FRIDAY 164 PROPOSALS ON APPOINTING HIGH COURT JUDGES PENDING 03 Law minister informs Parliament about the judge-selection process conducted by the Supreme Court collegium and government DECEMBER, 2021 406 JUDGE VACANCIES IN HIGH COURTS epaper.morningstandard.in facebook.com/TheMorningStandard A total of 164 proposals on appointing high court judges are at different stages of consideration, Kiren Rijiju said in response to a Rajya Sabha question. High courts have a vacancy of 406 judges while the apex court has one. This year, nine apex court judges and 118 high court judges were appointed. Currently, no high court has a woman Chief Justice | P7 twitter.com/TheMornStandard ACTING TOUGH PARAM BIR SUSPENDED Maharashtra takes action against former Mumbai police commissioner PAGE 8 A CAPITAL VIEW OF NEWS NEW DELHI J8.00 PAGES 12 COMBINED SANCTIONED STRENGTH OF JUDGES IN 25 HIGH COURTS HUGE CASE BACKLOG IN LOWER JUDICIARY Of the proposals to appoint HC judges, 55 have been either remitted or returned on SC collegium’s advice to HCs this year. While 70,038 cases are pending in the Supreme Court, 56,42,858 are pending in the various high courts. In the lower judiciary, a staggering 3,79,42,466 cases are pending, according to Rijiju First cases of Omicron found in India Both detected in Bengaluru after genome sequencing; mask up, but don’t panic, says govt; concern over community transmission C H E TA N A B E L A G E R E @ Bengaluru INDIA’S first Omicron cases were recorded in Karnataka on Thursday, and one of the two cases is a local from Bengaluru who has no international travel history . Karnataka Health Minister Dr K Sudhakar, said the 46-yearold doctor, the local case of the new Omicron variant of the coronavirus, is a doctor residing in Bengaluru. The doctor was in home isolation for the first two days and, on November 25, was admitted to a private hospital. After three days of treatment, he was discharged on November 27. Authorities in the state have expressed fears of community spread of the variant as the doctor had no travel history and five of his contacts have also tested positive for Covid-19. Their genome sequencing reports are awaited. The announcement of the two Omicron cases was made by the Union Health Ministry at a press conference in New Delhi on Thursday. Lav Agarwal, Joint Secretary, Union Ministry of Health, called for calm and strict surveillance. “There is no reason to panic, but we need to be monitoring the situation and follow Covidappropriate behaviour.” Meanwhile, the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahangara Palike (BBMP) has tested 13 of the doctor’s primary contacts, mostly his family and health care workers, and 205 secondary contacts. It has found that two of the primary contacts and three secondary contacts have tested positive for Covid-19. The other case was a South African national, who left India on November 27 for Dubai. He arrived at Kempegowda International Airport from Dubai on November 20 with a RT-PCR negative report from South Africa and was screened and tested at KIA on arrival. He had checked into a hotel and his test reports had come positive. He was found to be asymptomatic and advised to self isolate at the hotel. On November 22, his samples were sent for genome sequencing through the BBMP The pa. tient took another test at a private lab on November 23 and his report was negative. His 24 primary contacts and 240 secondary contacts are asymptoP7 matic and negative. WHAT WE KNOW 1 2 medical practitioner, 46, from Bengaluru with no history of travel tested positive on November 22 Was in home isolation after complaining of tiredness, body ache, mild fever Passengers arrive from Singapore at the Indira Gandhi International Airport in New Delhi on Thursday | PTI SYMPTOMS DIFFERENT FROM THAT OF DELTA? FOUR MORE TEST +VE ON ARRIVAL Extreme tiredness and body pain Four more travellers arriving from ‘At Risk’ countries tested positive for Covid-19 at Delhi’s Indira Gandhi International Airport on Thursday. All four have been admitted to Lok Nayak Hospital. Their samples have been sent for genome sequencing to ascertain if they have the new Covid-19 variant, Omicron | P4 No loss of smell or taste While WHO says the symptoms of Omicron are not different, South African doctors say most Omicron patients have mild issues, such as extreme tiredness, body pain, besides sore throat, dry coughs and fever. Loss of taste or smell & low oxygen was typical of Delta JAB-O-METER TAKE YOUR SHOT Dec 01 71,55,049 doses Dec 02 66,21,382 doses TOTAL: 1,25,65,96,957 NATIONWIDE DEC 01 DEC 02 DELHI Fresh cases 8,954 9,765 Recoveries 10,204 8,548 Deaths 267 477 Fresh cases Recoveries Deaths DEC 01 DEC 02 39 40 00 41 196 00 Govt traced his 13 primary and 205 secondary contacts and found that five of them tested positive South African man, 66, tested positive on November 20 at the the Bengaluru International Airport He had been isolated in a hotel and his symptoms were not severe, authorities said Contact-tracing done. His 24 primary and 240 secondary contacts tested negative. He flew out for Dubai later that month BOTH MEN WERE DOUBLY VACCINATED 375 CASES of Omicron found in 30 nations so far The variant also has three mutations in the furin cleavage site, which increases SARS-CoV-2 infectivity. However, it is still unclear whether Omicron is more transmissible than other variants Brace for a bumpy year Congress decides to ‘hit back’ against ahead as cars, houses to Mamata, TMC’s aggressive posturing Speaker notice cost a lot more in 2022 R I C H A S H A R M A @ New Delhi A R S H A D K H A N @ New Delhi WITH commodity prices showing no signs of abating, year 2022 is going two be costlier on many fronts — especially if you were planning to buy a new car or a house. India’s largest carmaker Maruti Suzuki on Thursday said it would increase vehicle prices from January to offset the impact of the rise in raw material costs. It is a common practice for automakers to go for a price hike of 2-4% in January every year. However this year, buyers will feel the pinch more as most leading automakers have gone for at least three price hikes in the past one year. For example, Maruti had increased the prices of its vehicles by 1.4% in January 2021, 1.6% in April and then again in September by 1.9% — taking the total quantum of increase to 4.9%. Sources said Tata Motors, Mahindra & Mahindra and Hyundai will issue similar announcements soon. Luxury automakers Mercedes Benz and Audi have already announced price hikes of 2% and 3%, respectively from January 2022. , MSIL’s senior executive director (marketing and sales) Shashank Srivastava had recently said the firm would be forced to hike vehicle prices with steel, aluminium, copper, plastic and precious metals becoming costlier. Steel prices, which stood at `38 per kg last April-May, shot up to `77 a kg this year. Similarly aluminium , which was available for $1,700- Cement price to touch `400 per bag: Crisil The retail price of cement, which has risen `10-15 per bag pan-India since August, is likely to swell by another `15-20 over the next few months, ratings agency Crisil said in a report on Thursday. The price could touch an alltime high of `400 per bag this fiscal due to costly inputs such as coal and diesel, it added 1,800 a tonne last year, now costs $2,700-2,800 per tonne. If unchecked, this surge in metal prices, along with a surge in cement prices, is going to jack up property prices as well. “Housing developers’ profit margins are already wafer-thin and the rising inflationary trend of basic input costs such as cement, steel and labour is a real challenge… Future price hikes seem inevitable,” said Prashant Thakur, director & head of research at Anarock Group. Real estate industry body Credai had recently estimated housing prices to jump 10-15% in view of rising costs of construction raw materials. STORM AFTER KISHOR’S DIG AT CONGRESS LEADERSHIP Without naming anyone, election strategist says it’s not an individual’s divine right to remain at the helm despite poor election results. Grand old party says he is not qualified to comment on leadership issues | P7 WITH West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee’s sustained attack on Congress, the party is expected to not take it lying down. Party leaders have suggested they should respond to the TMC’s barbs. Calling Congress incompetent, Mamata has been saying that the party is not strong enough to wage a national-levl fight against BJP. Congress leaders this newspaper spoke to said the party has till now been restrained in retaliating to TMC’s comments. But they would take them on based on facts. As of now, senior Congress are likely to refrain from getting into this. But young leaders and MPs have been asked to speak out. Congress MPs Manickam Tagore, Sayeed Naeer Hussain and others have attacked Mamata’s party saying it is has , no business making comments like that. A senior leader said TMC cannot change the fact that Congress is the principal opposition party, with around 20 per cent vote share in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections. “We have governments in two states and are in alliance in governments in three others. The TMC is just limited to West Bengal. They went chest thumping about Tripura municipal polls but we saw the results. Goa results would further clear the air,” said the party leader. Senior leader Mallikarjun Kharge said the party’s aim is to defeat BJP, but some are helping the saffron brigade. “We are taking everyone along in the fight against BJP .” Another senior leader, who was looking after West Bengal Assembly elections, said Congress even refrained from fielding a candidate against Mamata in the recent by-polls. Mamata Banerjee with industrialist Gautam Adani in Mumbai on Thursday | PTI for 12 turncoat Congress MLAs EXPRESS NEWS SERVICE @ Guwahati MEGHALAYA Assembly Speaker Metbah Lyngdoh has issued notices to 10 of the 12 Congress turncoats, seeking their comments on a disqualification petition filed against them by the grand old party . The 12 MLAs, led by former Chief Minister Mukul Sangma, who had defected to Trinamool Congress (TMC) last week, were given seven days to reply . State Congress leader and MLA, Ampareen Lyngdoh filed the disqualification petition against the 10 legislators. A similar petition will be filed against the remaining two. “After careful examination of the petition, the Speaker has directed that a copy of the petition may be forwarded to you for obtaining your comments to the charges as required under Rule 7 (3)(b)...,” the notice issued to Sangma reads. Lyngdoh said the petition was filed to ensure their elected representatives do not make a mockery of democracy. Congress had 17 MLAs and the defection of 12 makes TMC the principal opposition party . Low visibility near Rashtrapati Bhavan due to smog on Thursday | PARVEEN NEGI Delhi schools shut again after SC rap over air pollution EXPRESS NEWS SERVICE @ New Delhi HOURS after being pulled up by Supreme Court for reopening schools despite alarming pollution levels, the Delhi government on Thursday ordered shutting down of all educational institutions in the city again. The board examinations will, however, go on as scheduled. The Supreme Court rap for the government came on a day the city’s air quality plunged back to ‘severe’ zone after remaining in the ‘very poor’ category over the past three days. As per the Central Pollution Control Board, Delhi’s 24-hour average air quality index on Thursday was 429 as against 370 the previous day . Delhi’s environment minister Gopal Rai said in a statement that all schools, colleges, coaching centers, libraries and other educational and training institutes will be closed with “immediate effect until further review”. “Institutes where exams are being conducted will be exempt from the order,” said Rai. He added that schools will be closed for all classes. Earlier, the Supreme Court came down heavily on the Delhi government for exposing children to highly toxic air. “You have implemented work from home for adults. So, parents work from home and children have to go to school. What’s this?” asked a bench You have implemented work from home for adults. So, parents work from home and children have to go to school. What’s this? Three to four year old children are being made to go to school — Supreme Court CENTRE PULLED UP TOO The Supreme Court on Thursday gave 24 hours to the Central government to take action to check the rising air pollution levels in Delhi-NCR. “We are giving you 24 hours’ time. We want you to take a hard look at this and come up with a solution with seriousness. We will take this up tomorrow morning.” P4 headed by Chief Justice of India N V Ramana. “We are looking at this aggressively and you told us schools are closed but it is not so. Three to four year old children are being made to go to school,” the bench noted. Schools in the national capital have been closed thrice over the last two months. They had remained shut for 20 months since March 2020 on account of Covid-19 and had reopened on November 1 this year. They were closed again on November 17 because of the alarming pollution levels and were reopened again on November 29, when the air quality had briefly showed improvement. CONTINUED ON P4 EXPRESS READ India-Russia summit on December 6 New Delhi: Narendra Modi and Russian President Vladimir Putin will review the state of bilateral ties and discuss ways to further strengthen the strategic partnership between the countries at their summit talks on December 6. Ministry of External Affairs spokesperson Arindam Bagchi said the 21st India-Russia summit in Delhi will offer an opportunity to exchange views on regional and multilateral issues. BJP demands NIA probe into Bengal blast Kolkata: West Bengal BJP chief Sukanta Majumdar in a letter to Union Home Minister Amit Shah on Thursday requested an NIA probe into a blast at a house in South 24 Parganas district that claimed three lives. Three others were injured in the blast on Wednesday. “We demand an NIA probe into the incident. The state police and investigating agencies will not bring to book those who are behind the blast,” he wrote. Covid impact more on poor than rich, shows Jharkhand study M U K E S H R A N J A N @ Ranchi A socio-economic survey conducted by National Health Mission (NHM), Jharkhand, says the impact of Covid-19 has been more among the poor and vulnerable population. The survey was conducted in 11 districts — Chatra, East Singhbhum, Garhwa, Gumla, Hazaribagh, Koderma, Lohardaga, Sahibganj, Saraikela, Simdega and West Singhbhum. It gathered a sample size of 443 deaths, revealing that 62.2 per cent of the deceased were from the lower income groups earning less than `10,000 a month. The study also suggested that out of 443 deaths in these districts, 331 (74.72%) were male and 112 (25.28%) were female. The study was conducted by Chief Minister’s Health Advisor and Fellow at NHM, Jharkhand Tejkaran Charan. The data was collected with the help of district WHO representatives. Notably, the death toll till October 31 in Jharkhand was 5,138 as against 3,48,764 total confirmed cases. “Of 443 deaths in 11 districts, 157 (35.4%) of those who died earned less than `4,000 per Cost of treatment ‘extraordinarily’ high The study shows that in a sample size of 443 deaths, where 55% of the persons held Ayushman Bharat cards, the expenditure was extraordinarily high. This, avccording to the study, indicates loopholes in the current service delivery at both public and private facilities. month and overall, 276 (62.2%) earned less than `10,000 per month. The effect of Covid has been severe on poor people,” said Charan. Only 13% of the people who died earned more than `25,000 or more, he added. “This shows that the impact of the pandemic has been more on the poor and vulnerable population rather than the better earning population,” said Charan. The survey also suggested that 66% of the persons who died were unskilled and em- ployed in the unorganised sector. Of them, 110 (almost 25%) were labourers and farmers. Another significant finding indicates that the number of deaths is high for persons travelling more than 10 km for Covid treatment. Only 44 (9.9%) people travelled less than 2 km to get 19 treatment as against 273 (61.6%) who died after travelling more than 10 km. An analysis of expenditures incurred indicates that, on an average, expenditure on each of the patients dying of Covid-19 was `83,736.
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