CHENNAI WEDNESDAY MARCH 17, 2021 `7.00 PAGES 18 LATE CITY EDITION SREESHANKAR TAKES GIANT LEAP TO BOOK OLYMPIC BERTH Long jumper M Sreeshankar’s cleared 8.26m for the Games cut, TN’s Dhanalakshmi stuns Dutee Chand SREESHANKAR DHANALAKSHMI TOO HOGS LIMELIGHT Tamil Nadu’s S Dhanalakshmi stunned the Asian Games medallist and national record holder Dutee Chand to win the 100m event at the Federation Cup. It was also the 22-year-old’s maiden title at the nationals. In the much-anticipated sprint final, Hima Das was shown the red card for a false start ■ 8.26 NEW NATIONAL RECORD EN ROUTE TOKYO ■ The 21-year-old from Kerala bettered his own national record in Patiala. Not a part of the jumps national camp, Sreeshankar is training separately under his father S Murali in Palakkad Five race walkers, two javelin throwers and the mixed 4x400m relay team have earlier qualified for the Olympics | P13 SREESHANKAR IMPROVED ON HIS OWN NATIONAL MARK OF 8.20M 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 Double mutation variant detected in Maharashtra Its role in second Covid wave under study; 20% of Maha samples had the mutations S U M I S U K A N YA D U T TA @ New Delhi SCIENTIFIC institutes tasked with genome sequencing of the Covid-19 virus in the country have alerted the Centre on a virus variant with double mutation in Maharashtra, whose possible role in the surge in cases is being probed, this newspaper has gathered. The institutes working on a project under the National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) have alerted the Union health ministry to label the variant with the double mutation as a likely variant of concern (VOC). VOCs have potential public health implications like the ones in the UK, Brazil and South Africa. Sources working on the project said so far 7,000 virus samples have been sequenced, of which 200 were lifted from parts of Maharashtra, which has been hit the hardest with the fresh rise in cases. “Of the samples from Maharashtra, about 20% have two mutations, E484Q and L452R,” said a source. “While it is difficult to conclusively say that the variant is behind the surge, it has been established elsewhere that E484Q can escape antibody neutralisation and L452R is known to increase infectivity and has been linked to large pockets in the US.” The Centre in December had formed a genomic surveillance consortium — INSACOG — of 10 institutes under the NCDC to work on genome sequencing of virus samples from various parts of the country amid concern over detection of the UK variant in India. A team sent by the health ministry to Maharashtra had also pointed to a possible role of the variant virus causing the second wave of infections in the state. Officials said an epidemiological investigation being undertaken by the NCDC, will involve probing whether variants are causing the disease to spread in clusters and whether they are more infectious. Epidemiologists will also examine whether there is significant digression in clinical outcomes in patients, found positive with the variant and whether people with previous history of infection are also being found re-infected with the mutant virus. The government has earlier categorically denied the role of the virus with E484Q or any other mutation in the surge, but this mutation appearing with L452R in a region with a massive surge of infections has triggered fresh worries. Trends and the big picture MP govt to impose night curfew in Bhopal and Indore from Wednesday (10 pm to 6 am). Also, shops ordered to close at 10 pm in eight other cities Gujarat to increase night curfew timings by two hours in Ahmedabad, Surat, Vadodara and Rajkot from 10 pm to 6 am India recorded 24,492 new COVID-19 cases, going past 20,000 for the sixth day in a row. Total cases in the country stood at 1,14,09,831 5.86 crore doses of Made in India Covid vaccines provided to 71 countries both as grant as well as commercial sales as of Monday Amid concern over adverse effects of AstraZeneca’s vaccine, the European regulator said there was no indication the shot was responsible for blood clots, adding benefits outweigh risks FinMin under pressure as RBI wants complete ban on Bitcoin A N U R A D H A S H U K L A @ New Delhi THE Reserve Bank of India (RBI) and the finance ministry are at loggerheads over cryptocurrency . While the RBI is pushing for a blanket ban on cryptocurrency, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman prefers to keep all options open, sources said. “RBI has strongly communicated its reservation against cryptocurrency and has recommended a blanket ban,” said a senior finane ministry official, adding that this was communicated to the government during an informal meeting last week. “From our side, we are not shutting all options off,” Sitharaman said recently This had given some . hope to the cryptocurrecy industry , which was fighting for acceptance in the country . However, if RBI and the government are not on the same page, then the Cryptocurrency and Regulation of Official Digital Currency Bill, 2021, slated to be taken up in Parliament in the current session, could be delayed Sources say RBI’s strong position in last week’s meeting has forced the ministry to soften its stance. Mumbai Police chief faces axe over Waze S U D H I R S U R YA W A N S H I @ Mumbai AFTER the embarrassing arrest of police officer Sachin Waze by the National Investigation Agency, Mumbai Police Commissioner Parambir Singh is likely to by replaced soon. In the talks Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray had with NCP chief Sharad Pawar on Monday over the mishandling of the bomb scare attempt outside Mukesh Ambani’s residence and the death of Thane businessman Mansukh Hiren, both leaders agreed on sacking Singh. The meeting went on for were not also kept in the loop. more than an hour at the chief In sum, Singh was peddling his minister’s official residence. own agenda and not working A senior minister said it has for the government. In fact, he now come to light that had slowed down work Waze had stage-manin politically sensitive aged the bomb scare on cases,” he said requestthe instructions of ing anonymity . Singh. The alleged aim For instance, the secwas to show that even ond chargesheet in the India’s richest man’s TRP scam has to be family is not safe from filed. “But the Mumbai Sachin Waze threats to their lives Police crime branch and need Z-plus security ur- team that was investigating it, gently “But the plan went awry has been dragging its feet. The . because of multiple loopholes. second chargesheet has more Also, top leaders of the state incriminating details, but the Narayanasamy opts out of race to Pondy House? China makes it mandatory for people from India and 19 other nations to get Chinese-made vaccines if they want to visit the country D E B J A N I D U T TA @ Puducherry Tamil Nadu to tighten Covid vigil as fresh cases almost double in a fortnight EXPRESS NEWS SERVICE @ Chennai CHIEF Secretary Rajeev Ranjan directed all District Collectors to tighten vigil on implementation of Covid standard operating procedures even as Tamil Nadu continued its upward curve on Tuesday, reporting 867 fresh cases and five deaths. Chennai alone accounted for 352 of the total cases. The direction was issued during a review meeting Ran- UPHILL ROAD Tracing the trajectory of fresh Covid cases in TN 474 543 671 695 759 836 867 Mar 1 Mar 5 Mar 10 Mar 13 Mar 14 Mar 15 Mar 16 Source: Media Bulletin issued by Directorate of Public Health jan held with the Collectors, officials of the revenue and health departments, Greater Chennai Corporation, and others at the Secretariat on Tuesday. He also instructed offi- CABINET NOD FOR D.F.I. TO FUND INFRA PROJECTS Nirmala Sitharaman said. @ New Delhi The DFI will get tax benefits for 10 years. The governTHE Union Cabinet on Tues- ment will also amend the day cleared the proposal to Indian Stamp Act to attract set up a Development Fi- global pension funds and nance Institution (DFI), sovereign funds. which seeks to fix the financ“The Union government ing woes of long-term infra- is also planning to issue structure projects. some securities to the DevelAs announced in the opment Finance Institution, Budget, the governby which cost of ment will initially funds will come infuse `20,000 crore down. All this will in the DFI and raise help DFI leverage up to `3 lakh crore initial capital and in the next few draw funds from years. While DFI various sources; it will start off as will also have a pos100% government Nirmala Sitharaman itive impact on the owned, the Centre bond market in Inwill bring down its stake dia,” Sitharaman said. gradually to 26%. Allaying fears that DFI “Past attempts to have al- could face the same fate of ternative investment funds similar infrastructure fiwere taken up, but for vari- nance companies in the past, ous reasons, we ended up the FM said DFI will have a with no bank which could 100% professionally mantake up long-term risk and aged board with at least 50% fund development. Follow- of them being non-official ing this, the Union Cabinet directors. The board will has cleared the setting up of also have persons of emia DFI,” Finance Minister nence, she added. EXPRESS NEWS SERVICE police claimed they were under pressure from Delhi to stall the process. This has annoyed the political leadership, which is another reason why Singh is expected to be axed,” said a highly placed source. A couple of names for appointment as the new Mumbai Police commissioner are doing the rounds, including that of Rajnish Seth, who is currently serving as Director General of the Anti-Corruption Bureau. Interestingly, Seth met Maharashtra home minister Anil Deshmukh on Tuesday . cials to impose fines on people who violate the guidelines. The State tally stood at 8,61,429 and toll at 12,556. There are currently 5,450 active cases in TN, said the health bulletin. People not wearing masks and not following SOP issued by the government were the reasons behind the spike in cases, said Health Secretary J Radhakrishnan. Also, people in home quarantine are not following protocols and passing on the infection to others, MORE ON P3 a release said. Chief Minister Edappadi K Palaniswami greets the crowd during a campaign in Pudukkottai district on Tuesday | EXPRESS EPS says, “If voted to power, the Godavari-Cauvery river linking, that would end uncertainties of Delta farmers, would be taken up.” “Why is Stalin not campaigning with schemes implemented by the previous DMK government and only criticising the AIADMK?” P4 CID summons Naidu over land scam EXPRESS NEWS SERVICE @ Vijayawada THE Andhra Pradesh Crime Investigation Department (CID), which filed an FIR against former chief minister N Chandrababu Naidu in connection with the alleged Amaravati land scam, served a notice on him at his Jubilee Hills residence in Hyderabad on Tuesday Naidu has been direct. ed to appear in person before the Investigating Officer at the CID regional office in Vijaya- 20 ROAD TO BALLOTS wada on March 23. “Failure to attend or comply with the terms of the notice, you will be liable for arrest under Section 41 (3) and (4) of CrPC,” the notice warned. On Tuesday, TNIE broke the story of the CID’s FIR a g ainst Naidu for allegedly facilitating alienation of assigned lands in violation of the law. The notice served by investigating of ficer A Lakshmi Narayana Rao identified Naidu as Accused No.1 and said it was necessary to examine him to “ascertain facts which are within your exclusive knowledge.” A similar notice was served on TDP leader Ponguru Narayana Rao, who was the minister for municipal administration and urban development during the TDP regime. The notices were served under Section 41 (A) of CONTINUED ON: P7 the CrPC. DAYS TO GO THE contours of alliances have not been finalised yet, but almost all parties contesting in Puducherry have gone ahead with announcing their candidates, as there’s just three more days left for nominations to be filed. In an interesting development, former Chief Minister and Congress heavyweight V Narayanasamy seems to have opted out of the race. His name did not figure in the list of 14 candidates announced late on Tuesday . On the other side, it was announced that the BJP would contest nine seats and AIADMK five seats in the NDA alliance as 16 seats have already been allotted to NR Congress. CONTINUED ON: P4 EXPRESS READ TN Cong promises 10% quota for govt students 2 shot dead in Myanmar as violence continues Chennai: Assuring to scrap NEET and increase reservation for government school students in medical admissions to 10 per cent from the existing 7.5, the TN Congress brought out its election manifesto on Tuesday | P4 Yangon: At least two people protesting last month’s military coup were reported shot and killed by security forces on Tuesday after a morning of peaceful marches in parts of Myanmar, reports said | P11 P K SINHA PM MODI’S PRINCIPAL ADVISOR STEPS DOWN The former Cabinet Secretary has resigned on personal grounds. Earlier, the PM’s Principal Secretary Nripendra Misra had resigned after LS polls in 2019 ‘COMPULSORY WAIT NOT A PUNISHMENT’ HC wants top cop accused of sexual harassment suspended EXPRESS NEWS SERVICE @ Chennai STATING that a government servant on ‘compulsory wait’ would be entitled to all service benefits, and thus it could not be construed as a punishment, the Madras High Court recommended the State to suspend the special DGP accused of sex- ually harassing a woman IPS of ficer. Justice N Anand Venkatesh, refusing to concur with the State’s submissions that the DGP was kept on a ‘compulsory wait’, gave the direction when the petition came up for hearing on Tuesday . Placing an officer under ‘compulsory wait’ does not attach any stigma to it, and it is resorted to only when a government servant is unable to be accommodated in a suitable post or vacancy, said the judge. He noted that the State had thought it fit to place the second accused (Chengalpattu SP) under suspension, considering the gravity of allegations against him. “The fact that the court has taken it upon itself to monitor Manual scavenging The HC warned of initiating criminal proceedings against heads of civic bodies, if deaths due to manual scavenging occur within their jurisdiction. It also directed the State to file a report on steps taken to prevent it | P3 the investigation shows that it involves public interest. Therefore, taking a positive step by suspending the special DGP, pending investigation, will bring in more confidence in the perception of the general public,” the judge observed. The hearing was adjourned to March 23, for the State to file a status report.
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