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Kerala Vigilance Court accepts Cong MLA’s petition against CM Vijayan, daughter

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Thiruvananthapuram, Feb 29 (IANS) The Thiruvananthapuram Vigilance Court on Thursday accepted a petition filed by whistle-blower Congress legislator Mathew Kuzhalnadan against the alleged corruption by Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan and his daughter Veena.

Kuzhalnadan in his petition sought a probe into how CM Vijayan allegedly misused his power to favour the Kochi-based mining firm CMRL by violating land reform rules and in the bargain helped Veena to get illegal gratification for her IT company Exalogic.

While the Kerala government strongly opposed the petition, citing lack of clarity in the petitioner’s demand, the court nixed the arguments and accepted the petition.

It asked the Vigilance Director to submit a report on the petition and posted the case for further hearing on March 14.

In August, Kuzhalnadan wrote to the state Finance Minister highlighting a report of the Income Tax Department stating that Veena’s firm Exalogic had received Rs 1.72 crore from CMRL.

The new move by Kuzhalnadan comes after the Karnataka High Court refused to stay the Serious Fraud Investigation Office probe into Veena’s firm last week.

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–IANS

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SC to hear issue of tree felling in Delhi's Ridge area

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New Delhi, June 23 (IANS) Supreme Court (SC) will hear the issue of tree felling in Delhi’s Ridge area where a suo moto notice of criminal contempt was issued to the Vice Chairperson of the Delhi Development Authority (DDA).

As per the causelist published on the website of the apex court, a special vacation bench of Justices Abhay S Oka and Ujjal Bhuyan will hear the matter on June 24.

In the previous hearing, the top court had asked the DDA Vice Chairperson why he should not be prosecuted for criminal contempt of court for wilful breach of its orders prohibiting the felling of trees.

“We are not prepared to believe that the contractor entrusted with the work of widening the road has indulged in cutting trees of his own volition. Obviously, it has to be on the basis of the instructions from the officers of the DDA,” it had said.

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Further, the Supreme Court had said that the DDA Vice Chairperson misled the Lt Governor, who is the ex-officio Chairperson, by forwarding a proposal to set up a committee of experts to minimise the trees felled.

“We hope and trust that the Hon’ble Lt. Governor will take this issue very seriously, not only in his capacity as the Lt. Governor of Delhi but also in his capacity as the Chairman of the DDA,” it had added.

The top court was of the view that apart from the statutory requirement of compulsory afforestation, 100 new trees per every tree felled must be planted by the DDA.

It was dealing with contempt pleas alleging that a large number of trees in the ridge had been felled there by the DDA to construct an approach road between the Chhattarpur Road and the SAARC University near Maidan Garhi.

In an earlier order, the SC had said that other areas having morphological ridges were required to be protected and no permission for construction should be given there.

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–IANS

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Goa CM seeks Rs 700 cr from Centre for water augmentation projects

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Panaji, June 23 (IANS) Chief Minister Pramod Sawant has demanded a grant of Rs 700 crore from the Centre for Goa to construct dams and to enhance the capacity of existing dams as well as to prevent soil erosion.

Sawant on Saturday attended the pre-budget meeting chaired by Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman and placed the demands.

He said that there is a need to strengthen the water reservoirs and also protect coastal areas from soil erosion.

“I have demanded Rs 700 crore for water augmentation projects and for taking measures to stop soil erosion,” he said.

Sources informed that the Water Resources Department is planning to construct new dams in the coastal state.

The Chief Minister said that these initiatives are essential for Goa’s development, and expressed certainty that they will be included in the upcoming Union Budget 2024-2025.

Sawant had recently urged locals to take bamboo production to protect coastal areas from soil erosion.

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“We have focused on bamboo plantation. Wherever there are rivers and beaches, soil erosion is taking place on a large scale. We can stop this by planting bamboo,” Sawant said.

According to the Environment and Climate Change department, the National Centre for Sustainable Coastal Management (NCSCM) in the Beach Carrying Capacity Report has observed that overall for a coastal stretch of about 105 km, 35 per cent of the coast is rocky terrain, 20 per cent of the coast is stable, 27 per cent is under erosion and 17 per cent of the coasts experiences accretion.

MLAs from the coastal areas of the state had complained about the soil erosion taking place on beaches, which is affecting the tourism business.

–IANS

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Vegetable prices skyrocket in Kolkata after scanty rainfall

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Kolkata, June 23 (IANS) Vegetable prices in Kolkata have skyrocketed following scanty rainfall in South Bengal.

Some of the staple vegetable items whose prices have skyrocketed include eggplant, bitter gourd, green chilly, cucumber, tomato, capsicum, beans, cauliflower and cabbage.

While eggplant price ranges from between Rs 120 and Rs 150 a kilogram, the same for bitter gourd is between Rs 100 and Rs 120. The price of green chilli, a must in cooking for any average Bengali family, is between Rs 150 to Rs 200 a kilogram. Cucumber, an essential salad item, is selling between Rs 100 and Rs 120 a kilogram.

Tomatoes are priced between Rs 100 and Rs 120 kilograms while capsicum being priced at around Rs 200 a kilogram has become a matter of luxury now. Cauliflower at Rs 50 a piece and cabbage at Rs 60 a piece are selling at a comparatively higher price.

A member of the task force constituted by the state government to keep the price of essential commodities in the retail markets of the state under control said that they have done a review of the situation and found that the lack of supply of vegetables as per demand is resulting in the current high price of the products.

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“We interacted with the vegetable vendors at different retail markets in the city. They claimed that because of the insufficient rainfall, there had been a hit in the production at the vegetable hubs of the state. So the supply is much less compared to the demand. As claimed by the retailers, since they are also purchasing the same vegetables at higher prices from the wholesale markets, they are charging more to maintain their profit margin thus pushing up the price of vegetables in the retail markets,” the member of the task force said.

However, he added, the task force members are not ruling out the possibility of a section of the vegetable traders taking advantage of the prevailing situation and resorting to hoarding.

He said that we expect the vegetable prices in the retail markets to stabilise with the arrival of a full-fledged monsoon.

–IANS

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Man from Andhra among 4 killed in US shooting

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Amaravati, June 23 (IANS) A 32-year-old man from Andhra Pradesh was among four persons killed in firing at a grocery store in Arkansas in the United States.

The victim from Andhra Pradesh was identified as Dasari Gopikrishna, a native of Bapatla district who had gone to the US only eight months ago.

He was working at the Mad Butcher grocery store at Fordyce, a small town in Arkansas, where a gunman opened fire on June 21.

Gopikrishna, who was at the billing counter, sustained critical injuries. He succumbed at a hospital the next day. His family in Yajali in Karlapalem mandal of Bapatla district was shattered on receiving the news.

Gopikrishna is survived by a wife and a son.

Four persons were killed and nine injured when the gunman opened fire inside the store and at the parking lot.

Meanwhile, CCTV footage of the assailant entering the store and opening fire on the man at the counter has emerged. As the victim collapsed on the ground, the gunman jumped over the counter and escaped after lifting something from the shelf.

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–IANS

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SC to hear anticipatory bail plea of OAS officer in DA case

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New Delhi, June 23 (IANS) Supreme Court (SC) will hear a plea filed by Odisha Administrative Service officer, Bijaya Ketan Sahoo, seeking anticipatory bail in connection with a money laundering case lodged by the Enforcement Directorate (ED) for possession of assets disproportionate to the known source of income.

As per the cause list published on the website of the apex court, a vacation bench of Justices Abhay S Oka and Rajesh Bindal will hear the matter on June 24.

Earlier, the Orissa High Court, in its May 10 order, refused to grant anticipatory bail, saying a prima facie case stands against the OAS officer since he was involved in the acquisition of the properties in dealing with the “proceeds with crime”.

However, a bench of Justice Chittaranjan Das of the High Court had directed that in the event Sahoo appears before the Special Court and moves for grant of regular bail, the same shall be considered on its own merits.

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The ED initiated a probe under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) after an FIR was registered with Cuttack’s Vigilance Police Station against Odisha Financial Official Nalini Prusty, her husband Sahoo, and other family members for possession of disproportionate assets to the tune of Rs. 5 crore.

The enquiry further revealed that the bureaucrat couple had acquired six plots and flats and had constructed a triple-storied building at Bhubaneswar’s Chandrasekharpur in the name of their relative who had no independent source of income.

On the basis of the ED’s complaint, the PMLA court in Bhubaneswar issued summons to Sahoo for his appearance.

–IANS

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