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SC suspends Orissa Cong MLA's sentence in graft case

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New Delhi, April 23 (IANS) In a big relief to Odisha Congress MLA Mohammed Moquim, the Supreme Court on Tuesday suspended his sentence in a Rs 1.50 crore loan scam case.

A bench of Justices Surya Kant and Dipankar Datta was hearing the special leave petition filed by Moquim challenging the decision of the Orissa High Court which had dismissed his appeal and confirmed the conviction and the findings of the trial court.

Last week, the top court, in an interim direction, exempted the Congress legislator from surrendering till the next date of hearing.

Earlier, a bench of Justice B.R. Routray of the Orissa High Court had said that it found no reason to interfere with the sentence awarded by the special vigilance court, considering the extent of the sentence and the nature of offences as well as the role played by the appellant.

A special vigilance court in Bhubaneswar in September 2022 convicted Congress MLA Moquim, former IAS officer Vinod Kumar, Odisha Rural Housing Development Corporation’s (ORHDC) former Company Secretary, Swosti Ranjan Mohapatra, and Metro Builders Pvt Ltd Director, Peeyusdhari Mohanty, in the case, and sentenced them to three years in jail.

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According to Vigilance officials, Vinod Kumar and Swosti Ranjan had sanctioned a loan of Rs 1.50 crore to Metro Builders for the Metro City-II project, for the construction of 50 flats, at Nayapalli, Bhubaneswar, in 2000.

Moquim was then the Managing Director of Metro Builders. On the direction of Vinod Kumar, the loan was sanctioned and disbursed in three instalments.

The loan agreement and other connected documents were signed by Mohanty on behalf of Metro Builders. Though Vinod Kumar was not delegated with any financial power for sanction and disbursement of loan by the board of directors of the ORHDC at that time, he, along with Mohapatra, had sanctioned and disbursed the loan amount in haste by showing undue favour to the builder, the vigilance officials said.

Further, the loan proposal was neither placed before the board of directors nor the loan committee for approval. It was also sanctioned without any spot/site verification.

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During the investigation, the vigilance sleuths also found that documents like the BDA plan, project estimate and fire prevention certificate submitted by Metro Builders were forged and fabricated, but used as genuine for availing the loan.

No tripartite agreement was executed between the parties, the official said, adding that the accused persons caused a huge loss to the government and thereby, wrongful gain to the builder.

–IANS

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Student, two others killed as heavy rains lash Assam, cause flooding; Red alert issued for 10 districts

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Guwahati, May 29 (IANS) At least three persons, including a school student, died in Assam in the last 24 hours due to heavy rains caused by Cyclone Remal in the state, and 10 districts have been put on Red alert as more downpours are expected, officials said on Tuesday.

According to a State Disaster Management Authority statement, one person each died in Morigaon, Kamrup (Metro) and Kamrup (Rural) districts. The victim in Morigaon was identified as student Kaushik Amphi from the Dhupguri area, and he was going to school in an autorickshaw when a large tree fell on it. Locals rushed the boy to a nearby hospital, where doctors declared him dead. In another incident, a school bus in the Dhekiajuli locality was hit by an uprooted tree and several students inside were injured.

Power supply was disrupted due to electric poles being uprooted in different areas by the strong winds and the Power Department deployed staff to restore supply.

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Road communications were disrupted in the Barak Valley region and Dima Hasao district, while several districts, including Cachar and Karimganj, faced flooding due to the incessant rain.

“A total population of 21,714 was affected due to urban floods occurring in 11 wards of Silchar town in the Cachar from torrential rains,” an official said.

The Karimganj district administration started a relief camp in the Patharkandi area where rice, pulses and relief materials were distributed to the flood-affected people.

An official said continuous downpours began on Monday night, affecting school-going children, with many struck on the roads.

With the Weather Department forecast of more heavy rains, a senior government official said that a Red alert has been issued for Cachar, Karimganj, Hailakandi, Dima Hasao, West Karbi Anglong, Karbi Anglong, Nagaon, Hojai and Golaghat and all educational institutes will remain closed in these districts.

“Moreover, the district administrations were advised on regulation of fishing, dissuading people going out for agricultural activities, evacuation of vulnerable population, prompt payments of ex-gratia and treatment of injured, keeping communication channels open (mobility, voice and data), prompt restoration of electricity and timely assessment of damages,” the official added.

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Ferry services in several districts were suspended on Wednesday keeping an eye on the safety of people.

Chief Secretary Ravi Kota chaired a high-level meeting in Guwahati on Tuesday night to comprehensively review the preparedness and response in the affected districts, and various government departments were instructed to prepare an action plan to immediately restore and repair the infrastructure affected by the cyclonic storm and rain at the earliest.

–IANS

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Heavy rains, landslide leave trail of destruction across northeast India, 36 dead in 4 states

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Guwahati/Aizawl, May 28 (IANS) At least 36 people were killed in heavy rains and landslides in four northeastern states on Tuesday under the impact of Cyclone Remal while normal life came to a grinding halt in all the eight states of the region with road and rail links affected, officials said.

While 27 people were killed in Mizoram, including 21 in a quarry collapse in Aizawl district, four deaths were reported in Nagaland, three in Assam, and two in Meghalaya.

The rains, accompanied by gusty winds, triggered landslides, uprooted trees and electric poles, and disrupted power and internet services.

In view of waterlogging between the New Haflong-Jatinga Lampur section and Ditokcherra yard under the Lumding division of Northeast Frontier Railway, many trains were either cancelled or partially cancelled and rescheduled.

In Mizoram, at least 27 people, including 21 in a collapsed stone quarry, were killed and 10 others were missing in multiple landslides in Aizawl district.

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Disaster management and police officials said that 21 bodies had been recovered so far from the quarry site between Melthum and Hlimen in the Aizawl while several others were still trapped under the debris following the collapse in the morning. Six died and many others were missing following incidents of landslides at Salem, Aibawk, Lungsei, Kelsih, and Falkawn in the district.

In Nagaland, at least four people died in different incidents while more than 40 houses have been damaged in various parts of the state.

A minor boy drowned at a river near Laruri village under the Meluri subdivision of Phek district, while two other incidents of drowning were reported from Doyang Dam in the Wokha district, an official said. An elderly man was crushed to death after a wall collapsed in Phek.

In Assam, three persons were killed while 17 others were injured in Kamrup, Kamrup (Metro), and Morigaon districts. According to the Assam State Disaster Management Authority (ASDMA), a tree branch fell on a school bus in Dhekiajuli of Sonitpur district, injuring 12 students. Five others were injured in different incidents in Morigaon.

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Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma expressed grief over the loss of lives.

ASDMA officials said that heavy storms occurred in the Bongaigaon, Chirang, Darrang, Dhubri, Hojai, Kamrup, Kamrup Metro, Karbi Anglong, Kokrajhar, Morigaon, Nagaon, Sonitpur, South Salmara and West Karbi Anglong districts.

In Meghalaya, two persons died and over 100 others were injured as heavy rain lashed the state, officials said on Tuesday. Officials said one death was reported from East Jaintia Hills and another in a car accident in East Khasi Hills district. The relentless downpour damaged a large number of houses in 17 villages. Landslides were reported on the Shillong-Mawlai Bypass and at Bivar Road in Oakland, while flashfloods took place in Langkyrding, Pynthorbah, Polo, Sawfurlong, and Demseiniong areas.

In Tripura, heavy rain accompanied by gusty winds of 50 to 60 km per hour lashed most parts of the state during the past 24 hours, damaging 470 houses and forcing 750 people to take shelter in 15 relief camps in different districts.

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Briefing media in Agartala, Food and Civil Supplies Minister Sushant Chowdhury said that during the past 24 hours, the state recorded an average of 215.5 mm rainfall with Unakoti district recording the highest, at 252.4 mm.

In Arunachal Pradesh, the India Meteorological Department (IMD) issued a high alert with a forecast of extremely heavy rainfall. Chief Minister Pema Khandu requested the people to take all precautionary measures and avoid vulnerable and isolated locations.

–IANS

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Heat stroke claims 3 more lives in Jaipur

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Jaipur, May 28 (IANS) Three persons lost their lives in Jaipur due to heat stroke on Tuesday, the health department said, adding that the total number of heat stroke cases climbed to 3965 on Monday.

Those who died were from Agra and Delhi, health officials said.

Meanwhile, two newborn babies admitted to the Government Community Health Centre in Jhalawar district died on Tuesday.

The parents alleged negligence of the hospital management for the deaths, saying that there were no coolers or doctors in the ward.

Block Medical Officer Raees Khan reached the hospital and issued instructions to install four coolers in the ward and appoint doctors for 24-hour duty at the hospital.

Khan said that a probe will be conducted to find out if the newborns died due to extreme heat.

–IANS

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'A non issue', Odisha CM reacts to BJP's jibe over 'controlling hand' after video with Pandian goes viral

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Bhubaneswar, May 29 (IANS) Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik on Tuesday accused the BJP of making a non-issue an issue following a video showing former bureaucrat V.K. Pandian controlling the CM’s hand movements during an election meeting, triggering controversy in the state.

Assam CM Himanta Biswa Sarma shared a video on X, in which Pandian, a close aide of CM Patnaik, could be seen grabbing his trembling hand when the latter was addressing a public rally.

“This is a deeply distressing video. Shri VK Pandian ji is even controlling the hand movements of Shri Naveen Babu. I shudder to imagine the level of control a retired ex-bureaucrat from Tamil Nadu is currently exercising over the future of Odisha! BJP is determined to give back the reins of Odisha to the people of the state,” Sarma posted.

The video soon went viral with several BJP leaders, including the party’s IT cell chief Amit Malviya, sharing it on social media.

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CM Patnaik on Tuesday released a video message in response to the allegations of the BJP, saying: “I believe the BJP, which is known to make non-issues into issues, is discussing my hands. This will certainly not work.”

–IANS

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Rajasthan: Hospital's registration cancelled after doc removes wrong kidney

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Jaipur, May 29 (IANS) The Rajasthan government on Tuesday took action in a case in which a doctor removed the functional kidney of a patient instead of the non-functional one by cancelling the registration of the hospital with immediate effect.

The state government has also initiated the process to cancel the empanelment of the hospital in various government health schemes.

Additional Chief Secretary in the Medical and Health Department, Shubhra Singh, said that a serious case of removal of the left kidney of a female patient instead of the right kidney had come to light at the Dhankar Hospital in Jhunjhunu.

“Taking the matter seriously, the Medical and Health Department has taken strict action against the hospital. The clinical establishment registration of the hospital has been cancelled with immediate effect.

“Action is being taken to cancel the empanelment of the hospital from different schemes of the Rajasthan government. Besides, the action to seize the hospital is also under process,” Singh said.

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She added that as per the guidelines of the Supreme Court, a five-member investigation team has been formed to probe the matter.

–IANS

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