Vol. 65 No. 207 | THURSDAY | DECEMBER 30, 2021 | 18 Pages | RBI FLAGS OMICRON THREAT TO INDIA’S NEAR-TERM ECONOMIC PROSPECTS Resident docs on strike from 5pm over Neet delay however, they will continue to work in Covid designated wards SWAPNIL MISHRA / Mumbai With the unprecedented delay in NEET-PG 2021 counselling, resident doctors at the King Edward Memorial (KEM), Lokmanya Tilak Municipal GenerA NEET protest in Delhi al, Sion and Sir Jamshedji Jeejeebhoy (JJ) Hospitals have declared that they will be withdrawing their services from the outpatient department and elective surgery from December 30. However, they will continue to work actively in the Covid-19 wards. This comes after a face-off between doctors and police personnel in New Delhi on Monday as the former were participating in a protest by the Federation of Resident Doctors' Association (FORDA) on the delay in NEET-PG 2021 counselling. According to a senior resident doctor from KEM Hospital, around 2,500 resident doctors were brutally lathi-charged, manhandled and detained by the Delhi police during a peaceful protest march on December 27. Resident doctors across the country have been demanding and protesting peacefully for the last one month. “Such acts of brutality cannot be accepted at any cost and are to be condemned severely “We have been working at 66 per cent of . our resident capacity since the last seven months, are already overworked and burnt out, both physically and mentally at this point of CONTD. ON NATION PAGE time. SONAM KAPOOR AHUJA'S MOST STYLISH LOOKS IN 2021 EDIT NEEDED: NO LESS THAN A WAR ON COVID 441,278 COVID CASES IN US The US has set a single-day record of 441,278 new Covid cases. This grim mark surpasses the previous high of about 290,000 cases reported on December 20. The seven-day moving average is now more than 240,000 cases a day. MUMBAI CASES LGBTQ varsity members: BJP MLA lashes out 1st wave 706 to 1,367 2nd wave 683 to 1,325 3rd wave 683 to 1,377 3rd wave 1,377 to 2,510 CITY ON ThE CUSP OF ThIRD wAVE As cases rise, doubling rate plummets: down to 682 days from 2,050 days until December 21; some doctors say this marks the start of the 3rd wave, while civic officials say it’s too early to call it one M SWAPNIL MISHRA Mumbai BJP legislator Sudhir Mungantiwar stoked a controversy by questioning the Maharashtra government’s move to appoint representatives of the LGBTQ community as members of universities. “Are you going to hire lesbians and gays as members? Shouldn’t a joint medical committee be set up on this? It mentions bisexual and asexual relations. However, no one has yet defined these,” he said. “Even someone who has sex with an animal can become a member, as per the government’s proposal. Will the animal certify to their sexual relationship?” he asked. CONTD. ON NATION PAGE giously adhering to Covid norms, resulting in a surge in caseload and a corresponding drop in the doubling rate. Some doctors are saying this spike in the daily case count marks the start of the third wave; however, civic officials are treading over eggshells and main- tions. Before he could fathom what was unravelling, the one carrying a gun pulled the trigger; Gomane was hit in the chest at a close range and collapsed, according to the account pieced together by the police. The two then went straight to the cashier who was counting the cash, threatened him at gunpoint and snatched his bag containing the day's pickings. The duo slipped out of the bank barefoot at 3.29 pm, two minutes after entering the bank. Since the two went straight the cashier and seemed to be familiar with the layout, the police suspect that they may have carried out a recce earlier. CONTD. ON NATION PAGE tain that it is too early to term it so. Mumbai has been a Covid hotspot ever since the outbreak. Until mid-December, cases had been declining significantly But . over the last one week, there has been a sudden surge in daily cas- Health Min won't utter the word lockdown yet SANJAY JOG / Mumbai A video garb of the two assailants Clean chit to perfume trader; recovered cash deemed as turnover; only had to cough up tax liability and penalty RASHMI SHARMA / Lucknow The much-hyped swoop down by tax authorities and recovery of piles of cash from the nondescript premises of a perfume trader and Gutkha manufacturer Piyush Jain may turn out to be a damp squib. In what will be a major relief for Jain, the officials of Directorate General of GST Intelligence (DGGI) have indicated that the entire cash recovered during the raids can be deemed as turnover of the trader’s firm. This is apparent from the documents submitted in the court. The tax officials have, however, determined a tax liability of Rs 31.50 Even though Public Health Minister Rajesh Tope desisted from referring to a lockdown, he warned that the state government will impose additional restrictions in view of the rapid increase in COVID 19 and Omicron variant cases in Maharashtra. Already, the government has prohibited gatherings of more than five people from 9 pm to 6 am and introduced curbs on weddings and public functions. Tope said the state government will announce the new curbs after Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray chairs a meeting of the Covid Task Force and the public health department. ‘’We have to think of imposing restrictions to control crowds in public transport, wedding ceremonies,’’ he said. He further noted that, ''It is worrying to see the number of active cases increasing in the State. Mumbai's positivity rate is at 4%. If this goes above 5%, then we will have to think about imposing restrictions.’’ crore and a penalty of Rs 19.50 crore on the turnover. Incidentally the Jain , family has coughed up the entire amount of tax liability and penalty . The DGGI team had recovered Rs 177.45 crores in hard cash from the office and residence of Jain during the raids last week. Besides cash, the raid team had unearthed 23 kg of gold and several hundred litres of sandal oil. The DGGI team had arrested Jain after the raid and he is currently lodged in the Kanpur jail. With the officials declaring the entire recovery as turnover of the two firms owned by Jain, the case against him has weakened; in fact, the bottom has fallen out of it. At best, he can be now charged with tax evasion. But with Jain squaring up his tax liability and coughing up the penalty he will able to secure , bail with little difficulty But trouble is . lurking in a different quarter. The directorate of revenue intelligence (DRI) on Wednesday registered a case against Jain under the Custom Act; in question is the huge gold booty which , was recovered from his premises. CONTD. ON NATION PAGE Freedom of press is a sacrosanct, constitutional right: CJI LAST WORD URVI MAHAJANI / Mumbai “The freedom of the press is a sacrosanct, constitutional right. However, this freedom comes with an enormous responsibility that must be borne by every individual who is part of the journalistic enterprise – journalists, editors and management,” said the Chief Justice of India (CJI) NV Ramana on Wednesday . The CJI was the chief guest at the 10th RedInk Awards for Excellence in Journalism, organised by the Mumbai Press Club. He paid his respects to the late Dan- ish Siddiqui, a photo-journalist with Reuters who was killed in Afghanistan. He said: “He (Siddiqui) was a man with a magical eye and was rightly regarded as one of the foremost photo-journalists of this era. If a picture can tell a thousand words, Dr Shashank Joshi, a member of the State’s Covid-19 taskforce, said there was a possible third wave in Mumbai, with the numbers clearly suggesting a discernible trend; but given that the cases were mild, there was no major strain on healthcare as of now. Nonetheless, vigilance and caution had to be exercised. “Near certain we have an Omicron outbreak in Mumbai, but genomics needs to confirm it. “We definitely need to be on our guard. We need to ramp up our genomic sequencing. The positivity rate in early December was below 0.5 per cent and now it is nearing 2 per cent in Mumbai, the current hotspot, considering the high population density and migration. CONTD. ON NATION PAGE City clocks 2510 cases on Wednesday and 20 related deaths hint of a scam dissipates like fragrance of perfume The deceased: a helper at the bank es. However, the number of fatalities has not risen, after having dropped marginally in the past two-three months, when the daily deaths remained below five. PIC: BHUSHAN KOYANDE umbai seems to be on the cusp of a third Covid wave: an ominous indicator is the nearly 82% spike in cases over that on Tuesday The . city clocked 2,510 cases on Wednesday and 20 related deaths, as against 1,377 cases the previous day . As the number of cases in the city spiral, the weekly doubling rate has fallen in the last seven days. According to BMC data, the current overall doubling rate of cases has dropped to 682 days from 2,050 days (until December 21). (For the greenhorns, doubling time is the number of days required for the number of cases in a pandemic to double, based on the rate of cumulative increase in number of cases.) Health department officials have attributed this to the laxity in public behaviour by not reli- the day's work. The two assailatns who came on foot pulled up the shutter and entered the bank. Since the bank was closed for public dealings, Gomane, a helper, approached them without suspecting their inten- SANJAY JOG / Mumbai PIC: AFP TSUNAMI OF CASES: WHO DOUBLING TIME The WHO head has said that he's worried 12 about the Omicron and Delta variants of COVID-19 combining to produce a 20 "tsunami" of cases, but added he's still 4 hopeful that the world will put the 1 worst behind it in 2022. Armed assailants kill helper, decamp with Rs 2.5 lakhs in cash A helper attached with the State Bank of India (SBI) was shot dead by two assailants who barged into an unguarded SBI branch in broad daylight at Dahisar on Wednesday After . killing Sandesh Gomane (25), the two assailants in masks threatened the cashier at gunpoint and fled with Rs 2.5 lakh in cash. According to the police, the incident took place at 3.27pm, three minutes before the bank's closing time. At the time of the incident, there was no security personnel guarding the bank, while its shutter was also half closed and the employees were wrapping up Sunrise: 07:12 am Sunset : 06:11 pm 85 OMICRON CASES IN MAhARAShTRA, NATIONAL TALLY CROSSES 900 SBI branch looted at gunpoint SACHIN GAAD Mumbai 310c. 230c. his photos were novels.” Having started off as a journalist in his career, the CJI highlighted the difficulties faced by those in the profession and how important it was for the media to remain independent. Also, a healthy democracy can thrive and survive only with a fearless and independent press. Emphasising that the freedom of press is a “valuable and sacred right” enshrined in the Indian Constitution, the CJI said that without such a freedom, there would be no “discussion or debate” which is essential for “growth of democracy”. There can be no flow of information that the public requires and that a democracy demands, he said. “Speaking the truth to power and holding up a mirror to society is an immense responsibility that is extremely difficult to fulfil. There is enormous pressure and stress upon you. In the contemporary world, performing your duty as a journalist is akin to dancing on razor’s edge,” he said. He lauded journalists reporting from conflict zones, risking their lives. However, in the present day he said, reporting on , regular beats too was no longer safe. CONTD. ON NATION PAGE CONTD. ON NATION PAGE Jasprit Bumrah produced a scintillating show of pace bowling at the fag-end of the day and India now need six wickets to win the first Test against South Africa. At stumps, on day four, South Africa were 94/4 in 40.5 overs, still requiring 211 runs to win on day five. ED chargesheet names Deshmukh and his two sons The Enforcement Directorate (ED) on Wednesday filed a supplementary chargesheet in a money laundering case naming former state home minister Anil Deshmukh and his two sons Salil and Hrishikesh. The case stems from allegations made by former city police chief Param Bir Singh in a letter he wrote to chief minister Uddhav Thackeray in March this year after being shunted out from the post of police commissioner. Singh had levelled allegations against Deshmukh of corruption in police transfers and postings and extortion from bar and restaurant owners through then Assistant Police Inspector Sachin Vaze. The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) had registered an FIR in the matter after a direction for a preliminary inquiry by the Bombay High Court. The ED had based its probe on the CBI’s corruption case. The ED had arrested Deshmukh in early November and the 60-day deadline for filing the chargesheet was fast approaching. In its earlier chargesheet filed in September, it had named controversial dismissed policeman Sachin Vaze as the main accused and also Deshmukh’s personal assistant Kundan Shinde and personal secretary Sanjeev Palande. A total of 14 accused were named in it, including directors of shell firms that allegedly were part of the money laundering process, chartered accountants and companies. The agency had not named the NCP leader or his family members as accused in the previous chargesheet, but had sought permission to file supplementary chargesheets. It had said that the probe into specific roles and activities of various persons, including members of Deshmukh family which it , suspected to be involved in the offence, was likely to take time. In its previous chargesheet, detailing the role of Deshmukh’s younger son Hrishikesh, the ED had said that he was indirectly controlling and managing the business activities of various companies and laundering money by creating a complex web of transactions. Regarding Salil Deshmukh, the ED said, he had acquired 50 percent share of a company for merely Rs. 17.5 lakhs while the firm had assets of Rs. 5.4 crore; he was thus part of the criminal conspiracy . BETwEEN ThE LINES RS 25 REBATE ON ONE LITRE PETROL T STAFF REPORTER Mumbai he Jharkhand government has decided to give a massive concession of Rs 25 per litre of petrol to those who ride motorcycles and scooters. Targeted primarily lower income group, the subsidy is for 10 litres of petrol in a month. It can be availed of by poor ration-card holding families. There had been no let-up in the rising fuel prices over the last few months; during this period, no such concession was granted. Ironically, Jharkhand chief minister Hemant Soren is loosening his purse strings on the back of fuel prices remaining unchanged for over a month. The concession will be made available from January 26, 2022. He made the announcement as he completed two years in office. Soren also launched a clutch of welfare schemes and laid the foundation stones of projects worth Rs16000 crore in the state. NOTICE ON PLEA TO DEFER ELECTION T he Uttarakhand High Court on Wednesday issued notice to the Election Commission on a plea seeking postponement of upcoming assembly elections in the State in view of the threat posed by the Omicron variant. A Division Bench also directed the counsel appearing for the Central government and the Uttarakhand government to obtain instructions on the plea and listed the case for further hearing on Monday, January 3. Assembly elections in Uttarakhand are expected to be held in February-March 2022 and all the major political parties have already begun their campaign. The plea has attached pictures of the rallies conducted by the Bharatiya Janata Party, the Aam Aadmi Party as well as the Congress, showing huge turnouts with the crowd not adhering to social distancing norms. NAGALAND SLAYING: ARMYMEN QUIZZED T he special investigation team, which is probing the recent killings of civilians in Nagaland, grilled 14 Army personnel and a few local residents on Wednesday. The SIT, comprising of local police and Army officers, also held meetings with the Konyak Students Union along with relatives of the deceased and village representatives. The team also went to Oting village, where the firing incident took place, for forensic details. On December 4, a unit of 21 Para Special Forces had organised an ambush on suspected NSCN (K) activists; but instead of gunning down the suspected militants, the forces had killed eight civilian miners. Other deaths ensued during a face-off between the security forces and villagers. Bengaluru logs 400 out of Karnataka's 566 fresh cases TAILPIECE BJP pledge: booze bottle for Rs 50 Amaravati: The BJP unit in Andhra Pradesh has an ace up its sleeve; it has promised to provide liquor at Rs 50 per bottle, if voted to power in the 2024 assembly polls. "No less than one crore people drink in the state. All of you vote for the BJP we will provide you cheap , liquor at Rs 75 per bottle. If the revenue collections are good, we will even supply it for Rs 50; and, mind you, it will not be bad liquor," BJP state unit Chief Somu Veerraju said at a public meeting. But everyone was not jumping with joy at the ‘spirited’ pledge. "Wah... What a scheme! What a shame! AP BJP stoops to a new low," is how TRS working president K.T. Rama Rao reacted in a tweet. "Is it the national policy of the BJP to supply cheap liquor at Rs 50, or is this bumper offer only for states where the desperation is 'high'," asked KTR, who is the son of Telangana Chief Minister K. Chandrasekhar Rao.YSR Telangana Party leader Y.S. Sharmila also joined the chorus. "BJP is for cheap liquor. TRS is for costly liquor, liquor everywhere, liquor anytime, loot in the name of liquor, make people & youth liquor addicts. Cast aside women’s safety rather, , forcibly sell liquor. Liquor vend next to school, liquor vend in every village. Blood sucking liquor & leaders," Sharmila tweeted, tagging KTR.