Hello, this is your daily dose of news from Onmanorama. I'm your host, Vishnu, and these are the major news stories of the day:
1. Twenty20-AAP not to support any front in Thrikkakara bypoll
2. Excise duty cut: Petrol price slashed by Rs 8.69/litre and diesel by Rs 7.05/litre
3. KSRTC nearly clears salary dues for April, now seeks Rs 65 cr for next pay
4. Crime Branch to wind up further probe into 2017 actor assault case, Kavya Madhavan won't be booked
5. Lakshadweep heroin haul: Boat crew behind drug smuggling has Pakistan links, confirms Revenue Intelligence
Let's get into the details:
1. The newly formed Twenty20-Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) alliance in Kerala will not support any of the three fronts contesting the Thrikkakara assembly bypoll slated for May 31.
The People's Welfare Alliance (PWA), which was recently launched by AAP supremo Arvind Kejriwal and Twenty20 chief Sabu M Jacob, announced its decision at a press meet at Kizhakkambalam on Sunday.
Claiming that the Peoples Welfare Alliance has already won the bypoll even without fielding a candidate, the alliance urged its followers to exercise their franchise after looking keenly at the current socio-political situation in Kerala.
Sabu said the alliance was sure that all those supporting them were politically aware to make such an informed decision. He further said democracy would only be strengthened when an individual exercises their franchise without being influenced or tempted by money or alcohol, and requested everyone to cast their votes judiciously.
He also urged the alliance's supporters to go to the polling station and cast their votes even if it's raining that day.
Asked if the statement was a call to cast the vote according to the voter's conscience, Jacob said usages like 'conscience votes' and 'equidistant policy' were part of the terminologies associated with traditional political parties and that both Twenty20 and AAP were different from the traditional parties.
The Twenty20 party, the political arm of the Kizhakkambalam-based corporate Kitex Group, had polled a little over 10 per cent of votes in Thrikkakara constituency in the 2021 assembly polls. The party, which is ruling four panchayats, had polled 14 per cent of votes from eight constituencies in Ernakulam district.
Recently, Sabu had announced that his Twenty20 and AAP would be fielding a common candidate in the bypoll, necessitated by the death of Congress legislator P T Thomas. The two parties, however, backed off the move saying the outcome of the bypoll would have little impact on state's prospects and reiterated that their aim was to focus on the bigger picture that is the state polls.
2. Petrol price on Sunday was slashed by Rs 8.69 a litre and diesel by Rs 7.05 per litre following the government cutting excise duty on auto fuels to give relief to consumers battered by high fuel prices that has also pushed inflation to a record high.
The government on Saturday announced a record Rs 8 per litre cut in excise duty on petrol and Rs 6 per litre reduction on diesel.
The excise duty cut will translate into a reduction of Rs 8.69 a litre on petrol in Delhi and Rs 7.05 per litre in diesel after taking into account its impact on other levies.
Petrol in the national capital now costs Rs 96.72 a litre as against Rs 105.41 previously. Diesel is now priced at Rs 89.62 per litre as opposed to Rs 96.67 earlier, a price notification from state-owned fuel retailers showed.
Rates differ from state to state depending on incidence of local taxes such as VAT. Announcing the duty cut through Twitter, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman had also stated that the government will give Rs 200 per cylinder subsidy to the poor who got cooking gas connection under the Ujjwala scheme, for 12 cylinders in a year to help ease some of the burden arising from cooking gas rates rising to record levels.
Meanwhile, in Kerala, The excise duty cut will translate into a reduction of Rs 9.48 a litre on petrol in Kochi and Rs 7.42 per litre on diesel after taking into account its impact on other levies. Petrol in Kochi now costs Rs 105.72 a litre as against Rs 115.20 previously. Diesel is now priced at Rs 94.66 per litre as opposed to Rs 102.08 earlier.
Kerala Finance Minister K N Balagopal, in a Facebook post, welcomed the Centre's decision to bring a partial reduction in fuel tax, which had increased astronomically.
Nirmala Sitharaman, however, said the price arresting measures would cause an estimated loss of Rs 1 lakh crore to the exchequer.
3. The Kerala State Road Transport Corporation has finally cleared the salary dues for April. The delayed salary disbursement that began at the weekend is now almost complete.
Barring high-salaried officer rank employees, all other staff were paid the salary for the month of April on Saturday.
The crisis was temporarily resolved after the finance department transferred Rs 20 crore to KSRTC's account on Saturday.
The KSRTC managed to pay the salary to its staff after a lot of uncertainty and protest by the employees. Now, the management is apprehensive about disbursement of May month's salary. It has sent a letter to the government demanding Rs 65 crore.
In all, the government has given the KSRTC Rs 50 crore assistance this month. With the finance department making it clear that this practice cannot be continued in future, KSRTC management is now faced with the challenge of next month’s salary disbursement.
The existing dues will have to be cleared if more money is to be taken through overdraft.
Meanwhile, the opposition-affiliated trade unions alleged that Rs 20 crore was granted by the government in view of Thrikkakara by-election. They demanded a full-fledged solution for the salary disbursement issue.
4. The Crime Branch is set to wind up further investigation into the 2017 actress assault case and the additional charge-sheet is likely to be submitted on May 30, Manorama News has reported.
The probe team has reportedly abandoned the move to question the lawyers of actor Dileep, who is an accused in the case. The probe team had alleged that the lawyers had tried to sabotage the case.
According to police sources, actress Kavya Madhavan, who is the wife of Dileep, will not be named as an accused in the case as investigators have not found any evidence of conspiracy. However, she will continue as a witness.
In her statements, Kavya had denied allegations of financial interests behind the incident.
A voice message of T N Suraj, the brother-in-law of Dileep, had also surfaced, alleging that the personal grudge between the survivor actress and Kavya had led to the crime. Subsequently, the Crime Branch re-investigated the earlier allegations of real estate and financial interests.
The prosecution had also raised the serious allegation that Dileep, the eighth accused in the case, had tried to influence even the trial court, apart from witnesses.
The decision not to have any further probe came amid reports that the Crime Branch was planning to approach the High Court with the plea to grant more time to complete the probe.
The Crime Branch team was hard-pressed for time as it had to examine and analyse the digital evidence seized from the mobile phones of Dileep and his accomplices.
It has also decided not to summon defence lawyers though it wanted the same. The investigators had reportedly collected certain evidence showing that some of the advocates representing the defence side had influenced the witnesses and made them turn hostile in the case. But there was too much political pressure on the government side to avoid any such inquiry against the court officials and the advocates.
he actress-survivor, who has worked in Tamil, Telugu and Malayalam films, was abducted and allegedly molested in her car for two hours by some persons who had forced their way into the vehicle on the night of February 17, 2017. The entire act was filmed by these persons to blackmail the actress later. There are 10 accused in the 2017 case and police have arrested seven. Dileep was arrested subsequently and released on bail.
5. The Directorate of Revenue Intelligence (DRI) on Sunday revealed the crew that was caught smuggling heroin worth Rs 1,526 crore in two boats off the coast of Lakshadweep had links to Pakistan.
According to DRI officials, the accused are part of a drug racket that smuggles narcotics from Pakistan into India. The heroin was being brought in using the address of a sugar mill in Pakistan. The DRI also confirmed that two Thiruvananthapuram natives were part of the gang.
The accused are being questioned by the National Investigation Agency. Authorities are yet to ascertain for whom the heroin was being moved and whether they have further links to international drug rackets. For now, the DRI is sticking to their initial claim that the drugs were being smuggled into India.
The Indian Coast Guard and the DRI on May 18 had jointly seized 218 kg of heroin which was being smuggled in from Afghanistan through the sea route.
The team intercepted two Indian boats that were moving from the coast of Agatti Island in Lakshadweep under suspicious circumstances. There were 20 workers on the boats.
Since April 2021, the DRI has seized 3,800 kg of narcotics drugs worth Rs 26,000 crore and the Coast Guard has seized three tonnes of narcotics worth Rs 6,200 crore in the last three years.
That brings us to the end of this episode. Be sure to come back tomorrow. As always, thanks for listening to Daily News Dose.