chennai l tuesday l december 7, 2021 l `7.00 l PAGES 12 l vellore EDITION with series win over kiwis, India Reclaim top ranking Virat Kohli & Co are No 1 ranked Test team after beating world champions New Zealand by 372 runs at Wankhede Stadium Dominating show continues at home Ashwin chases Murali, Kumble record India’s victory margin is their highest in Tests in terms of runs. The win against New Zealand is their 14th straight series win at home, with their last defeat dating back to 2012 against England. Since 2013, India have lost only two Test matches at home. New Zealand, meanwhile, are without a Test win in India since 1988 | p11 ■ ■ Nine Man-of-the-Series awards for R Ashwin in Tests put him on level with South African great Jacques Kallis. Only Muttiah Muralitharan (11 awards) is ahead of Ashwin now Ashwin now has 300 Test wickets at home, the second Indian to achieve the feat. Anil Kumble, with 350 wickets leads the list 14/225 Ajaz patel’s match figures are the best by a player in a losing side 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 It’s official: OPS and EPS to continue as AIADMK’s top leaders E X P RE S S N E W S S ERV I CE @ Chennai As expected, O Panneerselvam and Edappadi K Palaniswami were on Monday declared elected unopposed as coordinator and joint coordinator of the AIADMK respectively, a formalisation of their continued leadership of the party. Within an hour of assuming charge, the 900 employees of Better.com axed on Zoom S amiksha G o e l @ New Delhi Call it Worse.com if you will. The CEO of US-based firm Better.com, Vishal Garg, laid off 900 employees during a bizarre Zoom call, shocking the company’s staff ahead of the festive season. The sacked employees comprised about 9% of the digital mortgage lender. Reports said the lay-offs are mainly in India and the US, and that the Zoom call lasted just three minutes. “If you’re on this call, you are Vishal Garg part of the unlucky group being laid off. Your employment here is terminated effective immediately Garg said in the ,” one-way video call on December 1. An employee filmed the call and leaked it recently on social media. One of the laid-off workers told this newspaper that they felt cheated and devastated, as the call came out of the blue. Garg, an abrasive executive, had once called his employees “a bunch of DUMB DOLPHINS” in a staff email. TechCrunch speculated that the lay-offs may have been a condition for Better.com’s backers — which include SoftBank — greenlighting a sooner-than-expected cash infusion of $750 million. @ New Delhi wHILE rising Covid cases in 50 districts of nine states have set alarm bells ringing in the backdrop of Omicron scare, experts say fears of a third wave of the pandemic may be unfounded at this stage. So far, a total of 23 Omicron infections have been confirmed in the country with Maharashtra reporting two more cases on Monday. “Two more cases of Omicron, a 37year-old South Africa returnee man and his 36-year-old US returnee friend, have been confirmed,” the state government said. Notably, neither of the two patients displayed any Covid symptom. And, both had taken Pfizer’s Covid-19 vaccine. Over the past 10 days, Rajasthan, Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Delhi, Karnataka, Jammu & Kashmir, Odisha and Mizoram have reported a notable uptick in active Covid cases, prompting the Union health ministry to shoot off letters asking these states to step up surveillance and disease containment measures. Jab-o-meter Take your shot Dec 05 24,55,911 doses Dec 06 71,91,939 doses Total: 128,66,56,967 duct of the polls. While the HC agreed to hear the plea — in which the petitioner also said he was brutally manhandled when he went to obtain nomination papers — on Tuesday, the AIADMK’s counsels told the City Civil Court that the election process had already been formalised. It may be recalled that former MP KC Palanisamy’s plea challenging the Palaniswami and Panneerselvam polls in the HC, was last week adjourned to January 7. Earlier, C Ponnaiyan, one of the AIADMK election commissioners, announced the poll results after the deadline for withdrawal of nominations ended at 4 pm. “Since only one nomination has been received for the posts of coordinator and joint coordinator and the nomination is in proper form as per the party’s bylaws, Panneerselvam and Palaniswami are declared elected... unopposed.” Though Ponnaiyan said many headquarters office-bearers, district secretaries, former ministers, and others filed nominations in support of Panneerselvam and Palaniswami, he did not share the number of such nominations received. Party functionaries and cadre celebrated the announcement by bursting crackers. Continued on: P4 Terror, trade dominate summit We perceive India as a great power, a friendly nation and a time-tested friend - Vladimir Putin Detailed discussion on Afghan situation and cross-border terror; enhanced cooperation in military, oil & gas, petrochem and space M AYA N K S I N G H @ New Delhi Prime Minister Narendra Modi greets visiting Russian President Vladimir Putin before their meeting at Hyderabad House in New Delhi on Monday | Shekhar Yadav Nine govt-to-govt pacts in basket of 28 Four agreements in defence sector signed In all, 28 agreements signed, including nine government-togovernment pacts. The G2G pacts include developing a roadmap for science, technology and innovation; IPR rights; military-technical ties from 2021 to 2031; earth sciences and geological study of subsoil; amendment to recognise seafarer’s identity documents; cultural exchange; peaceful use of outer space plus building and operating space launch vehicles and setting up ground-based space infrastructure India and Russia concluded four major defence equipment deals, including on procuring 6,01,427 AK-203 assault rifles through Indo-Russia Rifles Prt Ltd. The rifles will be manufactured at a cost of around `5,000 crore. The agreements were signed at the 20th meeting of the India-Russia Inter-Governmental Commission on Military and Military-Technical Cooperation. Another pact was on amending the agreement on cooperation in the field of manufacturing of the Kalashnikov series of small arms that was originally sealed in February 2019 Don’t panic, no third wave yet, say experts S U M I S U K A N YA D U T TA duo issued a joint statement announcing a State-wide agitation against the “lethargic attitude” of the DMK government on December 9. This came even as two persons filed petitions in the Madras High Court and a City Civil Court in Chennai respectively, challenging the duo’s reelection. Both petitioners alleged irregularities in the con- According to public health specialists, the spike in cases is the result of increased testing involving those who are seen asymptomatic or mil d ly symptomatic. Health economist Rijo M John, who has been studying Covid numbers since the beginning of the pandemic, said: “There is absolutely no sign of cases going up at the national level at the moment… We would not see a third wave as bad as the second in India.” Epidemiologist and health systems expert Dr Chandrakant Lahariya said he is not worried about the spread of Omicron pushing the wave of infections in the country “Based on available . information on the variant so far-we do not panic yet as in our kind of setting, any big third wave is now highly unlikely he opined. ,” “We need to understand that the number of infections in some districts and even the test positivity rate to some extent are bound to rise due to targeted testing and testing of even the asymptomatic or mildly symptomatic people,” Lahariya added. NATIONWIDE dec 05 dec 06 tamil nadu dec 05 dec 06 Fresh cases 8,895 8,306 Fresh cases Recoveries 6,918 8,834 Recoveries Deaths 2,796 211 Deaths 724 743 10 719 737 10 CROSS-border terrorism, the unfolding situation in Afghanistan and military cooperation apart from trade figured in the summit talks between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Russian President Vladimir here on Monday . India and Russia inked as many as 28 agreements during Putin’s visit. “President Putin’s visit was short but highly productive and substantive. There were excellent discussions between the two leaders. Twentyeight agreements/MoUs were concluded during this visit. These agreements include those between government-togovernment and business-tobusiness,” said foreign secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla. Briefing media after the summit talks, Shringla said bilateral trade and investment figured prominently in the talks. “This year, we’ve noticed an encouraging trend of growth in our trades compared to last year. Both sides are looking forward to continued increase in trade and investment trajectory he added. ,” During the talks, Modi and Putin decided to continue close consultation and coordination on Afghanistan. “Both sides were clear Afghan territory should not be used for shelter- ing, training or planning any acts of terrorism,” the foreign secretary said. Indo-Russian cooperation in the strategic area of energy was discussed in detail. “We have expressed our interest in further investments in the oil & gas sector, and in petrochemicals,” Shringla said. Putin said Russia’s cooperation with India in the military and technical spheres is unique. “By that I mean we develop technologies together as well as produce in India.” he said. On cross-border terrorism and Afghanistan, Putin said, “We continue to cooperate jointly on global agenda… our positions are similar. Naturally , we are concerned about everything that has got to do with terrorism. I mean fight against terrorism, drug trafficking, organised crime etc. We are concerned about the developments and situation in Afghanistan.” Sources said Putin called India a great nation. He also laid stress on boosting economic cooperation while giving his opening remarks during the meeting between the two leaders. Modi-Putin summit talks were held after the foreign and defence ministers of the two countries held their inaugural ‘2+2’ dialogue. This was Putin’s second visit abroad since the lockdown. P7 SC/ST Scholarship funds of `17 cr misappropriated in TN colleges Vign e sh V @ Madurai As much as `17.36 crore allotted for Scheduled Caste/Tribe students’ scholarships in over 65 colleges in Tamil Nadu was allegedly misappropriated between 2011 and 2014. Now, based on a complaint, the Directorate of Vigilance and Anti-Corrupt i o n’s ( DVAC ) Special Investigation Cell (SIC) has registered a case against unidentified officials from the Higher Education department and various colleges. Sources said government How the money was swindled Method Amount Issued to non-college entities `58.71 lakh Issued to same students in same years `38.27 lakh Issued to same students with different IDs `13.49 lakh Used for college maintenance `24 lakh Issued to ineligible students `14.32 lakh Disbursed for non-students `1.03 lakh Misappropriated Issued to students from other States `18.27 lakh from amount Issued to students of other communities `14.32 lakh due to govtquota students No acknowledgement from students `10.45 lakh B4.34cr officials and college authorities misappropriated the funds in connivance with one another. The special audit report mentioned that the fraud was committed in 37 different ways, and the largest chunk of `4.34 crore was misappropriated from the scholarship amount due to governmentquota students (see chart). The preliminary inquiry audit report revealed that SC/ST scholarships due to government-quota students were misappropriated causing a loss of `4.34 crore to the government. Continued on: P5 People attend a mass funeral of civilians killed by the Army in a case of mistaken identity, in Mon district of Nagaland on Monday | AFP Army tried to hide bodies: Naga govt P r asanta M a z umda r @ Guwahati ‘Mistaken identity’ Home Minister Amit Shah on Monday admitted in Parliament that the Nagaland firing was a case of mistaken identity and expressed regret over the civilian killings AFSPA gives unbridled powers to security forces. They can visit your house, frisk and arrest people without a warrant... This has to go Neiphiu Rio, Nagaland CM Special forces of the Army not only shot dead civilians in a case of mistaken identity in Nagaland’s Mon on Saturday they also tried to hide the , bodies under tarpaulin, a report by the state’s Director General of Police T John Longkumer and Commissioner Rovilatuo Mor revealed. A parallel first information report filed on the incident by the police was equally damning. Claiming that the Army did not inform them of the operation against insurgents, it alleged that “it is obvious that the intention of (the) security forces is to murder and injure civilians.” The report of the DGP and the Commissioner said the unarmed civilians were “ambushed and killed by security forces (reportedly 21 Para based in Assam) at random, apparently without any attempt for identification.” Six civilians were killed on the spot and two critically injured. What followed was a cover up attempt by hiding the bodies and possibly taking them to the Army camp. “On hearing the gunshots, the villagers went to the spot being apprehensive that the individuals did not return home from work… They found the pickup truck and the special forces personnel trying to hide the dead bodies...by wrapping and loading them in another pickup truck, apparently with the intention of taking the dead bodies to their base camp.” Violence broke out when the villagers found the bodies hidden under a tarpaulin sheet, the report said. A mass funeral for the victims was slated for Sunday but put off by a day without any clear announcement, which enraged the locals and resulted in an attack on an Assam Rifles camp in Mon, which left one protestor dead and six others with bulled injuries. Army men firing blanks further enraged the mob, the report added. P7 express read Govt can’t take coercive action under IT rules: HC Manapparai gets about 275 mm of rain in a day Chennai: The Madras High Court on Monday barred the Union government from taking coercive action against digital media platforms under the new ethics code of the Information Technology Rules without the court’s permission. It also told the govt to file counter-affidavits | P4 Tiruchy: Heavy rain for over three hours led to flooding in Manapparai on Monday. A maximum rainfall of 274.6 mm was recorded, which is the highest reported on a single day this year. The rains led to the Ariyar and Koraiyar rivers overflowing | P5 ‘Landmark decision’ Over 5K hectares of Kazhuveli Wetland now bird sanctuary S V K R I S H N A C H A I TA N YA @ Chennai The Tamil Nadu government on Monday declared 5,151.60 hectares of swamp/wetlands in Villupuram district as the Kazhuveli Wetland Bird Sanctuary, effectively putting the brakes on controversial infrastructural projects proposed in the ecolo gically-sensitive region. The declaration was made in exercise of the power conferred in sub section (1) of Section 18 of the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972. The Kazhuveli, or Kaliveli, wetland system is one of the largest waterfowl congregation sites in Tamil Nadu, and a wellknown raptor-roosting site for species such as the eastern imperial eagle, greater spotted eagle, red-necked falcon, and several harriers. The Kazhuveli Wetland Bird Sanctuary in Villupuram on Monday | DEBADATTA MALLICK In India, the grey-tailed tattler, a rare migratory wader, has been recorded only here and in Pulicat. Environment Secretary Supriya Sahu, who passed the government order, termed the declaration of the Kazhuveli as a bird sanctuary a landmark decision in the conservation history of India and Tamil Nadu. Continued on: P5
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