Sweden’s PM Magdalena Andersson villupuram l tuesday l may 17, 2022 l `9.00 l PAGES 12 l city EDITION after finland, now sweden confirms bid to join nato Citing threats from Russia, Sweden said on Monday it will seek to join NATO, reversing two centuries of military non-alignment Best thing for our security: Swedish PM putin warns of consequences Swedish Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson said NATO membership is “the best thing for Sweden’s security”, a day after neighbouring Finland confirmed its plan to seek a berth in the alliance. The historic shift in Stockholm’s security policy comes amid Russia’s war in Ukraine, which has led to a rise in public support in Sweden for joining NATO ■ President Vladimir Putin warned that the expansion of NATO military assets to these countries will provoke a Russian response ■ It may take about one year for the alliance’s 30 members to ratify Sweden’s application. NATO has assured Sweden of support in case it faces Russian aggression in the meantime | P9 51% People in Sweden support nato membership, as per a poll CHENNAI ■ MADURAI ■ VIJAYAWADA ■ BENGALURU ■ KOCHI ■ HYDERABAD ■ VISAKHAPATNAM ■ COIMBATORE ■ KOZHIKODE ■ THIRUVANANTHAPURAM ■ BELAGAVI ■ BHUBANESWAR ■ SHIVAMOgGA ■ MANGALURU ■ TIRUPATI ■ TIRUCHY ■ TIRUNELVELI ■ SAMBALPUR ■ HUBBALLI ■ DHARMAPURI ■ KOTTAYAM ■ KANNUR ■ VILLUPURAM ■ KOLLAM ■ TADEPALLIGUDEM ■ NAGAPATTINAM ■ THRISSUR ■ KALABURAGI Shivalinga? Gyanvapi area sealed Supreme Court to hear plea today challenging a Varanasi court-mandated survey of the mosque N a m i ta B a j pa i @ Lucknow Pricey fuel set to make flights costly Ars h a d K h a n @ New Delhi Airfares are likely to soar further as the government has hiked jet fuel prices by 5.29%, its 10th hike in the year so far. Fares have already shot up by 25-40% this year. The latest jump would only make flying costlier. Jet fuel rates account for about 40% of an airline’s running cost. Fares in many sectors have nearly doubled in the last two years or so. A quick search on any travel portal shows that a one-way flight in the busy Delhi-Mumbai sector is priced between `6,550-7,850 (May 23, non-stop, economy) while in the Delhi-Bengaluru sector it is `8,400-9,850. In the early 2020s, before Covid struck, a one-way DelhiMumbai economy class flight booked a week in advance was priced roughly at `3,500. For the Delhi-Bengaluru sector at that point in time, it was about `5,000. Multiple ticketing agents this newspaper spoke to said airfares in 2022 alone have shot up by up to 40% for tickets booked for flights that would take-off in 15 days, while it went up by up to 2530% if booked after 15 days. Rajiv Mehra, president, Indian Association of Tour Operators, told this newspaper, “5-10% hike is absorbable but when the fares go up by 30-40%, it dents the tourism sector. After the pandemic we were now hoping for good tourists’ arrival but these high fares have poured water on all our hopes.” The price of jet fuel, also called aviation turbine fuel, was increased by `6,188.25 per kilolitre, or 5.29%, to `1,23,039.71 per kl (`123 per litre) in Delhi. The fuel cost has been raised by a cumulative 61.7% from January to May 16 this year. The controversial court-mandated videography of the Gyanvapi mosque complex on Monday took a dramatic turn with a Varanasi court ordering the sealing of a pond after claims of having spotted a ‘Shivalinga’ in it, though the other side said it was just a defunct fountain. The pond is used by Muslim devotees for wuzu or purification rituals before offering namaz. The ongoing drama will shift to the Supreme Court on Tuesday where a bench of justices D Y Chandrachud and P S Narasimha will hear a plea filed by the Anjuman Intezamia Masjid that manages the affairs of the Gyanvapi mosque, challenging the courtmandated survey . The Varanasi court’s order came even as the videography was on, as one lawyer Harishankar Jain, representing a plaintiff, left the survey team midway and filed a court application about the ‘Shivalinga’. “As it is a very important piece of evidence, the area should be sealed immediately for its safety,” he Policemen stand guard during the third and last day of the controversial videographic survey at the Gyanvapi mosque complex, in Varanasi on Monday | PTI Report to be out today Varanasi District Magistrate Kushal Raj Sharma and courtappointed Advocate General Ajay Kumar Mishra neither confirmed nor denied the presence of the Shivalinga, saying it might be someone’s personal claim. Having concluded the three-day survey on Monday, they said the report will be submitted to the court on Tuesday said in his application. Jain also sought a ban on the entry of Muslims in that area besides allowing not more than 20 people to offer namaz at any given time. Judge Ravi Kumar Diwakar, while directing the district administration to seal the area of the wuzu pond, ordered restricted entry of people into that part of the mosque premises, but did not put a figure to it. The judge, however, made the state chief secretary and director general of police responsible for the supervision of the sealing process and PM uses buddhism thread to strengthen nepal ties Y es h i S e l i @ New Delhi Connected by the noble thread of Buddhism, India and Nepal are deepening ties in many spheres, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said during a day-long visit to Lumbini, the birthplace of Lord Buddha on the occasion of Buddha Purnima. “Today’s meeting with PM @ SherBDeuba was excellent. We discussed the full range of relations between India and Nepal,” Modi tweeted. He also laid the foundation stone for the India International Centre for Buddhist Culture and Heritage besides visiting the famous Mayadevi temple along with his Nepal counterpart Sher Bahadur Deuba. Both sides signed six pacts. Modi’s visit has cheered up Tibetans, many of whom hope it will help reduce China’s influence in Nepal. “China uses Buddhism for political reasons. We are glad that India and Nepal ties are strengthening again. Nepalese leaders need to be mindful of Chinese political manoeuvres,” said Tenzin Lekshay spokesperson for the Central Ti- the work done by the district magistrate, commissioner of police and the CRPF for the execution of the order. The Muslim side was shocked that the court ordered the sealing without hearing it. “The other side is misguiding the nation by calling a defunct fountain a Shivalinga,” said Raees Ahmad Ansari, the lawyer of Anjuman Intenzamia Masjid. Abhay Nath Yadav, representing the Muslim side, said everyone should wait for the submission of the survey report and subsequent court verdict without jumping to conclusions. District Magistrate Kushal Raj Sharma said after receiving the order, the wuzu pond area was isolated and sealed, adding alternative arrangements for wuzu were being made to ensure that Muslims did not face any problem in offering namaz. Other lawyers accompanying the court commission during the survey termed it a ‘historic day’ saying the evidence they collected would play a key role in all cases related to Gyanvapi in different courts. express read No fare hike in TNSTC buses: Minister Chennai: Transport Minister SS Sivasankar clarified on Monday the fares for the State transport buses operated to Andhra and Kerala have to be hiked as per the interstate transport agreement but the fare of State-owned transport corporation buses have not been hiked. Referring to the rumours about a fare hike, he said, “CM MK Stalin has not given any instruction to this effect.” | P4 Indigo ‘mishandled’passenger: DGCA Prime Minister Narendra Modi addresses a gathering on the 2566th Buddha Jayanti and Lumbini Day 2022 in Lumbini | pti betan Administration. For long China has sought to develop Lumbini and recently offered $3 billion to make it a World Peace City through the Asia Pacific Exchange and Cooperation Foundation. But China’s interest in Nepal through its Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) is making people wary . “I have always told my friends in Nepal that you are second in line after Tibet to be occupied by China. Nepal seems to have understood China’s objective and has pushed back in India’s favour,” Lekshay said. New Delhi: Indigo staff acted inappropriately in not allowing a specially-abled child from boarding a flight at the Ranchi airport last month, a preliminary probe by the DGCA has found. The civil aviation regulator has asked the airline to submit a show-cause notice and said action will be taken after hearing the submissions | P7 Sister city pact India and Nepal agreed in principle to establish sister city relations between Lumbini and Kushinagar, that are among the holiest sites of Buddhism, a statement by the Ministry of External Affairs said PM to launch revived Port-Maduravoyal proj C S h iva k u m a r @ Chennai PRIME Minister Narendra Modi on May 26 will lay the foundation stone for the 20.6 km double-decker elevated highway between Chennai Port and Maduravoyal to be built at a cost of `5,855 crore. This is the second time a PM will be laying a foundation stone for the project, which has been revived as a double decker after a decade. On Monday a memorandum of under, standing (MoU) was signed between the Tamil Nadu government and the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI), Chennai Port Trust and the Indian Navy for construction of the elevated expressway in the presence of Chief M i n - ister MK Stalin at the Secretariat. The tenders for the project, which comes under the ‘Gati Shakti’ initiative, are likely to be floated in July . In the double-decker elevated highway only local vehi, cles may travel on the first deck from Chennai Port to Koyambedu. On the second deck, only heavy vehicles will be allowed to travel from Chennai Port to Maduravoyal on either side. The project will have climbing and descending ramps at 13 places (seven entries and six exits). The elevated corridor will have a capacity to handle 40,000 passenger car units a day. When converted into trailers (six car units is equal to one trailer), this will be 6,500 units a day . CONTINUED ON: P4 Amid strike, CM asks PM to intervene on cotton prices E X P R E SS N E WS S E R V I C E @ Chennai proud posers Peafowl resting atop a tree at the Gandhi Museum in Madurai | k k sundar Three held for abducting Two dead in quarry mishap, two still trapped conductor from TN bus S ree m at h i M @ Tirunelveli Vriddhachalam municipality, about the incident. THREE persons were arrested “Singaravel and his supportfor assaulting and kidnapping a ers waited at the VriddhachaTamil Nadu State Transport lam bus stand and, once the bus Corporation (TNSTC) bus reached there, they dragged conductor at VriddhachaManikandan out, assaultlam on Sunday night. ed him and damaged the Police said they are windows of the bus. Afsearching for three othter warning off memers involved in the incibers of the public, who dent, including a mutried to help the conducnicipal councillor tor, they took him away belonging to the PMK. in an autorickshaw Three at The bus conductor, even as other bus drivlarge A Manikandan (29) ers and conductors Police said G was working on a bus tried to rescue him,” Govindarasu plying from sources in VriddhachChidambaram to Vrid- (20), T Mohanraj alam said. (40) and R dhachalam on Sunday TNSTC bus drivers evening when an argu- Ashokumar (19) and conductors immewere arrested ment broke out bediately boycotted their tween him and a pas- Sunday night but work and blocked the three others are Vriddhachalam to Ulsenger identified as S absconding Bhavani of Ramachundurpet road near andranpettai, police the bus stand in prosaid. The woman allegedly in- test. They also prevented priformed her relative S Singar- vate buses from leaving the bus avel, a PMK member and the stand, demanding the conduccouncillor for ward 27 of the tor be rescued. P3 E xpress N ews S ervice @ Cuddalore DEATH toll in the stone quarry mishap at Adaimithipankulam in Tirunelveli district rose to two on Monday, after the body of one of the three men still trapped beneath a giant boulder was retrieved by the 30-member National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) team that reached the site on Sunday night. The condition of the other two trapped men is not known although rescue efforts are continuing. Officials revealed the 2.36 hectare quar ry had been barred from continuing operations in April 2022 for mining beyond the permitted limit but the owners had continued work in violation of the law. The mishap occurred late Saturday night when a boulder rolled into the quarry trapping , the six men, following a landslide. J Vijayan (25), M Murugan (31) and S Selvan (25), all crane operators, were rescued alive on Sunday and rushed to the Tirunelveli Government Site barred from operating since April Geology and Mining department director L Nirmalraj said the private quarry had a licence till 2023 but in April was barred from operating for mining beyond permitted limit. Medical Hospital where Selvan succumbed to his injuries. On Monday the NDRF team man, aged to recover the body of M Selvakumar (30), a tipper lorry driver, from under the rocks. However, with the ground becoming unstable, the operations to rescue P Murugan (25), a cleaner, and P Rajendran (42), a tipper lorry driver, had to be suspended for a while. The NDRF team at work at the quarry mishap site on Monday | V karthikalagu During a press conference, Geology and Mining department director L Nirmalraj said the quarry had a licence from 2018 till 2023 but was barred from operating from April 2022. South Zone Inspector-General of Police Asra Garg said Nanguneri ASP Rajat R Chaturvedi had been appointed investigation officer and two persons, including the lessee Sankaranarayanan, had been arrested. “Quarry owners Selvaraj and his son Kumar are absconding. A case has been registered under Sections 304, 304 A, and 333 of the IPC and a special team has been formed to arrested the duo,” said State minister RS Rajakannappan. He noted there are 55 quarries in the district, of which three are not in use. Recently, six stone quarries near the Western Ghats were closed and a penalty of `20 crore has been imposed on quarry owners violating the law. “Further investigation will be conducted and quarries will be inspected using drones,” he added. AS Tamil Nadu textile units began a two-day strike on Monday, Chief Minister MK Stalin wrote to Prime Minister Narendra Modi expressing serious concern over the continuous increase in cotton and yarn prices, which is putting many units at the risk of closure. He sought specific immediate remedial measures from the Union government to help the industry and urged the PM to intervene in the issue urgently . Hit by the rise in cotton and yarn prices, textile industries, including export and local manufacturing, weaving and knitting, dyeing and stitching units in Tirupur, Erode and Karur districts, employing over 10 lakh people, have embarked on the strike. In his letter, Stalin said, as an immediate measure, stock declaration for cotton and yarn should be made mandatory for all spinning mills so ginners and cotton traders can obtain actual data on cotton and yarn availability . Referring to the waiver of import duty on cotton till September, Stalin said, as it takes more than three months for consignments to reach Indian ports after a contract is entered into, effectively, the waiver would be available only till June 30. So, the Centre should issue clarifications that the waiver is available for all contracts entered into up to September 30, he said. P4
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