in China Rescuers in China brought to surface 11 of the 22 miners who were trapped 600 metres underground in a mine for a fortnight in the Shandong province, on Sunday. While one miner has reportedly succumbed to head injury, the fate of 10 others trapped in the gold mine is unknown | P9 One dies, 20 injured in T’Puram bee attack T’Puram: A 55-year-old man died after being stung by a swarm of honey bees near Chenkikunnu here on Sunday. The deceased is Babu of Pullayil. Sources said the honeycomb was apparently disturbed by a bird. As many as 20 people were stung by bees. 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25-01-2021 of The New Indian Express-Thiruvananthapuram