SUNDAY www.thestatesman.com 18 APRIL 2021 FIND US ONLINE Scan this with your smartphone twitter.com/TheStatesmanLtd facebook.com/thestatesman1875 Pages 12 | `5 |LC KOLKATA | NEW DELHI | SILIGURI | BHUBANESWAR P5 WEATHER Mainly clear sky. The maximum and minimum temperatures would be around 37 and 17 degrees Celsius respectively. RAUL CASTRO STEPS DOWN AS COMMUNIST PARTY CHIEF TALKS WITH PAKISTAN FUTILE ‘BORDER DISPUTE SHOULD BE GIVEN SERIOUS ATTENTION’ P7 P11 Clashes, incidents of bombing and stone pelting in some areas ; TMC, BJP trade charges over booth capturing, voter intimidation My phone is being tapped, 78.36 will order CID probe: Mamata OVERALL TURNOUT Min: 33% TEMPERATURE Max: 35.0°C (-2) SUN RISES 05:52 hrs MOON RISES 09: 56 hrs P12 Stray violence, brisk voting in 5th phase RAINFALL: Nil RELATIVE HUMIDITY Max: 92% WASN’T MORGAN THE MAN WITH THE MIDAS TOUCH? per cent as of 5 p.m Min: 18.2°C (-4) SUN SETS 18:49 hrs MOON SETS 00:24 hrs 81.73 PRESS TRUST OF INDIA Jalpaiguri 81.72 East Burdwan 81.57 Nadia 74.83 THUMBNAILS North 24-Parganas 74.31 Darjeeling 69.56 Voters queue up to cast their votes during the 5th phase Bengal Assembly election at BHASKAR MALLICK Bidhannagar in Kolkata on Saturday. STATESMAN NEWS SERVICE KOLKATA/SILIGURI, 17 APRIL Members of the UK royal family follow the coffin in ceremonial procession for the funeral (P10) of Prince Philip inside Windsor Castle. J'khand HC grants bail to Lalu in fodder scam: The Jharkhand High Court on Saturday granted bail to RJD president Lalu Prasad in the Dumka treasury case of the multi-crore rupees fodder scam on completion of half the sentence, paving way for his release. Prasad's lawyer said they will move Special CBI court in Ranchi on Monday to seek his release. Prasad is in judicial custody in AIIMS New Delhi since January. Popular Tamil comedian Vivekh dies: Popular Tamil comedian Vivekh who won the hearts of millions of people by his sharp wit and noted for his social work, promoting environmental protection died on Saturday. The 59-year-old comedian died in the early hours at a private hospital in Chennai and he was cremated P4 following a 24-gun salute by state police. BCCI plans to start Ranji season in December: The BCCI plans to kick-start its 2021-22 domestic season in September this year with the Syed Mushtaq Ali T20 tournament and has also allocated a three-month window to the Ranji Trophy from December after the marquee event had to be cancelled last season due to Covid. S poradic incidents of violence, bombing and clashes between rival party workers marred the fifth phase of polls in the 45 seats in six districts that recorded an overall turnout of 78.36 per cent till 5 p.m. “Polls were by and large peaceful. There were a total of 123 preventive arrests,” said Chief Electoral Officer Ariz Aftab. In Chakdah, an independent candidate, Kaushik Bhowmik, was arrested after he was seen loitering with firearms. In another case, a BJP candidate sustained injuries in Ranaghat and three persons were arrested in this connection. In Gayeshpur, a BJP candidate was attacked and his house was vandalised following which two persons were arrested and police picket has been posted near his house nightlong. The highest vote percentage was recorded in Jal- paiguri (81.73) followed by East Burdwan (81.72), Nadia (81.57), North 24-Parganas (74.83), Darjeeling (74.31) and Kalimpong (69.56). Clashes, incidents of bombing and stone pelting were reported in a few areas in Gayeshpur and Santipur of Nadia district. Two BJP workers were critically injured after bombs were lobbed at them allegedly by Trinamul Congress activists while they were returning home after casting their vote in Gayeshpur. In a similar incident, one Trinamul worker was injured in an incident of bombing in Santipur. A few stray incidents of violence were reported in Nilpur and Parapukur areas of Burdwan. Some party offices were also ransacked. Minister Siddhiqulla Chowdhury alleged that Trinamul agents were prevented from entering the polling booths 40 and 41 in Monteswar. The BJP alleged that their agent was prevented from entering the polling booth in Saraitikar, leading to tension in the area. Later, Central forces brought the situation under control but polling could not be held for half an hour, said officials. In Shantinagar area of Bidhanagar, a clash broke out between Trinamul Congress and BJP supporters with both sides accusing each other of stopping voters from going to the polling booths. Bricks and stones were hurled, injuring eight people, officials said. A huge contingent of the Central forces was rushed to the spot to control the situation, they said. Trinamul MLA Sujit Bose and BJP candidate Sabyasachi Dutta visited the spot to take stock of the situation. In another incident, Bidhannagar BJP candidate Sabyasachi Dutta said that he was stopped by Trinamul goons at Nayapatti. In Bijpur in North 24Parganas, Trinamul and BJP supporters clashed after the Opposition party alleged that voters were A day after a purported audio tape~ in which she is heard proposing a rally with the bodies of Cooch Behar firing victims~ surfaced, West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee on Saturday alleged that her phone is being tapped and said she will order a CID probe into it. Addressing an election rally here, she accused the BJP of being involved in the conspiracy as the saffron party “cannot match” the ruling TMC’s campaigning on development programmes. “They (BJP leaders) are even eavesdropping on our everyday conversation. It seems they are tapping our phone calls on cooking and other household chores. “I will order a CID probe into it and not spare anyone involved in such snooping activities. I have already come to know who is behind this,” the TMC supremo said. Banerjee also claimed she has information that the “central forces are being involved in such acts with some agents”. “It is clear that the BJP is behind it though they claimed they have no role in it,” she said. A controversy had erupted on Friday after the BJP released the purported audio clip in which Banerjee is heard telling the Trinamul Congress nominee of Sitalkuchi to hold rallies with bodies of the four persons killed in CISF firing during polling on 10 April. Claiming that such a conversation never took place, the TMC had described the audio clip as “bogus” and wondered whether the Centre was tapping a chief minister’s phone. Launching an attack on the Election Commission (EC) for not clubbing the remaining three phases of the ongoing Assembly elections into one, she accused the poll panel of paying heed to the demands of the BJP. “You (EC) have curtailed the campaigning hours, and in the name of Covid restrictions, you are doing whatever the BJP demands.” while she was touring the constituency. The Trinamul has denied the allegations and claimed that she was trying to influence the voters on the day of voting but Mitra alleged that the Trinamul activists misbehaved with her, following which she lodged a complaint with the EC. The Election Commission has sought a report over the sudden death of a BJP polling agent at booth number 107 in Kamarhati today morning. Voting was peaceful in the 13 constituencies under three districts in North Bengal that went to the polls today. Barring aside stray complaints of some political parties and Central forces allegedly trying to “influence” voters, and voters not following Covid protocols, no untoward incident was reported. There was in fact something of a festive mood in the five constituencies in Darjeeling district, seven in Jalpaiguri district and Kalimpong constituency that went to the polls today, with the weather turning out to be pleasant after a storm last night. Some Covid-19 patients in PPE kits also exercised their franchise in Siliguri and Phansidewa constituencies.Workers of different parties were seen camping near polling booths under one roof and sharing and eating lunch together at some places in Siliguri and Mal constituency in Jalpaiguri. Meanwhile, representatives of both the BJP and Trinamul met the Election Commission over the leaked audio clip of chief minister Mamata Banerjee’s purported telephone conversation with her party’s candidate relating to the Sitalkuchi, Cooch Behar, violence. GALSI, 17 APRIL Kalimpong Polls were by and large peaceful. There were a total of 123 preventive arrests ARIZ AFTAB CHIEF ELECTORAL OFFICER The Election Commission had deployed at least 853 companies of the central forces for the fifth phase polling on Saturday There were reports of clashes between TMC and BJP workers at Shantinagar area of Bidhannagar in which eight people were injured being prevented from going to the booths. The BJP also alleged that some of its booth agents in the Minakha constituency of the same district were “kidnapped” by the TMC but the latter disputed this. Villagers alleged that Central forces opened fire to disperse a mob near a polling booth in Kurulgacha area of Deganga constituency in North 24 Parganas district. The Central forces, however, denied the allegations. In Baranagar, BJP candidate and actor Parno Mitra was gheraoed allegedly by Trinamul activists India logs 2.34L new cases; PM reviews situation 11 states raise Remdesivir, oxygen, vaccine supply issues with Centre SNS & PTI NEW DELHI, 17 APRIL As India’s Covid-19 tally inched towards the 1.50 crore-mark, with over 2.34 lakh fresh infections during the previous 24 hours, and the death toll climbed above 1.75 lakh, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Union health Harsh Vardhan held meetings to review measures taken by states for prevention, containment and management of the recent surge. India on Saturday, also logged 1,341 fatalities during the previous 24-hours, its highest daily death toll so far. West Bengal, meanwhile, recorded its highest ever daily tally of 7,713 fresh cases and 34 deaths on Saturday. This has brought the state’s total Covid case count to 6,51,508 while the death toll has reached 10,540. There are now 45,300 active cases. Kolkata recorded 1,998 cases and 10 deaths. In the meeting to review preparedness of public health response to Covid-19 situation, Prime Minister Modi called for close coordination with states to defeat the virus and for utilisation of the entire national capacity to ramp up vaccine production. Modi said all necessary measures must be taken to ramp up availability of hospital beds for Covid-19 patients, and also asked local administrations to be proactive, sensitive to people’s concerns. He also reviewed the status of supply of Remdesivir and other medicines, and called for speeding up installation of approved medical oxygen plants. Earlier in the day, the Prime Minister also appealed that participation in the ongoing Kumbh Mela be kept symbolic in view of the unprecedented surge in the coronavirus cases. The religious gathering in Haridwar had raised fears that it could be a superspreader event with lakhs of devotees attending the event without following the Covid protocols. Meanwhile, with many states reporting shortage and black marketing of remdesivir injection, used in the treatment of Covid-19, National Pharmaceutical Pricing Authority (NPPA) said pharmaceutical companies have reduced the price following the government’s intervention. PRESS TRUST OF INDIA 1,45,26,609 16,79,740 2,34,692 1,23,354 1,75,649 UNION HEALTH MINISTRY FIGURES AS OF 8.00 A.M. SATURDAY 17 APRIL 2021 NEW DELHI, 17 APRIL Increasing supply of oxygen cylinders and Remdesivir in hospitals, adding ventilator stocks and enhanced supply of vaccine doses were issues raised by 11 states and Union Territories at a meeting convened by the Centre on Saturday amid a spurt in coronavirus cases. The high-level meeting was chaired by Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan with the health ministers of 11 states and union territories to review measures taken by them for prevention, containment and management of the recent surge in Covid-19 cases. Kin lament Sikh victims of Indiana shooting PRESS TRUST OF INDIA WASHINGTON, 17 APRIL The shocked and grieving families of the Indian-Americans working at a FedEx facility in the US state of Indiana expressed their anger, fear and anxiety as they came to terms with the loss of their loved ones at a mass shooting that killed eight people, including four Sikhs. Brandon Scott Hole, 19, a former employee at the facility in Indianapolis, carried out the mass shooting on late Thursday before allegedly committing suicide. About 90 per cent of the workers at this delivery service facility are said to be Indian-Americans, mostly from the Sikh community. Late Friday night, the Marion County Coroner’s Office and Indi- anapolis Metropolitan Police Department (IMPD) released the names of the victims: Amarjeet Johal (66), Jasvinder Kaur (64), Amarjit Skhon (48) and Jaswinder Singh (68). The first three deceased are women. Four others were Karli Smith (19), Samaria Blackwell (19), Matthew R. Alexander (32) and John Weisert (74). Enough is enough, our community has been through enough trauma, Komal Chohan, granddaughter of one of the deceased ~ Amarjeet Johal ~ was quoted as saying by the New York Post. I am heartbroken to confirm that my naniji (maternal grandmother), Amarjeet Kaur Johal, is among those killed in the senseless shooting at the FedEx facility in Indianapolis, Chohan said. SHOCK AND DISBELIEF Brandon Scott Hole, 19, a former employee at the FedEx facility in Indianapolis, carried out the mass shooting late Thursday, killing eight people, including four Sikhs before allegedly committing suicide Enough is enough, About 90 per cent of the workers at this delivery serv- our community has been ice facility are said to be Indi- through enough trauma an-Americans, mostly from GRANDDAUGHTER OF the Sikh community ONE OF THE DECEASED Jaswinder Singh, who lost his life in the shooting, was due to get his first paycheck at the facility this month and was working on the night shift to sort out the mail. “He was a simple man. He used to pray and meditate a lot, and he did community service,” said Harjap Singh Dhillon, a relative of Singh, in a New York Times report. Amarjit Sekhon, another deceased in the incident who began working at FedEx about six months ago, leaves behind two teenage sons who are yet to come to terms with their mother’s death. Rimpi Girn, Sekhon’s niece, said she is struggling to explain her loss of her younger son. For Kamal Jawandha, it was a miracle that both of his parents, who worked at the facility and were present there at the time of shooting, escaped unhurt. Jawandha said that his father had brought his mother food and was getting ready to go inside when the shooting started. His mother hid in the bathroom when the shooting started, the report said. Maninder walia, a community member, expressed shock at the shooting incident. “We go everywhere. We are all one family. Tragedy has occurred in a particular side of the town and we are all together,” Walia said. This is the worst Sikh massacre in the United States after the Oak Creek Gurdwara mass shooting in Wisconsin on August 5, 2012, where seven members of the community were killed. The states, including Maharashtra, Chhattisgarh, Rajasthan, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Kerala, West Bengal, Delhi, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Uttar Pradesh, have been reporting an unprecedented surge in new Covid cases. The Health Ministry said issues pertaining to augmenting the supply of oxygen cylinders, stepping up supply of Remdesivir in hospitals, adding to the ventilator stock, and enhanced supply of vaccine were raised by almost all the 11 states that participated in the meeting. “Many of them raised the issue of dovetailing the medical oxygen supply lines and capping of prices of essential drugs like Remdesivir which has been sold in the black market at exorbitant prices. “Double mutant strain in Maharashtra was a key point of concern. The Delhi government requested for additional beds in Central government hospitals as was done in 2020 to help tide over the emergent health crisis,” the Ministry said. Taking note of the active surge in cases in which most states have now crossed their highest tally, Harsh Vardhan exhorted states to plan in advance and increase Covid hospitals, oxygenated beds and other relevant infrastructure to deal with any further spike in cases. CERT-In cautions users against WhatsApp weaknesses PRESS TRUST OF INDIA NEW DELHI, 17 APRIL Country’s cyber security agency CERT-In has cautioned WhatsApp users about certain vulnerabilities detected in the popular instant messaging app that could lead to breach of sensitive information. A “high” severity rating advisory issued by the CERTIn, or the Indian Computer Emergency Response Team, said the vulnerability has been detected in software that has “WhatsApp and WhatsApp Business for Android prior to v184.108.40.206 and WhatsApp and WhatsApp Business for iOS prior to v2.21.32.” The CERT-In is the national technology arm to combat cyber attacks and guarding the Indian cyber space. “Multiple vulnerabilities have been reported in WhatsApp applications which could allow a remote attacker to execute arbitrary code or access sensitive information on a targeted system,” the advisory issued on Saturday said. Describing the weaknesses in detail, it said that these vulnerabilities “exist in WhatsApp applications due to a cache configuration issue and missing bounds check within the audio decoding pipeline.” The advisory added that users of the application should update the latest version ofWhatsApp from Google Play store or iOS App Store to counter the vulnerability threat. Kumbh Mela: PM seeks curtailment Har Ki Pauri wears a deserted look during Kumbh Mela, in Haridwar on Saturday I prayed that two ‘shahi snan’ have taken place and Kumbh (participation) should now be kept symbolic. This will boost the fight against this crisis PM NARENDRA MODI The ongoing Kumbh, which has seen people from different parts of the country attending the auspicious event in large numbers, has drawn flak from various quarters as the number of Covid-19 cases has zoomed at a rapid pace in the past few weeks. P4 Delhi sees highest-ever e 24,375 cases, 167 deaths SNS & PTI NEW DELHI, 17 APRIL Reeling under a massive, unprecedented daily Covid surge, Delhi today recorded 24,375 fresh coronavirus infections ~ its highest-ever single-day Covid tally ~ and 167 deaths ~ its highest-ever single-day coronavirus fatality count ~ even as the positivity rate soared to 24.56 per cent, according to the latest health bulletin issued by the Delhi government late tonight. SEE P 2
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