The Hindu Important Articles 29 May 2018

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#  Sterlite Copper told to shut shop in T.N.

State government orders “permanent closure” of plant
Sterlite Copper, the Vedanta Group’s copper smelter plant in Thoothukudi, was sealed on Monday evening, shortly after the Tamil Nadu Environment and Forests Department issued a two-page Government Order for its “permanent” closure. Vedanta termed the decision “unfortunate.”

The decision to close down the factory that directly employed around 3,500 workers, including 2,500 on contract (since put on notice), comes against the backdrop of the killing of 13 persons in police firing at an anti-Sterlite rally a week ago.

The order said, “Under Sections 18(1)(b) of the Water Act 1974, in the larger public interest, the government endorse the closure direction of the Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board (TNPCB) and also direct the TNPCB to seal the unit and close the plant permanently.” It pointed out that the TNPCB did not renew the ‘consent to operate’ to Vedanta Ltd.’s copper smelter plant in its order dated April 9, 2018.

Power supply cut

“Subsequently, on May 23, the TNPCB has also issued directions for closure and disconnection of power supply to the unit. The power supply has been disconnected on May 24,” it said.

Sterlite Copper’s CEO P. Ramnath had recently claimed that the company was responsible for generating indirect employment for an estimated 30,000-40,000 people.

“The Amma [former Chief Minister Jayalalithaa] government has issued an order to have the Sterlite plant closed down permanently in deference to the sentiments of the people of Thoothukudi,” Chief Minister Edappadi K. Palaniswami told journalists in the evening after chairing a meeting of legislators at the AIADMK headquarters in Chennai.

Mr. Palaniswami, who earlier met a cross-section of traders, fishermen and the church members for over an hour, along with Deputy Chief Minister O. Panneerselvam and other Ministers, told the media that the representatives of Thoothukudi had conveyed to him that “the closure of the plant is the demand of all [in the area].”

To a question on the proceedings in the Madras High Court and the Supreme Court on the issue, he pointed out that there was no stay order. The case was under way. “We have taken this decision as a mark of respecting the feelings of the people. We are doing what we consider is good for the people,” he said. The Chief Minister added that Mr. Panneerselvam and other Ministers went to Thoothukudi in the morning, met the affected people and assured them that proper medical treatment would continue to be provided. “If they desire, they can be shifted to hospitals of their choice,” he said.

In a stock exchange announcement, the Sterlite confirmed the receipt of order from the Tamil Nadu government directing the TNPCB to seal its ‘Copper Smelter Plant 1 at Thoothukudi District, Tamil Nadu’ and to close the said plant permanently.

#  EC plays down VVPAT malfunction

Terms allegations exaggerated; Akhilesh demands restoration of paper ballots
Allegations of largescale malfunctioning of VVPATs and EVMs were reported from Uttar Pradesh and Maharashtra during Monday’s bypolls for four Lok Sabha and 10 Assembly seats across 10 States.

The Election Commission (EC), however, termed them an exaggerated projection of reality, stating that defective machines were replaced. The counting for all the seats will be on May 31.

Elections were also conducted in R.R. Nagar in Bengaluru, where polling had been deferred following allegations of electoral malpractice by political parties.

According to the EC, only 96 ballot and 84 control units of EVMs, besides 1,202 VVPATs had to be replaced. “It amounts to 0.76% of the ballot units, 0.81% control units and 11.60% of total VVPATs,” said an official.

The highest number of VVPATS (20.82%) were replaced in Uttar Pradesh’s Kairana parliamentary constituency, followed by 19.22% in the Bhandara-Gondiya and 13.16% in the Palghar Lok Sabha constituencies of Maharashtra.

With the Opposition hoping to repeat the Gorakhpur and Phulpur Lok Sabha byelection victories of the Samajwadi Party, backed by the BSP, the focus was sharply on Kairana.

The constituency, however, reported a low turnout if 54.17% till 6 p.m.

The highest of turnout of 90.42% was recorded in Meghalaya’s Ampati Assembly constituency, followed by 76.60% in Shahkot and 75% in the Nagaland Lok Sabha constituency. In Maharashtra’s Bhandara-Gondiya, the turnout was 38.65% till 6 p.m. while in Palghar it stood at 46.5% till 5 pm. Following reports of VVPAT malfunctions, a joint delegation of the RLD, SP and the Congress, besides a separate BJP delegation, met the EC.

#  States yet to decide on national anthem query

Home Ministry circular had sought their views but none has responded
None of the States, including 21 ruled by the BJP and its allies, have responded to the Centre’s letter seeking their opinion on playing of the national anthem in cinema halls and public places.

The Union Home Ministry had written to all States seeking their opinion on the issue but none responded. It sent a reminder to all the States again this month.

On December 5 last year, the Home Ministry notified the appointment of a 12-member inter- ministerial committee which would take a final call on the playing of national anthem in cinema and public places. The panel, led by Special Secretary B.R. Sharma, is expected to give its report on the existing laws.

Time frame

The committee comprises Joint Secretary-level officers from 11 ministries and departments of the Central government. It was expected to submit its report within six months.

“We have sent two reminders to the State governments to give their opinion on playing of national anthem in cinema halls. Not one has responded so far,” said a senior government official.

The Central government’s decision to set up the expert committee came after the Supreme Court in October last year observed that people “cannot be forced to carry patriotism on their sleeves” and it cannot be assumed that if a person does not stand up for the national anthem, he or she is “less patriotic.”

Rule book

The committee is expected to give recommendations regarding regulations on playing/singing of the national anthem and suggest changes in the acts and orders relating to the Insult of National Honour Act 1971.

An earlier advisory of the Home Ministry said that audiences were not expected to stand if the national anthem is played as part of the film.

#  135 buildings damaged in rain

As many as 135 buildings, mostly houses, were either partially or fully damaged in rain accompanied by gusty winds and lightning in Udupi district since Sunday night.

The total loss owing to damages to these buildings is estimated at Rs. 51.73 lakh, according to sources in the district administration.

#  Samples test negative for Nipah

Samples of brain fever patient tests negative for Nipah
All four samples of a 49-year-old brain fever patient who died at a private hospital on Monday were tested negative for Nipah virus infection.

Meanwhile, a college student from Perambra was admitted to the General Hospital with fever. Another person from Kanjiramattam in undergoing treatment at Government Medical College, Ernakulam. Their condition is said to be stable.

“The health authorities are keeping a vigil on monsoon diseases as rain has started, and chances for leptospirosis are more. Also, there has been a marginal increase in dengue cases,” Additional District Medical Officer Dr. Sreedevi said. Health workers, ASHA and Kudumbasree workers, and voluntary organisations are keeping track of the spurt in fever cases.

“We expect fever cases to go up because of the change in climate. However, every case is being looked into,” she said.

#  HC reinstates Army jawan 28 years after dismissal

Lance Naik Singh was sacked for refusing to wear lower-rank uniform
Almost three decades after an Army jawan was sacked for refusing to wear a lower-rank uniform, the Delhi High Court has reinstated him saying the discharge from service and the six-month jail term was “unjust, harsh and disproportionate” to the offence.

Lance Naik Vishav Priya Singh had embarked on the legal battle against the government and the Army in 1992, two years after he was dismissed from service. He had joined the force in 1979 as a Sepoy and was promoted to the rank of Lance Naik in 1987.

His trouble began in 1990 when he complained against his Commanding Officer to the Commander of his brigade, claiming he was denied leave by the CO. One month later, an Investigating Officer directed him to report to his office wearing a Sepoy’s uniform.

Mr. Singh objected to wearing the uniform of a Sepoy as he was a Lance Naik. He was tried in a Summary Court Martial for disobeying the command of a superior officer, and on July 25, 1990, he was fired from service and sentenced to six-month jail.

A Bench of Justice V. Kameswar Rao and Justice G.S. Sistani, in their 41-page verdict last week, quashed the order of punishment and allowed him arrears and retiral benefits.

#  Navara lands in IP rights row

Govt opposes farmer’s bid to gain rights for its conservation
The nearly extinct rice variety Navara is in the thick of a controversy with the government opposing attempts of a farmer to gain Intellectual Property (IP) rights over its conservation under the Protection of Plant Variety and Farmers Right Act, 2001 (PPVFR Act).

While the government and the Kerala Agricultural University (KAU) maintain that Navara is a traditional rice variety cultivated across the State, P. Narayanan Unni, founder of the Navara Foundation and the Navara Eco Farm at Chittur in Palakkad, claim that the variety cultivated by him on his 12-acre farm is an exclusive variety belonging to Chittur.

To support his claim, Mr. Unni cites the plant genome saviour community award presented to him two years ago by the Protection of Plant Varieties and Farmers’ Rights Authority (PPVFRA).

Agriculture Minister V.S. Sunil Kumar on Sunday said the ownership rights of the Navara rice variety was with the farming community of Kerala and the government had informed the PPVFRA against conferring the IP rights on Mr. Unni. “The rice is being cultivated by farmers across Kerala. A seed bank to conserve such seeds will be established by the government soon,” he said.

Mr. Unni refuted reports that he was attempting to wrest IP rights of the rice variety. “What I grow in my field is a unique variety and I do not have any plan to usurp the rights of the government or any other farmer for cultivating and promoting Navara in general. In 2004, I formed a Navara rice farming society with 20 farmers and got entry for it in the Geographical Indication (GI) registry under the Geographical Indication of Goods (Registration and Protection) Act, 1999,” he said.

However, KAU sources said Navara was cultivated in eight districts and the university would fight attempts to end community rights over the preservation, protection, and promotion of the seed. “This medicinal rice variety was almost extinct when I took up its cultivation. Non-availability of pure seeds, low yield, and high production costs deterred farmers from taking up cultivation of the rice variety,” Mr Unni, who has been running his farm for the past 20 years, said.

Unlike other rice varieties that are white in colour, Navara is deep red and has been cultivated for more than 2,000 years.

#  76.27% turnout in Chengannur bypoll

Polling peaceful barring minor incidents
Polling for the Chengannur Assembly byelection ended peacefully with a high voter turnout on Monday.

The Election Commission put the preliminary polling figures at 76.27% of the 1.99 lakh voters who exercised their franchise when polling closed at 6 p.m. In the 2016 election, the voter turnout was 74.36%.

Peaceful polling

Officials said polling was by and large peaceful barring minor incidents.

Technical snags in electronic voting machines (EVMs) interrupted polling at booths at Kallissery and Thripperumthura.

The polling started at 7 a.m. on a brisk note with 15.7% turnout registered in the first two hours. Despite the heavy downpour, voters, including women, turned out in large numbers to cast their votes across the constituency.

Although it witnessed a lull around midday, the momentum picked up again in the afternoon.

All voters who reached the polling station by 6 p.m. were allowed to exercise their franchise.

Left Democratic Front (LDF) candidate Saji Cherian and United Democratic Front (UDF) candidate D. Vijayakumar exercised their franchise at SNDP Higher Secondary School, Kozhuvalloor, and Government Higher Secondary School, Puliyoor, respectively.

Leader of the Opposition Ramesh Chennithala cast his vote at Government Upper Primary School, Thripperumthura.

The byelection was necessitated following the death of Communist Party of India (Marxist) MLA K.K. Ramachandran Nair.

17 in the fray

Although, 17 candidates are in the fray, the battle is between Saji Cherian, D. Vijayakumar, and National Democratic Alliance (NDA) candidate P.S Sreedharan Pillai.

While the LDF is eyeing to retain the seat, the UDF is expecting to wrest the seat it lost in 2016, after several years of dominance.

Triangular fight

Making it a triangular fight, the National Democratic Alliance, which came a close third in 2016 is hoping for a surprise victory.

Ramachandran Nair had won from Chengannur by a margin of 7,983 votes in 2016.

Although the election result will not have an impact on the LDF’s majority in the Assembly, the outcome is significant for the ruling front as it is seen as an assessment of the two-year-old State government. The counting of votes will take place on May 31.

#  Panel pulls up administration

The National Commission for Safai Karamcharis on Monday pulled up the district administration for not providing relief to the families of three sanitary workers who died while cleaning a septic tank at a jewellery manufacturing

unit in R.S. Puram on December 22.

#  Strike hits delivery of postal articles in district

Protesters stage sit-in in front of Head Post Office
Nearly 500 post offices in the district remained closed on Monday even as the indefinite State-wide strike by postal staff enters its second week. The turnout was thin even at the Head Post Office in the city. The strike, spearheaded by the National Federation of Postal Employees (NFPE) and the Federation of National Postal Organisation (FNPO), is to press for addressing the wage issues of Gramin Dak Sevaks.

Delivery of postal articles was totally disrupted in the district. They included letters from the Public Service Commission and registered posts from passport offices. Collection of postal articles from railway stations and other points too was hit.

Those applied for new passports to go for Haj too were affected by the strike that began on May 22.

Three of such applicants on Monday visited the Head Post Office directly seeking the delivery of their passports. However, the employees turned down their requests. Similarly, students who wanted to send copies of certificates and online applications to various institutes of higher education were also hit by the strike.

Association leaders said they had the support of around 1,500 employees in Kozhikode district. In Kozhikode Head Post office alone, nearly 250 employees expressed solidarity with the protest, they claimed.

R. Jainendrakumar, assistant secretary of the Kerala Circle of NFPE, said the main demand placed before the government to end the strike was the hike in remuneration of Gramin Dak Sevaks and the implementation of the Kamalesh Chandra committee report. The protesters staged a sit-in in front of the Head Post Office.

Source:- The Hindu

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