KOCHI l friday l December 03, 2021 l `7.00 l PAGES 16 l LATE city EDITION 164 proposals on appointing HC judges in consideration Law minister informs Parliament about the judge-selection process conducted by the Supreme Court collegium and govt 406 judge vacancies in high courts A total of 164 proposals on appointing high court judges are at different stages of consideration, Kiren Rijiju said in response to a Rajya Sabha question. High courts have a vacancy of 406 judges while the apex court has one. This year, nine apex court judges and 118 high court judges were appointed. Currently, no high court has a woman Chief Justice ■ 1,098 Huge Case backlog in lower judiciary ■ Of the proposals to appoint HC judges, 55 have been either remitted or returned on SC collegium’s advice to HCs this year While 70,038 cases are pending in the Supreme Court, 56,42,858 are pending in the various high courts. In the lower judiciary, a staggering 3,79,42,466 cases are pending, according to Rijiju | P7 combined Sanctioned strength of judges in 25 high courts 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 First cases of Omicron found in India what we know 1 2 Medical practitioner, 46, from Bengaluru with no history of travel tested positive on November 22 Was in home isolation after complaining of tiredness, body ache, mild fever Govt traced his 13 primary and 205 secondary contacts and found that five of them tested positive South African man, 66, tested positive on November 20 at the Bengaluru International Airport He had been isolated in a hotel and his symptoms were not severe, authorities said Contact-tracing done. His 24 primary and 240 secondary contacts tested negative. He flew out to Dubai later that month Both men were doubly vaccinated 373 cases of Omicron found in 29 nations so far The variant also has three mutations in the furin cleavage site, which increases SARS-CoV-2 infectivity. However, it is still unclear whether Omicron is more transmissible than other variants Both detected in Bengaluru after genomic sequencing; mask up, but don’t panic, says govt; concern over community transmission Chetana Be l a g ere @ Bengaluru The country’s first Omicron cases were recorded in Karnataka on Thursday, and one of the two cases is a local from Bengaluru with no international travel history . Karnataka Health Minister Dr K Sudhakar, said the 46-yearold doctor, the local case of the new Omicron variant of the coronavirus, is a resident of Bommanahalli, Bengaluru. The doctor was in home isolation for two days after testing positive and, on November 25, was admitted to a private hospital. After three days of treatment, he was discharged on November 27. Authorities in the state have expressed fears of community spread of the variant as the doctor had no travel history and five of his contacts have also tested positive for Covid-19. Their genomic sequencing reports are awaited. The announcement of the two Omicron cases was made by the Union health ministry at a press conference in New Delhi on Thursday. Lav Agarwal, the ministry’s joint secretary, called for calm and strict surveillance. “There is no reason Gloves are off as Cong hits back at Mamata R i c ha S har m a @ New Delhi With West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee making pointed attacks on the Congress, the latter began giving it back in equal measure, with the charge led by its young leaders to start with. From calling Congress incompetent to saying there is no UPA, Mamata has been vocal in her criticism so as to wrest the Opposition leadership space. At her recent meeting with NCP chief Sharad Pawar in Mumbai, she is learnt to have floated the idea of regional parties forming an Opposition alliance and making seat arrangements for the 2024 Lok Sabha polls, while bringing the Congress to the table after the polls, sources said. Separately, her strategist Prashant Kishor took a swipe at Congress leader Rahul Gandhi, calling for democratically electing the Opposition leadership, adding it was not the “divine right of an individual”. Congress leaders this newspaper spoke to said the party will drop its restraint and taken on the Trinamool based on facts, though seniors would stay out for now. The counterattack has already begun with party MPs Manickam Tagore, Sayeed Naeer Hussain and others saying Mamata has no business commenting on the UPA. A senior leader said the Congress is the principal opposition party with around 20% vote share in the 2019 elections. “TMC is limited to Bengal. They went chest thumping in Tripura but we saw the results in the LSG polls. Goa Assembly results will further clear the air,” the leader said. to panic, but we need to be monitoring the situation and follow Covid-appropriate behaviour.” Meanwhile, the civic body Bruhat Bengaluru Mahangara Palike (BBMP) tested 13 of the doctor’s primary contacts, mostly his family and healthcare workers, as well as 205 secondary contacts. It found that two of the primary contacts and three secondary ones tested positive for the coronavirus. The other case is a South African national, who left India on November 27 for Dubai. He arrived at Kempegowda International Airport (KIA) from Dubai on November 20 with a RT-PCR negative report from South Africa and was screened and tested at KIA on arrival. He then checked into a hotel and his test came back positive. The 66-year-old was found to be asymptomatic and was advised to self-isolate at the hotel. On November 22, his samples were sent for genomic sequencing through the BBMP The pa. tient took another test at a private lab on November 23 and the result was negative. His 24 primary contacts and 240 secondary contacts are asymptomatic and tested negative. @ T’Puram Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan on Thursday wrote to his Tamil Nadu counterpart M K Stalin, conveying Kerala’s concern over the release of water from the Mullaperiyar dam at night without a warning. The sudden release of water from the dam on Wednesday night and in the wee hours of Thursday had resulted in a considerable rise in the water level in the Periyar, flooding several houses at Vallakkadavu in the downstream. In the letter, Pinarayi urged Stalin to issue necessary directives to officials to ensure that the dam shutters are opened only during daytime and after issuing sufficient warning. Meanwhile, the opening of dam shutters without warning by TN sparked protests among ‘New dam possible only if Kerala & Tamil Nadu agree’ New Delhi: The Union Jal Shakti Ministry has informed Parliament that the construction of a new dam, replacing the old one at Mullaperiyar in Idukki, is possible only after a consensus is arrived at by the two states — Tamil Nadu and Kerala. P5 villagers living downstream who blame the state government for its silence on the issue. The residents led by the Pourasamithi blocked the Kollam-Dindigul national highway on Thursday demanding immediate government action on the issue. A march was also organised in Vandiperiyar town. In the letter to Stalin, Pinarayi said shutters VI to V8 of ‘Charged with aiding Passengers arrive from Singapore at the Indira Gandhi International Airport in New Delhi on Thursday | PTI symptoms different from that of Delta? Minister calls for heightened vigil Extreme tiredness and body pain T’Puram: In view of the Omicron variant threat, Health Minister Veena George called for high vigil in the state. She said Kerala has intensified its preparedness to deal with the situation, though no Omicron case has been reported in the state so far No loss of smell or taste While WHO says the symptoms of Omicron are not different, South African doctors say most Omicron patients have mild issues, such as extreme tiredness, body pain, besides sore throat, dry coughs and fever. Loss of taste or smell & low oxygen was typical of Delta Jab-o-meter Take your shot Dec 01 71,55,049 doses Dec 02 66,21,382 doses Total: 1,25,65,96,957 NATIONWIDE dec 01 dec 02 Fresh cases 8,954 9,765 Recoveries 10,204 8,548 Deaths 267 477 A R S H A D K H A N @ New Delhi Alert us before raising dam shutters, avoid it at night, Pinarayi urges Stalin E x p ress N e w s S er v i c e T o b y A nt o n y @Kochi statewide dec 01 dec 02 Fresh cases Recoveries Deaths 5,405 4,700 4,538 4,128 96 66 Brace for a bumpy year ahead as cars, houses to cost more With commodity prices showing no signs of abating, year 2022 is going two be costlier on many fronts — especially if you were planning to buy a new car or a house. India’s largest carmaker Maruti Suzuki on Thursday said it would increase vehicle prices from January to offset the impact of the rise in raw material costs. It is a common practice for automakers to go for a price hike of 2-4% in January every year. However this year, buyers will feel the pinch more as most leading automakers have gone for at least three price hikes in the past one year. For example, Maruti had increased the prices of its vehicles by 1.4% in Janu- the dam were opened at 3am on Thursday “Sufficient warning . was not given before substantial discharge of 6,413 cusecs, which was subsequently increased to 8,017 cusecs at 4am by opening all the 10 shutters,” he said. On November 30, the chief secretary had alerted his TN counterpart about the high water level in the downstream areas like Vandiperiyar and the anxiety of the people. Shutterrelease at the rate of around 5,700 cusecs has been the cause of flooding of houses in the downstream. “The release of water has to be planned, gradual and only during that time after giving adequate warning to the people in the downstream area. The discharge of water at night and early morning without prior warning creates avoidable panic and risk,” said Pinarayi, while seeking the TN chief minister’s urgent intervention in the matter. Periya double murder: CBI names CPM ex-MLA Kunhiraman accused ary 2021, 1.6% in April and then again in September by 1.9% — taking the total quantum of increase to 4.9%. Sources said Tata Motors, Mahindra & Mahindra and Hyundai will issue similar announcements soon. Luxury automakers Mercedes Benz and Audi have already announced price hikes of 2% and 3%, respectively, from January 2022. MSIL’s senior executive director (marketing and sales) Shashank Srivastava had recently said the firm would be forced to hike vehicle prices with steel, aluminium, copper, plastic and precious metals becoming costlier. Steel prices, which stood at `38 per kg last April-May, shot up to `77 a kg this year. If unchecked, this surge in metal prices, along with a surge in cement prices, is going to jack up property prices as well. Cement price to touch L400 per bag: Crisil The retail price of cement, which has risen H10-15 per bag since August, may swell by another H15-20 over the next few months, ratings agency Crisil said in a report. The price could touch H400 per bag this fiscal due to costly inputs such as coal and diesel, it added The ruling CPM, which was accused persons’ left red-faced following the arK V Kunhiraman is charged rest of five of its members on with aiding persons, who Wednesday in the 2019 Periya were directly involved in the double murder case, was dealt murder of Youth Congress another blow on Thursday afworkers Kripesh and ter the CBI arraigned former Sarath Lal P K, after the party MLA K V Kunhiraman as crime in 2019. an accused in the case. The 59-year-old CPM KasaraThe CBI is yet to take a call god district secretariat leader on recording Kunhiraman’s is charged with aiding persons, arrest in the case who were directly involved in the murder of Youth Congress no evidence of his direct workers Kripesh, 19, role in the double murand Sarath Lal P K, 24, der. This is being invesafter the crime. tigated. However, we The central agency is will question him again. yet to take a call on reWe will take a call on the cording Kunhiraman’s arrest procedures based arrest. Sources in the on the evidence we CBI said there is no evidence so far of his di- K V Kunhiraman find,” said a source. Besides Kunhiraman, rect role in the crime which took place at Periya in CPM workers Raghavan VeKasaragod on February 17, lutholy of Pakkam, K V Bhaskaran of Pakkam, Gopakumar 2019. The CBI named Kunhiraman alias Gopan Velutholy of Paas accused in its report submit- nayal and Sandeep P V alias ted before the Ernakulam Chief Sandeep Velutholy of Pallikare Judicial Magistrate Court after (all in Kasaragod), along with it produced the five arrested the five persons arrested on CPM men — A Surendran, Mad- Wednesday, were arraigned in hu A, Reji Varghese, Hari Pras- t h e c a s e by t h e C B I o n ad and Rajesh P — in court. The Thursday . court remanded them in judiAs per the CBI report filed in cial custody till December 15. the court, the police had caught Sources in the CBI said Kun- second accused Saji George hiraman had been questioned from Pakkam area in Kasaratwice, including two days ago god on February 18/19, 2019, af● More on P4 in Kasaragod. “So far, there is ter the murder. CPM leader hacked to death in Tiruvalla E XP R E S S N E W S S E R VIC E @Pathanamthitta/ T’Puram The CPM Peringara local committee secretary, P B Sandeep Kumar, 32, was hacked to death by a group of men on Thursday evening. The CPM district leadership has alleged that his murder was a planned one and that RSS men were behind the attack. Tiruvalla DySP T Rajappan said a six-member team that arrived on two-wheelers had attacked Sandeep. “The incident took place around 8pm at Chathankary in Tiruvalla. We haven’t confirmed whether it was a political murder. We have launched a search for the culprits behind the murder,” the officer said. Meanwhile, CPM Pathanamthitta district leader Sanal Kumar alleged a gang led by a person called Jishnu had hacked Sandeep. “Sandeep was a popular face of the party It . was a deliberate plan by the RSS to create ten● More on P4 sion in the region,” said Sanal. P B Sandeep Kumar Sandeep was killed by RSS criminals. It’s a planned murder. It’s part of the RSS conspiracy to disrupt the peaceful atmosphere in state A Vijayaraghavan, CPM secretary in-charge True grit Kattunayakan tribe gets its first BTech graduate E x p ress N e w s S er v i c e @Kalpetta Sruthi Raj, the elder of the Raju-Sunitha couple’s two children, has broken a barrier. She has become the first person from the Kattunayakan tribe to earn a BTech degree. A resident of the Nethaji tribal colony at Chelur in Kattikulam, she has achieved the feat on the back of sheer determination and hard work. But the journey has not been an easy one for Sruthi. “I scored 86% in the SSLC exams. Fortunately, I got a spon- sor for my higher studies. But she cleared the subject this the college days were a period year. “I completed BTech with of struggle,” Sruthi says. She 60% marks. While many stuenrolled for the BTech dents in my community course in electronics discontinue their studand communication at ies, I kept on trying to the Government Engifinish the course,” says neering Colle ge in Sruthi, who aims to get Wayanad during 2014a job in the public sec18. “I had to clear a pator. She had studied till Sruthi Raj per ‘microprocessor Class 10 at the Governand controller’. I failed ment HSS in Kattikuon my first two attempts. But I lam, and did her Plus Two at wanted to complete BTech,” the Government Vocational she says. HSS in Mananthavady. Now So she went for special coach- she is preparing for the Public ing, and on her third attempt, Service Commission examina- tions. “I’m getting special training for the exams,” Sruthi says. K C Cheriyan, district project officer of the Integrated Tribal Development Prog ramme, Wayanad, said: “The Kattunayakan tribe is mainly spread across the forest areas of Wayanad, Nilambur and Palakkad. So far, we haven’t received any information on any student completing the BTech course. Sruthi is the first person from her community to achieve the feat. Sruthi’s parents are daily wage labourers. EXPRESS READ Maha govt suspends Mumbai’s ex-top cop Mumbai: The Maharashtra government on Thursday suspended former Mumbai police commissioner Parambir Singh, who faces extortion charges. Singh had also accused a former home minister of corruption | P10 Delhi pollution: SC sets 24-hour deadline New Delhi: Hinting that it might create a task force to monitor pollution control measures, the Supreme Court on Thursday gave 24 hours to the Centre to take action to check the rising air pollution in Delhi-NCR. “We are giving you 24 hours’ time. We want you to take a hard look at this and come up with a solution with seriousness. We will take this up tomorrow morning,” the court said. P8 16 pages, including 4 pages of KOCHI Express Vibrant local economy key to state’s revival Having lost out in attracting investments from outside, the way forward for Kerala may be to tap its immense potential available within to emerge as self-reliant powerhouse. P2
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