villupuram l Sunday l march 28, 2021 l `8.00 l PAGES 26 l city EDITION over 90 killed in Myanmar in bloodiest day of protest junta reiterates promise to hold election Touted as a flashpoint, the Armed Forces Day event saw junta leader Min Aung Hlaing calling the protests as acts of ‘terrorism’. In his speech, Hlaing reiterated a promise to hold elections, without giving any time-frame. Eight countries — Russia, China, India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Vietnam, Laos and Thailand — sent representatives to the event, while Russia sent a minister The reprisal, coinciding with the 76th Armed Forces Day, came barely 24 hours after media warned that agitators could be shot in the head ■ 269 militia kills nine in retaliatory strike ■ The Karen National Union, an ethnic armed group, said it had overrun an army post near the Thai border, killing 10 people, including a lieutenant colonel, and losing one of its fighters Skirmishes took place in Sagaing, Yangon, Mandalay and Lashio. A one-year-old baby was shot in the eye with a rubber bullet | P11 estimated number of Protesters killed so far in the military crackdown 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 Bengal witnesses 80% turnout 79.9% Polling percentage 30 constituencies* (5 districts — all seats in Purulia and Jhargram districts; parts of West Midnapore, Bankura, East Midnapore districts) N IR U PA M A VISW A N AT H A N 2016 results# 3% less than 2016 as most migrant workers don’t return to cast vote ■ @ Chennai TMC: 27 | ■ Cong: 2 ■ E XPR E SS N E WS S E RVIC E @ Kolkata A robust 80% voter turnout was recorded in the first phase of Assembly polls in West Bengal on Saturday . The polling was expected to be much higher but it turned out to be around 3% less than that of the previous Assembly polls. Rising Covid-19 cases and the failure of migrant workers — who had left the state after public transport was thrown open following a prolonged lockdown — to return to exercise their franchise are the major reasons for the drop in turnout. A senior TMC leader said absence of migrant workers might hurt their chances. “It was expected Bengalis working in other states will support us because of the hardships they faced due to the lockdown,’’ he said. For an example, in 2016, Jhargram constituency had recorded 86% 2018 polling, but this time, the figure dropped to 80.55%. The BJP believes it has an upper hand as it had won most of the Parliamentary seats in the region in the 2019 general elections. Voting was held in 30 Assembly segments out of 294 with 191 candidates in the fray Over 70 lakh electorates were on . the rolls to exercise their franchise. The 30 seats that went to polls on Saturday included all the 18 constituencies that had voted in the first phase in 2016, too. Assam, which also went to polls on Saturday, recorded 76.89% turnout in the first phase for 47 seats. Analysts attributed the high turnout to competitive politics. “Last time, the aspirational votes resulted in high turnout. This time, it is due to the competitive politics,” political analyst Akhil Ranjan Dutta of Gauhati University said. P9 9% of students at Guindy institute have Covid-19 Bengal phase 1 Left Front: 1 # in seats where polling was held on Saturday * Total constituencies: 294 Voters undergo thermal scanning at a polling station in Jhargram, Bengal, on Saturday | Pti Voters Torn between Dada and didi I f this is a war of ideas, and not a mere electoral mudwrestling match of the usual sort, then Nandigram is the epicentre. It’s a placename that has already seared itself into the pages of Indian political history. But that was a decade ago, when it was an outlier. In 2021, Nandigram offers a different picture — a small, sharp-focused microcosmic picture of West Bengal politics as it’s being played right now. The people of Nandigram are divided. Along voting lines— which can be a euphemism for ‘along religious lines’. They are also pulled by contrasting loyalties: their allegiance to ‘Dada’ and ‘Didi’. The latter needs no explanation. Mamata Banerjee is Didi for not just Nandigram — which votes in the second phase of a long-drawn poll process — but for all of West Bengal, even India to some extent. Dada is Suvendu Adhikari, her Nandigram custodian-turned-challenger. Suvendu may not yet have at- West Bengal SANTWANA BHATTACHARYA @ Nandigram tained the eminence of a ‘Dada’ for the larger Bengal polity, but there’s no doubting his stature here. Anything that has happened or not happened in Nandigram has his stamp on it. That’s not counting his cutouts, popping out from amidst crop- Ban Pondy BJP candidates, say Congress, CPM E XPR E SS N E WS S E RVIC E @ Puducherry Amid allegations of the BJP illegally accessing Aadhaar data of citizens for poll campaigning, the Congress and CPM have urged the Election Commission of India (ECI) to disqualify the nine saffron party candidates in Puducherry . CPM State secretary R Rajangam on Saturday submitted a memorandum to the Chief Election Commissioner, stating the Chief Electoral Officer took no action on a complaint dated March 5. The complaint, lodged by the DYFI, sought a probe into irregularities in the BJP’s creation of booth-level WhatsApp groups for voters and using it for electioneering. A writ petition on this was filed at the Madras High Court, which heard the plea and asked the ECI why the election should not be postponed in the light of these allegations or at least why the BJP candidates should not be disqualified. P4 Chief Minister Edappadi K Palaniswami greets supporters at a campaign rally in support of AIADMK candidate Ganesaraja, in Nanguneri, Tirunelveli district, on Saturday | V KARTHIKALAGU Even nature is happy with AIADMK: CM E x p r e s s N e w s Se r v i c e @ Tirunelveli/ Thoothukudi/ Nagercoil Not just the residents, but even nature joined hands with AIADMK cadre to offer a redcarpet welcome to Chief Minister Edappadi K Palaniswami in Nanguneri of Tirunelveli district on Saturday . Palaniswami, who reached the area after a brief summer drizzle, said nature is happy and is in support of the AIADMK as he implemented many schemes for its protection and welfare of the farmers. Addressing a crowd of supporters, the Chief Minister, who was accompanied by AIADMK candidate of the constituency Ganesaraja, accused , DMK president MK Stalin of lying to the people during a public meeting. He asserted that the DMK is indulging in family politics while in the AIADMK, cadre who work for the people could become MLAs, MPs and even Chief Minister. P4 ‘What does Stalin know?’ In reply to Stalin’s ‘fake farmer’ jibe, Palaniswami said he (Stalin) doesn’t even know how Neera tastes and asked whether the drink has any sugar N e w h e ight s All 1,330 Thirukural and their explanations to be engraved on hill in Erode district E XPR E SS N E WS S E RVIC E @ Coimbatore Soon, Erode district will attract tourists to Kural Malai, a hill that will have all 1,330 couplets of Thiruvallur engraved on it. Work on the project, funded by the Central and State governments, will begin after the Assembly polls, said former Anna University Vice-Chancellor E Balagurusamy on Saturday . He told the media that the BJP’s State unit, in its election manifesto, promised to make all arrangements for the Kural Malai (Kural Hill) project, which is estimated to cost `100 First couplet inscribed five years ago Balagurusamy recalled that he proposed a resolution to create the Kural Malai at a conference at Erode in January 2020, which was acknowledged by former UNESCO director Armoogum Parsuramen. He said that the first couplet was inscribed on the hill in 2016 crore, and the announcement has come as a boost to those who have been spearheading it for several decades. “All 1,330 couplets and their explanations in Tamil and English shall be engraved on the 20- acre surface of a hill at Malayappalayam near Nambiyur in Erode. The place surrounding the hill will be developed as a tourist spot soon,” he added. Explaining the project, the founder of Kural Malai Sangam P Ravikumar said that seven acres of the total hill surface (20.5 acres) would be used to engrave the couplets, while the remaining space would be used to create pathways, and set up a parking lot and a children’s park. “The Sangam led by Balagurusamy has formed a committee to coordinate with both the governments for this project,” he added. All 1,330 couplets and their explanations in Tamil and English shall be engraved on the 20-acre surface of a hill at Malayappalayam near Nambiyur in Erode. The place surrounding the hill will be developed as a tourist spot soon E Balagurusamy, ex-VC, Anna Unniv land, smiling at passing vehicles with a chutzpah that’s almost breathtaking, bordering on arrogance in a qualitative way. Suvendu and the Adhikari family have a close relation with these farmlands of Nandigram. He is credited with spearheading the Bhumi Uchhed Pratirodh Committee—now, that one committee not only ensured the chemical hub planned by the then Buddhadeb Bhattacharya government never materialised, it virtually led to the ‘uchhed’ (uprooting) of the 34-year-long Left Front government in Bengal. In that election and in the years that followed, Suvendu became the Dada, replacing the Left’s Laxman Seth. It’s as if he has now come to claim ownership of the very croplands he once struggled to save. CONTINUED ON: P9 As Tamil Nadu recorded more than 2,000 Covid cases on Saturday, it was found that 34 more students of the National Institute of Skill Training, Guindy, have the disease. Earlier, 18 people from the institute had tested positive. “About 9 per cent of the 550 students have been infected,” a corporation official pointed out, adding that the cluster was formed as the students didn’t wear masks or maintain physical distance properly The stu. dents have now been shifted to t h e A t h i p e t C ov i d C a re Centre. Being asymptomatic, many of them reportedly didn’t believe they were infected. “All of them are young, and joined the institute only in February . They had been moving about freely, and didn’t think much of the coronavirus. We have ruled out the possibility of a recent visitor bringing in the virus,” said an official who didn’t want to be named. The cluster was detected after a 36-year-old staff showed symptoms and tested positive. Many students attended skill-training classes that needed in-person contact, and every two students shared a toilet in their rooms, sources said. Most of the infected students are from the plumbing department. Continued on: P5 reform dynamics The second day of the ThinkEdu Conclave saw Principal Economic Advisor Sanjeev Sanyal speak about ego not coming in the way of fixing the flaws in reform policies. In another session, the higher education secretary said the Centre may alter the criteria to qualify for Institute of Eminence tag | P7 WITH THIS ISSUE Chasing the Truth PLUS 12 PAGES
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