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#* Workers trapped in tunnel for 9 days, rescue ops in final phases
Rescuers in Himachal Pradesh's Bilaspur district were set to enter a tunnel on Monday to rescue two men who have been trapped more than 40 metres underground for more than a week.
A team from the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) completed drilling work on the collapsed tunnel on Monday morning, paving the way for rescuers to move inside.
On September 12, three workers of the Himalayan Construction Company were trapped in Tunnel Number 4 being built for the Kiratpur-Nerchowk four-lane project after a cave-in blocked the entrance with tonnes of earth and boulders. The 1.2-kilometre tunnel, a project worth Rs 82 crore, had been dug 275 metres when it collapsed 80 metres from the mouth.
Tunnel cave-in: Missing miner’s kin believe he will come out safe
Rescuers first made contact with Satish Tomar and Mani Ram, two of the trapped workers, on September 17 and food and water were dropped during the week after engineers drilled a thin 47-metre (154-foot) shaft down to the roof of the tunnel.
A remote camera and microphone were lowered on Saturday, allowing rescuers to speak to Tomar and Ram, who said they were uninjured. The fate of third worker, Hirday Ram, is uncertain since there has been no contact with him so far.
The National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) has brought advanced sensors to trace Ram.
Using heavy machinery, engineers have spent days trying to dig a wider shaft to allow rescuers to be lowered down into the tunnel, which is part of a highway construction project.
A 50-member team of engineers, technical supervisors, drilling experts and geologists from Sutlej Jal Vidyut Nigam Limited (SJVNL), Border Roads Organisation (BRO), and Himachal Pradesh Power Corporation Limited (HPPCL) is at work to dig a 1.2-metre-wide hole till the tunnel roof to send in an NDRF team that will make a passage beneath through the concrete ceiling and iron ribs.
But efforts have been frustrated by mechanical breakdowns, NDRF commanding officer Jaideep Singh said from the site in Bilaspur district.
The heavy-duty hydraulic rig positioned at the site three days ago had broken down on Friday night first, but the work had resumed on Saturday. Drilling work on the vertical cavity again came to a halt when the machine broke down on Saturday night and could not be repaired till late afternoon, even as a part was shipped from Delhi overnight.
On Sunday, another technical glitch forced the rescue operation to be put off, prolonging the wait for the workers, who are trapped for more than 180 hours now. Continuous rain since early morning and water ingress in the shaft dug to pull out the trapped men added to the difficulty.
"Engineers are trying to sort out the technical problem. The construction company has deployed two more boring machines on the site," said Bilaspur deputy commissioner Mansi Sahay Thakur.
"Rescue will resume as soon as the machine is fixed," she said.
She added rain and water ingress were not a big problem, as the site had adequate drainage and waterproofing and an engine had been deployed to drain out water from the shaft.
A rescue operation through the horizontal route is on simultaneously but slowed down by a wall of more than 60 metres of debris.
NDRF's Singh said completing the shaft was critical to the success of the operation, and once this task was over, his men could reach the survivors.
Along with the rescuers, a team of doctors is also on a standby at the surface.
Dr Arvind Chopra, who is providing medical assistance in the rescue operation, told Hindustan Times that as soon as the workers will be pulled out, the doctors will examine them on the spot depending on their condition.
"We will check their blood pressure, oxygen-carrying capacity of their blood, sugar level, apart from pulse examination. We have also brought blankets, which will be given to them if their body temperature is below normal," said Dr Chopra.
He said living in the dark for so long can have a psychological effect on a person but added since they are acclimatised to such conditions, so there is a rare chance of it.
"We will allow one family member to meet them and they will be taken to the hospital as some more medical examination will be needed," he added.
#* Jagmohan Dalmiya: The man who drove BCCI forward as a commercial powerhouse
Kolkata: President Jagmohan Dalmiya, who passed away in Kolkata today, will forever be remembered as the man who made Indian cricket a self sufficient entity and engineered a shift of power base from its spiritual home at Lord's to Kolkata's Eden Gardens.
In his chequered administrative career, he saw it all: the good, the bad and the proverbial ugly.
If Kerry Packer's World Series Cricket was revolution that rocked the traditional cricket establishment of Australia, it was the astute business man from Kolkata, who understood the potential of India becoming commercially a global powerhouse of cricket.
His biggest gift to Indian cricket was to strike a multi million television deal with World Tel in the early 90's that went a long way in making BCCI the richest cricketing body in the world.
Jagmohan Dalmiya was at the forefront of making India realise India's commercial strength. PTIJagmohan Dalmiya was at the forefront of making India realise India's commercial strength. PTI
A shrewd tactician and someone who was at forefront of the BCCI numbers game, Dalmiya was the brain behind India co-hosting the Reliance World Cup in 1987 and then the Wills World Cup in 1996.
In his 35 year administrative career that started from being elected as Cricket Association of Bengal working committee member from Rajasthan Club, it was followed by being the treasurer and subsequently the secretary of the body.
A protege of former BCCI president BN Dutt, he became the treasurer in the mid 1980's and was known as the man who convinced NKP Salve to allow Eden Gardens to host the Reliance Cup final instead of Wankhede Stadium.
He along with friend turned foe Inderjit Singh Bindra also defeated the England and Australian block to win the bid for co-hosting 1996 edition in India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka.
In 1997, he was elected unanimously as the president of the International Cricket Council (ICC). In 2001, he defeated AC Muttiah to become the BCCI president in one of the most pitched elections in Chennai.
In one of the most political fights for the BCCI chair, Dalmiya's casting vote in favour of his candidate Ranbir Singh Mahendra to defeat union minister and NCP heavyweight Sharad Pawar by a solitary vote.
However the quartet of Pawar, N srinivasan, Shashank Manohar and Lalit Modi with the backing of Bindra came back next year to not only defeat Mahendra but also opened cases against him.
He was suspended from the BCCI in 2006 and also ousted from his home association. Dalmiya won a long legal battle and then again got his place in state association back.
When the spot-fixing scandal broke, however, he was the first consensus candidate for interim president's post and earlier
this year, he again emerged as the man who was found acceptable by one and all to take up the president's mantle.
Jagmohan Dalmiya faced a lot of political battles towards the backend of his career. Getty ImagesJagmohan Dalmiya faced a lot of political battles towards the backend of his career. Getty Images
Having never lost an election in his public life, Pawar came back stronger and demolished Mahendra's challenge with a 20-10 verdict.
For Dalmiya, cricket was more of a vocation as he was a wicketkeeper for his club Rajasthan. Once he knew that cricket as a career was not possible, he took keen interest in his family business set by father MN Dalmiya Constructions.
In 1963, the company was instrumental in building the Birla Planetarium. While he earned plaudits as tough talking businessman, his love for the game never diminished. His administrative power and knowledge of vote bank was always
appreciated by his peers and seniors.
He was especially close to BN Dutt, who was then emerging as a powerful figure in BCCI politics. However when Dalmiya sensed that the board needed political backing, he calculated his next move like a politician.
His relationship with Dutt was what Dalmiya would often call as "Guru-Shisya" relationship as Dutt taught him the nuances of sports administration.
In the year, 1990, however it was the disciple, who upset the master's applecart as he along with Rungta brothers Kishen and Kishore formed a faction that helped Madhavrao Scindia win an acrimonious election that ended Dutt's tenure in BCCI.
Since then, there was no stopping for the man from Kolkata's richest area New Alipore.
He was virtually a 'One Man Show' for the next 15 years in the cricket board.
While the Australia and England's cricket administrators were wary of him, they knew it was difficult to keep him away from the focus as India slowly and surely became the game's commercial hub.
His power was gauged by the fact the he forced the erstwhile South African board president Ali Bacher to withdraw Mike Denness from match referee's position after he alleged that India's Sachin Tendulkar had tampered with the ball during the Port Elizabeth Test match in 2001.
However in the early part of 2000, his longtime friend Bindra did not like his ways of running the board and became an adversary. It was also the time when Lalit Modi and N Srinivasan also harboured aspirations of having greater say in the board. With Pawar also wanting to head the board, they worked tirelessly towards garnering votes. But eventually Pawar lost to Haryana's Mahendra by 16-15 margin due to Dalmiya's casting vote.
It was 2005 and when Dalmiya's slide started. There were court cases galore, he was summoned on charges of financial irregularities concerning 1996 World Cup and in 2006, he was ousted at an Extraordinary GB meeting in Jaipur.
Subsequently, he had relinquish his CAB presidency to then Kolkata Police Commissioner Prasun Mukherjee.
Interestingly, Dalmiya had defeated Mukherjee 61-56 at state cricket body's election where the then Chief minister Buddhadev Bhattacharjee had openly declared Mukherjee as his candidate.
In fact once a sitting Police Commissioner with all his power and might lost against Dalmiya, it made CM Bhattacharjee
make the now famous statement:"It was a victory of evil against good".
So even when Mukherjee took over from Dalmiya in early 2007, he had to relinquish the post very next year after the courts cleared him of any wrongdoing.
He convincingly defeated Mukherjee to get his presidency back and remained at the helm till he breathed his last.
However people close to him in CAB believe that those three years where he faced ignominy of financial irregularities, was ousted from the board and fought legal cases all over the country took its toll on its health and he was never the same man post 2008.
#* BJP's Bihar plan: Woo Yadavs, drop MLAs facing anti-incumbency
The BJP has fielded about two dozen candidates from the politically-crucial Yadav community considered supporters of rival Lalu Prasad’s RJD and dropped nearly a fourth of its legislators for the Bihar assembly polls kicking off next month.
This is a big upsurge compared to the 2010 election when just six of the party’s 102 nominees were from this backward community that constitutes less than 15% of the state’s population but wields considerable political clout.
The move assumes significance as the grand alliance of chief minister Nitish Kumar’s JD(U), the RJD and Congress is attempting to stitch together a Muslim-Yadav combination, over 30% of Bihar’s electorate, to bring to a halt the BJP’s election juggernaut that has won state after state since the 2014 parliamentary polls win.
“There are some districts with one or two assembly constituencies. On an average, we have given a Yadav candidate to every district,” BJP’s Bihar in-charge Bhupendra Yadav told HT. “Extremely backward communities and Dalits have been given adequate representation. So have been the different upper castes. It is a perfect combination of candidates. We have fielded many professionals as well.”
Among those to get a BJP call-up is former petroleum secretary RS Pandey, who joined the party in 2013. He will contest from Bagaha in West Champaran district that goes to the polls in the fourth phase on November 1.
In its first list of 43 nominees the BJP picked five Yadav candidates while 13 more were chosen for the second list of 99 released on Saturday. The third list announced on Sunday had at least three Yadav candidates. Two Muslims have also got BJP tickets.
Together, the BJP and three of its NDA partners have chosen close to three dozen candidates from the Yadav community.
The party also denied tickets to 19 out of its existing 84 legislators, nearly a fourth of its total strength in the assembly. The BJP won 91 seats five years ago, but some of its MLAs defected to the ruling JD (U) while a few passed away.
Bihar polls: JD(U) gets lion’s share in Grand Alliance
“We had initially decided not to axe so many of them (sitting legislators) in order to avoid a controversy,” a BJP leader said. “But, on second thoughts, it was decided that most of them were facing a huge personal anti-incumbency that could have adversely impacted the party despite the popularity of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. So, a decision was taken to deny tickets to such legislators.”
Many veterans, including former ministers like Chandramohan Rai and Sukhda Pandey, will have to sit out the polls this time. The party has given tickets to the sons and daughters of many active BJP politicians and those who crossed over to the BJP at the last moment have also been obliged with nominations.
#* Greek voters give leftist leader Alexis Tsipras a second chance
A jubilant Alexis Tsipras vowed to continue fighting for his country's pride and to quickly form a coalition government after his left-wing Syriza party comfortably won Greece's third national vote this year on Sunday.
The result was a resounding success for Tsipras' high-risk gamble when he resigned as prime minister last month and triggered an early election, barely seven months into his four-year term, in order to face down an internal Syriza rebellion over his policy U-turn to accept painful austerity measures in return for Greece's third international bailout.
With 66% of the vote counted, Syriza stood at 35.4% of the vote and 145 seats in the 300-member parliament, followed by the conservative New Democracy with 28.3% and the Nazi-inspired Golden Dawn in third place with 7%. Abstention was particularly high, at nearly 45% in an election-weary country with a traditionally high voter turnout.
It was the third time this year Greeks have voted, after the January election that brought Tsipras to power on an anti-bailout platform, and a July referendum he called urging Greeks to reject creditor reform proposals, which they resoundingly did - shortly before Tsipras then accepted similar proposals as part of the new bailout.
Six seats shy of an absolute majority, Tsipras said he would form a government with his previous coalition partner, the right-wing Independent Greeks of Panos Kammenos, who joined him on stage to rapturous applause from dancing, cheering Syriza supporters in central Athens. The Independent Greeks were in seventh place with 3.6% of the vote and 10 parliamentary seats.
"I thank you from the bottom of my heart for this great victory, a clear victory, a victory of the people," Tsipras said. "I feel vindicated because the Greek people gave us a clear mandate to continue our struggle, inside and outside the country to lift our country's pride."
The 41-year-old vowed to govern for a full four-year term - something few Greek governments have managed, particularly since the country became dependent on international bailouts five years ago. The country has seen six governments and four parliamentary elections since 2009.
"We will place our people's just cause at the forefront faced with asymmetrical powers and enemies more powerful than us," Tsipras said. "But we have achieved it: The flags of Greece are flying in the squares of Greece and the European capitals. Greece and the Greek people represent struggle and dignity. And together we will continue that struggle for an entire four years."
A total of eight parties were set to win parliamentary seats. The new anti-bailout Popular Unity party, formed by rebel Syriza members who objected to Tsipras' agreement to a third bailout for Greece and the stringent austerity attached to it, was falling short of the 3% parliamentary threshold.
"We lost the battle, but not the war," said Popular Unity head Panagiotis Lafazanis, Tsipras' former energy minister.
New Democracy head Vangelis Meimarakis conceded defeat shortly after exit polls showed a clear Syriza victory, and called for a government to be formed quickly.
"The election result appears to be forming comprehensively with Syriza and Mr. Tsipras coming first," Meimarakis said. "I congratulate him and call on him to form the government that is necessary."
The new government will have little time to waste. Creditors are expected to review progress of reforms as part of the bailout next month, while the government will also have to draft the 2016 state budget, overhaul the pension system, raise a series of taxes, including on farmers, carry out privatizations and merge social security funds.
It must also oversee a critical bank recapitalization program, without which depositors with over 100,000 euros ($113,000) in their accounts will be forced to contribute.
Jeroen Dijsselbloem, the head of the eurozone's finance ministers' meetings known as the eurogroup, congratulated Tsipras on his election victory. "Looking forward to swift formation of new government with strong mandate to continue reform process," he said in a tweet.
Sunday's result, with Syriza able to form a government with the Independent Greeks and without need to reach out to more euro-friendly centrist parties is one "that Tsipras will likely feel somewhat emboldened by," said Malcolm Barr of JP Morgan. "The choice appears to have been made that when push comes to shove, Syriza will opt to keep Greece in the euro. But we note this result provides a platform upon which Syriza will continue to challenge significant parts of the (bailout) program."
Tsipras has clearly stated he disagreed with the spending cuts and tax hikes demanded by Greece's European creditors in return for the new bailout, a three-year package worth 86 billion euros ($97 billion). But he argued that without it, Greece faced bankruptcy and a potentially disastrous exit from Europe's joint currency.
His party supporters were more forgiving than the hardliners who split from his party.
"He is young. We had been voting for the others for 40 years," supporter Eva Vasilopoulou. "We are giving (him) a second chance. He is pure, and smart, and I hope that he will govern for many years."
Others said they appreciated that Tsipras had tried to get a better bailout deal for Greece, and his honesty in saying he didn't achieve what he wanted in the troubled negotiations with European creditors.
"He told ... the truth, that this is how things are: 'I have fought I did not achieve what I wanted, and I have brought this (deal). If you want, vote for me'," Syriza supporter Alexis Athanasopoulos said. "And so we voted for him." Retiree Antonis Antonios, 75, said he was counting on Tsipras to fight for a better deal for Greeks.
"It's a great and hopeful result. We are moving forward. I am waiting for the next government to put up a fight," he said. "They are the only ones capable of a brave struggle."
#* Memo for the minister
In his first speech to the nation from the ramparts of Red Fort in August 2014, Narendra Modi wanted to know why parents who ask their daughters where they are going, why they are going out and who their friends are, do not dare ask the same questions of their sons.
Perhaps it is time the Prime Minister sent a copy of the speech to his minister of culture, Mahesh Sharma, who has said many ridiculous things in recent weeks.
His latest is that girls going out at night is not a part of Indian culture. He evidently has no problems with boys spending a night out. This comes on the heels of agriculture minister Radha Mohan Singh offering yoga as a solution to drought, a problem facing many parts of the country.
Modi should realize that the average Indian voter sent him to New Delhi because he spoke the language of aspiration. He should rein in his culture warriors.
#* Jagmohan Dalmiya: India cricket board president dies aged 75
Jagmohan Dalmiya, president of the Board of Control for Cricket in India, has died following a heart attack.
Dalmiya, 75, was admitted to hospital in Kolkata on Thursday with chest pains and taken to intensive care.
He served as president of the BCCI from 2001 to 2004, taking on the role on an interim basis in 2013 and returning to it full-time in March 2015.
Dalmiya was also president of the world governing body, the International Cricket Council, from 1997 to 2000.
Among the many in the cricket world paying tribute, legendary ex-India batsman Sachin Tendulkar tweeted: "Heartfelt condolences to the family & friends of Jagmohan Dalmiya. Had met him in June. Little did I realise that it would be the last.
"Will always cherish his encouragement & support over the years. Worked hard for the game of cricket & excelled as an administrator."
A leading cricket administrator in his native Bengal for many decades, Dalmiya joined the BCCI in 1979 and was one of the men credited with bringing the World Cup to the subcontinent for the first time in 1987.
His recent return to the BCCI's top job came after previous incumbent Narayanaswami Srinivasan was forced by India's Supreme Court to step down over a conflict of interests.
Srinivasan, who owns Indian Premier League team Chennai Super Kings, was barred by the court from standing again as BCCI president - but took over as chairman of the ICC in June 2014.
#* Listen to the farmers, Sonia tells Modi govt
Accusing Prime Minister Narendra Modi of having no time for farmers, Congress president Sonia Gandhi on Sunday vowed to take her party’s fight for farmers’ rights from Delhi to the States.
Speaking at a Kisan Samman rally on the Ramlila Maidan to commemorate the Congress’ ‘victory’ in forcing the Modi government to backtrack on the controversial land acquisition ordinance, Ms. Gandhi pronounced it as a victory for all farmers.
Though the rally was organised to highlight the leadership of Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi in the party’s campaign against the controversial ordinance, it was Ms. Gandhi’s speech which struck a greater resonance with the thousands of farmers who had assembled at the ground.
Ms. Gandhi declared that as long as the Narendra Modi government failed to listen to the farmers, the Congress would continue to act as an obstacle.
This was a counter to the Centre’s criticism that the Congress was working against the development of the country by blocking business in Parliament.
“The Congress will be an obstacle in their way whenever they stop giving an ear to people’s problems, whenever farmers are not given minimum support price, whenever drought and flood-affected farmers are left at the mercy of God and the price of edible items is not brought down.
“If development means benefiting a few persons, we will definitely act as a roadblock in such development.” Ms. Gandhi hailed the farmer as “not only Annadaata but also Bhagyavidhata” (not only food-givers but destiny-makers) of the country, pointing out that the UPA government had waived over Rs. 70,000 cr. in farmer loans. She warned the gathering that the fight on the Land Bill was not yet over since the Central government would now try to implement the law in the States, having failed at the Centre.
“We need to be all the more careful now, otherwise your struggle will go in vain and you will be driven away from your land,” she said.
The Congress had earlier organised another mega rally on the Ramlila Maidan on April 20 against the ordinance when the Opposition offensive against the government on the issue was building steam. That rally was also billed as Mr. Gandhi’s comeback show after a mysterious two month-long sabbatical.
The Congress vice-president, in his speech on Sunday, drew on the idea that a farmer’s relationship to his land went beyond just the material, stating that the battle the Congress was fighting was for his honour and prestige.
He recounted that a farmer had told him that the land he tilled was like his own mother.
“He told me that [Prime Minister Narendra] Modi is not just snatching our land but our mother. He wants to snatch our mother and give it to someone else, please fight for us,” Mr. Gandhi said.
The Congress vice-president said that though Mr. Modi had allowed the land ordinance to lapse, he had instructed the BJP Chief Ministers to implement its contents. “I know Modiji. What he really says he does not do,” he said.
Mr. Gandhi also came up with the phrase ‘Take in India’ as a retort to the Prime Minister’s ‘Make In India’ initiative. “Modiji says that there should be Make in India, but there is no place for labourers and farmers in his Make in India. This is not Make in India, this is Take in India,” he told the gathering.
#* Prima facetious: Why allegations of human sacrifice in Tamil Nadu are too hard to probe
Chennai: The little village of E Malampatti in Madurai district, Tamil Nadu, has been all aflutter this past week. The media’s spotlight has been turned squarely onto this village, now notorious as the site of alleged human sacrifices conducted around 12 years ago. A jeep driver formerly employed with a large granite firm PRP Granites, reiterated, after several years, his allegation of human sacrifice having been conducted by his former employer PR Palanisamy and his henchmen.
The jeep driver Sevarkodiyan claimed, in a petition to IAS officer U Sagayam four months ago, that he had picked up a few mentally ill persons in neighbouring Pudukottai district and brought them to his boss PRP’s office, when he was employed with the granite firm between 1998 and 2003. He claimed that those mentally ill persons had been sacrificed as part of a ritual and buried near E Malampatti village. Sagayam, who is the legal commissioner appointed by the Madras High Court to probe into a Rs 16,000 crore granite scam in Madurai, decided to push for investigations into these astonishing allegations. Exhumations were ordered at the burial site last weekend and the gripping drama began.
Representational image. Image courtesy: ReutersRepresentational image. Image courtesy: Reuters
“Sagayam was worried that the evidence at the burial site might be removed overnight by vested interests and so he camped there for a night last week to ensure that the bones would be protected,” said a source in Sagayam’s team, on condition of anonymity. Police dug 5 feet deep and recovered 4 bodies on the 13th of this month. Sagayam ordered police to dig upto a depth of 10 feet. Two more bodies were recovered, all of which have been sent for forensic analysis, with results on the first four bodies likely to arrive this week and on the last two bodies next week.
Theatre of the absurd
The biggest eyebrow-raiser appears to be the actual spot being dug up by the police. The area has been used as a graveyard by villagers for the past 10 years. “If you dig a graveyard, what are you going to find there?” asked a police officer on condition of anonymity. A retired police officer likened the situation to a witticism – “A small two-seater Cessna 152 plane crashed into a cemetery early this afternoon. Search and rescue workers have found two survivors and recovered 300 bodies so far and expect that number to climb as digging continues into the evening,” he quipped.
Police now have the onerous task of matching DNA samples from the bodies with those of villagers, to see whether the dead are relatives of the villagers or unknown persons, as claimed by Sevarkodiyan.
The second red flag is in the complaint filed with the Madurai police by the jeep driver Sevarkodiyan. His complaint does not specify when he had actually picked up the mentally ill persons from Annavasal in Pudukottai district. The written complaint with the Madurai police simply states that between 1998 and 2003 Sevarkodiyan was working as a jeep driver with the granite company PRP. He states that he went to Annavasal, picked up 2 people and left them at the PRP office. A month and a half later he came to know that the same people were found dead on the riverbank. The three accused named in the complaint, he states, buried the body in the specified location. Police say that this complaint is too vague to be of much help.
“We have to further verify the complaint made on this issue,” Madurai Superintendent of Police (SP) Vijayendra Bidari told Firstpost. “We need to find out specifics of when the incident took place and identify the deceased. We have sent the skeletons for forensic tests to establish the time of death. Once we get the reports we will have a clearer picture,” he said. Other questions that the police would like to ask Sevarkodiyan are whether he was asked to bring in the mentally ill persons or whether he did that on his own, and details on how he managed to lure them into his vehicle along with a detailed description of the alleged victims.
Sources within the investigation team probing the human sacrifice angle told Firstpost that the bodies exhumed had a specific coloured cloth with a decorative border wrapped around them. These bodies have also been buried in a specific north-south direction as per village practices. Police say that local villagers have come up to them stating that their relatives were buried at the same spot in a particular coloured cloth. “Some bodies had been buried with coconuts tied to them,” said the source requesting anonymity. “Villagers tell us there is a practice prevalent amongst certain communities here of burying unmarried persons with coconuts tied to their bodies,” he said, debunking media claims that the coconuts indicated ritualistic sacrifice.
All six bodies have been sent to a team of three forensic doctors for testing. The Polonium 210 test will be used to determine the closest time of death – this test can show time and year of death up to a margin of 138 days before or after the actual date of death.
Another team of police has fanned out across Madurai district hunting for occult practitioners who may have knowledge about the rituals of human sacrifice. Yet another team is scouring through the database of missing persons in and around Madurai district.
“If Sevarkodiyan’s claims are true, then the mentally ill persons that he picked up could have come to Pudukottai from anywhere in the country,” argues a senior police officer, pointing out the daunting near-impossibility of the task of identifying the victims, if any.
This process was in fact already carried out in 2012 by then SP of Madurai V Balakrishnan and his team, who had originally carried out the raids on the granite mafia, freezing their accounts and shutting down their businesses. “We made extensive inquiries in hospitals in MDU and Melur about deaths in quarries,” Balakrishnan, who is now Deputy Commissioner in Mylapore, Chennai, told Firstpost. “We also checked with the injured admitted from quarry sites. We analysed all unnatural death cases reported under Section 174 of the CrPC (Criminal Procedure Code) 15 years before 2012 and we couldn’t find anything fishy in any of those cases. Based on a general complaint on suspected human sacrifice, we did all this. There was no specific complaint from any relatives of missing persons when we looked through the missing persons list,” he said.
Interestingly the Supreme Court has already dismissed in toto a Special Leave Petition in December 2013 – an intervenor petition by activists along with Sevarkodiyan had pled for investigation of these same allegations of human sacrifice. “That many innocent Dalit bonded labors from Orissa and Bihar and poor workers and insane people in the area have been barbarically slaughter on human sacrifice called ‘Nara Palli’, that is killing a human being as a sacrificial offer to please bad demons to further the business at every new quarrying site secretly by the Granite mafia,” says the intervenor petition in the Supreme Court filed in 2013. All of these have been dismissed summarily by the apex court.
Legal commissioner Sagayam remains tight lipped. His job, he says, is to report findings to the court. “I will submit my report on illegal granite mining to the court in two weeks,” he told reporters last week. “I do not wish to say anything beyond that.” His team, though, is convinced that they have stumbled onto a big revelation.
So did a human sacrifice happen or not? There are no easy answers to this and there never may be. The astounding allegation by one jeep driver could well remain just that – an allegation. With next to nothing to work on, police continue to plod on with their investigations. But at the end of all this, E Malampatti certainly has had its 15 minutes of fame.
#* Eiffel Tower closed for hours after intruder spotted
Paris’s Eiffel Tower was closed for several hours after an intruder with a backpack was spotted inside the iconic monument before its daily opening hours, officials have said.
The tower was reopened at 2:45 pm (local time) on Sunday after being closed to the public for the morning, the press department for the tourist attraction said.
Before it opened on Sunday morning, “an individual was seen in the structure with a backpack”, a source close to the matter said, speaking on condition of anonymity. “To remove all doubt, a helicopter was sent to carry out an inspection of the structure.”
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Firefighters were also dispatched to the site, but “found nothing”, according to a fire department spokesman. A policeman at the scene said the intruder may have been an adventurer seeking to parachute off the tower, which is 324 metres (354 yards) tall, a sight not uncommon in the French capital. In 2005, however, a Norwegian man died while attempting a similar feat.
The “Iron Lady” attracts around seven million visitors a year, of which nearly nine in 10 are foreign tourists.
#* No poverty, hunger in 15 years? U.N. sets sweeping new goals
A season of goal-setting begins this month as the United Nations launches a new 15-year plan to fight grinding world poverty, improve health and education and quell climate change.
The Sustainable Development Goals are set for adoption by the 193 U.N. member states shortly after Pope Francis brings his activist message to the world body on Friday a message sure to include calls to pull back from the abyss of a heating world and to spread global wealth among the neediest.
More than 150 world leaders, including President Barack Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping, are expected to speak at a three-day summit dedicated to adopting the goals. That meeting precedes the annual gathering of world leaders at the U.N. beginning Sept. 28.
The new goals land on the global agenda in advance of December’s world meeting in Paris aimed at a comprehensive agreement on curbing accelerating global warming.
The SDGs consist of 17 broad goals and 169 specific targets. They replace the United Nations’ expiring Millennium Development Goals, eight of them, adopted in 2000.
Despite significant progress, the only one of those original goals achieved before this year was halving the number of people living in extreme poverty. That was due primarily to economic growth in China.
Critics of the new goals say they are too broad, lack accountability and will lead to disenchantment among those in the world most in need of hope.
Supporters say there is no choice but to go big in a world of expanding population, growing inequality, dwindling resources and the existential threat from global warming.
“Let’s be realistic about this. This is about survival,” said Susan Brown of the World Wildlife Federation International. “We actually don’t have another choice. We are expanding into our natural resources at a rate which is not sustainable. And I don’t want to think about what the end—game looks like in 15 years if we don’t get this right.”
The goals are estimated to cost the world between $3.5 trillion and $5 trillion a year between 2016 and the end of 2030.
They were the work of a long process involving most countries as thousands of people came together in many gatherings to hash out the new agenda. It will be financed not only by the so-called “developed North” but also by the “needy South” from national development reaping financial benefits from economic advances among people who are healthier, more equal and better educated.
The earlier Millennium Development Goals relied more on wealthy nations helping poorer ones, and were devised by people working for then-U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan.
That kind of top-down approach “wasn’t going to be the case,” with the new agenda, said Michael Elliot, CEO of One.org, an anti-poverty advocacy group. It was clear “the new development agenda had to be truly South as well as North, that it had to be universal, it had to be global, that it had to have from the start a component that reflected a whole set of concerns on the part of developing nations.”
Roger-Mark DeSouza, director of climate, security and population at the Wilson Center, applauds the goals and process that produced the new goals, but he worries about implementation. “That’s the crux of the matter, and I think that is still to be determined.”
“To make the goals realistic across these different country settings, there needs to be more opportunities for community engagement,” he said.
The 169 targets have not been fully outlined in terms of how success would be measured.
“The targets become critically important to watch in New York [when the goals are officially adopted],” said Ken Conca, an expert in water development and professor at American University’s school of international service. “The things that are most wildly aspirational tend not to be the targets.”
Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon has praised the goals but warned that “further progress will require an unswerving political will, and collective, long-term effort. We need to tackle root causes and do more to integrate the economic, social and environmental dimensions of sustainable development.”