chennai l tuesday l september 14, 2021 l `7.00 l PAGES 20 l late city EDITION Retail inflation eases to 5.3% in Aug as food prices soften Subdued prices of food items like vegetables pulled down retail inflation for the third month in a row, within RBI’s comfort zone Vegetable prices contract 11.7% in August Record kharif production likely: govt Consumer Price Index-based retail inflation was 5.59% in July and 6.69% in August 2020. According to data released by National Statistics Office on Monday, food inflation decelerated to 3.11% in August from 4% in July as vegetable prices contracted 11.68% during the month. RBI primarily considers retail inflation to decide the monetary policy every two months ■ ■ The Centre expects foodgrain production to touch a new record of over 150 million tonnes in 2021-22 crop year (July-June) “We have received good rains so far this year... foodgrain production will definitely be much higher than last year’s Kharif season,” Agriculture Secretary Sanjay Agarwal said on Monday 5.7% RBI’s projection of retail inflation during 2021-22 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 Armed with Bill, TN gets ready for NEET war Dravidian parties join hands; Legal experts divided on efficacy of Bill as no other State supports TN’s demand T Muruganandham & K V N a v ya @ Chennai Tamil Nadu on Monday started a fresh bout of legal war against the National Eligibility cum Entrance Test (NEET) again. The ruling DMK kept its poll promise of passing a Bill to exempt the State from the exam. However, apprehensions around its ultimate success in getting the Union government’s nod remain the same as was the case five years ago when the previous AIADMK regime passed a similar Bill. Despite being an ally of the AIADMK in the State, the BJP-led Union government did not budge and returned the Bill, then. This time, however, the new Bill is backed by the report of a special committee, led by Justice AK Rajan, that studied NEET’s impact on students from disadvantaged backgrounds. “The reason for the President to return the Bill then was not because there was a lack of data. It was on the Constitutional propriety of the State trying to get an exemption from a Central law,” said Justice K Chandru, a retired Madras High Court judge. NEET was enabled by a law passed in the Parliament, and at best, the State Assembly can pass a resolution showing its disapproval, he said, adding that there was no support from other States, too. A few other legal experts have a different opinion. Justice Hari Paranthaman, also a retired Madras HC judge, said there have been earlier instances of such exemptions from the Central law for a single State. “For instance, the Hindu Marriages Act, where only TN was given an exemption.” Much of the course ahead will depend on how the Union government will treat the new Bill that will be sent for a presidential nod. As much as legal, there are also other factors, including political considerations. The BJP-led C O V ID T R A C K E R Study backs push for booster dose On a swing and a prayer National Disaster Response Force personnel evacuating a stranded person during a rescue operation in flood-hit Jamnagar, Gujarat on Monday | PTI | Report: P10 Rural local bodies in nine TN dists to go to polls on Oct 6, 9 T M u r u g a n a n d h a m @ Chennai The poll bugles have been blown again. The State Election Commissioner, V Palanikumar, on Monday announced the election for rural local bodies in nine districts of Tamil Nadu. The polling will take place in two phases, on October 6 and 9. The nine districts that will face the polls are Chengalpattu, Kallakurichi, Kancheepuram, Ranipet, Tenkasi, Tirunelveli, Tirupattur, Villupuram, and Vellore. Rural body polls were not conducted here during the previous AIADMK regime due to legal issues around creation of the districts. The elections will be looked upon as forerunner to the ur- e x p r e s s r ea d Cop suspended after party functionary killed Tirupattur: Following the murder of a political party functionary in Vaniyambadi, the town’s police inspector, Govindasamy, was suspended. It was alleged that the murder of Manithaneya Jananayaga Katchi State deputy secretary Wasim Akram (43), could have been averted if the prime accused, Imthiyaz, and a few of his accomplices in a ganjapeddling case, were arrested | P4 Thoothukudi firing a scar on democracy: HC Chennai: Referring to the police firing at anti-Sterlite protestors in Thoothukudi in 2018, the Madras High Court on Monday said the incident is a scar on the face of our democracy. The first bench of Chief Justice Sanjib Banerjee and Justice PD Audikesavalu said citizens should not be fired on at the behest of any corporate house. If it was, the issue must be addressed, they added | P4 ban local body polls, likely to happen in around seven or eight months. Being the party in power, it will be a crucial test for the DMK. On the other hand, for the AIADMK, it will be a test on how well the party can manage to retain its alliance and give a b o o s t t o i t s c a d re ’s morale. Speaking to reporters, Palanikumar said the polls will be conducted for a total of 27,003 rural local body posts. “These include 140 district panchayat ward member posts in nine district panchayats, 1,381 panchayat union ward member posts in 74 panchayat unions, 22,581 village panchayat ward member posts, and 2,901 village panchayat president posts,” he said. p4 New Delhi: Antibody levels reduce within four months of the second dose of Covishield and Covaxin, says ICMR, validating demands in some quarters for a booster shot. Researchers associated with ICMR’s centre in Bhubaneswar in their study found those who did not get breakthrough infections showed ‘significant’ decline in their antibody levels | P9 WHO to recognise Covaxin in a week? New Delhi: The World Health Organization is likely to recognise Covaxin within a week, sources said. If that happens, it will bring relief to those who have taken the home-grown Covid-19 vaccine and have been in a fix over the restricted opportunity for global travel. Covishield had received the emergency use listing by the WHO several months ago | P9 Jab-o-meter Take your shot September 12 72,86,883 doses September 13 67,04,768 doses Total doses: 75,10,41,391 NATIONWIDE sep 12 sep 13 Fresh cases 28,591 27,254 Recoveries Deaths 34,848 37,687 338 219 tamil nadu sep 12 sep 13 Fresh cases 1,608 1,580 Recoveries Deaths 1,512 22 1,509 22 government also seems determined on having a uniform education policy . However, the Bill on its part, puts forth its reasons in strong words. Quoting the report of the panel, the Bill said NEET festers inequality as it favours , the rich and more privileged class of society who can afford special coaching, apart from pursuing Class XII. “It virtually barricades the underprivileged social groups from medical and dental education. This is against the very object of the equality clause enshrined in the Constitution, and infringes the right to education of children from underprivileged classes of society it said. P4 ,” All parties, except BJP, extend support to Bill When the Bill was introduced by Chief Minister MK Stalin, barring the BJP, an Opposition ally, all parties supported it, and it was passed by a voice vote ‘Infringes right to education...’ The Bill stated, ”It virtually barricades the underprivileged social groups from medical and dental education. This is against the very object of the equality clause enshrined in the Constitution, and it also infringes the right to education of children from these underprivileged classes of society.” Info heads urge CJI to shoo HCs off turf E xp r ess News S e r vice @ New Delhi A group of 15 sitting and retired information commissioners last week wrote to Chief Justice of India N V Ramana, urging him to direct high courts not to entertain petitions against orders passed by the Central Information Commission (CIC). Section 23 of the RTI Act says, “No court shall entertain any suit, application or other proceedings in respect of any order made under this act and no such order shall be called in question otherwise than by way of an appeal under this Act.” So, Parliament clearly intended that the final appeal will lie with the information commissions, the letter pointed out. Yet, directions of information commissioners were being negated due to high court stay orders. “At the very least orders of imposition of penalty should not be stayed as no irrevocable harm can come to the penalised official. It should also be ensured that if any stay order is given it should give reasons for staying the statutory order of the commission, the letter said. Its signatories include two sitting state information commissioners of Madhya Pradesh, Rahul Singh and G Krishnamurthy four retired , central information commissioners and one retired chief central information commissioner. The CIC has been set up under the RTI Act. Govt again cites security to duck full affidavit, SC order on Pegasus soon will be placed before your lordships,” Mehta added. With the Centre again refusBut the bench said Mehta ing to file a detailed affidavit on was beating around the bush. whether or not it used the “We just wanted you to clarify Pegasus software to snoop on whether their (civil society) journalists and members of privacy was violated or not. the civil society, the SuWhether surveillance, if preme Court on Monday done at all, was after said it will pass its inlawful permission. Was terim order on a batch the interception done of petitions in a twoby any agency unlawthree days. fully? Should the govSolicitor General ernment not be conTushar Mehta said the cerned if any ‘outside Sibal’s Centre did not want agency’ had violated counter matters of national inour citizens’ privacy?” “My friend terest to be part of it asked. Mehta re(Mehta) says public discourse or jusponded saying that making that dicial debate through he had have already statement on an affidavit. “Existfiled an affidavit sayoath itself is ence of whether a paring there was no unaudetrimental to ticular software was thorised interception. used or not cannot be- national security. Pointing out that it I am sorry, it is come part of an affidahad given fair oppordetrimental to vit or subject of public tunity to the Centre to the process of d i s c o u r s e. Ta r g e t make its statement, justice,” Kapil groups, terror groups the CJI said, “Now we Sibal said should not know what have to look into the software is being whole issue and deused,” Mehta told the bench led cide something.” by Chief Justice of India N V The court then reserved its Ramana. interim orders. “We will set up a committee Senior advocate Kapil Sibal, of domain experts. The peti- appearing for journalists N tioners who say their numbers Ram and Sashi Kumar, who are were put under interception among the petitioners, said the can be considered by the com- government cannot tell the SC mittee. The committee report to ‘shut your eyes’. K a n u S a r d a @ New Delhi John Kerry says zero-emission target is for all Visiting US special presidential climate envoy said it is imperative that all parties commit to it, adding India and US are working towards speedier deployment of clean energy | P9 Congress vicharaks vs RSS pracharaks in UP Ric h a S h a r m a @ New Delhi IN a bid to connect with people on the ground ahead of the crucial Assembly elections, the Congress plans to deploy ‘vicharak’s on the lines of RSS ‘pracharaks’. These young activists, primarily members of the Congress’ grassroots front organisation Seva Dal, will visit select constituencies and have meaningful talks with voters on pressing issues such as price rise, unemployment and farmer distress. The experiment will also mark an image makeover for the Seva Dal, whose role and responsibilities were tweaked after Rahul Gandhi became party chief in 2017, by actively engaging in election campaign and public outreach prog rammes in states where it has good presence. The organisation has around 3.7 lakh active members in over 600 districts. It has around 450 members in UP . “It is vicharaks vs pracharaks. We are training our workforce to focus on people’s agen- da away from emotional and religious agenda of the RSS and other parties ahead of elections. Members of Seva Dal will work in tandem with state units to reach out to people and talk to them on pressing issues,” said Lalji Desai, chief organiser, Seva Dal. He says the team is young and dynamic with 80% of them below 45 years. They have been divided in three groups — Seva Dal young brigade, Seva Dal and Mahila Seva Dal. They have been trained in efficiently using social media tools to communicate with youths and working class. Congress Seva Dal, which was once seen more as a ceremonial organisation, has zeroed in on 100 constituencies in Uttar Pradesh where their members would be campaigning for the party The selection . was based on research by team members and work will start after the final go-ahead from Congress general secretary and in-charge for UP Priyanka Gandhi and UP Congress chief Ajay Kumar Lallu. Tax flaws drill a `441-cr hole in TN’s excise kitty Emotionally spent Djokovic falls at final hurdle b r ea k p o i nt S w a r o o p S w a mi n at h a n @ Chennai E X P R E S S N E W S S E R V I C E @ Chennai The Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) of India’s report, tabled before the Tamil Nadu Assembly on Monday, alleged that the State’s excise revenue suffered a loss of `440.72 crore between 201415 and 2018-19. The report attributes the loss to irregularities in levying and collecting taxes for liquor and distillers. The State’s excise revenue consists of excise duty, privilege fee, licence fee, import fee, brand registration, and renewal fee. The irregularities are short payment of Value Added Tax (VAT) due to incorrect adoption of turnover, non-payment of differential excise duty on the closing stock of liquor, incorrect refund and short collection of privilege fee, and excise duty and non collection of establishment charges. The auditing body flagged irregularities in as many as 39 out of 164 cases that took place between the said period. The CAG said Tasmac had incorrectly computed its turnover by deducting the discount offered to liquor manufacturers. Consequently, there was a short payment of VAT, causing a revenue loss of `424.02 crore. During the exit conference, it was replied to the CAG that `126.25 crore was paid by Ta s m a c, b a s e d o n a u d i t findings. However, the audit report stated that incorrect computation resulted in the short collection of VAT to the tune of `297.7 crore. continued on: p4 CHASING invincibility is never easy Pressure, as most elite ath. letes maintain, is a privilege. But add expectation and history to the mix and it can turn heady. Especially in a world filled with unending news cycles, where the best can feel claustrophobic from all the attention. Novak Djokovic temporarily lifted the veil to allow mortals a peek into this world at the Tokyo Olympics. He arrived in Japan as the prohibitive favourite to win a fourth gong in his quest to complete a Golden Slam: winning four Majors as well as an Olympics gold. It’s hard. Only one player in history, Steffi Graf (1988), had done it. The Serb failed in this lofty quest, going down in the semifinal in Tokyo. In the bronze medal match, there was a spectacular implosion. At one point, he flung his racquet into the stands. On another occasion, he broke it so badly even the scrapyard wouldn’t have accepted its remains. On Sunday night, inside the sport’s biggest theatre — Arthur Ashe Stadium — the 34-year-old was chasing another piece of history. The Grand Slam, win- ning all four in a calendar year. Only five have done it ever. The narrative was set in stone even before the final. It would be the night of Djokovic’s coronation. Not just a Grand Slam but the night would also see him move past both Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer for sole lead of Russia’s Daniil Medvedev won his first Major defeating World No 1 Novak Djokovic 6-4, 6-4, 6-4 in the US Open final Everything that mentally, emotionally I had to deal with throughout the tournament in the last couple of weeks was just a lot. It was a lot to handle — Djokovic Novak Djokovic breaks the racquet after losing a point to Daniil Medvedev | AP most Majors won by a male. There was logic behind that assertion. Coming into the final, the Djokovic-ian trait of coming back after losing the first set, winning the most important points in matches and outlasting opponents were all present. Even when he lost the first set to Daniil Medvedev, there was no cause for alarm. Ten minutes later, though, the pendulum shifted dramatically . The Serb lost five break point opportunities to let the Russian off the hook. There was also a code warning for racquet abuse in this period. Watching him, it was evident he wasn’t being himself. It seemed like he was emotionally spent. Something he agreed in the post match press conference. “I was glad it was over,” he said. “Mentally, emotionally I had to deal with throughout the tournament in the last couple of weeks was just a lot to handle.”
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