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 ■ ■ BHUBANESWAR l friday l march 12, 2021 l `7.00 l PAGES 12 l JEYPORE EDITION Maharashtra The state recorded 14,317 new cases on Thursday, the highest one-day spike this year. The active case tally stood at 1,06,070, thrice the number in Kerala, which came second with 33,785. As many as 57 deaths were reported, three more than Wednesday Harsh lockdown measures back as Covid climbs States like Punjab, Haryana, Karnataka, Gujarat and MP could be at tipping point Madhya Pradesh @ Mumbai/New Delhi/Chennai With the fresh Covid case count continuing to climb in Maharashtra, worried Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray on Thursday announced total lockdown in some districts of North Maharashtra and Vidarbha, including Nagpur. Stricter measures will be taken if the situation does not improve, he said. Senior officials at the Centre shared his concern, as Ma- Mamata drops conspiracy angle, says crowd push caused accident P r o n a b M o n da l @ Kolkata A day after alleging attack by political opponents in Nandigram, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on Thursday said her leg injury was caused by an accident. In a video message from SSKM Hospital, where she is under treatment, Mamata said she was waving supporters from the footboard of her car and got sandwiched between the door and the front seat due to pressure from the crowd. Urging TMC workers to stay calm and not do anything that will inconvenience the public, Mamata said she would use a wheelchair and resume her activities in two-three days. Mamata’s medical examination at the hospital revealed cracks on her feet and ankle and injuries on her elbow and shoulder. She complained of chest pain and headache but ECG and MRI reports found no injury She also underwent CT . scan on Thursday The doctors . treating the CM advised her rest for 10 days. “It is a fact that I was badly hurt. I received injuries on my leg, elbow and shoulder. There were bone and ligament injuries. I suffered chest pain. I was greeting people from the car and the crowd moved forward. tamil nadu: 685 fresh cases Gujarat Four deaths and 530 new cases were reported on Thursday. The active case tally stood at 4,094. No fresh case was reported in nine of the total 52 districts in the state during the day Express News Service A health worker collecting the swab samples of a woman in Mumbai | PTI The State added 710 cases to its active tally, taking the number to 4,788 while 451 recovered. No death was reported in 24 hours. Its recovery rate was down to 97.03% from 97.36% last week harashtra is witnessing the most intense second wave of infections. Also, states like Punjab, Haryana, Karnataka, Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh could be at the tipping point, Union health secretary Rajesh Bhushan warned. “We are very worried about Maharashtra,” said V K Paul, member, health, Niti Aayog, who also heads the national Covid-19 task force. “This is a serious matter. It has two lessons — don’t take the virus for granted; and if Time for single NEET again, won’t be online ■ ■ The State reported 685 fresh cases and five deaths on Thursday, taking the case tally to 8,57,602 and the death toll to 12,535 Preventive measures have been strengthened, with flying squads mounting vigil. The Nilgiris has warned of six-month jail to those not wearing masks; 12,06,164 people have been vaccinated so far we have to remain Covid free, then, we need to follow Covid appropriate behaviour, containment strategy and vaccination,” Paul said. ICMR director general Balram Bhargava, while ruling out the role of mutant virus in the surge in the cases, put the blame on slackness on the part of the administration and the people. “Maharashtra has shown a worrisome trend. The mutant strain has not been found incriminating in this surge in cases. It is just related Express News Service @ Bhubaneswar @ New Delhi West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee’s left leg in a plaster of paris cast at the SSKM hospital in Kolkata on Wednesday | PTI The entire pressure was on me and I got sandwiched. I was given medicine that was with me and taken to Kolkata,” she said in her video message. Preliminary investigation by the police, too, revealed the incident was an accident. Senior police officials visited the spot and recorded statements of eyewitnesses. TMC sources said the CM’s initial reaction alleging conspiracy and attack might have been made in a fit of rage. “She might have later realised the conspiracy allegation could hurt her own supporters who wanted to have a glimpse of the CM,” said a TMC leader. Meanwhile, the Election Commission reacted sharply to the TMC’s memorandum asking the poll body to take responsibility for the “attack”. “It is incorrect to suggest the Commission has taken over the law and order machinery in the state in the name of conducting elections and appropriated the whole governance structure,” the EC said. Enroll non-Aadhaar pensioners by March-end, govt asks officials The State government has extended the deadline for generating new Aadhaar IDs in respect of non-Aadhaar social security pensioners to March 31. The decision to extend the deadline was taken after some of the districts found it difficult to enroll the non-Aadhaar beneficiaries due to institutional hurdles and internet connectivity issues | P2 JAGARA NIGHT Devotees enjoy bhajan recital in front of Lingaraj temple on the occasion of Maha Shivaratri in Bhubaneswar | Biswanath Only 597 of the total fire points are in forests. Fires have come down to a significant level in Similipal biosphere where only two fire points were detected against 24 on Wednesday Sandeep Tripathy, Task Force chief Expressing regret for the first time over facilitating entry of women in the proscribed age group to the Sabarimala temple in 2018, Kerala Devaswom Minister Kadakampally Surendran on Thursday said it was a mistake. “The incident was saddening to all of us. It shouldn’t have happened,” he said. The minister’s comments ahead of the Assembly elections are viewed as an attempt by the LDF to prevent a repeat The incidents that took place in Sabarimala in 2018 was something which had pained all of us.It should never have happened. It has pained everyone...it has pained me also Kadakampally Surendran of the backlash it faced in the 2019 Lok Sabha polls. The minister said his government’s future course of action on the issue will be decide d i n c o n s u l t at i o n w i t h believers. “The government has stated its stance. The case is under the consideration of a larger bench of the Supreme Court. I repeat, whatever be the verdict, the government will take a decision on it after consultations with devotees, believers’ community, political parties and the general public,” he told reporters. After the controversial entry of two young women to the shrine, Kadakampally had remarked Sabarimala was no place for activism. But he had to change his stance after he f aced criticism from the party. However, after the defeat in the 2019 Lok Sabha election, the CPM softened its stand on the issue. M e a n wh i l e, O p p o s i t i o n Leader Ramesh Chennithala Equally important is the need to wear a mask, wash hands from time to time and maintaining social distance,” Thackeray said. Tamil Nadu too ramped up its measures to contain the new wave, by deciding to post flying squads at all public places, including railway stations, to enforce Covid-appropriate discipline. Strict monitoring would happen at election meetings and rallies as well, state health secretary J Radhakrishnan said. Odisha on Thursday witnessed a further rise in wildfires across its forests even as a Central team headed for Similipal to take stock of the situation in the tiger reserve where the State government claims to have brought the situation under control. The satellite-based fire alarm system of the Forest Survey of India (FSI) detected 1,048 fire points across the State on the day as compared to 497 points on Wednesday. Apart from Similipal, wildfires have engulfed other forests including the ones in Swabhiman Anchal of Malkangiri where forest staff and fire fighters are being ferried in boats to douse the flames. However, head of the Statelevel task force on forest fire management and for mer PCCF Sandeep Tripathy said only 597 of the total fire points are in forests. He added that forest fires have come down to a significant level in Similipal biosphere where only two fire points were detected against 24 on Wednesday . “The integrated approach of the State government has led to containment of fire in Similipal and other parts of the State. Parts of Similipal also experienced rain which is expected to prevent any further proliferation of fire in the tiger reserve,” Tripathi said and added that prediction of intermittent rain by the IMD for next three days will also help preventing flare ups in the State to a large extent. Meanwhile, two members of the three-member Central team formed by the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEF&CC), headed to Similipal from Bhubaneswar to take stock of the situation. CONTINUED ON: P5 Drastic reduction in Central funds hit forest fire management Sudarsan Maharana @ Bhubaneswar EVEN as the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change (MoEF&CC) has sent in a joint-team to extend support to tackle wildfire raging in the State, a drastic reduction in Central funds has badly affected key operations in Similipal and Satkosia tiger reserves (TRs) of the State. Sources said there has been a substantial decline in allocation to two TRs. More than 40 per cent fund has been slashed for Similipal and Satkosia which impacted protection activities. Hundreds of forest protection squad members, known as protection assistants (PAs) were laid off due to shortage of funds which has severely affected forest protection and fire management programmes this year. The Standing Committee of Environment, Forest and Climate Change in its report presented in Rajya Sabha on March 8 pointed out that MoEF&CC’s budget allocation was reduced by ` 1,085 crore at the revised estimate (RE) Regret letting women enter Sabari: Minister Express News Service @ T’Puram People vaccinated across india as on Thursday As wildfires rise, Central team heads to Similipal Express News Service The National Eligibility cum Entrance Test would be conducted only once this year and it would be a pen-and-paper affair. An earlier proposal to hold an online test twice for admissions to medical and dental colleges would not be implemented this year. The decision follows a meeting between officials of the Union health ministry and the National Testing Agency the nod, al body tasked with conducting NEET, on Wednesday last. Stating that the decision not to tinker with the test pattern was taken to ease the pressure off students reeling under the pandemic, an official said: “An online test may also prove disadvantageous for the students from rural areas.” The NTA would release the examination schedule and brochure in two-three days after a final date is decided. The test is likely to be held either in late June or July . Earlier, after deciding to hold the Joint Entrance Examination (Main) for engineering admissions four times this year, officials had proposed to conduct NEET twice for the first time to ease the pressure to perform their best in one attempt off students. The proposal was approved by the medical education department of the health ministry but now may be implemented starting next year. to reduced testing, tracking and tracing and Covid inappropriate behaviour and large congregations,” he said. Rajesh Bhushan pointed out that while the active Covid-19 cases have almost halved in Kerala, they have more than doubled in Maharashtra. After taking his first jab at J J Hospital in Mumbai, Thackeray sought to dispel apprehension in people’s minds, saying it has no after-effects. “Since the vaccine is available now, everyone should take it. 2,56,85,011 said the comments were nothing but an attempt to deceive believers and asked whether Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan would publicly admit his stance was wrong. BJP state president K Surendran said the minister was shedding crocodile tears with an eye on the polls. Meanwhile, the Nair Service Society demanded the minister to show his sincerity by submitting a fresh affidavit in the Supreme Court against permitting young women into the hill shrine. stage due to Covid-19 pandemic which affected various programmes and schemes. From a `300 crore budget estimate in 2020-21 for the flagship Project Tiger, the revised estimate saw allocation drop by 35 per cent to `195 crore. The actual expenditure by January-end was `179.83 crore. For 2021-22, the budgetary estimate stands at `250 crore. In the 18th meeting of National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) held on December 7 last year, MP and Member of NTCA Rajiv Pratap Rudy had also highlighted the issues of reduction of Project Tiger budget from `300 crore to `195 crore in the current fiscal. Rudy had stated that a large chunk of funds allocated to TRs being spent on employment of local communities as forest watchers, trackers for protection of forest and wildlife, the sudden cut in Project Tiger budget would impact livelihoods of poor and vulnerable people during COVID-19 pandemic. That apparently has happened. An officer pointed out that funds made available to the TRs in the second phase of the year never came and it was made clear that no reimbursement or replenishment would be made for the financial year. As a result, Similipal TR had to lay off large number of PAs last year, while the situation in Satkosia TR is even worse. Sources said, lack of funds forced retrenchment of all members of protection squads in territorial divisions of Dhenkanal, Athamallik, Athagarh, Angul, while at least 30 PAs were also disengaged from Satkosia and Mahanadi Wildlife Divisions this year. “Though `16 crore was proposed for Satkosia, only `3.8 crore was set aside. However, this amount was also not allocated entirely. While `1.76 crore was allocated in the first phase, only 50 pc of the remaining was allocated in second phase. After reduction of funds under Centrally sponsored schemes, we tried to manage things ustiling CAMPA funds. However, it proved insufficient,” said an officer. express read Modi to flag off I-Day Yatra today To launch the 75-week long celebrations of India’s 75th year of Independence, Prime Minister Narendra Modi will flag off a “Padyatra” from Sabarmati Ashram in Ahmedabad on Friday | P7 Relief likely for owners of bankrupt firms The government is looking to relax norms for promoters buying back companies that have gone bankrupt if the default has happened due to factors induced by last year’s nationwide lockdown | P10 Nine more shot dead in Myanmar crackdown Amid mounting diplomatic pressure against the February 1 coup, the junta on Thursday shot dead nine protesters in Myanmar. The violent crackdown comes a day after the UN condemned the junta’s action, which has seen more than 60 killed and 2,000 arrested, with even China calling for “de-escalation” and talks | P9
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