chennai l friday l november 26, 2021 l `7.00 l PAGES 36 l late city EDITION Virus variant with unusually high mutation count found B.1.1.529 has been found in South Africa, Botswana & Hong Kong; the Centre has asked states to test travellers from these places Unfamiliar mutations spark concern The new coronavirus variant has at least 32 spike mutations, compared to 16 for Delta. It may not just spread more efficiently, but might be able to get around parts of the immune system, said researcher Richard Lessells. Some of the mutations are also unfamiliar to scientists. So far the variant has been seen spreading especially among young people, reports said ■ 100 origins in untreated HIV patient? ■ The variant could have evolved during the chronic infection of a person with compromised immunity, which can prolong infection The variant is of serious concern and behind an exponential rise in cases, said South Africa’s health minister Joe Phaahla. WHO officials have met to discuss B.1.1.529 | P11, P20 Cases linked to the variant detected in South Africa 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 NEET counselling deferred, `8L EWS cap to be revisited E x p r ess n e w s se r v i c e @ New Delhi The Centre on Thursday told the Supreme Court that it is ready to revisit the `8 lakh annual income criteria for the Economically Weaker Sections (EWS) reservation category . The government assured the apex court Bench, led by Justice D Y Chandrachud, that the National Eligibility cum Entrance Test (NEET-PG) counselling would be deferred for four weeks till a decision was taken on the EWS quota. The submission came in a case filed by NEET aspirants challenging a July 29 notification announcing 27% quota for Other Backward Class (OBC) and 10% reservation for EWS in the All India Quota (AIQ) category . Senior Advocate Arvind P Datar, appearing for the petitioners (students), suggested that the implementation of the EWS could be postponed to next academic year, as the admissions for this year are already delayed. The Bench, which also comprised Justices Surya Kant, and Vikram Nath, asked the Solicitor General if the implementation of the constitutional amendment could be pushed to he next academic year. “What happens is that we are at the end of November. Suppose you complete it by the end of De- cember and then implementation etc and then the terms would begin only sometime in February-March. Two months, the students are losing the time. This is something you may want to consider,” Justice DY Chandrachud questioned Mehta. He replied that it might be a difficult proposition as the Government wants to take steps as per the constitutional amendment providing for No potential deferment for OBC quota While a possible deferment of the EWS quota is being discussed, Advocate Shashank Ratnoo, appearing on behalf of some OBC candidates, requested that the application of reservation to OBC students should not be deferred as the Centre is planning to revisit the EWS criteria. The Bench said that it has not said anything on OBC students and is not disposing of the petition Congress becomes pawn in TMC’s pan-India plans economic reservation. Justice Kant said, “The EWS quota is a very enabling and progressive kind of reservation and all States should support the Centre in its endeavour”. The Bench said that the only question is that determination of the category should be in a scientific manner and it appreciates that the Centre has taken a decision to revisit the criteria earlier fixed In a previous hearing, the apex court had expressed its annoyance at the government for not filing an affidavit explaining how it reached the `8 lakh figure to identify the EWS category for grant of reservation. 25 cm in 9 hrs drowns Pearl city S G o d s o n W i se ly D a ss @ Thoothukudi Political observers point out that by upstaging the grand old party in Meghalaya, the Trinamool Congress is indirectly helping the BJP P r a s a n ta M a z u m d a r @ Guwahati With 12 of the 17 Congress MLAs in Meghalaya joining the Trinamool Congress (TMC) overnight, the grand old party appears to have become the biggest victim of the Mamata Banerjee-led party’s ambition of becoming a pan-India rival to the Bharatiya Janata Party . After its hard-fought victory in West Bengal early this year, the TMC is on an acquisition spree to draw disgruntled leaders from other parties, mostly Congress. By doing so, it is virtually hijacking the political space hitherto occupied by the grand old party . The TMC had already set its sights on BJP-ruled Tripura and Goa to expand its base outside Bengal. Meghalaya is the latest addition to the list. The late-night coup in Shillong relegated the Congress to a smaller party and effectively made the TMC the state’s main opposition party. The development comes 14 months ahead of the ‘Congress failed as Oppn’ On Thursday, former CM Mukul Sangma justified his decision to switch sides saying the Congress was failing as an opposition party and that TMC could be the panIndia alternative to the BJP. “We looked at available options and reached out to people and friends,” he told reporters Assembly polls in Meghalaya, which is ruled by a coalition of parties headed by the National People’s Party a BJP ally , . Infighting in the Congress, especially after Shillong MP Vincent H Pala took over as the state unit chief two months ago, is said to have triggered the dramatic developments on Wednesday night. Former chief minister Mukul Sangma was the sole contender for the CM post in case the Congress returns to power in 2023 and he felt threatened by Pala’s appointment as PCC chief. Congress insiders in the state admitted the TMC had dealt a body blow to the party facing a depleting popularity ever since the BJP’s emergence as a powerhouse nationwide in 2014. Political observers, however, pointed out that by targeting the Congress, the TMC is indirectly helping the BJP . As regards Goa, the TMC’s entry would hurt only the Congress as the BJP has its vote bank intact. Similarly the TMC , is trying to make inroads into Tripura at the expense of the Congress and the Left parties. Thursday’s civic election in the state was its launch pad. Mamata’s much-hyped meeting with Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Wednesday and her not calling on Congress chief Sonia Gandhi is to be seen in the above context. P11 express read ‘Religious conversion does not change caste’ all set to take off Prime Minister Narendra Modi visits an exhibition on Noida International Airport, for which he laid the foundation stone on Thursday in Jewar. Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath is standing on his left | PTI | P12 Chennai: Converting from one religion to another doesn’t change a person’s caste, the Madras High Court recently held, while disposing a petition seeking an inter-caste marriage certificate. The plea sought an inter-caste marriage certificate for an Adi Dravidar man who converted to Christianity | P4 WITH THIS ISSUE CHENNAI’S BEST WEEKEND GUIDE 36 PAGES, INCLUDING 16 OF INDULGE (TABLOID) After rains on Thursday, the Thoothukudi Railway Station was flooded | Express Chennai wastes nearly 2 yrs’ water supply in just 20 days KV N a v ya @ Chennai The amount of water let into the sea over the past three weeks could have catered to Chennai’s water needs for one-and-a-half years. According to official sources, over 20 thousand million cubic ft (TMC) of water was released from five major reservoirs in the city (which supply drinking water) since November 6. With Chennai’s water requirement being 1 TMC per month, about 20 months’ supply was wasted. Even on Thursday as much , as 2,000 cusecs of water continued to be released from the Chembarambakkam and Red Hills reservoirs. Public Works Department officials said they would wait for the rains to subside before beginning desilting work. Currently, water is being released in phases to avoid in- undation in the low-lying areas, officials said. However, experts pointed out that no lessons were learnt after the 2015 deluge, when drinking water that would suffice for 25 years was wasted. “After facing the worst drought in 2019, the reservoirs were neither desilted nor deepened even when they we r e b o n e d r y. Moreover, the runoff (the amount of rainwater wasted) is 80 per cent,” said S Janakarajan, water conservation expert. Chennai has nearly 4,200 small waterbodies and an average annual rainfall of 140 cm. A retired professor from the State Water Resources department, P Ramachandran said, with such heavy rainfall, if water is stored, there would be no need for desalination plants to meet drinking water needs. Continued on: P5 ITC begins clinical trial for coronavirus nasal spray ITC has confirmed it is developing a nasal spray for preventing Covid-19 and said it has initiated clinical trials for the product. The spray is meant to halt the virus at the entry point of the nasal cavity Thoothukudi received a whopping 25 cm of rain within just nine hours on Thursday, forcing weather officials to issue a red alert to the district. The incessant rains left the district reeling with an average rainfall of 9.1 cm between 6 am and 5 pm. The Thoothukudi airport diverted a flight from Chennai to Tiruchy due to inclement weather while train services were affected as rail tracks were inundated. Even the famous Tiruchendur Temple was not spared from flooding. Heavy rains, with thunder and lightning, were seen in several of Tamil Nadu’s southern districts, and hundreds of residential areas and hamlets on the banks of rivers and streams were submerged. However, the Regional Meteorological Centre said the cyclonic circulation over southwest Bay of Bengal was unlikely to concentrate into a low pressure area. Nonetheless, heavy to very heavy rains would continue to lash TN, Puducherry and Karaikal till Monday Weather models have . predicted massive rains for beleaguered Chennai over the coming weekend and until Wednesday. As the 2015 extreme rainfall event was also not caused by any major weather system, weather blog- gers have urged caution till then. The meteorological department has withdrawn the orange alert for the city and issued a yellow alert (heavy rainfall) for the next two days. The heavy downpour left residential colonies in Tirunelveli and Tenkasi inundated while flash floods were seen near the Courtallam waterfalls. Heavy rains lashed Madurai since Thursday afternoon, leaving roads inundated, while Virudhunagar saw a few hours of heavy rain- weather stats Place Kayalpattinam Tiruchendur Palayamkottai Sattur Srivilliputhur Tirunelveli Paramakudi Rainfall* 246 mm 220 mm 90 mm 72 mm 69 mm 64 mm 58 mm * In 12 hours on Thursday fall. Ramanathapuram recorded 37.6 cm of rainfall in the 12 hours ending 6 pm Thursday . In Thoothukudi, airport authorities said the ChennaiThoothukudi flight, with 51 passengers, scheduled to land at 1.50 pm, was unable to. TN Speaker and Radhapuram MLA M Appavu, who was on the flight, said it was redirected to Tiruchy after repeated attempts to land went in vain due to heavy rains and poor visibility. “Later, the flight landed at Thoothukudi Airport at 5.05 pm,” he added. P5 Schools, colleges closed today in several districts Following the heavy rains battering the State, Madurai, Sivaganga, Tiruvarur, Tiruchy and Ramanathapuram district administrations have declared a one-day holiday for schools in their respective districts on Friday. The Tirunelveli, Thoothukudi, Tenkasi, Dindigul, Theni Pudukkottai, Ariyalur, Perambalur and Virudhunagar district administrations have declared holidays for both schools and colleges in their respective districts Jab-o-meter Take your shot Nov 24 79,65,803 doses Nov 25 74,59,819 doses Total: 120,17,25,296 NATIONWIDE nov 24 nov 25 tamil nadu nov 24 nov 25 Fresh cases 9,283 9,119 Recoveries 10,949 10,264 Deaths 437 396 Fresh cases Recoveries Deaths 744 782 14 739 764 17 ‘Inspired’ by Amma canteen, DMK After absconding, Mumbai’s ex-top cop surfaces to set up 500 Kalaignar Unavagams S u d h i r S u r ya w a n s h i @ Mumbai T M u r u g a n a n d h a m @ Chennai The Tamil Nadu government will soon open 500 Kalaignar Unavagams (Kalaignar Canteens) in addition to the 650 Amma Unavagams (Amma Canteens) already functioning in the State, TN Food Minister R Sakkarapani announced on Thursday. The DMK government sought 100 per cent assistance from the Union government to run these canteens. Speaking at a meeting convened by the Union Food and Public Distribution Minister at New Delhi, Sakkarapani acknowledged how the Amma Canteen scheme, launched by former CM late J Jayalalithaa in 2013, has benefitted the poor. He said the canteens, which will be opened soon, would be named after Kalaignar, an honorific title for former chief minister late M Karunanidhi. He said until September 2021, 3,227 metric tonnes of rice and 362 tonnes of wheat were used under this scheme. Approximately `3.50 lakh is spent per kitchen per month. “To run this scheme and sustain it successfully we request , the Union government to provide 100 per cent assistance under the National Food Security Act, 2013 to extend its benefits to all,” he said. P9 New projects coming up TN has categorised chemicals and petrochemicals as sunrise sectors and will set up three large petrochemical projects in Thoothukudi, Nagapattinam and Cuddalore | P4 100% Central aid sought Minister Sakkarapani requested the Union government to provide 100% assistance under the National Food Security Act, 2013, to run and sustain Kalaignar Unavagams ‘Canteen helps patients’ Sakkarapani said Amma Unavagams are also located at government hospitals near the district headquarters to help the attendants of patients and outpatients Mumbai’s former police chief Param Bir Singh, who faces at least five charges of extortion and corruption in Maharashtra and had been missing for months, appeared at the city police’s Crime Branch Unit 11 office on Thursday morning. Meanwhile, Maharashtra DGP Sanjay Pandey has moved a report on suspending Singh, who holds the DG, Home Guard post. The report has been submitted to Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray, who is said to be discussing the issue with alliance partner NCP . A highly placed source in the gover nment said, “Singh is in Mumbai therefore things may move fast. The government is discussing if Singh should be arrested first and then suspended, or vice versa.” The source said NCP chief Sharad Pawar is furious over the arrest of former Maharashtra home minister Anil Deshmukh, against whom Singh leveled allegations of corruption. Pawar is determined to teach Singh as well as the Centre a lesson, the source added. “Singh was used to level charges and now he is backtracking, term- ing the charges hearsay,” the source said, referring to a recent claim by Singh’s lawyer that the former police commissioner’s allegations against Deshmukh were “hearsay” and based on information provided by other officers. At the Crime Branch office on Thursday Singh was grilled , for seven hours and his statement was recorded in an extortion case registered against him at the Goregaon police station in Mumbai. “As per direction by the Su- ‘Param bir destroyed Kasab’s phone’ Retired Assistant Police Commissioner Samsher Khan Pathan claimed in a complaint that Param Bir Singh “destroyed” a mobile phone seized from the 26/11 terror attack convict Mohammed Ajmal Kasab preme court, I will extend all co-operation to the investigation agencies. I have faith in the judiciary Singh told reporters ,” after flying in from Chandigarh. On Monday the Supreme , Court had granted Singh protection from arrest. Singh has not reported to work since May. He had been shunted out after police officer Sachin Waze was arrested in the case of an explosive-laden SUV found near Mukesh Ambani’s house, and the subsequent death of businessman Mansukh Hiran On November 17, a Mumbai court declared Singh an absconder and told him that if he does not appear before investigative agencies in 30 days, his properties will be attached.
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